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Q: What are the biggest up-front costs a photographer will need to budget for to make the transition to shooting weddings full time?
A: The obvious one is gear. As a professional you need at least two of everything and a wide selection of lenses. You wouldn’t really show up to a wedding with just one camera, would you? One thing that surprised me was the wear and tear on my gear. My previous years as a stock and editorial shooter didn’t require the shutter activations I am seeing in my wedding work. My first year, with more than 40 weddings, I sent in three speedlights and one body for repair. Your website, identity, and branding are also going to be a big expense starting out. Don’t forget promotional pieces and print costs for your studio or portfolio.
There is a lot of trial and error that goes into deciding how best to spend your hard-earned dollars. My first several weddings I promised my brides the world, then I had to deliver expensive albums that ate into my profit. Now I prefer to get most of my profit up front in the form of a creative fee instead of marking my albums way up — especially because not every client is interested in a traditional album.
Workshops and conferences are a great way to brush up your skills and learn from other photographers’ experiences. Some provide great information while others are pointless. I think their real value comes in networking. All in all it is helpful to speak to as many pros as possible to see what worked and didn’t work for them and to adapt their advice to your current situation.