On an increasingly regular basis I find myself being asked by people who are negatively affected by the economy if they should become a professional photographer.
"Surely you must make good money shooting weddings?"
At the bottom of my personal website, the one I use to promote my photography business, I have the line: I don't wear ties and I don't shoot weddings. So that takes care of the wedding question. Yet the reasons why I won't shoot weddings don't really have anything to do with the money. It's about the time and the stress involved. Have you been to a wedding lately? They seem to go on forever. So as a photographer you're expected to be there while the bride is getting ready so that you can take these iconic images of her being made up. Then, a few hours later you go to the ceremony. Blah blah blah. Click click click. Then it's a photo shoot of the couple and their respective families. Say cheese. Click click click. And then it's off to play the Vogue fashion photographer with images of the bridal party in the most contrived and unlikely poses possible. Then there is the reception. Speech, speech! Singing of jolly good fellow. Speech, speech! Dance. Eat. Cake. Dance. Drink.
The next thing you know it's 9pm. You've been at this job since 9am and the worst part is the real work hasn't even begun yet. Say you shot about 1,000 images in the day and if you're presenting at least 200 of those to the couple, you're looking at editing time of at least 10-15 minutes per image in post. Unless you're Joe McNally where everything happens in camera, 10 minutes is a fair estimate. So now you have a task of at least 2,000 minutes to work on getting those images print ready. That's 33 hours if you work at it non-stop.
Another reason why I don't shoot weddings is because I don't have a crystal ball. Most couples usually set a wedding date that is at least 6 months to a year in the future. I could be dead then. Or there might be something else happening on that weekend that I would really rather be doing. Like going away and spending time with my family, who I only really get to spend quality time with on weekends. That time is worth much more to me than the money being offered to shoot weddings these days.
On the money side of things there are a few photographers who can get away with charging over $1500 to photograph a wedding day, but down here where I live if you're over $800 for the whole day, with an album thrown in, they're going to think you're on crack. Why is that? The couples and their families are quite prepared to spend thousands and thousands on dresses that will never be worn again, venue hire, catering, etc, but the one thing that will outlast the marriage they baulk at paying over $800 for. I guess there are enough amateur photographers out there who are quite happy to shoot a wedding for as low as $500 which they then supplement their income with, or feed their photography hobby, so it's a very competitive field.
Screw that too.
Well, how then do I make a living as a photographer? It's hard, but I have worked my way into a niche. I cover corporate events. It's an easy gig, the hours are usually good and the weekend warrior photographers are too busy at their day jobs to compete with me. I charge a fair hourly rate and most companies don't even bat an eyelid when I quote them that. Getting paid is never an issue because it's a corporate process. I don't have to print anything and I've been using the same main camera since 2009. I've never had a client complain about the image quality.
So, when the amateur photographer asks me if he should turn pro, my advice is always "Don't quit your day job". If you're working in the daytime I don't have to worry about you crowding out my turf.