If you’re a wedding photographer reading this, I’m sure you’ll agree with me when I say that being a wedding photographer is one of the best jobs in the world.
Working only a handful of days a week, having time off when most people are stuck doing a ‘normal job’, having small overheads, getting paid similar hourly rates to lawyers and surgeons, and all the while, making your clients cry with happiness – what’s not to like?!
After a while though, we all take our jobs for granted. Wedding photography, like any other job, can occasionally suck.
Aside from the struggles of maintaining motivation while shooting weddings full time, one of the biggest areas of worry for us wedding photographers is how to make moreincome.
If you’re reading this, I’m assuming you’re a wedding photographer like me who already knows how to book lots of weddings – I wrote a whole book on that exact topic if you’re not already at that level yet.
I wrote this post to give you some ideas on how to make more money as a wedding photographer without even booking new clients.
Do me a favour: DON’T skim-read this post. If you only read the titles of each point, you’ll completely miss my message. Also, DO keep an open mind. The advice may sound ridiculous at first, but remember that each point has worked for me in the past to increase my income as a wedding photographer. Take the advice that will work now for you, and humour me with the rest – one day it might make more sense to your situation.
1. Offer more to past clients
Most wedding photographers treat past clients like finished jobs. They deliver the photos, then it’s sayonara and onto the next job.
As long as your client is happy with your work, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this way of doing things of course, and I did the same thing for years.
However, if you’re intent on increasing your income as a wedding photographer before you even book the next wedding, you’ll have to change this way of running your business.
Big businesses have known for years that it’s way more expensive to find new customers than to retain old ones. In marketing talk, it’s acquisition vs retention.
A CPA, or Cost Per Acquisition is the cost your business incurs to find one wedding job. As wedding photographers, we can think of this as any money we’ve spent up to now on building our business, marketing, advertising, the time spent dealing with the client, shooting their wedding, editing, delivering photos etc etc.
Clearly it’s rather abstract for us, but what’s more important here is to realise that after we’ve invested this much time, money and effort into getting a client, we need to squeeze the most out of them – give them everything they need, plus a load of things they never knew they needed! That’s what I mean by ‘retention’, in this case.
OK, so let’s get down to actionable advice. How can we make more money from our past clients, by genuinely helping them? Here are some ideas:
Hear me out here. I’m not talking about trying to sell a client a wedding album right after the wedding. We all know the old “wow, you had so many great photos from your wedding – it’d be a shame not to put them all in one of my amazeballz albums!!” line never works. They’ve just blown all their cash on their wedding! – you really think you can schmooze them into spending another couple of grand?!
For weddings where the couple receives money as gifts from guests, they may want to spend it on an album, but let’s face it – if it were you, wouldn’t you rather blow it all on your impending honeymoon?!
I gave up trying to do wedding sales after the wedding a long time ago. What I’m talking about here is months later. A month before their first anniversary is a good bet.
Reach out to the groom, and ask if he’s put together an album of their wedding pics yet. You already know the answer to that one! Then offer to do it for him, just in time for their anniversary.
Funds should be replenished by now, which sorts the money issue out, plus it’d be nice to throw in a discount (“anniversary gift from me!”)
From the groom’s point of view, he’s about to get major brownie points from his wife for his small investment, with absolutely no effort on his behalf (us lazy men love this kinda sh*t)!
Obviously you can try and approach the bride with the same method, or even both of them if you like – it doesn’t matter how you go about it, but at the end of the day you’ll have two clients that are ecstatic about their beautiful album (full of photos they probably haven’t looked at for months), and you’ll have added to your bottom line.
It goes without saying that you’ll need to make the actual album design process as easy and hands off for your client(s) as possible. My preferred method of doing this is to let them choose their favourites in a ShootProof gallery, then design/proof the album with SmartAlbums2, and finally order via VisionArt.
Whatever way you do this, try and suppress the feeling of ‘making money from your past clients’. You’re providing them a service, and being rewarded for it. They’re paying for your skills as an artist, and they’re happy to get a beautiful product they couldn’t have created themselves at the end of it. Don’t feel guilty about it!
Much the same as the process above, you can and should offer your past clients prints from their wedding. The key here again is in the timing– too soon after the wedding may not be appropriate, nor effective.
You can offer prints in conjunction with the album, or offer prints if the client(s) turn down your album offer in the example above.
Again, you’re providing a service and a product that helps/delights your clients. Don’t feel slimy about ‘selling’ – you should feel proud that you have the ability to offer something like this as an artist.
iii) Anniversary/Maternity/Family Shoot
I have to be honest – I haven’t been so proactive with this last tip, but I do know that many wedding photographers are boosting their income by being their wedding clients’ ‘photographer for life’.
If you intend to offer your photography services after shooting your clients’ wedding, it’s great to plant the seed nice and early. Maybe at the end of your next wedding, ask about their future plans, and maybe the topic of babies will pop up! Even if it doesn’t, mention that you’d love to keep in touch and photograph all their big life events.
Even when you deliver the wedding photos, mention it again – “keep me posted if you ever decide to grow your family ;-)”, or whatever. Make sure you’re in the back of their mind when cool shit happens in their life that should be photographed.
If your couple is really young, or you feel that talking about kids isn’t appropriate/relevant, suggesting a one year anniversary shoot can be a popular one. Again, remember to discount: “happy anniversary!”
Hopefully this has given you some ideas on how you can continue to make your past clients happy, by offering products and services you may have formerly thought relevant only for new clients.
2. Capitalise on your existing photography knowledge
OK, now for something from leftfield. Consider this – you’re an expert in your field. Maybe not to other wedding photographers, but certainly to the average photography beginner.
Think about all the time you’ve spent educating yourself to this level of wedding photography – all the hours on YouTube, books, courses, second shooting, etc etc. We’re all still learning, but my point is this – you already have SO much knowledge about photography.
If you’re at a point where multiple clients are paying you for your photography, and you’re delighting them all… well guess what, you know a sh!t-tonne more about photography than someone who’s just picked up a camera!
It’s easy to feel inferior as a wedding photographer. We all compare ourselves to our peers, and that’s not a bad thing per se, but I’d like you to think how you can help a beginner photographer, and get rewarded for your time.
Now, I’m not saying that every half decent wedding photographer can effectively teach photography to a beginner – that’s up to you to decide. I’m pretty crap at teaching (verbally), but do ok with writing, so I’d choose that avenue.
So now we realise what an asset we have with our existing knowledge and experience, how can we market and capitalise on it?
Well, there are several services that spring to mind that let you do this pretty easily – Udemy and SkillShare are two good ones you should sign up to if you fancy writing down what you know about photography to help a beginner, and selling it as a course.
If you’re a crap writer, or prefer to teach by speaking, Clarity is an ingenious way to monetise your time spent educating over the phone. It’s geared more to tech, but creating a page as a photographer, then linking to it from your photography site can be effective.
When you’ve worked out what and how you’re going to teach, you can put the word out on Facebook too – you may be surprised how many of your FB friends would love to learn photography from a pro.
If you’ve ever been asked by a guest at a wedding why their photos are blurry, or what ISO ‘does’, you’ve probably realised that the average camera owner knows nothingabout photography. As someone who charges for photography, there’s a good chance that you have something of use to them – charge accordingly, and make some extra cash without booking another wedding.
3. Increase volume without sacrificing time
After we’ve been shooting weddings for a while, it’s tempting to try and increase your fees to the point where you can decrease the number of weddings.
If you’re a hugely popular wedding photographer, this can occasionally work well. You’re so in demand, and offer a service/product so different to all the others out there, that clients will pay much more than the average to hire you for their wedding.
Clearly this is a rare case, and is getting rarer and rarer due to the sheer number of talented wedding photographers out there.
What I advise you to consider is to lower your prices.
Spat out your coffee at the screen? I’ll give you a minute to clean up that mess…
After years of edging your pricing up and up as your experience grows (and rightly so), it may seem completely illogical to reduce your prices in an effort to shoot more.
Let me spell it out to you so we’re clear here: one very obvious way to increase your income as a wedding photographer is to shoot more weddings. Aside from the tactics outlined in my book More Brides, the quickest way to do this is to charge less.
When you’ve successfully increased the volume of weddings you shoot, you’re always able to go back to increasing your pricing, aided by the increased marketing visibility that shooting more weddings brings.
OK, so now you’re on-board with the potential to increase bookings by reducing your pricing, how can you make sure you don’t get burnt out? After all, isn’t everyone’s goal to work less and earn more?!
In a word: outsourcing. What’s the most time consuming part of being a wedding photographer? For some people, myself included, it’s the wedding itself. Unless you’re willing to pay an associate photographer, those 8-ish hours are an unavoidable ‘cost’ of running your business.
The second most time consuming thing? Editing. It may even take you longer than shooting the wedding itself.
I don’t want to preach too much about outsourcing your wedding photography editing as I appreciate that it’s not for everyone. However, what I do want to drill into your heads it that you should definitely consider it, especially if you want to scale your business.
I tested ShootDotEdit’s services for a couple of months in order to write this review. That was 2 years ago. Now I’m happily using them for every wedding I shoot, and relish the hours/days/weeks that I would have wasted clicking away at adjustments in Lightroom…
Outsourcing your edits is a huge step to take for many wedding photographers – I get it, I was like that too. One day though, you’ll realise that your clients are still delighted to receive your photos whether you’ve edited them, or an outsourced editing expert has edited them… it’s kind of a sad day and a happy day at the same time!
You’ll realise that your editing style can be replicated quite easily, but you’ll also realise that you can pay someone to do half your job, and still make money and please clients.
Don’t feel guilty about outsourcing your wedding photography edits. You’re still the artist. You’re still in control. The outsourced edits are a base on which to add your final edits, to cull, crop, sharpen, export, deliver – whatever you choose to do yourself, you’re still in control and it’s still your final product.
4. Sell your gear
Just spat your coffee all over your screen again, didn’t you?! “Sell my gear?! WTF?!”
OK, this point is stretching the notion of increasing your income as a wedding photographer, but it’s still a viable way to make and save some money.
When you were first starting out as a wedding photographer, what did you do? If you’re anything like me, you found another wedding photographer whose photos you liked, found out what gear they used (hence my idea for my site, Shotkit!) and then bought the same stuff. Nothing wrong with that, right?
This usually meant 2 of the same camera, 2 of the same flash, and either a couple of expensive f/2.8 zooms, or a couple of expensive f/1.4 or f/1.2 primes. Did you even consider any slower glass? Nope. Did you even consider a different backup camera or flash? Nope.
My shopping list looked something like this: Nikon D750 x2, Nikon SB-700 flash x2, Nikon 35mm f/1.4, Nikon 85mm f/1.4. Maybe yours was something similar…
After a good 4 years shooting like that, I had no complaints. Then in walks the Sony a7III (reviewed here), and the allure of shooting mirrorless forces me to sell most of my Nikon gear and revaluate what I actually needed to shoot a wedding.
After buying one Sony body, it suddenly occurred to me – do I really need an identical, $3k camera as a backup? Do I really need to shoot with a camera on each shoulder? Do I really need the fastest glass possible?
I realised that I was shooting with my other camera with the longer 85mm lens for about 10% of the wedding (during the ceremony), and nothing else. It didn’t make sense to buy another expensive camera just for that. However, I still needed a backup camera, so I kept one Nikon D750, and a 35mm f/1.8 lens I’d bought in the past for this review.
Then I realised that f/1.8 was more than sufficient, and 1/3 the price of the equivalent f/1.4 lens. So for the Sony, I invested in slower glass. Instead of the f/1.4s, I got an 85mm f/1.8 and a 35mm f/2.8. I also got an f/1.4, but I’ll be selling that as it’s now redundant.
My point of this long winded story is simple. Take a look at your gear, then take a look through your Lightroom catalog. Take a note of the ISOs you’re shooting at, and the apertures you’re using. If like me you find that during the day you can’t even use f/1.2 or f/1.4 as it’s too damn sunny outside, and at night your fancy camera can eat ISO12800 for breakfast at 1/500, you probably don’t need such fast glass.
Before you punch the screen, I get it. There’s more to fast glass than the ability to shoot in less light, and the shallower DOF. The whole image is arguably nicer… but just consider if it’s worth that extra cash you’ve got tied up in that expensive chunky glass.
Have a browse through the wedding photographers using f/1.8 lenses on Shotkit – their work is incredible, and you’d never know they’re not using the most expensive glass.
Consider selling your fastest lenses and downgrading to slower versions – more cash and lighter camera bags await.
4. Offer more to existing clients before their weddings
When you’ve booked a wedding, what do you do? High five yourself, then move back to editing your last wedding? Nothing wrong with that, but you’ve missing out on another way to make more as a wedding photographer.
Just because a client has booked you and chosen your most basic package, doesn’t mean that they can’t afford anything else.
Similarly, just because a client has chosen your top “only there to make the other packages seem cheaper” package, doesn’t mean that they aren’t potentially ready to spend even more!
The slimey marketing term for this is an ‘upsell’ – a product or service related to the customer’s previous purchase, that adds value in some way. Usually these are provided right before or right after a customer makes a purchase – think of the “do you want travel insurance/extra baggage/priority boarding/inflight foot massage” questions you get when booking a flight.
I consider that it’s much less stressful and annoying for your client to offer these additional services way after they make their booking. I like to keep the options at the time of booking quite simple – extra hours of service, albums and engagement session are the only add ons.
No matter what you’re offering the client at this stage of their booking, there’s always room to add more value to your service later down the line… and all before their wedding has even taken place.
Now, I’m not advocating that you try and sell a load of unnecessary crap to your clients, or try and push an album on them even when they’ve chosen not to have one. The last thing I want you to do is to annoy them after they’ve taken a leap of faith and booked you.
What I want you to have a think about is what other awesome services or products you can ‘announce’ to them, to help make their wedding even better, and to help earn you some extra cashola. Here are two examples that I’ve come up with:
i) The Pre Wedding Interview
Pick up your camera. See that red button marked ‘record’ – ever pressed it? Neither have I :p
Us wedding photographers use 50% of our cameras every day, and don’t even give it a second thought. By investing just a tiny bit of time into learning how to use your camera to shoot video and record audio really well, you’re able to create a brand new income stream.
Now before you roll your eyes, I’m not talking about videoing a wedding here. Let’s leave that to the experts. What I’m talking about are the small, simple video jobs that any photographer with a good camera can learn to do very quickly and with minor investment. One of these is the pre wedding interview.
With this, you’re using your camera to film your clients individually in an interview style, capturing the video and audio to be played at some point during the wedding, or simply given to the clients as a video file after the wedding with the photos.
I’ll write a whole post detailing this process soon.
ii) The Mid Wedding Interviews
This one’s a great little add on to your existing photography services, and something your clients will love. It involves approaching guests at some point during the wedding day (cocktail hour works best) to conduct a really short interview – basically asking them to give a message to the newly weds.
Even if the clients have already hired a videographer, it’s very unlikely they’ll be doing this, and you can explain this to your clients if they have any doubts about your services over lapping.
I’ll write a whole post detailing this process too.
If you have a good think, there are lots of ways to add to your services as wedding photographer and offer fun things to your existing clients. If selling to them weeks after they’ve booked you makes you feel a bit slimey, you can make it sound more like an announcement than a sales pitch – “I’m now offering this awesome new service – just thought you might like to know!”
I’d recommend you do the first time for free, just in case you stuff it up. This works especially well for the mid-wedding interviews, as you don’t even need to tell the client you’re doing it.
If it works well – awesome! Deliver the product for free, and your clients will be your raving fans forever, and you’ll also have something to show the next client as an example.
If you screw it up, you’ve lost nothing. Practise a bit more then try again, until you reach the stage where you’ve confident to charge.
At the end of the day, I just want you to remember that your clients don’t just want amazing photos – they also want their guests to have an amazing time too. If you can suggest services such as the interviews that will entertain them, they’ll be more than happy to consider paying you to make it happen.
6. Market your services to vendors
After you shoot a wedding, do you ever get vendors asking you for images? Maybe the florist wants to use a photo you’ve taken of the bouquet on her social media, or maybe the venue wants to do the same.
If you’re not a dick, you won’t try and charge them for the photos. We’re all in this together – vendors should help other vendors. Allowing vendors to use your images (with proper crediting, of course), can lead to better relationships with those who may eventually refer you a wedding, and increase the exposure of your photography. Trying to charge at this point is short-sighted, and pretty mean to boot.
Did you ever consider though that all those vendors you’ve provided free photos to in the past might actually want more professional photos for their websites or social media?
You might have heard somewhere that after you’ve given photos away for free, that it’s hard to charge for them in the future.
This may be somewhat true in some cases, but for the most part, I think it’s fair to say that all small businesses are happy to pay for professional photos that they can use to generate more revenue for themselves.
Why not try to offer a ‘social media image package’ to your vendors – 50 images of their products ready to use on social, for $500, or whatever. Or do their staff profile photos for Linked In. Or some behind the scenes shots for their blog.
As a wedding photographer, you’re more skilled than you think. Sure, you may not know how to do perfectly lit, focus stacked product photography… but that’s not what most brands want these days.
Bouquets, rings, shoes, dresses, cakes, invitations – there are so many things you shoot every day without blinking an eye, so why not offer that as a service to small businesses that need great images.
You can either reach out to a load of vendors to offer your services from scratch, or simply mention it in an email the next time a florist asks to use your shot: “sure, go ahead and use whichever photo you like! By the way, I’d love to shoot a series of images for your next Instagram Story and Facebook posts – would you like me to send over the pricing?”
7. Market your services to other wedding photographers
Woooooah there!!! He didn’t just say…wait…. WTF?! Not to other wedding photographers??!
OK, take a deep breath and read what I have to say here. This bit of advice to make some more money as a wedding photographer isn’t as nasty as it sounds.
Right off the bat, I’m not talking about workshops here. Just because you’re pretty handy shooting a bride, doesn’t mean you’re in any position to host a workshop. Let’s move on…
Next elephant in the room – presets. Every wedding photographer and his/her dog has a preset these days. Are they a viable income source? Sure. Will you be vilified in the community? Probably. Let’s leave presets alone for the time being too…
What I’m talking about here is offering skills you possess that could be genuinely useful to your fellow ‘togs. Things like logo design, stationary design, PDF design, website design, copy-writing, SEO, etc etc.
If you look behind the hood of a lot of the successful wedding photography related services out there, you’ll find a wedding photographer running the show. Actually, it’s usually an ex-wedding photographer, thanks to their new income…
From my point of view, I’m rubbish at design, so I’d be happy to pay another wedding photographer to design me a new logo, if they were offering that service (and obviously if they were amazing at it).
Similarly, there’s a ton of wedding photographers out there who suck at writing their About Page – maybe you could charge to have a go at it for them.
Will it feel slimey posting in a wedding photographers’ forum that you’ll design a logo in exchange for cash… even though you’re a… shock horror… wedding photographer too?! Yeah probably. Will the other wedding photographers mind? Probably not, especially if you rock at designing logos.
Don’t over think it – if you’re better than the next guy at something, offer it as a service. Fellow wedding photographer or not, if the service is amazing, who cares?!
And yeah, you’ll get some haters and the usual “here’s another photographer trying to cash in on other photographers”, but they’re just jealous you’ve got da skillz to pay da billz.
8. Write a gear review
Caveat: if you’re a crap writer, move on – nothing to see here.
OK with the keyboard? Well you’re in luck, because writing a review on a piece of gear that you already own can be a great way to create some passive income, or even get your work out in front of new eye balls.
First off, the quick buck – most sites pay for good reviews, including my own (click here to email me if you want to write for Shotkit).
If you want something a little more long-term, I recommend you consider writing an affiliated review.
Being an affiliate for a product may sound slimey (damn, there’s so much slime in this post!!), but I think of it like this – if you genuinely use and love a product, why shouldn’t you be rewarded for promoting it? You’re helping the person who reads it, and you’re helping the person who made the product – you deserve some commission!
There are lots of products and services that you’re already using that have what’s called an affiliate program. Every time someone clicks on your affiliate link and purchases said product/service, you get a small cut.
Then there’s the big dog, Amazon Associates.
There’s no secret that I keep the lights on at Shotkit by using Amazon affiliate links. If you write a review on your own website and include your Amazon links, the benefit runs deeper than you may think – you’ll be rewarded on any purchase the link clicker makes in 24 hours. People may enter Amazon off your camera review, but if they do their Prime shopping, you’ll earn a small percentage of the whole thing.
There’s also B&HPhoto, and all the other big photography vendors out there who also pay a commission in a similar way.
Now, I don’t want to get your hopes up too high. To generate any affiliate sales, you do need a bit of traffic to your review. Simply posting the review in on Facebook probably won’t cut it.
There’s a whole host of things that you can do to guide visitors to your review, and I won’t go into them here. Just concentrate on one thing – if you write a review on a product that’s genuinely useful, honest, and is deeper or generally more amazeballz than any other review on that product, you’re off to a great start!
Try googling any photography product with the word ‘review’ after it – you’ll notice a distinct lack of actual photographers reviewing the product well. That’s an opportunity for you to create something that fills the void, and potentially turn it into a nice little passive income earner.
If you liked this humongous post full of tips to boost your bottom line as a wedding photographer, you should check out my book More Brides – it’s full actionable, out-of-the-box tips, tricks and downright hacks to help you book more weddings.
…and if you’ve already got the book, do me a favour and share this post with your wedding photographer buddies. We’re all in this together!