-This post is part 2, check out part 1-
So I had shot two weddings and learnt a heck of a lot in a very short amount of time, a trial by fire sort of thing, I had started to refine my gear and shooting style as well as learning the non-photographic skills that are needed, such as managing people.
It was at this time I read about a man called Kevin Mullins, in Turning Pro magazine, the title seemed relevant and so I got myself a copy. Mullins is a documentary wedding photographer and this was the first time I had heard about this being a way of shooting a wedding, no staged photographs or intervening, this sort of thing suited me down to the ground, as I preferred all the natural shots form my first two weddings. Reading about Kevin fought me that this was an actual way of photographing weddings, and one that people actually wanted, I then spent more time on researching this style go photography and got more and more used to the idea of shooting weddings like this.
This time also taught me that a website is key and mixed with good SEO can yield a fast growing business that people can easily fine, people use google for most things these days, especially for finding something they have ever needed before, such as a wedding photographer.
I worked on building my site up and my portfolio, I concentrated [with the help of a good friend] on optimising the website for search terms like 'Hereford wedding photographer' . It took a long time to see the results but before I knew it I was on the first page of Google, great I thought, until you realise that something like 80% of people click on the first result, so the first result was where I needed to be.
came up with a plan, and the first musings of my business strategy which I feel had gone much better than I could of hoped and has lead to where I am today, here is the rough plan:
SEO: Really push the SEO on the website, and get the website into the public view, I started a blog and tried to keep it up to date with new things, I also used a few other SEO tricks to up it in the rankings. The main problems with this is the ever changing nature of Google, and doing too much SEO can penalise you, its a bit of a guessing game really.
Offer wedding photography at a very low price: Offering low priced photography is one thing that will really fire up a photography forum, but I just didn't care, I needed lots of weddings, more weddings equals a bigger portfolio and more possible referrals for other weddings. I offered to shoot a full days wedding is 2013 for £375, this came with a CD of images and an album.
Keep expenses to a minimum: This wasn't so much of an active choice as what I had to do, but I decided to avoid all types of paid for advertising, if I wanted my name out there I would have to go and do it myself. I did sink some more money into gear and change this up a bit, i'll explain about this later on.
So that was the main plan, and the end goal was to shoot as many wedding as possible in 2013, this went really well, much better than I had ever hoped, however this was all happening at the end of 2012, and only about on possible wedding to speak of in the diary.
I kept going with the blog and my personal work, this kept things fresh and made sure the blog actually had some content, I continued to grow my skills and keep up with the SEO while I waited for the bookings to come in.
Here is a bit more of that personal work:
Keeping myself busy
In this time to build the business and hopefully get some m ore bookings I was determined to keep my efforts to make pictures high, if i couldn't blog about weddings then i would put other stuff on the website. This would not only show visitors that i was creating and give them some examples of my work, even if it wasn't weddings, but also help with the SEO, it also kept me fresh and gave me an outlet for my creativity.
Following on from this I returned to Iceland for a second time, this time taking my girlfriend and her parents with me, the second trip proved to be as big a learning experience as the first one and while I have a few more images that I like there were still plenty of mistakes to learn from.
One being that traveling with people who are not photographers makes taking pictures that much harder, simple snaps or easy shots are fine but when your setting up tripods and filters as well as taking long exposures then you do feel a bit guilty on the others with you.
Never the less I got some awesome shots, and still had much room to improve, I over shot way too much again thinking I needed more photographs to have better photographs, this experience helped me reign this in and take only meaningful or impressive shots and focus on one shot and get it perfect.
So that was Iceland the send time, I did take a lot more photos than that of course, but those are my favourite of the bunch, I did take far less than my first time out but got far more shots that I'm happy with.
It was at this sort of time I was starting to get annoyed with my gear, just before Iceland I bought a vivitar 19mm lens as my widest leans was a 24mm, this is like a 35mm on a crop sensor. Most of the time in Iceland I was longing for a wider lens, something that would go super wide and give an unnatural perspective to things, this call was answered with the buying of a sigma 10-20mm, which I really liked.
The Fuji X100
So my gear was evolving and my reading up on weddings continued, it was about this time that I found the Fuji X100, I had heard about this camera form a few different places and it looked like it was a great camera, it also looked awesome, which shouldn't be a major decision in buying a camera but it did sway me, I bought one refurbished from fuji for about £500, I also got a case and some batteries with it, once I got it I set to work on mastering it.
I loved this camera form day one but did have the same sort of gripes that people had with it such as the autofocus, but really this didn't bother me, I still really enjoyed using it, and that was the main thing for me, it is an enjoyable camera to use.
I started taking my camera out more as it was light and small, I didn't mind walking about with it as it looks like a film camera and its value isn't obvious, I also started getting use to having only one fixed lens which is a real learning experience, where in Iceland I had the choice between the 19mm, 24mm, 50mm and the 135mm the fuji made the choice for me and I had to deal with it, I really liked this feeling of no control, it made me think much more.
That image above is when I first realised just how sharp the X100 was, in lightroom I zoomed in and those bits of moss on that rock were really sharp, this is when I knew I was really happy with my purchase, this camera just blew anything the D90 could do out of the water.
Things were still slow on the wedding front as I was nearing the end of 2012, but I had kept up with the blog and the SEO was good, this saw me nearing the number one position on Google. I also kept up with my learning and decided to go to the SWPP convention in London in January, this looked like a good event with plans to see from suppliers as well as some good talks, Kevin Mullins was someone who I was looking very forward to seeing talk, I was by now a bit of a fan boy and really liked what this guys was doing and just his whole approach to wedding photography in general.
I wasn't disappointed with the convention, I saw some great talks and some great suppliers, it was at this point I started to think about products to offer people for their weddings, and just the vast range there are to choose from.
I came away from this at the start of 2013 feeling really inspired, I took two weeks off work and started out in making my business plan and set of to really get things moving,
I was still low on the ground on weddings so tried putting an ad on gumtree, something that I thought would not really pay off but I got 3 bookings form it in my first year, not bad for a free advert. I got a couple more enquiries and booked another 2 weddings for later on in the year, but had nothing to speak of for the beginning of the year. I was starting to get a little worried that I might have nothing to shoot till the summer when I got an enquiry for the end of march, I booked this wedding and was on a real high!
I was also this time that my gear changed quite a bit once more, the Nikons were both gone and I had got a Canon 5Dii for a bargain, I still had the fuji X100 and grew this family by adding the XE1 and 35mm lens, my website had evolved a bit more and I was getting more and more views.
At the end of march I shot my first wedding of 2013, I had an amazing time with a really great couple, and was very happy with the work I produced, this lead me to develop my portfolio even more and gave me a missive confidence boost in my work.
I started to market myself as a documentary wedding photographer, Lucy and David didn't have many posed photographs and I really liked this way of shooting, the images seemed much more real and genuine than posed ones, and thats exactly what they thought as well.
This wedding helped me update my portfolio that bit more and really refine my shooting and editing style, I was starting to realise that the quicker I could make the editing the better it would be for me. I really got into lightroom for everything and tried to never taken images into photoshop, this saved an incredible amount of time.
I also started to edit in both black and white and colour and give the couple both sets, this worked great for me as I could edit all of one then all of another and not have to make the choice as I was going along, it also gives the clients a lost more choice, the main downside however is an image really might not look good in colour, but I do explain this to the clients.
I shot about 1,200 photos at my first wedding I have tried to apply what I've learnt from landscape shooting to weddings, that more photos don't make better photos, I tend to take one or two of the same moment to ensure that the shot isn't missed due to blinking etc, but most of the time it is all about thought out capturing of moments, not run & gun photography.
Thanks for reading part 2 there is one more to go which will be online soon!