How to Start Your Wedding Photography Business
 
tipsaboutstartingyourweddingphotographybusiness.jpg

I feel like this blog post could be something that aspiring new photographers could use in navigating their soon to be business. I wish when I was just starting out that someone had told me a few of these things so that I could have better prepped myself. Regardless, I learned along the way and found a few amazing things that helped me grow and book my first few wedding clients. If you are in the dark about where to start, this blog post is for you.

I can track back to 2008 when I realized I wanted to be a wedding photographer. Yep, I was a sophomore at NC State going to school for a science degree. I wanted to switch my degree to something dealing with art, but people kept telling me that there was no money in art. “You want to have money to pay your bills, right?” is what they would say. And then I would respond with “yeah, youre right.” So, I stuck it out and worked towards a degree that I have never ever used. Truth be told, I often ask myself how far my business would have gone if I would have listened to my gut the first time it spoke to me. Maybe its a good thing I waited until I was older.

Who knew that I would go back to school after that degree to receive another degree in my first love—photography. I am proud of myself for this, the program was intensive, more so than my first one, and really forced me to think—about math, about how far my creativity could go, and showing that I was better than the others. Which, might I add, was a mesh of wonderfully skilled students. When I came out the gate with my degree, I knew I had to hustle to get my name out there. It was 2015 then, and the professional photographer atmosphere was massive (it still is). Everyone was a “photographer” including their moms, their uncles, and best friends. It was my job to make my work stand out against the repetitive sea of other well named artists and hobbyists. I needed work, I needed money, and I needed to build up an amazing portfolio. I needed this like ten years ago, but here we were—starting from the bottom.

I am here to tell you about some things that will help you with your footing, where you should focus your attention, and to inspire you to go out there and kick some ass. Read below for some tips and advice for when you are just starting out. The kicker is? Most of this has almost nothing to do with photography. If you want to start a business girl, first thing is first—you start acting like its a business.

howtobecomeaweddingphotographer

Know Your Why

Ask yourself “why” youre going in to business for yourself. It could be your need for freedom, you don’t want a boss ever again. You could want to transform the lives of others. What is your purpose for becoming a wedding photographer, a commercial photographer, a social media marketer, a boutique owner…girl, what is your purpose? Honestly, your why and purpose will probably change within a few years, so just be honest with yourself right now and how you really feel. I started my business because I wanted to be self sufficient. I had seen the decline of our economy…I had no job prospects even with my first degree—all of my friends parents had been laid off. I started my business because I knew if I was in business for myself, I could make it work somehow, someway.

I wouldnt put too much pressure on yourself for this question, because again, your why will change—just like how mine did. You don’t need a big lofty goal, you just need to realize what it is and ask yourself why this is important for others. Who are you here to serve? Are you here to serve 22 year old brides? Are you here to serve 32 year old brides who have a degree in law? Seriously, who are you here to serve and ask yourself WHY you want to serve them. Whatever you do, don’t skip this. If it helps, then write out a little avatar of your dream customer. Here is an example that I came up with on the fly…

Jennifer is a 26 year old data analyst for a local company based in the triangle area of North Carolina. Jennifer went to UNC Chapel Hill for her undergrad, and then went off to Virginia Tech to receive her Masters degree. She wanted to move back to North Carolina to be closer to family, and when she did she unexpectedly met the guy who she is planning to marry later this year. She always dreamed of running in to a guy on a plane somewhere (she likes to travel alot), but in all actuality, she met her fiance by swiping right on a dating app. Jennifer shops at Anthropology sometimes, but her heart is with the downtown boutiques who have custom clothing from women all across the States. Jennifer has a dog and a cat, and has trained her cat to walk on a leash, just like her pup. Jennifer vacations in the OBX every summer, and always plans atleast a one week trip out of the country to appease her need for culture. Jennifer wants to have a wedding photographer that “gets” her, and doesnt want her wedding images to look like just another wedding in the triangle. She is not a fan of the light and airy images, but more so the adventurous type of imagery.

howtostartyourweddingphotographybusiness

Make a Website with a very Clear Message

I know this kind of sounds easy, but in all actuality it is not (especially when you are in your head all of the time). Remember your why? Now it’s time to put that on your website. When someone lands on your page they need to know immediately if they want to stay and look around, or leave. Trust me, you want this. There is no use in keeping someone on your website unless they are actually interested in what YOU are offering.

Let’s look at an example. If you’re WHY was to make couples relive their wedding day with happy tearful imagery—then you need to say it. You need to tell people why they need you, and if they resonate with it, then those are the people who you want to continue on your website. I would say something like “Our sole purpose is to create jaw dropping imagery for couples all across the southern region of Virginia.” Simple, right? This is a one hitter quitter. Keep it simple and to the point. Oh, and make sure you write out your location, or where you want to travel to. AKA “Southeast America, Raleigh/Durham, The Carolinas.”

Oh, and something no one tells you to do when you first start out…I am telling you right now. You might not understand NOW, but trust me when I say you will NEED this later…ladies, you need a clear and accessible place on your website where people can opt in to your email list. This is a whole different blog post, but yall, start on this now.

raleighweddingphotographer

Choose one platform of choice

Look, your first couple of years in business are critical. Also, you are going to find yourself fighting the urge to do all of the things. Dont. You need ONE (and I mean it) platform to share content weekly. And yes girl, you need to post to it weekly. Your platform could be a podcast, a blog, a youtube channel…whatever! It can be anything (but don’t use social media for this). Pick one thing that you are going to use to put out quality good content about your work. I say choose one, because if you choose to do all of them, you will get burned out quickly. Also, none of your fans will know where to go because you may post something on a podcast, and then later try to write a blog post. Be consistent.

Do this every week. If you choose to do a blog, awesome, welcome to mine! With my blog, I try to post atleast twice a week now. When I first started out, I only posted about 1 post per month. That was a bad business move on my end. If I wanted to come out the gate kicking ass, I shouldve been giving Google all of the great content, but instead, I did it only when I had time. Yall, you are going to have to make time now. Listen to me when I tell you that this is important. Your loyal small fan base will want this, they want to know how you are doing—give them that information. Do this to strengthen the relationship with your existing audience so that later, these people can help you reach a wider audience.

durhamweddingphotographer

Engage with your customer

Now this is the fun part. You need a solid place online where you can engage with your clients and potential clients. For me, this is Instagram. I know quite a few business owners who bow down to the powers of Facebook. But for me, my main source of communication with the public is Instagram. This includes responding to every DM and every single comment. Whatever social media platform you choose as your weapon of choice, do it well. And by doing it well, I mean allotting a certain number of minutes per day for you to post something and to comment and message people back. Oh, and you need to post every day. If you are on Instagram, this could mean that you post to your insta-stories, or a photo in your insta grid. Whatever the case, you need to show up ONCE a day. Remember, what you are doing is important—remember your WHY? You need to start showing up and letting people know WHY your work is important and casting that net out so that others can become aware of you.

And again, make sure you respond to people. Even if its just an emoji…you need to respond. What is worse than when you comment on a friends post and they just magically dont respond back to you? It kind of hurts your feelings, doesnt it? Take the time to say thanks for the comment. Our world is so “social” so its time to embrace it.

amoodyimageofachairandlaptop

Money

Ahh. The word we have all been avoiding. It’s a necessity, and inevitably, what you need to have a sustainable business. But, here’s the thing, you will more than likely not be making a profit your first few years in business. Think about it, everything you make goes straight back into the business. Camera gear, insurance, studio space, repairs, computers, CF cards, the list goes on and on. This is all fine, because, you want to put this money back in to your business. At the same time, you also need to pay your bills.

I would figure out a way to make money while you are still figuring things out with your business. What did this mean for me? I did alot of family sessions, I worked at a bridal shop, and a florist. I know it sucks because you clearly started this business because you didnt want a boss, but girl, you got to do what you got to do. Don’t lose sight of building your business, just make sure you use your money diligently and for the right things. I would spend extra time doing the projects that are going to get you the next phase of your business. For instance, I started teaching beginner photography courses for the sole reason of getting my name out there and to build up my email list. If you want to be a lifestyle and brand photographer, I would do sessions in your free time that showcase this. Then I would showcase this on your social media platform of choice, then turn around write that blog about it.

The fact of the matter is, it’s going to be hard the first few years of business. So please dont come in to this thinking you can fly off to Miami for a fun girls weekend. Unless you have daddys disposibale money to spend, this is the time for you to hunker down and use whatever money you do have—wisely. Invest in yourself. If you’ve been wanting a mentor, or just need help figuring out how to shoot on film—do your research and make sure you use the money you’ve made to invest in that. The one thing that I have clearly learned, its the fact that when I started to prioritize myself, my business started to flourish afterwards.

When you know your why, it makes things a little easier.

youdidntwakeuptodaytobemediocre

I hope this blog post was helpful for you! I was serious when I said this had little to nothing to do with photography, but it hits the nail on the head. These are things that I wish people told me in advance, and who knew how far I would have been if I knew this at the beginning of this journey. If this helps you or inspires you, write me a comment and let me know.



















 



Carter Finley Stadium Proposal | Jamie & Stephen
 
ncstatewolfpackproposal

This session was a fun session. Not only did we do do their “couple” photos at their wonderful Carter-Finley Stadium, we also were present when Stephen popped the question to Jamie. This is what made the day extra special, in case you werent aware, ha!

Jamie and Stephen have been together for about a year and a half now. It’s funny, because they actually met while we were on our annual camping trip in 2017. With a few nudges, it ironically worked out that Stephen had to drive Jamie up to Virginia where we normally go tubing at. I am lieing if you think I did not plan this out. Hello, it’s me. I thought, these two would be perfect together! I am going to make it happen. If you havent caught on already (by the main photo), Stephen is my brother-in-law, and Jamie just so happens to work with one of my girlfriends. Match made in heaven. I am just happy it worked out, because if it didnt then I would have years to feel ashamed.

Stephen knew he wanted to propose to Jamie, but wanted to make sure it was special and meant something to the both of them. The best thing? Jamie and Stephen LOVE the wolfpack!! Yes, all of us are a Wolfpack family! Their love goes so deep that they even named their pups Carter and Finley. Stephen wanted to propose to Jamie in front of the statue, and I thought it was perfect.

With the help of my husband and I, we formed a plan to take their fall portraits together—just in case they wanted to send out Christmas cards later in the year. I was under the impression that Stephen would propose earlier in the session, but he didnt. Out of surprise, at the end of their session, he dropped to one knee and asked Jamie to marry him. I cried a little bit, and Jason did, too. It was surreal to see such a special moment take place right in front of our eyes, and we were just glad to see two people we love and adore take the next step.

Congratulations, Jamie & Stephen! We are so excited for your upcoming wedding. And Jamie, there is still time to run if our family is too crazy for you.

 
Exciting News! We are Expanding!
 
thefairviewraleighweddingphotographer

Ahh. It’s here! Y’all, I have been wanting this for years, and last July I started putting in to place what I have always envisioned for my photography company. Fans and followers, meet the newest Lead Photographer for Fancy This Photography—Samantha!

Now some of you are already familiar with the powers of this lady! Yes, she has been one of my second shooters for a couple of years now. I always enjoyed working with her because of her calm demeanor, her excellent care for detail shots, and how creative she could be on wedding day. When I was thinking about expanding the business, all I could think of was how Samantha would put the care and thought in to this business like her own. This is really all I have ever wanted, and the fact that her trust came so easily to me just honestly sealed the deal.

What does this mean for Fancy This in the coming months? Well, for starters, I am updating the website to reflect two photographers. What does this mean for potential brides? Great things! If you inquire and for some reason I (Nikki) am booked, you would have the option to still have our style and brand to photograph your wedding. I am sure there will be some growing pains, but I am excited for next big milestone ahead. It is because of you—our wonderful clients—that we could make this happen. I say this time and time again, but this world really is good to us. Our clients are why we have had the privilege to photograph so many amazing couples.

Although Samantha has photographed weddings on her own prior to joining Fancy This as a lead photographer, we are now starting to build her Fancy This portfolio with wonderful Fancy This clients. Y’all, this lady has already booked her first wedding under Fancy This and we hadnt even made an announcement yet. This is how amazing this lady is! I can’t wait for you guys to read more about her. If any of you are planning on getting married this year and have yet to book your photographer, think about Samantha. We have a few dates open for her and are giving a pretty sweet discount to the next 3 that book with her.

I will save the background story of Samantha later, but in the meantime I wanted to present to you some fun images of this lady helping behind the scenes of some glam weddings, styled shoots, and even some photos that she took of herself and her hubby. Oh, and if you have picked up the latest issue of Southern Bride and Groom magazine, then yeah, there’s a spread with her in it (she was a wonderful might I add).

 
Nikki Whitt
Raleigh, NC Bridal Session | Stacy S.
 
raleighweddingphotography_raleighbridalsession

I just adore Stacy. Seriously, she has such a kind heart and yall, she even took part in writing the Farm Bill that just passed. She just has my heart. Agriculture for the win, all day. Not only this, but she and her husband Alex just tied the knot this New Years Eve and I had the privilege of photographing their special day. Life can’t get any better than this—and I cannot wait to finish up their gallery!

I receive questions all the time on whether or not a bridal session is beneficial to do before your wedding. The answer is yes, but I have to admit, not everyone knows what a bridal session actually is. A bridal session is basically a trial run of the bride in her dress before the wedding day. Not only do you have the chance to prance around in your dress and take pretty pictures, but you can also use it for your trial run to see if you like how your hair is, if your dress needs to be hemmed more, or even trial running your shoes because sometimes your shoes can really hurt your feet on the day of your wedding. This is the day where you can actually see how everything looks and feels on your body, which is probably the best thing about a bridal session.

Stacy and her mother in law met me at the beautiful Historic Oak View Park in Raleigh, NC. We chose this place because it has beautiful old buildings that fit right in to the theme that Stacy has always adored and loved. It has a beautiful southern charm to it, just like Stacy. I shot on Portra 400 film and the colors came out magnificent. I especially love the images of Stacy in the barn (featured at the end), which might I add, was Stacy’s idea. Oh, and the moment when Stacy found an old Ag Law book just hanging out on the shelf! See? My heart.

Hair and Makeup // Bella Trio Salon
Gown // Coastal Knot
Film Lab // Richard Photo Lab