I know what you're thinking... you only clicked on this because you wanted to know what I could possibly say about "making it" as a wedding photographer. What does Ashley know?! Well quite frankly, I don't know everything. I shot my first wedding back in 2012, so by industry standards, I am still a 'newbie' but in the last two years, I have learned more about life, weddings, and business, than I could have ever imagined. I have learned enough one to share one of the most valuable lessons on making it in the industry.
If you're new to the photography world, you may assume that you need a professional grade camera, an arsenal of thousand dollar lenses, and a few flashes to make it as a wedding photographer. Wrong. You may also think that you need to have a degree in photography or go to school for it... wrong. Now by saying that you don't need schooling or a degree in photography doesn't mean you don't have to be educated, because you do. However, you do not have to pay an institution to teach you what is readily available in workshops, online resources, and mentoring. I graduated from Virginia Commonwealth with a degree in marketing because I knew that if all else fails, at least I would have something to fall back on, something to help me with my business, and a back up plan. I never went into school with all of my eggs in one basket. There are countless resources for you to learn the skill of photography, and it doesn't have to cost you tens of thousands.
So then what?! What is this magic thing that will help you make it in this industry?!
The answer? A personality. That's right. It has nothing to do with photography or business at all, but it boils right down to you.
Now before I go into why this is so important, I am not saying that I am the best there is and I know everything, let me send you back up to the top: I'm writing this after experience, which means it's all based on factual events and conversations.
I talk to my friends around the country who have worked with other photographers and sadly, the biggest complaint from friends about their wedding photographer is that they didn't feel comfortable around them. They were either very distant and cold, or they just seemed really fake. It absolutely drives me crazy when I hear this because it shouldn't be that hard to warm up to someone, especially on the biggest day of their life.
I guess it's really easy for me to build relationships with the people that I work with because I truly enjoy getting to know people and gaining friendships. However, that doesn't come as naturally to other people --- and those people should not be photographers. I had time to reflect on the past year, the past 20 weddings that I had the honor of shooting and almost every single one of those couples are now friends. It's not something that every business owner does, but it's something that they SHOULD.
Now, from the industry side, it's just as important to build relationships with other photographers to "make it". This is a very thin line because some people chose to befriend others just to use them for exposure, clientele, or even steal their secrets/knowledge, but that's not the way to go. If you want help, ASK FOR IT, don't become someone's friend to weasel your way into the inner-workings of their business. In a world where everyone with a camera is a photographer, what makes you different? What makes you unique? YOU. A million people may own the same lenses, cameras, and software, but no one else on this earth has the ability to be YOU.
You don't make it as a wedding photographer by lying, stealing, and cheating.
You don't make it as a wedding photographer by knowing everything, owning the most expensive gear, and having the most money.
You make it as a wedding photographer by being so full of passion and heart that it explodes from your pores when you talk to your clients. You make it by forming relationships with your couples that extend OUTSIDE of the contract.
You make it as a wedding photographer by being a good person with genuine intentions.
I hope I didn't ramble on too long but it was sitting in my heart for the longest time and it needed to be said. I have seen and heard of so many horror stories from terrible photographers and so I urge each and every one of you to DO YOUR RESEARCH.