It was exactly a decade back when I was desperately searching for an answer about what to do with my life. I was stuck in a 9-5 job that I hated and I didn’t know where to look for answers. Afterall, I was the one who had chosen to study for an Engineering Degree and then a MBA for pursuing a career in the corporate world. The problem was, all that I had hoped came as a bad dream. I wondered in astonishment, was this the dream that I was running behind??? I was disillusioned and frustrated at the choices I had made and had only myself to blame.
A chance wedding photography workshop was all I needed, it was like love at first sight, in a few months I had left a secure corporate career to pursue my newfound passion in photography. I was all starry eyed and ready to beat the rat race.
Reality hits hard
Without the technical skills or the business acumen to make a living out of photography I struggled for several months to get even a single wedding photography assignment. The salary wasn’t coming every month, and I was quickly on the brink of a financial meltdown because I had wiped out all my savings paying for the EMI’s (I had a house loan). Plus, my wife and I were soon expecting our first child. I was scared and I think it was the most stressful time of my life. On one hand I wanted to burn my bridges with my corporate career and on the other I had nothing to fall back on in the name of passion. I got a 1000 volt reality check, Ouch that hurt!
Getting Back to Work
With my pride between my legs I went back to work, a little wiser by the experience. However, I had tasted (very briefly) the exhilaration of chasing my passion. I was not ready to give up on my photography dream, not yet! For the next 10 months I slogged , every little free time I got after work I was building my photography knowledge and learning whatever I could about the business end of it. I knew I had to dig deep, so I started calling up all the wedding planners (from the yellow pages), church pastors, friends and offered to shoot for free. I finally got a few assignments (to shoot for free). I knew I needed a solid portfolio before people would even trust me to shoot for their life memories. Slowly but surely I kept building my portfolio. It took me around 10 months to get my wedding photography business to finally takeoff :)
Building the business
I was shooting/editing/designing the albums/answering email n calls/doing my website, being a dad to a small girl and a husband to my wife. I was exhausted and tired, but before I knew it the enquiries were filling my calendar. I hadn’t prepared to move as fast, I had to quickly hire a graphic designer who could help me with my website, someone to help me with my SEO and someone who could help me with the editing. There were large gaps in my skills for which I attended photography workshops and devoured whatever I could online. Finally, the business was thriving, Aaah what a feeling it was! I was now shooting weddings across the finest destinations like Thailand, Kathmandu, Udaipur, Goa and Kerala. I could now put a title to my name as as a destination wedding photographer :)
Here are my key takeaways, if you are looking at making your career in wedding photography keep in mind the below points.
1. Work on your Skill and Knowledge
Please know that wedding photography or any genre in photography needs quality skills to thrive. If you want to get into wedding photography, let me tell you it’s one of the most challenging areas of photography. Know the camera and the accessories (flash, lights, editing softwares etc) . Attend workshops, do online courses ( Udemy & Lynda have plenty of courses) and shoot whatever you can get your hands to. Your skills and knowledge will give you the confidence to deliver in any situation.
2. Build your Style
If you think you have got a few good shots from your friends wedding then think again. There are hundreds of photographers out there with the most fancy gadgets who are struggling because their images are not consistent. If you want to make money out of photography then your work has to be absolutely fantastic. Moreover, if you develop your own style you can differentiate yourself from the crowd. As a photographer this will be huge if you invest in doing it the right way early on, it’s always painful to unlearn and relearn
3. Commitment & Passion
Photography is a full time work and there are no shortcuts, Period! If you are not fully committed and passionate about your craft it will soon become overwhelming. For the hobbyist it may seem fun to take a fancy camera and shoot a few cool pictures and get bragging rights about the cool shots with a bokeh. As a professional photographer, shooting is just a part of the entire process. It takes hours of work to finish the edits and then there is Marketing/Communication/Accounting/Networking and everything else in between. It only looks fancy from the outside but believe me it’s a lot of hard work, day in and day out. Only being passionate and committed will give you the motivation to succeed in this journey
4. Savings matter
Before you take the leap into photography be prepared to go in without any returns initially. It may be a few weeks or a few months before you start getting consistent bookings. Have you saved enough to support yourself during this lean time? Plan it properly. If possible do it part time, make a solid pipeline and then make the full transition.
5. Know which genre to specialize
If you want to become a professional photographer then you have to know which genre you want to specialize in, There are many genres of photography and its not possible to be good in all of them. Know which genre excites you the most. You can choose from Wedding Photography, Wildlife Photography, Product Photography, Travel Photography, Fashion Photography, Documentary Photography etc. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. If you are starting then shoot all genres just to get an idea of what gets you excited and what you have a flair for. For wedding photography/documentary & fashion photography having good people skills is a big plus.
6. Get a good Mentor
This is one of the most important points. A good mentor could end up saving you years of mistakes and hardwork. A mentor will offer priceless pearls of wisdom that they would have learnt it the hard way. How do you go about finding a good mentor for yourself? It’s not so difficult to find one. Look into the portfolio’s of other photographers and get in touch with someone whose work and style resonates with yours. Offer to be their assistants, attend their workshops and devour all their content on social media. But, pick your mentor wisely else you will not grow as a photographer!
I hope I have shared some useful info here. I don’t want you to go through the same challenges that I had. I hope these pointers help you in your journey to become a photographer of your dreams. If you need any further advice you can contact me . I will be happy to help.