Why I quit being a Wedding Photographer
After 7 years, I have quit being a Wedding Photographer.
It used to be when you told people you were a Wedding Photographer, it was impressive. Like you were a creative genius that people wanted to be besties with. I never thought I would quit being a wedding photographer, but then again I never saw myself AS a wedding photographer in the first place. Now if you were to mention that you were a Wedding Photographer, it's almost like it's a joke. Like, "yeah, sure you are." The problem is there are a LOT of ammatuer people calling themselves PROFESSIONAL photographers, who honestly shouldn't be.
Here are the reasons I quit being a Wedding Photographer:
- Takes too much time, mentally. - If you are passionate about it, you are always thinking about it. When you are driving you are looking at possible locations, when you are at the store you are thinking about possible props. It is just always on your mind, and it's draining.
- The Utah Wedding Photography Market is CHEAP. No shade, we all like a good bargain, but Utah folks take it to a whole new level. It is hard to give clients a visual of WHY you are charging them so much, they simply don't get it.
- It really is not that lucrative. 6 figures wedding photographers are few and far between. It is actually pretty rare, when you take out expenses. Since photographers run their own finances, they can say, "I got paid $10k to shoot this wedding!" buuuut. You take out $1500 for the plane tickets, $700 for hotels, $200 for equipment rentals, $500 for post editing, 30% for Uncle Sam, and you aren't making a ton. That doesn't even include the different softwares you pay for, equipment upkeep, marketing costs. etc.. It just isn't worth it, to me.
- You become the post wedding day punching bag. - Sometimes if a Bride was unhappy with her wedding, decor, how she looked in her dress, etc.. YOU get the blame. You didn't photoshop her enough, you didn't know how to work with the lighting, you couldn't be in 5 places at once, etc.. It is all you. After years of being the punching bag for even just 1 out of 20 brides a year, its grading. It wears down the magic of being a part of weddings.
- The hours are TERRIBLE. - For a mom, anyway. Sessions are usually in the evening, Weddings are Fridays and Saturdays, and it is pretty taxing on a family whose husband is a 9-5'er and you want to do things together as a family.
Rewind 7 years. We bought a Nikon D3000 for Christmas one year. Super tiny dinky little camera. One time one of my friends asked me to snap a few pictures of her 4 month old baby, and that’s where it all started. As soon as my baby was born a month later, I spent so much time taking pictures of him. Learning how to take better ones. I naturally got better, and so naturally, friends started asking me to take their family pictures. I was so excited! and nervous. Pictures to me are a huge deal! So my first ever paid session, was for $40 bucks. It’s quite comical to think about, but so are the pictures that came from that session. I was so cocky. So naive. I genuinely thought my pictures looked as good as other professional photographers, and TRUST ME, they didn’t.
But. When you are that cheap, you stay busy. So to balance out the work load without saying no to people, you raise your prices. When you start to get too busy again, you raise your prices again, and you keep doing that until you are happy with how busy you are or aren’t. I got up to about $300 a session and I was happy with that, but something always nagged at me that I wanted to be a wedding photography, not a family photographer. So I started cheap again, my first wedding was $250 – a formal session 1 hour away, 2 hours at the temple 1 hour away, and 4 hours at the reception. You guys. That is SO ridiculous, I can’t believe I was that dumb. But it did what it needed, it gave me a starting portfolio and images to advertise with, word of mouth mixed with Bridal Fairs once or twice a year, I was forever busy shooting weddings.
About 4 years later, people start asking me a little too often, “So when do you think you will be done shooting weddings?” I am not sure why that was such a popular question, I wasn’t terrible at it! My answer was always the same, “When I feel like I am no longer a “cool” photographer, and when I feel like I am babysitting my clients more than being friends with them.” I just felt like that was the right answer, and I would know when it happened. It would be so obvious! I would hate getting new clients, I would cringe at the thought of shooting at the SL temple for the millionth time, I just knew I would know.
Fast forward however far, enter network marketing. I truly hate that name for it, because it sounds so cold and mechanical, and it’s anything but. I started making $5-$20k A MONTH without having to leave my home. Without having to miss bedtime(for better or for worse), without having to explain why I am worth that much, without competing, without all of that! The more successful I became at social media marketing(That’s what I am calling it now, baha!) the more I realized, I was ready to quit being a wedding photographer. I fought for a few months, because I didn’t hate shooting weddings! My last clients were some of my favorite clients! I didn’t feel the way I thought I would feel when it was time to be done. I still loved what I did, I just didn’t love doing it anymore.
The biggest reason was of course my family. For years the biggest value photography brought to my family was the income. How could i justify still doing it, when doing something else from home, was making more for me in 2 months than photography would make all year? I couldn’t.
I hung up my camera, put the film back in the fridge, and stopped.
I know most wedding photographers won’t understand this yet, and maybe there are a few who will. As personal, and emotional as photography is, deciding to quit was purely business. I still take photos, I still photograph my own kids and family. I get to love it again. It gets to be for me, again. no more gorgeous styled sessions resulting in empty heartless photographs, I get to photograph the REAL good stuff now. My loves.