Katja & Simon
Beginnings usually come with a large dose of excitement and new challenges. We win and fail, learn and grow, experiment and hopefully enjoy the process along the way. Though it’s fun to discover things on your own, a bit of research and talking to experts can save you a lot of time and farfetched expectations. Simon and Katja, a fun and talented wedding photographers couple from Slovenia agreed to unveil some of the things they wish they knew before they started their wedding photography business. Keep reading and tell us if you agree and if you relate to any of these!
Hey guys! Before we start, tell us a bit about yourself and your photography journey.
We are Katja and Simon, wedding photographers based in Slovenia, Europe. We started our wedding photography business by accident, when we shot a cousin’s wedding just for fun (they had an official photographer). That’s when we realized that we love the workflow, and the photos turned out to be great too.
It’s been almost 4 years now and when looking back, we wish we would do some things different and sooner, but owning a business means constantly learning and adapting to the growing market. So we’ve put together a short list of 7 things we wish we knew before we started, and hope that some beginner photographers will find these useful and relevant.
1. It can be fun, but it can be hard and stressful too.
During one of the last weddings in 2015, we met an old friend from college. At dinner we got talking and she asked how we ended up in this business. While we explained how and why we started, her immediate response was – “Wow, your job is so cool and fun, and you earn a ton of money too! I would love to do what you do!”
We are pretty sure everyone gets the same reaction every now and then. Well, the reality is a bit different, isn’t it? We do have fun and the job is mostly awesome, but at the same time it is hard work. Most people don’t think about how much time we spend editing photos back home, how hard the working hours at weddings are (on average our wedding day is at least 12 hours, our record was 21 hours), how we don’t get to spend most weekends with friends and family… Being a wedding photographer is a job, just like any other job. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s hard, sometimes it’s super stressful! But we love our job, because at the end of the day there is nothing better than making our clients happy.
2. You spend very little time with your camera.
After our first season in 2013 (we had 6 weddings, most clients were our friends) we calculated the time we spent shooting vs. the time we spent sitting behind the laptop (editing, book designs, communication and e-mails, accounting, blogging, etc.) and we were shocked! We had no idea that the non-shooting part of the wedding business takes so much time and it wasn’t at all what we imagined when we first started. On average a wedding requires around 12-15h of coverage, while the post wedding processes take you at least 35-40h.
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Last year we started using different tools and apps to help us do the post wedding part faster and easier. We’ll have to admit that it was a really good decision. Here are a few examples of the tools we use: PhotoMechanic, LightRoom, Photoshop, Illustrator, Skype, Vsco, Momondo, Viber, Canned Responses, Flothemes, Digisigner, Google Docs, Dropbox, etc. We are constantly on the lookout for new ways to save time, so we can spend it on other things we love, not just wedding photography.
3. Gear is not everything!
We bought our first basic DSLR years before we started the business, and while learning and exploring the techniques in photography, we foolishly thought we need all the available gear on the market to be able to take good pictures and eventually make a living. So we kept buying new stuff.
The reality hit us after the first couple of weddings, when we realized two things:
A. We don’t have the time to use all that fancy gear. Weddings are unpredictable and being a wedding photographer means we have to be ready for any situation at any time. So carrying all the extra gear (that we might not even get to use at the end of the day) was just distracting and slowing us down.
B. All that gear will not do our work for us. Our cameras can’t be creative and can’t decide which spot at the venue is the best for a bride’s portrait. Our imagination, our creativity and experience are the ones that do all the work.
Today we mostly use the basics – we could cover a whole wedding with just a 35mm and a 24mm lens. We have a 85mm in our bag, that comes really handy when shooting portraits from some distance and we bring out a tilt-shift from time to time, when we want to create a mysterious look during the portrait sessions. We love natural light so we only use flash when it gets dark.
4. A great portfolio is not enough.
Even when we got to the point where we really liked our work, were satisfied with our portfolio and got lots of likes on Facebook, we still had a hard time finding new clients. Every business struggles with this and weddings can be even harder, since most people get married only once in their lifetime – so no returning customers. And not to mention there are lots of great photographers out there, so it is a highly competitive market.
We believe there are some unique features every wedding photographer needs to focus on in order to get clients: having a good looking and fast website, good SEO, being present on social media, connect with other wedding vendors.. and be professional. Take care of your potential clients. Respond to emails in a professional manner and in time, give them the information they want and need, be nice and polite.
And most of all – stand out from the crowd. Do something different, be different. Explore new things and techniques and don’t get scared.
5. Invest in knowledge and connections.
If we were starting with wedding photography right now, the first thing we would invest in would be a workshop. There are lots of great workshops available today, and a lot of them cover much more than just the “How to take wedding photos” part.
In 2015 we signed up for two workshops and we believe it was the best investment so far. Apart from learning so much about the business, the workflow and ways to optimize it, we’ve met so many incredible people and made many new friends. Being connected to other wedding photographers and vendors means you always have people to talk to when you encounter a problem with your business or an issue with your client, you can share experiences, tips, even get wedding referrals.
6. Don’t let work take away your life.
We haven’t quite figured out this one yet. It’s hard to spend all day, every day with the same person by your side – while doing the same job. The line between work and free time gets blurred out pretty fast, and it gets even worse when your workflow is completely different from your partner’s. I [Katja] like to wake up early and do a big amount of work before lunch, so I have more time for creative work in the afternoon. Simon on the other hand likes to sleep an extra hour in the morning and does most of his work in the evening.
Working like that didn’t leave much space for spending time together outside of work. It was starting to affect our relationship and at one point in our lives we realized that we have nothing to talk about anymore, except work. This is not what we wanted when we first started a shared business. We wanted to have fun and be creative, be our own bosses and create our own schedules and spend more quality time together.
Our goal for 2016 is to do most of the work by 8:00 PM and spend more time with each other, our friends and families, catch up on our reading, watch more movies and simply enjoy a little bit every day. I hope Simon has more time to practice his guitar skills (he dusted off his guitar after 10 years ) and I as well want to focus on some of my old passions – such as illustrations.
We will let you know how this works, since this wedding season has barely started (smiles).
7. Keep it simple.
Every business owner should follow the ‘Keep it simple’ rule, though it’s easier said than done. We know this, because we were doing the exact opposite – we were complicating things!
When we first started, we wanted to have and do everything other photographers had and did. A proper logo, stationery, a really good webpage, welcome packets, gift packets, any kind of packets that look good and you can post on Instagram… You get the picture. We wanted to have everything and we wanted it immediately. We were on a tight budget and Katja had lots of design experience from the past, so we did everything on our own. Instead of keeping our services basic and working on the quality, photography and customer service, we were focused on everything else. And what a waste of time that was!
After three years, the pile of things we ‘used’ and ‘needed’, or as we thought our clients needed – got too big and too heavy. It was taking too much time and had little to no affect. The clients didn’t care. They didn’t care that we spent 4 months designing our web page, because for them it wasn’t fast enough. They didn’t care about the brochures and info cards we gave them, because they still wanted to meet us in person.
So we took a blank piece of paper and just started everything from scratch. We combined new ideas with the experience we gained, and followed the ‘Keep it simple’ rule at all times. We combined our first names to represent our brand instead of using a random XYZ Photography name, we got a fast and good looking website (thanks to Flothemes) that our clients really love, we have a much more simple price list and a straightforward contract. And our clients seem to appreciate that, because now they understand what they need, what they get and what they can expect from us.
VSCO Kodak Portra 160
Katja: MrSuicideSheep, Owsey
Simon: Coldplay, Sigur Ros, Parov Stelar
Katja: The Little Prince
Simon: Lonely Planet
“Collect moments, not things. ”
As proved so many times, the golden rule is Keeping it Simple and avoiding comparison at all time. Each one of us is a unique individual with our own visions and ideas. Comparing unique to unique will put you in a box and cut your limits. As Jonas Peterson keeps pointing out during his presentations – we all have a voice, and even though some of us are more famous and successful than others, this does not mean that one voice is more important or better than the other. All things need time and full investment of your heart and effort. We hope the above tips help all those of you who are just starting out!
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