You Don’t Need a Billboard to Prove You’re a Pro

I recently purchased billboard space for two months to promote my wedding photography business. We’re in booking season, so now’s the time for aggressive marketing — especially in today’s economy.

Fortunately, advertising rates have come down as a result of the recession, making the billboard a pretty good deal for us. We’re already getting positive feedback and I expect to get some bookings from it.

And now that I have a billboard, maybe a few more people will realize that I’m actually a full-time professional photographer — and that I don’t have a second job.


Hobbyists vs. Professionals

Yes, I’m kidding. But I say this because the other day I was asked what else I did for a living. It’s a question I’ve gotten more and more in recent months.

I can only assume that people ask this because today’s wedding photography market is overflowing with pseudo-professionals. Lots of hobbyists are putting up shingles online and charging a few hundred bucks to shoot a wedding.

Yep — at that rate, they would definitely need a second job.

So, for those who might be wondering, I’ll answer the question: What really separates me from the hobbyist? I’ll give you a hint; it’s not the billboard.

Here are four differences that come immediately to mind —

1. I work on my clients’ weddings for months in advance. I consult with the bride and groom to create a comprehensive game plan for the Big Day that keeps surprises to a minimum. This includes a minute-by-minute timeline and well-thought out list of must-have photographs.

2. I am prepared for any contingency. The other weekend, I was photographing on a secluded mountaintop and it began to rain. With my rain cover on, I continued to work without missing a beat.

3. I bring the right equipment. Lighting, lenses and cameras are expensive. But the right equipment and knowing how to use it goes a long way to getting fantastic wedding day pictures. My previous experience working with wedding couples is also key to a successful shoot.

4. I take responsibility for client satisfaction. This has to be the most overlooked aspect of my work. I attend to my clients’ needs in a way that no hobbyist ever would. I publish my wedding photographs online for my clients and their guests to enjoy. I create an album for my couples that requires professional design and assembly.

Getting It Done Right

I’ve worked hard to build a successful wedding photography business. I understand that we’re in a down economy, but a wedding is still a once-in-lifetime experience (hopefully) for the bride and groom, and it’s worth paying a professional rate to ensure the photography is done right.

In meetings with prospective clients, many explain to me that their financial situation has been affected by the economy, and then they ask me to make a deal. I’m happy to work with any couple based on their budget — I offer packages at different price points — but I also know when to politely say “no.”

I’ve heard about attorneys who keep a picture of their family in front of them to remind them of what’s most important when in a negotiation. This sounds like a good idea for professional photographers, too.

8 Responses to “You Don’t Need a Billboard to Prove You’re a Pro”

  1. Hi

    This sounds really good.
    I do feel though that in this economy we do have to
    give price breaks. Also it is a very American way to try to "get a deal" and the downside is that everyone is coming out of the woodwork whether they are having a hard time with the economy or not (!) looking for the deal and saying that they need this due to the economy 🙂

    Everything you have written sounds very professional and just about right!

    Best wishes,

    Artistic Director of the Capriccio Ensemble

  2. Great article, hopefully something brides will come across before they go photographer shopping. I have to say though, not everyone that still has a 'day job' has a hobbyist mentality.

  3. It should be mandatory for every couple who is planning a wedding to read your article. Everything that you said is what we experince in couples trying to get something for nothing and then having a friend or family member atempt, very badly, to preserve the memories of their day. Their is a tendency for couples to also look at a photography studio as a non business and not understanding the costs of running a studio. Finally I recently recived an e-mail from an out of town relative who declared for every body to see that the photographers in her area were ripping everybody off with their prices when she inquired about photography for her wedding. It is attitudes like this that have also taken our business away. No amount of educating couples will change their attititudes towards Professional Photographers. I have tried for years educating couples on the value of Professional Photography.

  4. If you're looking for wedding work don't you think that a great photo from a wedding might do better than a citiscape shot?

  5. I've also witnessed many of the pseudo-professionals muleishly arguing why charging such low rates is how it's supposed to be done. I figure that this is going to cycle and they are going to put themselves out of business soon enough.

  6. Mark K. - I think I see what appears to be a bride & groom in the center of the picture... but certainly they aren't popping off the billboard...

    Sean - seems a bold idea, bravo! - do you mind my asking what the range was in costs you found when researching billboards? Intuitively it would be expensive, but no doubt worth it if it accomplished your objectives.

    Cheers! john

  7. John,

    Here's the pricing info: $1,800 and that included printing and two months of display.

    Some things to keep in mind:

    1. We already have a significant presence in our marketplace. This billboard was a friendly reminder for people who are already familiar to our business

    2. We selected this location carefully. It's on a back road to an exclusive neighborhood (think local commuters coming home from work) It's also on the way to a wedding location we work at a lot.

    3. We got a significant price break as compared to their standard rates.

    4. We don't pay for advertisements in any other media. But the rate competes easily to the rate for an advertisement in a well-known monthly bridal publication.

  8. Good article, with some good things to keep in mind. I must agree with Caroline, though. Especially in this economy, talented and serious "hobby" photographers can't financially afford or risk giving up their full-time job to jump into a photography career just so they can wear a badge that says "full time pro." That doesn't mean they can't bring (nearly) the same things to the table, and they can also satisfy the part of the market the full-time pro can't or won't (namely, the brides looking on Craigslist for $500-$1000 wedding shoots, since many can't afford the $2000+ for the "pro").

Leave a Reply