What does a wedding photographers do? Are you thinking of becoming a wedding photographer and want to learn what a typical day-in-the-life of a wedding photographer looks like?
Are you curious as to what’s involved behind the scenes on the business side of things, aside from the wedding day itself. Sure there’s editing and brushing up on photography-related skills. But being a wedding photography business owner is in many ways just like running any other kind of local service business – very hands-on, with tight margins and the need to excel and excite at every turn.
OK, maybe I’m projecting a bit here as a textbook overachiever.
Asking what a wedding photographer does with their time may seem a bit silly, not least to other wedding photographers. Maybe some would even be hesitant to lift the lid and reveal everything that goes into those uber-curated Instagram feeds as they wave an old film camera around and look at something fascinating on the ground. There is definitely an expectation in the wedding industry in general to be relentlessly upbeat, seek perfection and make it all look effortless.
I have been guilty of hiding behind the perfect feed, the stylishly curated portfolio and polished website. I’m trying to get more frank and candid not just in my imagery but the way I communicate about my work to my clients and industry peers. So here I am lifting the lid on all that do behind the scenes – that nobody at all is aware of.
Coupled with this is the “situation” that we’re all impacted by right now. It’s early May, which is typically my second busiest month of the whole year for weddings (after October, in case you were interested). This is a time for reflecting on the businesses we’ve paused for the foreseeable future. The whole wedding industry, truth be told.
This time has forced me to slow down. I think I will likely change a few of the practices that have become normal in my work over the past few years. I’ve realized I do THE MOST when it comes to serving my clients and competing in my local area. I definitely want to have a healthier approach to work going forward.
One thing is for sure: you won’t find two photographers that have the exact same processes, workflow and tasks. You’ll also see that I’m not talking about what photographers do on the wedding day. That part is maybe a little easier to understand, because clients and guests can see it. Photographers arrive super early, they set up, they take photos, they eat cake, drink coffee and drive home.So what do wedding photographers actually do when they’re not at weddings? i.e the vast majority of their time? Surprised by that? Well, did you know that wedding photographers only spend 4% of their time photographing weddings? (Source: this Petapixel article).
If you want to see a really cool infographic of the raw data from this study (hello, data nerds like moi!) check out this wedding photography industry survey from Your Perfect Wedding Photographer here. The figures are in pound sterling, but you get the general gist.
I’m not going to describe a ‘typical workday’ per se, because I literally don’t have one. Some of my tasks are daily, some weekly, monthly, quarterly – but as I’m dealing with serving customers, most of my tasks are ad hoc. So rather, here’s a list of just some of the tasks I do, as a successful wedding photography business owner – along with the frequency with which I undertake them.
Remember, these tasks are specific to me as one person. This is not meant to be a prescriptive list or a how-to resource, just a reflection (during these crazy times) what it is I do, in case it is interesting to others.
It’s my hope that this information is useful to both marriers to find out more about wedding photographers, as well as aspiring wedding photographers looking to uplevel their businesses. Cheers, see you in the comments! 🥂
For more info about this topic, I detail a lot of my job-specific work on this post, linked below:
Check my Google rankings
I wake up and the first thing on my mind is my position in the SERPs (that’s the search engine results page). Every time I publish a post I input the URL along with the keywords that I want the content to rank for into some software that tracks the position for me. The software I use is SERP Robot. This is what my SERP Robot dashboard looks like. I love it!
If my rankings take a nosedive, I want to know why. It may be a sign that something’s not quite right on my site, or a competitor’s content has surpassed mine. Either way, I choose to keep on top of my positioning on Google as this is how 65% of clients find me.
I have over 100 articles now, and a few sales pages. Being able to see what’s doing well, what maybe needs more work, is key. Otherwise, there isn’t much point creating all this content in the first place. Likewise, if it’s not ranking for the desired keywords, that would be an issue that needs addressing.
Shameless Brag: I managed to get to a high of #3 for the highly competitive term ‘Bay Area Wedding Photographer’ on Google. There are no hacks, it just takes several years and daily, consistent work and a lot of it! You can also pay for ads but this isn’t quite as sustainable a strategy long term. Savvy consumers usually skip past the paid ads anyway, which have to be declared as such.
Edit 06/01/20 Holy crap, guys, I just checked my analytics as usual and I’m now position #2 on Google for ‘Bay Area Wedding Photographer’! This is insane! I’m NOW outranking Here Comes the Guide, Yelp, Wedding Wire plus every other photographer in my area! 🎉
Reply to emails
I spend anything up to 3 hours replying to email! Yes, that sounds like a lot, and it is because I am so wordy, but hear me out! I have a long document where I store all my template emails but that isn’t the end of the story. Unlike when I worked in an office, replying to an email might involve A LOT of steps! To explain how it could possibly take so long, imagine, to send an email I might:
– edit and prepare a sample gallery of images that I’d second for a new client inquiry.
– update or even create a pricing guide and send it out to someone interested in that particular type of photography.
– complete all the design changes requested by a client for her wedding album.
– prepare a provisional, customized wedding timeline for a new client I met with the previous day.
– answer clients’ very specific questions concerning issues they’re encountering with their wedding planning.
– prepare a contract that needs to be checked over numerous times, plus an invoice and other onboarding materials.
Instagram story content
Yes, you can use your Instagram scheduler for content for stories as well, but I prefer to do this in real-time to leave a little room for creativity + fun! I’ve gotten a little slack lately with my stories (probably because I recently started another IG account for another business!) but usually I’d post to my wedding photography Instagram stories at least 1 – 3 times every day.
I share screenshots of stuff that amuses me, wedding memes, places I go, food I eat, baking disasters, selfies, gifts I receive/ give, behind-the-scenes, announcements… I don’t post too much actual photography there but keep it quirky, light-hearted, and real to match my brand. Here are a few screenshots of some typical stories!
Client calls/ meetings
During my very busiest times, I may meet with or have phone/video calls with clients as often as a 2-3 times a day. Other times, I may go a couple of weeks without speaking to a client. I use Calendly as my scheduling tool. Clients use my link and book their own slot based on the times I’m available. They can also reschedule themselves if something crops up.
As my clients most commonly work a 9-5 job, they are only free to chat in the evening or on weekends. So usually I’m working all day then jumping on a call at 8pm. Or I’m giving up a Sunday to squeeze in a couple of meetings because it’s the only day my busy clients can do. New client meetings are the most obvious type of get-together, but I also do timeline run-throughs for every wedding that has any level of complexity (basically anything except City Hall weddings).
I have a separate article about editing as there’s a lot to tell!
As a rule of thumb it’s somewhere between 2 – 3 hours of editing required for each hour of shooting. Bear in mind, the majority of this time is given over to the culling process, not the actual tweaking or color, exposure, straightening etc that comes to most people’s minds. That means refining the 10,000 RAW files from me and my second shooter, down to the 800 that make the final cut. I use Photo Mechanic by Camera Bits for culling. Photo Mechanic is free for 3 months using this link so you can try it out and see how incredible it is.
Some photographers outsource their editing. However this, of course, takes away a huge chunk of what would be money in their pocket. I’d love to use the outsource model someday, but I am not making enough currently to justify it. I’ve put this as a daily task but I may not edit every single day. Editing is something I really struggle with as it’s a very long process that’s sometimes unproductive and quite arduous.
Strategize (and write) blog content
My blog content strategy is a very fluid one but does require a lot of discipline. I spent a chunk of time a few months ago laying down the foundation for the content I’d like to produce, but this has been refined over time as I learn more about what my audience (and searchers in general) respond to.
Blogging forms the crux of my content marketing strategy so I attend to this take somewhere between every day and every week. There have been times when I’ve had the luxury of devoting up to 14 hours every day for weeks, to this task (it was during winter and my husband was away for his vacation!). I operate under the basis of JUST GET IT DONE. I don’t sit around waiting for inspiration to strike – writing and preparing content is a task like any other.
Easy for me to say as creating content is my FAVORITE part of my work as a wedding photographer.
Plan out Instagram content
I use Later to schedule out my Instagram posts. (If you hit this link, you’ll get 10 free scheduled posts every single month free when you join!) I’ve been using it for 2 years now and I’ve never had any issue with it, it’s been such a timesaver! It posts automatically without me having to lift a finger once I scheduled the posts and captions I’d like. The software even saves my captions, which is generally where I add the vendors for each wedding plus some favorite hashtags that are relevant to different types of weddings. It doesn’t do carousel posts, but they can be set up to notify you to post.
Follow up with ghosters
A ‘ghoster’ is someone who has inquired with me but then I never heard from again. Following up with them is set in my calendar as a weekly reminder. I use Dubsado as my CRM or Client Relationship Manager – and it’s awesome! I can see at a glance all the new leads that have come in and the stage they’re at. The process is they go from new lead > in conversation > current job. Anyone who’s in the ‘new lead’ stage but isn’t progressing through the funnel needs to be followed up with to see if the prospect is still interested.
Quite often people will pop back up and say, thanks for following up, got totally lost in the flurry and would love to set up a time. Other times they will tell me they booked someone else, can’t do my prices, or they don’t reply. But no one has ever minded a follow-up, out of the thousands I’ve sent. So, this has been a very effective strategy for me! If you’re interested in trying Dubsado as your CRM, use this link for 20% off your first month or year! I couldn’t run my business without Dubsado.
Perform my manual backups
I use Backblaze for lightning-fast, instant one-way backups of all my many, many terabytes of raw files, edited jpegs, album files, Lightroom files and documents! When you use this link, you’ll get a month free! I also choose manually to back up my working 4TB external hard drive to another identical drive. I use Fastcopy to seamlessly sync all files that have changed from the working drive to the clone. As this has a tendency to slow down the computer, I let it run overnight every other Tuesday.
Every two weeks
Review and tweak my website
There have been times when I’ve spent several hours every day on my website, but now I’ve got it where I want it, it’s much less. However, it’s important to keep looking at your website. It’s not a set-it-and-forget-it kind of thing. You’ll see little typos and bad UX examples and photos you’re not that proud of anymore. So I always make time to look at my wedding photography website on both my desktop and phone and make sure it looks good and reads well. Adding new photos from each wedding is a must. Your portfolio is literally the first thing searchers look at after the homepage.
I actually do my bookkeeping every two weeks, using my bookkeeping software Wave Accounting. Usually I manage this, but on rare occasions I miss a session, but it still turns out to be monthly account transaction reconciliations. As I do it so frequently it comes very easily and I can troubleshoot any issues very quickly. A lot of photographers are scared of bookkeeping for some reason, but you’ll never gain confidence with it if you keep putting it off!
At first I was always getting it wrong and even had my accountant on retainer to help me out. I had to ask the folks at Wave to help me out once, because I messed it up beyond recognition. It’s only by learning the hard and costly way that I now have mastery over my numbers. If you’re interested in getting started with Wave Accounting, and you run payroll, I’ll hook you up with a $100 Amazon coupon, just holla!
Every two weeks, I create a large batch of Pinterest content. Once set up, anything between 20 – 30 pins are automatically shared every day. This is a whole large subject area in itself, but here’s the nutshell version. I use Canva Pro to make Pinterest graphics that promote my blog posts, usually a few different variations so I can split test them. If you want to get started with Canva for free, this link will entitle you credits for some premium assets.
The scheduling software I use which is specific to Pinterest is Tailwind. They have a ton of awesome features that make it easy to share your own content and that of other wedding and business owners. One of the main features is Tailwind Tribes where like-minded bloggers connect and promote each other’s pins. I wouldn’t be able to reach anything like the metrics I have on Pinterest without Tailwind, as it would take days rather than couple of hours to share that volume of content. If you want $15 off the Plus program (that’s what I use, and sufficient for wedding photographers), use this link!
Ask for reviews
I follow up with my clients who I know were really happy with my services to ask them for a review or testimonial. There’s a template form I created (in Dubsado, of course!) that gives full information about tips for writing the kind of review that would be most helpful for my business. I also link where to post the review! I’ve no problem being persistent with this one, as I understand writing reviews slips people’s minds but it’s so important to my business. Usually they appreciate the reminder, but some will never write a review regardless how many times I ask.
Create content of…. myself?!
This is a weird one, but something that wedding photographers cannot neglect if they have a popular Instagram page or any kind of following! Basically you need to get yourself out there! I go on regular shoots usually with my husband as the photographer! I do sometimes meet with other photographers, but we’re not always out taking pics of one another – I want to use this time to really get to know my industry peers.
Anyway, these sessions generate photo content that is important in getting your audience to know who you are. They are an excuse to inject a bit of your own personality into your posts, and usually get very good engagement. Some photographers also have a YouTube channel which is a great idea.
Album design is not a year-round task and it’s more of an ad hoc process depending on how many clients are interested in purchasing an album or book. I don’t sell a huge number of wedding albums, just a handful each year. Album design is an involved process that starts with a meeting inviting the client to view samples, then drawing up a contract to confirm their choices, getting the payment plan started, waiting for their image selections, designing my first version, waiting for feedback… and so on.
I know many wedding photographers are not fans of the process as it’s quite stop-and-start due to the nature of being super collaborative. It can end up taking longer than anticipated too. I use Fundy Designer to design my albums and I have their Pro Enhancements add-on for album proofing. The suite also includes an awesome module that I use for collaging all the images on my blog! (I used to have to use Blogstomp for this – but not anymore!)
I use Miller’s Lab as my album supplier, which is only available to professional photographers.
Networking with other wedding professionals
Who you know is hugely important in the wedding industry – as with most industries! We wedding photographers can fall into the habit of working in a vacuum. If we want to be part of a community we need to go out and find our people! During wedding season, forget it – but in the winter months I try and meet up with a wedding planner every couple of weeks. You definitely need to make an effort to reach out to others and make it clear you’re building relationships. Otherwise the connections are unlikely to happen. If you meet vendors at a wedding, you’re at work so unable to chat and connect personally. That’s what coffee’s for!
Send out client gifts
I use Greetabl (that’s my affiliate link there) to send out onboarding gifts to my clients. I send these to non-City Hall clients when they’ve made their first payment. Greetabl does it all online – I simply choose a box design, pick a cute gift, add my logo and a personalized message about how excited I am to shoot their wedding.
Most excitingly, I can add images from their engagement shoot to the box – that they can tear out and keep! The prices are not bad, around $10 – $30 per gift depending on what exactly you choose! There is also a yearly subscription to pay but you then get free economy postage and credits for each gift sent.
They are sure to bring a smile to your clients’ faces. I also use them to send to friends and other photographers that I’ve worked with or that have worked for me. Why not spread a little joy! There’s also a free plan which is more like a pay-as-you-go if you only want to send a gift every now and then. Here are some of my own client gifts created with Greetabl. How cool are these?
Interested? Check out my detailed article about exactly how Greetabl works if you’re curious to learn more!
Every now and then I’ll have a client who really wants me to scout their venue – or I’ll decide to do so because it’s necessary for that wedding. In 2019 I had 5 such occasions, so I’m classing this as a quarterly task! One wedding we were taking a large group of people to a public park and couldn’t spend a bunch of time moving everyone on the day if the light wasn’t right or it was too busy. On another occasion, the couple were rightfully concerned that they had very little time to spare for portraits and it would benefit us to spring into action immediately on the day. Another couple had not only a scouting meeting, but also a timeline run-through, where all parents and vendors were present to make sure all were on the same page.
Income tax payments
Depending on the business type, wedding photographers may have to file their federal and state income taxes quarterly. This is all done online luckily! As anything regarding money and taxes can have some photographers in a tailspin, it can sometimes be a bit of a drag in all honesty, but needs to be done nevertheless.
Submitting to wedding blogs
This is a biggie! I try to submit to wedding blogs more frequently than every quarter if I can. Right now, I’m a member of Aisle Society’s Matchology which connects wedding photographers more easily to wedding blogs leveraging the huge Aisle Society network. I see getting published as a sign of recognition in my industry. The published badges have pride of place on my homepage! Even if users of my site are not regular readers of every blog listed there, they’ll get the idea that it’s a big deal to be featured and acts as great social proof!
Another huge reason I try very hard to get weddings published is for the SEO benefit. When my site is shouted out with a hyperlink by a reputable website, it acts as a ‘vote’ for my website. Google takes notice every time a website links to mine.
Filing sales taxes and business registration renewal
In San Francisco, sales tax + business registration renewal is due on May 31 (though in 2020 it will be extended by four months). It’s a simple process of reporting sales receipts and sending payment for all the sales tax that’s due when you sell to residents of the state of California. I get a reminder by mail and also have it on my calendar in case the reminder doesn’t make it!
Cleaning and servicing of all equipment
I use Canon Professional Services and have a Gold membership. Every year I send both of my 5D Mark III camera bodies and my 5 lenses in for their annual maintenance at the Costa Mesa facility. I get my lenses calibrated too, which is an extra service but I often find that after almost a year has passed since their last service, the focus misses too much for my liking. I’ll chat on the phone to the team there about what I can do to get optimum performance out of my bodies which now have several hundred thousand shutter actuations each. I really should retire my babies, but I think they still have some life left in them.
And… there you have it! I know it’s a lot… Like I said I’m rather obsessive. I’m working on that. However a lot of these things are common for the majority of wedding photographers, and some will do other things that I don’t bother with.
Tasks a wedding photographer might excel in (but I don’t do personally)
- Going to workshops and conferences
- Building out different social media channels
- Creating video content for YouTube
- Becoming an industry educator, training wedding photographers
- Being active in Facebook groups and in-person networking groups
- Organizing and participating in styled shoots
- Devising strategies for paid advertising
- Promoting other types of photography than solely weddings
- Cross-promoting their services with other vendors (typically videographers, wedding planners)
And it also bears mentioning 4 years in is very different from prior years. Before I got into this comfortable flow and rhythm, I had to take care of the following tasks. These basically took me three years to ‘complete’ though are actually ongoing:
Tasks a wedding photographer might have to undertake early in their business (one and done-ish)
- Devise my unique selling point, value proposition, brand voice etc
- Logo, branding and website design
- Learn how to use my website, CRM, post-processing programs
- Create a price list & design informational pricing brochures
- Write copy for my sales pages, brochures and website in general
- Learn bookkeeping and compliance for business, income and sales taxes
- Roadtest equipment cases, carriers, holders and many other accessories to arrive at the set-up that works
- Design and print sample albums to sell to clients, plus detailed pricing brochure
- Train second-shooters and any other independent contractors that work for me
- Build a following on social media with 5k+ followers over 5+ years
- Mastery of my all photographic equipment so I can seamlessly execute
After writing all of this, I still have a nagging feeling that I’ve forgotten something. I know there’s more! But this gives you a good idea what wedding photographers do- when we’re not out shooting weddings!
Did you find this helpful? Are you surprised or is this aligned with what you do, or what you expected a wedding photographer to do? I’d love to hear your comments, so leave them down below!