So last time we looked at the 10 best things about being a wedding photographer, and they were certainly very rad. It’s an amazing day to get to photograph, and being invited into such an important part of your clients’ lives is a great honour!
But, like any profession, there are pros and cons involved. It’s a difficult job, and not everyone is cut out for it. Today we’re going to reveal our 10 most difficult things about being a wedding photographer, so let’s get right down to it!
1. Getting Started
When you try to become a wedding photographer, you’ll find yourself faced with a bit of a conundrum. You need experience shooting weddings to get hired, but you can’t get experience until you get hired. This is incredibly challenging, and tough for any photographer to get around. Some will do second shooting for an established photographer to get that experience, and others will luck out with a friend or family member willing to take a chance on them. Either way, it takes hard work and perseverance to get that much needed experience under your belt.
And not only is it tough just to get a job, but it’s an incredible investment of money to get all the gear needed to do that wedding justice. These events require multiple lenses, flashes, backup gear, and oodles of batteries and memory cards, not to mention enough hard drives to back up the images properly! That’s a lot of cash to fork out before you’ve even really got the business running. Now, you can rent gear to make those first few weddings a little less costly, but if you’re serious about getting into the business, you’ll eventually have to make a serious investment.
This one could pretty much be numbers 2 – 5, because there are so many aspects of the business of wedding photography that can be really difficult. First off is just figuring out how to get it up and running. Then, as the owner, you quickly realize that you are responsible for all the working parts of your company. You are now the bookkeeper, the accountant, the marketing department, the graphic designer, the customer service department, the secretary, and pretty much any other title you can think of. It’s you. That’s not only a lot of responsibility, but a lot of learning that has to go on to figure out how to make it all run smoothly!
Then there’s pricing. Oh pricing — one of the most challenging and scary parts of being any sort of photographer. Are you doing it right? Are you choosing prices that are going to make your business fail? It can get easier, and luckily there are resources out there to try and help you sort it out, but it’s still scary and overwhelming, and the cause of many ulcers.
3. Mega Amounts of Work
Once you realize just how many pieces go into running a business, it’s no surprise that wedding photography is a LOT of work. If you don’t believe me, check out our 50 step wedding photography workflow. Then add on all the actual business stuff, like marketing, branding, paperwork, pricing, bookkeeping, and you’ll start to see why wedding photographers don’t get a ton of sleep. There’s a dangerous myth that floats around suggesting that they only have to work one day of the week and they make tons of cash. But actually they generally work a normal 5 day week, have meetings and engagement shoots in the evenings, and then shoot weddings on Saturdays. Yeah, mega amounts of work.
With all that work comes the challenge of balance. Weddings can very easily take over your whole life. Finding time to just be a person, and not a wedding photographer, is really tough. Your relationships with friends and family also tend to suffer, since you’re usually not free on Fridays or Saturdays during wedding season. It can be isolating, and downright exhausting to be so consumed by one thing. Burnout isn’t far behind. Without balance, it’s easy to lose the passion and love for the job that is necessary to produce high quality work.
In almost all parts of the world weddings are seasonal. It either becomes too cold in the winter, or too hot in the summer, so during those months you’ll find yourself with hardly any work. No surprise that that makes it difficult to pay the bills! You can either try to make enough in the wedding season to get yourself through the rest of the year, or find ways to keep bringing in money when the weddings stop. It’s a big challenge.
6. Making A Good Living
Straight up, no sugar coating, it is difficult to make a good living as a wedding photographer. You need to be great at photography and great at business. You need to adapt to an ever-changing marketplace, and figure out how to stand out from the crowd. You need to solve the problem of seasonality, and set prices smartly to turn a profit. You need to keep your costs low, but your customer experience world class. It’s easy enough to make money at wedding photography; there’s always someone willing to pay $1,000 for the shoot and files. But making a good living is an entirely different story.
7. Handling The Responsibility
Weddings don’t come with do-overs or reshoots. You get only one chance to capture the walk down the aisle, the first kiss, or the bouquet toss. You not only need to be technically skilled enough to be sure you can nail those critical shots, but you also need to be able to handle that kind of pressure, and still think creatively! This certainly gets easier the more you shoot, along with lots of preparation, but you should never lose that understanding that you’re shooting a once-in-a-lifetime event. It’s a lot of responsibility.
8. Mentally & Physically Exhausting Shoots
Weddings are usually at least 8 hours of shooting, commonly jump up to 14, and can get crazy at 21 hours (which was our longest day ever). That time requires pretty much continual mental and physical effort, as you are following the bride and groom around, documenting their experiences. Scarfing granola bars and chugging energy drinks helps you get through the day, but then there is the much discussed “wedding hangover” afterwards. Sunday is necessary for just recovering! The long hours also do a number on your back and shoulders from carrying so much gear around, and if you aren’t careful you can easily get dehydrated. You get to handle all of this while having to remain positive and cheery at every moment!
9. Pleasing A Wide Range of People
Your close proximity to the bride and groom during the whole day brings you into contact with all the important people (bridal party, parents, planners, officiants, etc.). Many of these are folks you actually have to take photos of, so you also have to direct them as well. Many of them have a vested interest in both how the day goes, and how the photos turn out. So you get the challenge of pleasing them all! It’s definitely possible, but requires a lot of effort, understanding, flexibility and most of all, patience. The bonus is that the better you c
an do this, the more likely you are to get referrals from a wide range of people, not just the bride and groom!
10. Finding Your Unique Style
We’ve already listed nine difficult things, and haven’t even really touched on actually shooting a wedding! While it’s a very diverse event, and requires a lot of different photographic skills, what can be most challenging of all is finding your own unique style. The wedding industry can seem to become obsessed with a different trend every year, and half the photographers and three quarters of the blogs follow suit. Brides are influenced by all these sources, and look to get that trend for their own images. It seems easier to just jump on board and ride the trend to success rather than pave your own way. But trends are fickle creatures, and in another year it will be something totally different. My prediction is that vintage gives way to ninjas. You heard it here first.
Jokes aside, basing your style on a trend is dangerous. Once the winds change, you’re old news. But you want your work to have a unique style, to make it cohesive and appealing to the right kind of bride. And therein lies the challenge, because accomplishing this isn’t really something that you’re ever done with. Your style will evolve as you evolve as an artist. The key to making it unique is to ignore what all the other shooters are doing, and pay attention to your own personal voice. Look for inspiration anywhere other than the wedding industry. Check out what’s happening in the graphic design world, or visit museums on a regular basis. The more diverse you make your inputs, the more unique your style will become, the more you’ll stand out, and the easier it will be to rise above and outlast the trends!
Now, I know that reading all those difficult parts of being a wedding photographer can be scary. I don’t want to sugar coat the experience—it’s tough. But there are a ton of wonderful things about the job as well. The most important thing to take away from this discussion is that you need to enter the industry with a realistic expectation of what it will take to be successful. If you’re deeply passionate about the images you can create for your clients, you’ll have the energy and dedication required to make a solid business out of it.
After all, being a wedding photographer means you get to eat lots and lots of tasty cake, and that’s the sign of a really magical job!
Did we miss something in our top 10? What do you find most difficult about being a wedding photographer? Share with us in the comments now!