When we’re coaching with photographers, quite often there’s this moment where they hang their heads. And stop making eye contact.  It’s the moment when they tell us they want to be wedding photographers, but they’ve either never shot a wedding, or they’ve shot so few that they don’t feel like wedding photographers. They want to be specialists, and shoot weddings exclusively, but instead, they’re saying yes to whatever comes their way. They’re shooting family sessions, graduating seniors, newborns, headshots and birthday parties, and every once in a while, they might get a wedding too. And they tell us this bashfully. Because they’ve heard that specializing in wedding photography is really important. So they’re embarrassed. Not specializing exclusively in weddings makes them feel less than.

they’ve heard that specializing in wedding photography is really important

Have you ever felt that way? Maybe you’re in that position right now. If we could sit across a table from you today, we would ask you to pick your head up and look us in the eye so that we could tell you that you’re doing exactly what you should be doing.  And you should be proud of it! You’re building a business! And that takes guts. You’re stepping out in faith and building something from nothing. It’s okay if you’re not doing exactly what you want to be doing every weekend yet. Yes, specialization is important, but you don’t be come
a specialist overnight. We sure didn’t. We shot our first wedding together in 2011. And only shot two weddings that year. Is it because we didn’t want to shoot more than two weddings? No! It was because that was all we had! If we hadn’t taken other kinds of work like family sessions and senior portraits, we would’ve clocked in a grand total of 18 hours on the job that entire year. We built our wedding photography business by taking lots and lots of portraits. And it was one of the best things we could’ve done. Here’s why:

1. We learned how to interact with all kinds of people

On a wedding day, we aren’t just interacting with our bride and groom. We’re part of the family for the day, which means we’re interacting with and photographing people of all ages. We’re photographing ring bearers barely old enough to walk, junior bridesmaids who barely have a driver’s license and grandparents who can barely believe their babies’ babies are getting married. Our years of shooting portraits for clients of all different ages helped give us the experience we needed to serve everyone well, and be able to do it quickly, effectively and on the fly.

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2. We honed our posing skills

Every time we photographed a couple during a portrait session, whether they were engaged or had been married for thirty years, we viewed it as an opportunity to hone in on our posing. Wedding days are fast-paced and unpredictable, but portrait sessions allow more time to think without all the pressure. We had time and safety to try new things there, which made us stronger photographers when the extra pressure of a wedding day arrived.

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3. We earned the money we needed to purchase wedding gear

Before we got married, we read Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover, and committed to living our lives debt-free. That was (is and always will be) one of the greatest blessings of our marriage. We knew we wanted that principle to carry over into our business too, which meant we had to save up money to buy one lens at a time. We taught elementary school full-time and Jordan coached youth soccer at our church to earn extra money that we could put towards gear, and then used everything we made shooting portraits to purchase the lenses and flashes we needed to shoot a wedding well.

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4. We learned to find light anywhere and everywhere

When you say yes to all kinds of jobs, you get put in all kinds of situations. Shooting portraits consistently helped train our eyes to find the best light anywhere we go. We’re so thankful for all the experience and confidence that was built during portrait sessions.

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5. We expanded our reach

Shooting portraits introduced us to so many people we had never met before and expanded our network. Our portrait clients have been some of our best referral sources, and we’ve even had some portrait work evolve into future weddings! One of the most special moments for us this year was getting to photograph the wedding of one of our very first graduating senior portrait clients. It’s official. We’re getting old!

Arizona Biltmore Wedding_0037So if you’re out there today and you’ve been feeling discouraged about the type of work that’s coming your way, we hope this is just what you needed to hear! Keep shooting portraits proudly. Love and serve your clients well. The rest will take care of itself.

And if you’re looking for free ways to take your business to the next level, we have a gift for you! A one year subscription to the Monday Minute, which is packed with education you won’t find on this blog that’s delivered straight to your inbox each week. You can join thousands of other photographers in our email community by clicking here.  We hope it’s a blessing to you and your business.

Alisa

10 comments
filed in: Education

    Catie

    Thank you for putting this post out there! This is exactly what is going on with my business, and it's so easy to feel like you're failing at something you want so badly. Love you guys!

    Amy & Jordan

    We're so glad!! Keep at it!! :)

    Raygan

    LOVE, love you two!!! I DREAM about coming out to Arizona for your workshop; one day very soon!! Love y'all!! xoxo

    Amy & Jordan

    We would love to have you!

    Elizabeth G

    I'm fairly new to following your blog and just had to thank you for this brilliant post! I really needed to read this today. So glad it popped up in my Facebook feed!

    Amy & Jordan

    Aw!! We're so glad!

    Kayla Illies

    Thank you so much for posting this! I'm working hard to specialize in weddings, elopements, and engagements but like you said, I was feeling "less than" because I'm not there yet where I'm booking 15-30 weddings a year like I'm aiming for. I have two on the books for next year and I'm still trying to learn how to market to brides but I have NO idea really how to do that. It was something they never taught us when I went to college to become a photographer. Plus in the midst of ALL THE MILLIONS of education blog posts that are out there and trying to figure out which ones are the best ones for me, makes it even harder. Since I've seen you speak at WPPI I have been on your email list and I'm so thankful to have found you guys! You're both amazing and such inspirations to look up to! Thank you for that!

    Sherry Alberto Sanchez

    Since I started receiving your wonderful emails and watching your videos, I've been very excited to know better and be better at my business and my skills. And I bought two of the books you recommended... The Money Makeover and Quitter. Thank you!

    And later today I have an engagement session and I will be using the Expodis 😉

    Rachel

    This is so important!
    My dream is to shoot weddings, but as I'm still new to the business aspect of all this, I'm trusting the process--every portrait session gets me one step closer!

    Amy & Jordan

    That's a great goal, Rachel! We're cheering for you!! <3