Let’s face it, choosing wedding photography as a career option is very difficult.
One of the hardest things we’ve experienced first-hand is how tough it can be financially. Between significant investments into professional quality photography gear and working long hours to run the business side of things and take photos for people – it is tough stuff.
We’re not saying these things to scare you – because we enjoy every minute of it (yes: even the hard parts), and it can be extremely rewarding if done well.
Even if you are a wedding photographer already starting to get some consistent bookings on your calendar, you may notice that they tend to skew towards one or two seasons of the year.
With this in mind, we want to talk to you today about how you can survive the slow season as a wedding photographer!
What is the slow season?Based on the metrics we shared above (and our personal feelings), slow season for wedding photography runs from January to April. Wedding photographers few inquiries, and those that do get tend to be less than serious and more of the price shopping variety. The amount of work we have is also pretty low. We occasionally shoot engagement sessions and couples portraits during this timeframe, but not many weddings or bigger events.
In practice, this makes sense with what we would expect. People tend to slow down during the winter months. Days are shorter with the sun setting around 5pm. The freezing temperatures also don’t help.
While it is true that many couple’s get engaged over Christmas and New Year’s holidays, they don’t tend to be prepared to immediately make a decision on a wedding photographer. When we spoke to area wedding photographers, many indicated it took months to find someone they liked to have photograph. This helps to explain the influx of inquiries early on, but lack of bookings.
At least in photography world, this challenge of the slow season is offset by your busy season. September and October have wedding photographers working non-stop, and book about 75% of clients during this timeframe.
How You Can Survive the Slow SeasonNow that we’ve shown you how bookings look across an entire year, we want to talk about how you can survive the slow season. Through all of the challenges as a result of months of slowness on end, we’ve highlighted a few tips to help you to better manage things.
1). Book smaller sessionsWhile weddings are your bread-and-butter, smaller sessions can go a long way to keep things afloat. They are much less financially burdensome, so clients are more likely to book them. Portraits, families, engagements, and so on. These are all simple extensions of a wedding photography business that make sense when you have down time like this to work on.
2). Second shoot for other photographersIf you really want to stay in the game and shoot weddings, reach out to other photographers in your area and offer your help. If you are already an established wedding photographer (so: have your own equipment and experience), you will be much more attractive to other photographers. This is because your offering of assistance comes with a good amount of credibility, and those photographers can look through your portfolio to see what your work looks like.
Generally, second shooting gigs should pay some money too. We’ve done some research and found stastically jobs that paid between 200$ – $500 for a days worth of work.
3). Offer a discounted ratePhotographers of all niches infrequently offer discounts on their photography services. Early on in your business, it was a lot more common for you as you were just trying to get some of your first clients in the door. Now, with the number of bookings you get, they aren’t really essential for your business.
With this said, more bookings = less stress as the future is more certain.
Given the first few months of the year have a decrease in action, we find discounts to be one way to entice people to book. Take $100 or $200 off a wedding day package, and be amazed at how prospective clients will be much more compelled to book with you.
4). Save moneyThe most important piece of advice we can give you is to save money. If you save in a smart way, you can ride out the slow season on your savings will ease. In the first 2 years of our business, this was basically impossible to do. But, now that you’ve gotten past the the “investment stage” of your business – where you spent upwards of $10k on new gear and services – a lot of your earnings go right into savings so you can pay yourselves. We suggest this approach to anyone running a business!!
5). Diversify your revenue streamsOne of the mistakes of any small business is only having one way to make money.
Sometimes, photographers think they can only make money by taking pictures of people. The reality is far different!
A few ways to make money through your photography business include:
6). Buff up other areas of your businessJust because you are slow doing work for paying clients, doesn’t mean you should stop working.
Running your own business involves a lot of hard work. Often, when you are slow, you should do more to market yourselves, build your following online, and streamline your workflows. A few things you should be doing include:
Wedding photography is really a tough industry that can be very rewarding. It requires a lot of toughness and perseverance to make it through. If you’re really dedicated and want this to be your career, you can make it happen!