For seven years Brooke and I shot weddings all over the world and were featured all over the internet. We have since retired and moved on, which I talked about extensively in this post - Seven Years For a Footnote.
Since we started seven years ago, the landscape of the independent photography world has changed. On my blog I like to share ideas I have for businesses that I am not involved in. Last week, I shared thoughts on What I Would Do If I Were A Hand Type Artist. This week I thought I would share what I would do if I were a still a photographer, or just starting my photography career.
1. I'd Shoot Way More For Free 🚫💰
Too many entrepreneurs don't value what happens when you do something for free. Imagine with me for a second if you spent the next three months shooting as much as you could for FREE. Let's say each month you average 15 shoots. By the end of the three months you would have 45 people who you've blessed with images now talking about you. Do you know what the extended reach of 45 people in your community would be? Now imagine if you took an entire year to work your butt off and shoot as much as you could for FREE? What if you shot a whole year of weddings for FREE? Live below your means, get roommates, move into your parents basement and spend an entire year shooting for free. Brooke and I shot at least one free wedding every year we were in business and shot countless portraits and engagements for FREE. Doing things for free does two things, first it adds so much value to your client. They instantly become an advocate for your business and are telling their friends, posting the photos and praising your name - because your images and their experience shooting with you was fantastic. The second is it allows you practice your skill. Hundreds of photographers or aspiring photographers will read this and most them will ignore it and come up with a million excuses on why they can't shoot for free. A few of you though will take this advice and while some of your peers might make more money this year, you will make more money in the long run. Your year of sacrifice and building up a loyal and ecstatic fan base will benefit you for years to come! If you've been in the business for a long time, maybe add a month of free portraits or engagements to your world. The power of FREE is an under utilized tactic. I'd shoot way more for FREE.
2. I Would Shoot On Every Nice Day 🌞
I laugh when I see the social media feeds of young "photographers" that never have new content. If you are claiming you are a photographer you should be a content creating machine! If the sun is out you should be out at golden hour shooting everything. That's what I would be doing. I would have content, on top of content, on top of content overflowing from my website! I am sure you already listed the excuses on why you didn't go out all last week when the weather was beautiful. If you can't find anyone to photograph make yourself a sandwich and take pictures of that, because if you end up shooting a wedding you'll have to take pictures of food, scenery and details. Practice, practice, practice. Set up shoots with friends, tell families you'll shoot them for free. If a local photographer reached out to me and asked if they could take photos of me and my family, I would probably say, "yes" and if the photos were good I WOULD PROBABLY POST THEM. Now, all my followers are seeing those photos. Get out there and shoot and ask everyone you know (and some people you don't) to be in photos! Use the beautiful days to get off your butt, go out during golden hour, and shoot shoot shoot! Find your best looking friends and shoot them ALL THE TIME!
3. I Would Blog On Snapchat + Instagram 👻
Take your content to the people. Most people won't go and check your blog when you post an Instagram that says, "New Wedding On The Blog!" I wish people would check my blog every time I talk about a post on social, but the cold reality is that they won't. The blogging and website landscape is changing. It's not enough just to have a blog, you have to have all elements of social media paired with a great website and blog. People are spending most of their digital time on Facebook (which I talk about in point 5), Instagram + Snapchat. So, bring your "blogs" to the people and start micro-blogging there. For Snapchat, I would use the app Snap Upload and post my blogs to my story. It's literally called a story, so you are set up to tell something and people are ready to watch it. If I were a photographer, I would start off with a little video of me saying, "Two weeks ago I shot the wedding of John and Jane Doe at this venue and I am about to share some of my favorite photos! Snap me back and let me know which ones are your favorite!" Creating engagement around your content will always help build brand loyalty! Then, using the Snap Upload app I would upload 20-30 photos so people can re-live the day. Then, I would end with a Snap that says, "See more on WWW.URLTOMYWEBSITE.COM" Use the Snapchat story to tell the story of your weddings, engagements or whatever else you might be shooting. Instagram is a little different because over-posting can could lose you followers, but I also don't think one post is enough to engage all your followers. If I were a photographer today, I would devote three Instagrams at a time to each shoot/session. I think when you just post one about each shoot, you don't give yourself the full chance to engage with your followers. The one photo you post from a wedding might not engage someone who is following you, so take more shots at getting their attention. I think three works well - it's not overkill, and it will create a really cool look to the overall feed of your page. This is not a new idea, I've seen lots of Instagrammers do it, but I think it would really work as a professional photographer! This is how it would look:
4. I Would Understand My Long Term Goal and Always Have LASER FOCUS! 🎯
Too many photographers do too much for too long. I understand that at the beginning of your career you will take any and all of the work you can get, which usually comes in senior portraits and family sessions. Brooke and I figured out early on that we didn't want to do senior photos and family shoots. We wanted to shoot BEAUTIFUL weddings, so, very early on, we shifted our companies focus to that and only that. We only blogged and posted the photos from weddings that we would want to shoot again. As a photographer, you don't have to blog every piece of content you create. Blog and post about the stuff you would want to shoot again. Good content attracts the type of people that want to create good content. If you had a miserable time shooting a wedding in dark utility room in the basement of cave and NEVER want to shoot it again, don't blog it! Show your future clients the type of work you want to do and it will attract that type of work. Figure out what you want to do and have a laser focus on it. If you want to only shoot weddings, don't have family portraits on your blog. If you want to be a commercial photographer, don't have a blog filled with weddings. I understand you have to pay bills and you will shoot what people hire you to do, especially at the beginning, but you don't have to share and post it. Share and post the work that you want to get more of and have a laser focus while doing it. That's what we did and that's what I would do again, but even be more extreme about it!
5. I'd Learn Facebook Advertising and Maximize It! 💰
At the end of 2015 we hired Monkedia to run the Facebook advertising for walk in love. Noah, the founder of the company, is amazing and is quickly getting our customer acquisition cost down and bringing in lots of new customers and sales. Instead of spending money on a magazine ad, wedding show or bridal website, I would spend it on Facebook. It is the most powerful tool on the internet and it is under used by almost every business. As a wedding photographer I would target brides who liked wedding brands I love (like J Crew or BHLDN), wedding venues in my area and people whose relationship status is "engaged". I wouldn't spend money on business cards, buttons or other items that don't produce sales. Instead, I'd learn and maximize the power of Facebook.
6. I'd Avoid Wedding Wire, The Knot, Bridal Shows and Magazine Ads 🚫
People are finding everything for their wedding on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Spend all your time there. It's that simple.
7. I'd Edit Everything AS FAST AS POSSIBLE. 🏃
Yet again, too many photographers are out getting coffee instead of at home finishing up their jobs. Edit your work the next day or the evening you shoot it. Get your photos back to your clients so their excitement will be magnified by your turn around time. Nothing ruins a great product like the extended period of time it takes to get it. If I were starting out today, I would try to get portraits, engagements and family shoots to my clients THE NEXT DAY and bigger jobs, like weddings, to them before they got back from their honeymoon. That's one thing we figured out how to do later in our career, but I wish we were doing it from the beginning! If you truly want to make being a full time photographer your job, then make it your job and get to work on those photos the second you get home from shooting them. STOP GOING OUT FOR COFFEE! They have machines that allow you to make it at home! 😂
Again, I am not a professional photographer anymore. Brooke and I did do it professionally for seven years and we certainly picked up a thing or two. If I were still a photographer, or starting my photography career, these would be the seven things I would focus on. Take it or leave it. I have no skin in this game. If you want more advice in a one on one session, I am doing them for free all year long. Details can be found here - One On One!