The challenges of starting Wedding Photography

Desire - cts portrait & wedding photography gauteng



This piece is based on my personal experience which (I believe!) is identical (or quite close) to the experiences of many starter wedding photographers out there (or perhaps fresh in the memories of some pro’s!).

Yep, I’ve Googled the prospects as any responsible human being should do and in spite of all the warnings of “Just don’t do it!” I decided to be brave. I mean, I have to do something to stay out of mischief when I retire in 18 months, right? Why then not enter the market into something I’m passionate about? And make money (yea, right!) at the same time? Well, let me ponder a few words of caution I’ve heard or read about as far as that is concerned:

‘You must be crazy!’

Well, I’d rather not get my wife’s opinion on this one because it would do me no good. My granddaughter? She would deny it just to ensure that I do not change! She’s quite keen on having a granddad around who would dance with her in a dark room, looking in awe at the full moon throwing beautiful streaks of lighting through the window! But thinking about it – so what? Crazy people have a constitutional right to make their own mistakes and learn from them, yea?

 ‘You’re not qualified’

OK I admit this is a tricky one. Let me think about this. According to Uncle Google ‘qualified’ means “officially recognized as being trained to perform a particular job; certified“. Then I’m probably qualified after completing an advanced diploma in photography in an international institute and another one in wedding photography specifically, but somehow I don’t buy into that. With photography you need experience. Lots of it. My 50,000 shots probably do not come close to some of the pros’ tallies but even so – I’ve learned quite a bit in that time. And I’ve done them all in Manual mode (now guys, that is at least some indication that I’m serious about photography, LOL!

Uncle Google’s definition of ‘qualified’ hurts my feelings at least a little bit. It ignores the fact that I have spent a humongous number of hours behind paper books, ebooks and online research to strengthen my photographic knowledge. And in fact, I’m still doing so an a daily basis.

‘There’s no money in photography’

Says who? Sure, there are lots of photographers struggling day after day to make a profit (or even break even) but then there are lots who are flourishing! In the same market! So, what’s the winning recipe? Dedication to quality, hard work and diversity (me thinketh!). The least I can do is fail on my own – or try not to (wink wink)!

So what’s this about a ‘challenge’?

So what challenge can there be to going full-time into photography – and specially wedding photography, you may wonder? Well, you see the problem is this: in spite of being right in the mind, kind of qualified and confident that I can pull of a series of successful wedding shoots, the demand for wedding photography seems to be almost non-existent. The supply on the other hand appears to be overwhelming and worsened by the growing number of Uncle Bob’s out there who got a point-and-shoot camera for Christmas last year – and he ‘can do your wedding for you‘!  So what reasons are there for us beginners to be one of the selected few who are actually shooting a wedding from time to time? Reasonings like:

‘You don’t have enough experience’

Ever applied for a job and got refused because ‘you don’t have enough experience’? Now – if everyone is reasoning like that, how on earth are you going to gain that required experience? One advice I’ve heard is to apply for a job as 2nd photographer. Reality is that the problem is exactly the same! One of our wedding photography groups on Facebook has a list of available 2nd photographers to which one can add your name. This list keeps on growing but no-one ever gets invited to a wedding shoot based on its contents! Every once in a while a ‘I need a 2nd photographer’ post makes its appearance just to be drowned by a number of offers, if not desperate pleas. It thus seems to me that if you don’t have a bit of luck and being asked to do a friend or family member’s wedding (and fighting the feeling of being Uncle Bob) then you have a slim chance indeed of getting some opportunities!

‘Your portfolio is too small’

Refer to the previous paragraph – how do you grow a profile without getting experience?

‘Your website’s SEO is insufficient’

Don’t worry if this sounds like a term from Mars if you don’t own a website! In short that means that if someone googles ‘wedding photographer‘ then you do not appear on the first page results. Now let me assure you: I have done lots and lots (and lots!) of work in order to improve my website’s SEO based on tutorials, courses, books and googling. And SEO wizards. And I’m still working on it on a daily basis. The result: nothing. The last time I’ve googled ‘Wedding Photographer Gauteng’ (which someone in my area would most likely enter when looking for a wedding photographer), I paged and paged. Then gave up after 5 pages of not finding an entry for my website. No-one in their right mind would look back so far to find a photographer for their wedding because in theory the further back you go, the bigger is the ‘Mr. Nobody’ tag. So, how do one tell Google that it’s a mistake? That you actually deserve one of the first five entries on the first page? I can only envy the owners of those entries on the first Google page and wonder how on earth they’ve achieved that! Does this mean that I’ll ever give up in improving my SEO? Never! I dream of the day when I’ll write a blog on ‘How I got my website to Google search page #1’! So, watch this space!

The conclusion

Starting off as a wedding photographer is an immense challenge and the only glimmer of hope is that there are guys and gals out there who are still making it against the odds. It certainly is hard work otherwise there would have been many more of our ‘types’ out there! I’ll look up to them, keep on being inspired by them and who knows – maybe I’ll be their main competition one of these days! In the mean time, if you’re looking for a 2nd shooter…. (wink, wink)! One just hopes that our ‘to-be-weds‘ out there keep on acquiring the skills of us photographers who are serious about delivering quality work in spite of all the Uncle Bobs looking for opportunities too. In the mean time I’ll keep on voting for and promoting the guys already making a success out there in spite of them being my competition. Only work of the highest quality will ensure that the services of guys like them (and myself) will stay in demand for many years to come.

Other blogs by the same author

My first wedding shoot and 9 tips for you 1st shoot!

9 Tips to help you realize your dream wedding album!

Handy links:

My website:

My favourite photography website:

Tobie Schalkwyk is a full-time Java web developer who hopes to move into full time wedding, portrait and event photography when he retires at the end of 2017. All comments on this blog are most welcome. What are your concerns re. your wedding photographs / photographer? Share your thoughts below! Any questions about your coming shoot? Let them come!

This entry was posted in Wedding Photography.

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