Real Advice on How To Become A Professional Portrait and Wedding Photographer
From an Extensively Published Full Time Working Professional
For those of you who don't know me, my name is Edna Eudave. I am an extensively published award winning photographer in the Orange County, Southern California area. I have been a full-time working wedding and portrait photographer for over 15 years. I have been a portrait and wedding photographer for 25 years. I'm writing this blog today to give you real advice on how to make a living being a full-time wedding and portrait photographer.
I'm not a person who is easily offended, I don't walk around telling people..."Rude!" or "I'm triggered!" .. or "How Offensive!" ...like many people in today's younger generation. There is one thing that I consider to be completely offensive to me. When someone calls me up or messages me and asks me to take an afternoon off to teach them how to do my job. As if it took me and afternoon to learn to do what I have been doing full-time for over 15 years. As if I could culminate 25 years of experience into an afternoon, a day, a weekend. With that being said I will tell you how to move forward in learning to refine and hone this beautiful craft of wedding and portrait photography.
#1 The first thing that you need to do is learn to use a camera.. a real camera with lenses and ability to shoot in Manual Mode. I know that sounds completely obvious but I cannot tell you how many people are "professional photographers" who do not know what the difference is between an f-stop and shutter speed. Take a class at your local college, watch YouTube videos, pay for a mentor… learn your camera like it's part of your body. Learn what each lens does because it's each lens has its own character and refinements. Learn how to mimic the photographs that you have seen and that you love. Take on technical challenges when it comes to learning your camera. Learn how to shoot completely in manual mode. I know that there are many professional photographers that shoot in aperture mode but learning to shoot manually gives you complete control over your image. This alone can take you a year or two. Learning the nuance of lenses and the complete control of your camera like it's part of your body will take some time, be patient.
#2 Inundate yourself with art. Go to museums, art galleries.. scour art books. Being creative, if it doesn't come naturally to you, has to be ingrained into your system. I have been inundating myself with art, art movies, museums, galleries, art magazines and anything I could get my hands on since I was a kid. Setting yourself apart as a photographer and artist means that you have to come up with your own creative ideas for your artwork. I have seen photographers that literally copy every single image and pose from other famous photographers and have never done anything that is their own creative process ...ever. If you want to set yourself apart from your competition you need to be able to create artwork that is yours and not a copy. Right now the trend has been to copy Jose Villa's award winning style from 2009. Nine years ago he made top 10 Wedding Photographer's in the World for American Photo... And since then, everyone has been copying that style. In order to set yourself apart in a competitive market you need to have a signature style that is yours and original, or as original as possible. I'm not saying that you can't have a favorite photographer and expand on his or her style. Just don't copy pose by pose and image to image.
#3 Learn to use light to your advantage. Light is light is light is light is light! You can create beautiful images from pretty much any kind of light. A can light on the ceiling in a hallway in a hotel can make for a beautiful high-fashion portrait if the bride is facing up towards the light. A flashlight that is moving across a brides face can make for a beautiful 1930's style black and white Hurrell style photo. I love off camera flash photography and when that's not possible I'll do natural light or on camera bounced photography. I like to play with light direction. Sometimes it's behind the client, sometimes is to the left, sometimes it's to the right, sometimes it's up above. Learn to not be afraid of experimenting and trying different things. If you start to become comfortable with light and learning to shoot in all lighting conditions you will master your craft. There are many workshops that you can go to to learn how to master lighting. I love Jerry Ghiones..he is a lighting master! Try to go to as many workshops as possible, especially in the first few years. They don't have to be expensive workshops, most of the workshops that I have gone to have been large workshops for under $50.
#4 Start by assisting a photographer that you love. Once you learn the background mechanics of how a professional really goes about their day you might change your mind about wanting to be a professional portrait and wedding photographer. It's super hard work! Normally I will have someone starting off assist me for a couple of years as I train them to become a second photographer. Once they are second photographer they train for another year or two before they can become an associate photographer. At that point as an associate photographer, which is someone who can shoot a wedding for me without my assistance, that photographer can basically go out on their own. The best way to get into the industry is to start with a mentor... in my opinion. I shot for a bunch of high-end studios in orange county before I went out on my own. Once I noticed that they were using my images to market their photography studios, I decided to go out on my own.
#5 Master Photoshop and light room. Again, because of the competitive market you really want your images to stand out from the crowd. If you can take a normal image and make the bride look better by retouching the skin, brightening eyes and teeth, even making her a little thinner, if she wants that, or adding more curves. I like to saturate the sky, make the grass more vibrant, I even go as far as to add a new sky to a dull background. Anything that you can do to have an edge in your market really helps. When you look at an image straight from camera and then you look at an image that edited in Photoshop, you can see what a huge difference it makes to add that extra work. You can take Photoshop classes online at places like the Creative Live. You can also learn the basics of Photoshop on YouTube. There is no excuse for not learning Photoshop well. It's just as important nowadays as your camera.
Here is my Youtube channel and I teach some photoshop tutorials https://www.youtube.com/c/squareeyephotographyedna
#6 Your attitude! If you plan on owning your own business you have to learn how to communicate correctly with clients. You have to know how to keep professional boundaries but still be real, genuine and yourself. It's important to have a great rapport with your client. As someone who's business is 50% referral base I can tell you that your clients liking you has everything to do with your personality and your clients referring you has everything to do with YOU! I genuinely love my clients. I want the best for them. I interact with them online and seriously miss them when I'm done working with them. There is a compassion and a love which you have to allow yourself to be open to. I believe that this is what makes my company successful. You have to be likable. For me this comes from waking up every morning and starting my day off with gratitude. I focus on positivity… ALWAYS! My speech is about love. I don't gossip, spread hateful information, I don't involve myself in spreading sad or negative news on social media. I keep things light and happy as I am light and happy. People are good at picking up who you really are and how comfortable you are with yourself and with what you do. Your positivity has to come across when you are with clients. I also work constantly on bettering myself. I do Tony Robbins workshops on audio. I also read Buddhist books and books by Eckhart Tolle. I listen to motivational YouTube videos every day. I do everything in my power to change my perception for positivity and love.
#7 I try to read as many books as I can on marketing and sales. If you don't like marketing and sales you will hate being a photographer. 85% of my full-time job is marketing and sales, 10% is photo shopping in light room and 5% is photography. You have to love the challenge of sales and marketing. I can't tell you how many books I've read on sales and marketing. Although I will say that the biggest change that I saw in my business and how I run it was when I signed up for the rapid growth system with bookmorebrides.com ... No I don't work for them and this is not a paid blog post LOL. These guys are marketing and sales gurus in the field of events, especially weddings. It's nice to be able to watch videos specifically on your market, I think these guys are the best. With their Wedding business acceleration membership, you get access to tons of sales and marketing videos for the wedding industry. Each week there is a new topic like, Facebook ads, bridal shows, social media marketing, Instgram stories, why you do what you do and how to tell that story to others, how to set yourself apart from your competition and so much more. These are fundamental things that you need to know to get a successful business off the ground. It takes years to see the benefit of starting this type of marketing and sales. It took me two years for my phone to start ringing and for Google to recommend me as the top choice for photography business in my area. I worked my tail off blogging, making YouTube videos, being on Instagram and hustling my business. I wish that I could tell you that once you get everything going you can stand back and just watch it all go, but this industry is constantly changing and if you are in this full time you are really in this full-time.
#8 Find a marketing strategy that works for you. It's easy to get burnt out and overwhelmed with so many options for sales and marketing. If you do the book more brides you will know what I mean. Choose one thing and master it before you move on to something else. I think these are the most important things in order. Networking, Facebook, Instagram and then YouTube. I hate networking so I never do it I started with Facebook and I pretty much nailed everything that you can do free on Facebook. Then I moved on to Instagram, once I got comfortable with and Instagram and that started flowing easily I moved on to YouTube. Now that I am comfortable with YouTube and I've got a few videos that have taken off I started working on Pinterest. Facebook is gonna get you a ton of business just by tagging the people in photographs and making sure that you are keeping a great rapport with your clients.
#9 Reviews! Reviews are much more important than you think. Try to get as many reviews from as many of your clients as possible. Most of the time if people have had a great experience with you they are happy to leave your review but many times they can forget. Send them regular gentle reminders. Your expertise and professionalism are integrated into those reviews. If you have lots of great reviews you will be viewed as an expert in your field.
#10 If you don't have a lot of experience, start by doing free photo shoots for your friends and family. Also, people love to see gorgeous beautiful people on websites. Camp out for a few hours at your local mall find some gorgeous families and askif you can photograph their family portraits for free. I happen to have a gorgeous extended family so it was a slamdunk for me. LOL. Even when I had a ton of experience shooting weddings and I didn't have very many maternity shoots I shot three free pregnancy photo shoots of a few beautiful friends that I have in order to have something to show on my website. I did the same for newborns, high school seniors, corporate head shots, environmental portraits and pretty much any other category of photography on my website. It's a great way to practice and it's a great way to show the kind of work that you want to show to your clients without fumbling around with pain clients. Once you have nailed that category then you can start getting paying clients.
#11 The client is always right! I run my business like Disneyland and by that I mean that my customer experience is one of the most important aspects of my business. That means that I offer a 100% moneyback guarantee if you are not thrilled with your images. That also means that my customer is always right, whether they are or not doesn't make any difference to me. If my client isn't 100% happy with the 30 x 40 canvas ( that cost me a pretty penny) I will happily send my client a new one. I don't care what my client remembers that I promised.... I will do it! My clients' happiness is what keeps my business alive. Getting into a little tiff with a client, in this day and age of online yelp reviews and ripoff reports… Is not worth it! Now I will say, that I send out very informative PDFs to every single client that I book. These PDFs are step-by-step guides to exactly what it is that they can expect from me and what steps they need to take to ensure a happy photo shoot. I also make sure that I get everything in text message and or email so there are never any miscommunications. I try not to have a phone call conversations over important material. That way there is proof in case something comes up. But, if my client says that I told them that they would get a 20 x 24 instead of a 16 x 20, I don't blink twice, I just do it. The happiness of your clients, isn't worth a $40 print. Even a $500 print isn't worth someone getting upset and leaving you a negative review. That person will spread the word about how easy you are to work with and what great customer service you have and that will lead to thousands of dollars your way. One client could have gotten you $20,000 in business if you treat them correctly. Don't underestimate the power that people have nowadays. Make your motto to make people happy.
#12 Embrace social media and technology. I have friends of mine who are photographers, who aren't on Facebook because they don't like the drama. Of course they never have enough money to pay the rent. They're always broke and ultimately won't succeed. Facebook is the number one social media outlet for the world with over 20 million users... End of story. Of course there are other ways to run your business, but you would really honestly be stupid not to take advantage of free marketing. Once you tag your client, and they tag their friends and family, that is hundreds of people that are now seeing that photograph...maybe thousands. Embrace social media marketing, it's one of the best free ways to market your business. Learn to use Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram stories and more, to reach a wider audience. YouTube video is the way of the future. Especially now that they were bought by Google. Do research to see what your competitors are doing and try to do it as well as they are doing it or even better. Again don't inundate yourself and get burnt out. Choose one thing first, like Facebook, and then move on once you have mastered it.
click on photo above to be taken to Top 15 Most Popular Social Networking Sites and Apps [February 2018]
#13 Realize that success doesn't happen overnight. There are times when you will hear about someone making it overnight, I was one of those people. I quit my full-time job and basically quadrupled my income within the first month. I did it by signing up to David's Bridal's vendor program. At the time I paid $450 a month every month for their bridal list. Plus they would put one of my flyers into the bag of every bride. At the time I did not charge very much for weddings and I booked myself solid every year. At some point I got a little too expensive for most of the David's Bridal Brides. From most of you that are just starting off and can afford a big investment, I recommend something like this. It worked at the time because David's bridal would only share the list of clients with their vendors for each individual store, only, they did not sell that list to anyone else. I don't know if it still works the same way. Now, I do mostly free marketing online using social media and word-of-mouth. This type of marketing takes a while to work. You have to grow your users organically, there is no other way around it. The algorithms for social media now are getting to savvy for paid bots and you can lose everything if caught. Growing your users organically means that they are real clients looking to spend real money. It took me about two years before Google recognized me as a legitimate business and now I am booking not only all over the U.S. but different and exciting jobs here in my own county. I now also shoot: food, hotels, architecture, real estate, environmental portraits and I just got commission to do a fine art job for a large corporation. Once you put in the work and you're consistent and you stay on a schedule of blogging and working your social media you can also make this happen. If you stay consistent you are going to be way ahead of your competition because most people are too lazy to do this. Most people start blogging and then stop most people start using Instagram and then stop and so on and so forth. If you are consistently doing your social media marketing every week you will be way ahead of the game.
#14 Start organizing your information early in your business. Make sure you always get contracts signed. You can purchase contract for photographers pretty inexpensively online. Get an simple excel spreadsheet and start getting a client database going.. add your clients social media usernames. Get all vendor information and social media information so you can network with everyone. Send images to every vendor especially venues..people love this and will remember you! You will be using this information as you progress in your business. Organize yourself so that you only have to ever write one email catagory. Copy all of your FAQ's, Email info and information into PDF's that you can send your clients for every type of shoot. When you do it once... you will not have to do it again. Take January, usually the slowest month and rethink your marketing for the year. Make sure you have a spreadsheet for every penny you get and every penny you spend on your business.
#15 Love what you do! Be passionate! People are going to know if you're passionate about what you do. They'll be able to tell by how you talk about your business and yourself. Passion is contagious! You will draw in to your in your life people that want to help you, people that want to tell everyone about you and in turn make your life and business more successful. With passion comes drive! With passion comes motivation! With passion comes success! If you don't adore sales and marketing and photography this isn't the industry for you. If you love to wake up every day and know that you are an important part of a beautiful thing in this world... that you get to capture the most important parts of people's lives. That you are here to leave a lasting legacy for people that you care about, then you are in the right business! This is a business of love. If you are passionate about love ...then things will come easy to you. I have worked my butt off my whole life, I have always been really driven. I love what I do, I am very passionate about my work. I am my biggest fan. It glows in my face when people see me. People resonate with that. People love being around passionate people. Don't give up, work hard, choose love!
Please feel free to ask any question below I will do my best to answer them. Also please share with anyone that is thinking of becoming a wedding and portrait photographer. Thanks!
Thank you for checking out our blog if you are getting married in the Orange County, Los Angeles County and Inland Empire area in California and if you love our work please contact me now! If u are ready to book your wedding, engagement, maternity newborn, family, sexy or boudoir or high school senior portraits please call Edna Eudave Square Eye Photography 714-420-8285 NOW! We shoot locally and globally.. contact me for pricing for destination wedding photography!
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