Photographer Capture the wedding market with this creative and challenging business startup idea.

By Elizabeth Wilson

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Startup Costs:$2,000 to $20,000
Home Based:Can be operated from home.
Part Time:Can be operated part-time.
Franchises Available?No
Online Operation?No

Business Overview
What:Provide the couple with a photography package that meets their needs. Lend services ranging from by-the-hour to full-day packages with two or more photographers.
Advantages:Start part-time while learning the craft and gradually building your supply of equipment. It's a creative and challenging job and can be home-based.
Challenges:Split-second decision-making and technical ability to adapt to ever-changing conditions: light, weather, a wide-ranging variety of subjects and events going on at once that must be captured by the wedding photographer.

The Market
Clients are couples seeking photographic documentation. There are many different styles of photography couples seek, from photojournalistic to editorial.

What You'll Need to Get Started
Digital or film cameras, editing software, computers, darkroom and darkroom equipment (if using film). Business cards, website, calendar, phone and a list of resources and contacts are also necessary.
To get attention:

  • Attract business through ads in your local Yellow Pages, in the society or wedding section of your local paper and in special bridal supplements.
  • Maintain a wedding blog and participate in popular wedding blog forums, such as Wedding Bee, Style Me Prettyand The Knot.
  • Establish a relationship with local wedding-oriented vendors--florists, bridal shops, videographers, caterers, hotels and country clubs, bakeries and cake decorators, jewelers and musicians.
  • Leave brochures with all contacts and ask for referrals.

Q&A With Photographer Aaron Delesie spoke with industry professional Aaron Delesie about how he started his successful wedding photography business, Aaron Delesie Photography. He offers tips on how to best document one of the most important days in a couple's life.

What would you recommend people do first if they're interested in wedding photography?I have always felt that the most important aspect about getting involved in the wedding photography field is that you have to love it. Your first step is to find out whether or not it's a good fit for your personality and especially your ability to relate to others in a very positive way under what are at times stressful situations. A great first step is to get an internship with a studio. For example, when I first started out in weddings I spent six months working with a very well-known wedding photographer to get a real handle on how photography should flow on a wedding day. I had already spent over a decade in editorial and advertising, so the technical part was already there for me.

Photography is one of those fields that has so many different aspects to it. A good still-life photographer doesn't necessarily make a good wedding photographer--the same way a podiatrist probably can't perform open-heart surgery.

What kind of market research did you do when you started your business?I actually did not do any market research when I started my business. I did have an understanding of what photographers were typically charging; and then I decided for myself what I felt I was worth, and things just took off from there.

Do you think now is a good time to start up a wedding photography business?
I think that anytime is a good time to start any type of business if you have talent and ambition.

Do you think the market is oversaturated yet?Yes, the wedding photography market is incredibly oversaturated, but there are a lot of photographers out there who aren't good at what they do. The digital era of photography is a wonderful thing, but it has also opened the door for a lot of people who aren't technically strong. With wedding photography, you don't have a controlled environment. When shooting, the environment around you is constantly changing, and new issues tend to arise quickly. It is absolutely necessary for a photographer to have a strong technical background to overcome any issues and to do it in a timely matter. You have to be able to think quickly. So there is definitely room for talented people with an artistic eye and a strong technical background.

What services can wedding photographers offer in this do-it-yourself world to remain cutting edge and in business?While we are entering into a do-it-yourself world, I think most people want their photographer to handle all aspects of their wedding photography. Most people don't have advanced Photoshop skills or design degrees, so they rely on our expertise. At the lower end you'll find clients might want to do some things themselves because of budget constraints. I have a high-end client base that prefers I handle it all.

What kind of person does it take to do what you do?To do well with wedding photography, I have to reiterate that you need to love wedding photography. You can't get involved in this business just because you think there is a lot of money to be made. The last published statistic that I read estimated that the wedding industry in the United States was a $60 billion-a-year industry. I believe that helps attract a lot of the wrong people. Brides are becoming more savvy and discerning, and most of them just see right though the people who are trying to "sell" them. You have to be passionate. Your enthusiasm and excitement to be part of your client's important day have to come through.

What kind of training and background are necessary?As far as training goes, you need to be an expert. A formal education helps a lot. I have a BFA in photography from The Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif. I studied there for four years, then really cut my teeth in New York City working with some of the most famous celebrity portrait shooters of the 20th century. All of this experience has been tremendously helpful in what I do now. That being said, I do believe that there are those individuals who just pick up a camera one day, and everything they touch turns to gold. For most people: Get an education in photography!

Would you say it's common for those planning their own wedding to decide to start up a wedding-related business?In my experience, it's not that common. I have seen two of my clients start their own wedding businesses after going through the experience for themselves . . . The fact that these people have just gotten an intimate, firsthand look at the entire process is a huge advantage. One of my clients went into wedding planning and design, and another has started a photography business. Both are doing rather well.

How much did it take for you to start your business?The amount of money needed to start up in this business varies greatly depending on what kind of studio you want to start. If you want to create a huge studio with several wedding photographers working with or under you, it's going to require more capital. I run a very small boutique studio that only accepts 25 clients a year. I started my business with approximately $20,000 and went from there. At the time that just covered the cost of cameras and computers. All of our advertising was word-of-mouth and still is today. I think it is a great idea to save as much money as you can before you get going. The thing that I think is most surprising to photographers entering this field is how all-consuming it is in terms of time. It's definitely a full-time job; even more so in the beginning.

What were your fees at first, and what are they now? How much can people charge for services?There is almost no limit to how high fees can go these days. I never started at the bottom. I was very fortunate that way. When I started I was getting about $4,000 per wedding. Today I put together services for my clients that can range anywhere from $8,000 for basic coverage all the way up to $25,000. The going rate for entry-level wedding photography is $1,500 to $3,000. Keep in mind that this can vary based on where you live. I am basing this on the California market.

What are your closing words of advice to would-be wedding photography professionals?Do this because you love it! Don't do it because you need a second job. Always be original, and never imitate. Clients and other photographers (who can become a great referral network for you) do not like copycats. Be easygoing, responsible, consistent, professional and always positive in your interactions with your clients.

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