This piece originally appeared in our guide Building Your Outdoor &…
Our live webinar with editorial photojournalist and wedding photographer Chip Litherland was a huge success – nearly 1,000 photographers came out to learn how Chip made the move from taking photojournalism assignments to building a successful wedding photography business. After 10 years in the business, and now shooting 20-25 weddings per year, Chip had a lot of advice and best practices to share.
Watch the full video recording of this webinar to hear Chip’s rise to success, and get his how-to’s and tips for building your wedding photography business. Also below are a few key takeaways, as well as a follow-up interview with Chip to answer our listeners’ questions:
Here were some of our favorite takeaways:
- Accept that you might need to shoot a few weddings for free to build your wedding photography portfolio – it might make you cringe to think about, but you’ll need to show off work in order to score the clients you want.
- Build a separate website for your wedding photography business, and keep it on brand.
- Write a bio that’s fun, unique, and shows off your personality. Clients put a lot of stock in who you are from the bio!
- Get serious about SEO and target long-tail terms – the keywords that are more niche and less competitive are easier to rank for. For example, Chip ranks #1 for “harbour island wedding photographer“.
- Insurance is MUST – Chip uses NPPA’s Insurance Programs.
- Posting a small gallery of photos to Facebook the day after the wedding is a surefire way to get clients excited about the photography to come.
- Identify the unmarried couples on the dance floor and take their picture for some future-thinking marketing.
- And remember that you are with the bride more than anyone, even the groom, on her wedding day. Make it special.
Our listeners had a lot of follow-up questions for Chip, so we circled back with him to get you the answers. Here are the top 8 questions asked, and now answered by Chip himself:
1. In comparison to your blog and Facebook, how do you value Google+ in terms of marketing efforts, and to what extent do you use that platform?
Google + is obviously a bit new, but there is potential there for sure. It displays photos so much better than Facebook, but as of right now the Facebook posts on my Eleven Weddings Facebook Page have more reach right now with the ability to tag locations, people, vendors, etc. My own personal blog is by the most beneficial to finding new brides through SEO.
2. What program do you use for editing?
I use Photo Mechanic to ingest and edit, and Adobe Lightroom to actually the post on my photos. I occasionally will use Photoshop if there’s a photo that needs some more help, but Lightroom blows everything else out of the water when I’m trying to tone hundreds of pictures at once.
3. Do you watermark your photos? Why or why not?
I do no watermark my images, unlike most of the wedding photographers out there. This is my one personal preference. I’m in no way concerned about someone taking my pictures and using them, and I think most vendors, brides, and friends have enough respect that they will hook me up with a link. Ultimately it came down to not wanting some terrible looking watermark getting in the way of a potential bride being able to see a photo as it was meant to seen. It’s just one more visual barrier to get past.
4. Are you concerned with copyright on social media sites?
No. Not at all. It is a new world out there and while I am a bit more concerned about it for my editorial and commercial work, the wedding work is meant to be spread around and shared. It generates word of mouth.
5. Do you upload photos to your blog before the client sees them first?
I will run a picture by them if they may not want out in public view, but I definitely make an effort to chose photos at are not embarrassing, overtly drunk, or just not pleasing. Any photo that I feel may be a problem, I will run it by them via email first to make sure it’s all good to share. All the galleries I deliver to the clients are password protected, and I give the bride and groom the URL only, never any friends family, etc…I let them make that decision to share and edit if they want.
6. How important are memberships to professional organizations like WPJA and PPA?
Membership to both of those organizations are great. I’m not a member of PPA, yet, but I book a couple weddings a year off WPJA alone which is worth the $25/month. Also check out Fearless Photographers, Junebug Weddings, Snapknot, and Wedding Wire. Don’t go crazy joining every bridal or organization out there. Find out which ones value photography and will give you the most bang for your buck (if they charge).
7. Do you accept every wedding client? How do you screen them?
I will try to book everyone that contacts me, but in general my screening is done organically through marketing the photos that I like and fit my vision. Brides that find me and book usually are into photography and like the quirkiness about it. I’m always very open and honest with my brides and try to make sure a brides who really wants traditional work isn’t hiring me. That won’t be good on the back-end. Try to call and/or meet so that you can really establish a relationship and make sure both sides gel.
8. Why do you think it’s important to keep two separate sites – one for editorial and one for wedding?
For my own business, I choose to keep both my editorial and wedding brands separate. I do this for many reasons, but first and foremost, I don’t really want an editorial client to be swayed by the fact I shoot weddings, and on the flip side of that, I don’t want a bride having to wade through politics and sports galleries to find wedding work. It also gives me a great advantage in marketing, where I can really push the Eleven Weddings Photography brand as its on entity. Having it under a generic name like Eleven Weddings also allows for future growth if I want to take on other photographers and such in the future. This is a bit kindergarten, but 11 is also easier to spell and remember than Litherland – sometimes it just comes down to someone remembering the name.
Chip Litherland is just one of seven wedding photographers we profiled in our free guide, How To Grow A Wedding Photography Business. Get more insights from the pros, plus ways to get smart with your business – everything from marketing your services, to screening clients, to the wedding day itself – in this free guide. Download here.