Many of us grow up and follow what’s expected of us by our families – go to college, get a degree, get a job at some corporation and work a 9-5, have kids, then retire if we’re lucky.
While that approach to life often leads to a level of success and even happiness for some people, it’s not for everyone…(it certainly wasn’t for us!)
Choosing to become a wedding photographer takes a lot of guts because it’s a very unconventional career path.
But, as people who “made it” – we know that a wedding photography career can be incredibly rewarding and if done right, even more lucrative than you could imagine.
The Pros and Cons of Being a Wedding Photographer
While we love being wedding photographers, and can definitely highlight some of the perks that comes with this job, any look at wedding photography as a career would be wrong if it didn’t take into consideration some of the challenges you will face.
You can set your working hours
One of our favorite parts about being full time wedding photographers is being able to work when we want. Aside from the wedding days you need to set aside on your calendar, the rest of your week is typically designated for backend tasks like responding to emails, marketing, photo editing, and similar tasks.
At this point in our businesses, we outsource a lot of the really time consuming backend tasks like photo culling and editing, which makes it much easier to have a work/life balance.
You can take time off when you want
We remember the days working for other companies, often with just a few weeks of paid time off to take every year. As full time photographers, we don’t have a boss to report to. We can take vacations whenever we want – just recently deciding to visit Iceland on a whim. For the times we get sick, we also don’t have to ask for permission to take a down day. It’s great!
Your earnings potential is only limited by the number of weddings you want to shoot per year
Your earnings as a wedding photographer is tied directly to the amount of work you want to take on. Need some extra cash? Just take on an extra wedding or two, and it can go really far.
We talk about this in depth in our post How Much Money Can You Make as a Wedding Photographer?
You get to meet new and interesting people constantly
As wedding photographers, we get invited as a service professional to some of the best parties around. In the moments we’re not actively taking photos, it’s always cool to be able to hang out a little and even chat with some of the guests.
We have met people from every walk of life imaginable. Wedding photography has exposed us to a ton of different religious and cultural experiences, celebrities, people with diverse career backgrounds – it’s wild and so much fun!
You get to be creative for a living
One thing we hated about working corporate jobs was just how uncreative they were.
As a wedding photographer, your entire job is about being creative. As a photographer, you’ll always be looking out for great moments to capture and beautiful light. As a business owner, you’ll also be on the lookout for creative solutions to work faster, get more inquiries and bookings, and so on!
You will stay in shape thanks to this job
Wedding photographers are active.
We often go to weddings where we never get a chance to sit down, so we’re on our feet for a good 10-12 hours. Yes, we feel it the next morning!
Photographers often find themselves working long hours to get everything done
One of the consequences of working for yourself is that you’re the only one who can do all of the things. As a result, you may find yourself working long hours just to finish editing a wedding, responding to emails, or making sure your next social media post is perfect. This is especially true in the early years where hustling is a big part of the job.
Of course, this can all be made much easier by outsourcing tasks that are time consuming or that you don’t have the skill to manage by yourself. This is why we created Shoot & Thrive – to help wedding photographers get ahead with their businesses.
Sometimes work can be hard to come by
One of the most challenging parts of being a wedding photographer is getting consistent bookings. In the times when you’re struggling, it can really be difficult to cope.
Fortunately, there are a ton of solutions to the problem of not getting enough work. You can refine your marketing efforts, get more experience in the industry, and so much more.
If this is a struggle you have, you should absolutely check out our Wedding Photography Course.
Depending on where you live, the work can be seasonal
Here in Pennsylvania, weddings run consistently between April to November…then dry up during the winter months. That’s not to say there isn’t any work to go around, but it’s greatly diminished as people tend to want to avoid the cold winter months as much as possible.
In other places around the USA and world, the seasonality might vary.
Weekend availability for your personal life will be gone
As weddings typically take place on the weekends, you’ll have a hard time scheduling weekend plans with friends and family.
It’s a bummer to know we’ve missed out on things like family get togethers, music festivals, and other fun things just because we work consistently on the weekends.
Weddings are stressful
Photographing a wedding can be tough as you often need to balance the photos you need with a timeline and personalities of everyone you are interacting with.
For us, this stress is actually fun, and we find that we perform our best under it, but admittedly we still get a lot of anxiety leading up to a wedding.
Managing client expectations can be tough
Setting reasonable expectations with your clients can be challenging, especially if you’re brand new to wedding photography. A few examples:
- How much time you’ll need to take the photos the clients want
- Why don’t you give out RAW image files?
- Do you edit out wrinkles, acne, scars?
- As a single photographer, can you get the bride walking down the aisle and her partners reaction shot?
- Why is the first payment non-refundable?
- Do we really need to sign a contract?
It gets easier as you get more experience and flesh out the things you are willing (and are not willing) to do for your clients.
What is it like to be a wedding photographer full time?
It is amazing.
As full-time wedding photographers, we’ve had a ton of opportunities in our lives that would not have been possible had we chosen “safe” career paths.
Our favorite things about being full time wedding photographers:
- Schedule flexibility
- Work from home most of the week
- We get to travel for work
- We’ve made more income as photographers than any of our former careers
- It’s made planning our personal lives easier
- We can take a break more easily in the middle of the day
- We’ve been able to more easily schedule in time to work out and eat properly
- Networking with other photographers and wedding industry professionals
- Making friends with people who have similar values and aspirations
- Some of our clients have also become our friends too
- We often meet new and interesting people
- We get to experience different cultures that we wouldn’t normally have a chance too
Our least favorite things about being full time wedding photographers:
- After photographing hundreds of weddings, they can feel a little repetitive
- As more introverted people, organizing group photos is not always fun
- Feeling like a failure when bookings slow down
A day in the life as a wedding photographer – what to expect?
Okay, we’re going to break down 2 common days we have as wedding photographers. The first will be our days working from home, and the second will be on actual wedding days.
1). Working from home
These are some of our favorite days.
We wake up, eat breakfast, workout and typically start working by 8:30 or 9am.
We keep a daily checklist of things we need to get done, but generally this involves things like responding to emails, writing blog posts for our website, creating posts for social media, culling and editing photos, and similar. Some days, we’ll take on bigger tasks like making website revisions or updating our workflows.
Around noon, we usually try to take a break and eat a healthy lunch. As we’re dog people, we also get in some affectionate snuggles with our pups and take them on a walk.
When we get back to work, usually around 12:30 or 1pm (but it’s usually flexible), we’ll keep at working through our checklist. Sometimes, we’ll have consult calls with new clients as well – which we usually aim to schedule between 9am and 6pm.
Around 5pm, we call it a day and enjoy our evenings.
It’s simple and close to the 9-5 job – but with the flexibility to take breaks and work on things you actually want to work on.
2). Wedding days
Now, wedding days are action packed from start to finish.
Typically, we’ll start our days by waking up, eating breakfast, and working out. Then…we wait around until it’s time to leave. (This time is the worst by the way, as we get pretty anxious just before the wedding). For some weddings, we’ll be close by, and others we’ll have to drive a few hours to get where we need to be.
Once we get to the venue and check in with our couple, everything gets easier. Since we’re experienced with weddings, we get into a “flow state” and capture everything we need. We usually start with details and candids as everyone is getting ready, then proceed onto things like the first look and portraits. The ceremony then rolls by, followed by cocktail hour (where we sometimes take a few minutes to ourselves), then the reception through the end of the night.
Weddings are fun, but a lot of work. Especially when compared to the pretty sedentary lifestyle we have during the week, working from home.
The next morning, we’re often a little groggy and like to catch some extra sleep if we can…unless it’s a double header weekend of course!
What does a wedding photographer do as their job?
For wedding photographers who shoot for other companies as 2nd shooters or associate photographers, the job is simple – go to the wedding and photograph it. That’s it!
For most wedding photographers who also set out to start their own business, the job becomes a little bit of everything. Here’s a breakdown of the key things we do as wedding photographers:
- Take photos during wedding days
- Communicate with clients via email, phone calls and text
- Put together wedding timelines
- Help clients with planning
- Have sales consult calls with new prospective clients
- Cull and edit photos
- Create workflows to make taking care of our clients easier
- Manage our finances
- Pay taxes in monthly/quarterly estimates
- Meet with our CPAs periodically to review finances
- Work on our websites
- Work on marketing materials
- Post on social media
Pretty much – we have to wear a lot of hats!
How to become a wedding photographer
Fortunately, becoming a wedding photographer is pretty easy!
To get started:
- Get experience with taking photos
- Get experience with weddings as an assistant or 2nd shooter
- Start buying some high-quality camera gear
- Make a website and portfolio
- Start marketing yourself to attract clients
For a more in depth article about this, check out our post How to Become a Wedding Photographer.
At Shoot & Thrive, we are wedding photographers who help other wedding photographers get hired by providing valuable SEO and blogging services. If you are struggling with getting an audience to your website, we can help!
Chris is a SEO professional with a passion for helping photography businesses succeed online. With years of experience in the industry, he has a proven track record of increasing website traffic, improving search rankings, and driving revenue growth for his clients.