Why Being a Wedding Photographer is the Best Job in the World

Why Being a Wedding Photographer is the Best Job in the World

Over the last few days, I've taken some time to reflect on 2012 and my work as a wedding photographer. Yes, it's getting close to mid January, New Years has long past, and you may think it's a little late to be retrospective, right?

My choice to become a full time wedding photographer happened several years ago. I've always been entrepreneurial, I love people, and I enjoy dabbling in lots of different challenges at once. Owning a wedding photography business fit my personality perfectly. I stay engaged with people every time I work and occasionally continue some of those relationships beyond the job itself. I'm constantly challenged in dozens of areas with marketing, salesmanship, accounting, and creativity in my shooting and editing. In fact, there are few days where my job actually feels like work.

Of course, running a photography business is not a piece of cake. Anyone who has worked as a photographer could probably share about the stresses that come with the job. Any given paycheck is uncertain. I may go 3 or 4 months without booking a single job and then book half a dozen in the following weeks. I may dump hundreds of dollars into a marketing plan and see nothing come of it. I have to plan my budget from a year out to make sure I'm spending wisely.

Beyond the uncertain financial aspect of the lifestyle, there have been plenty of personal frustrations that come with the business. Photography used to be a fun way to escape, to stretch my creative spirit. Before my business, I routinely went out and shot for the sake of capturing something beautiful. Now, it's become hard to pick up a camera if I'm not getting paid to do it. At group events with friends, instead of making memories which everyone can enjoy later, I leave my camera at home. I try and avoid the expectation that I should be taking pictures because “David's the professional.”

Still, as each week passes, I love what I do. As I thought over 2012 and why I've enjoyed my job so much, I realized only half of my enjoyment comes from the work as a photographer. Far better than the daily interaction with people and the challenge of the job is the lifestyle photography gives.

By being a wedding photographer, I am only obligated to be at work 30-40 days of the year. Obviously I put in far more hours throughout the year, but those are the number of days that have a strict schedule. When I don't have a wedding or engagement shoot to be at, I have the freedom to choose where and when I work. If photography is slow, I have the flexibility to pursue other business or financial ventures. Or, I can spend my time in other important areas of life.

The reason I have just reflected on this last year over the past few days is that today, on Jan 11th, my holiday season is only now coming to a close. Instead of spending one week for the holidays, I've spent four. During 2012, my father developed pancreatic cancer. Because of the flexibility my job I have been able to temporarily move from Charleston, SC to Dallas, TX and spend an entire month with every member of my family. I haven't lost any business. I haven't missed out on one job or client. Instead, I've gained some of the richest memories of my family together. That is why I love my job.

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great words of encouragement!  As one who has been thinking/researching about getting into wedding photography, it was great to read your thoughts and your plus/minus list.  Also very awesome that you get to be w/ family during this time!!  I live in SC (Myrtle Beach) and make every excuse I can to visit Dallas!  :)


Great read David!

R. J. Kern's picture

Indeed, we have amazing jobs! Granted, I always say if we like 40% of our job, it's a great job. 

I love being a turtle!!!!  *Ahem*  I mean wedding photographer!  Seriously though when you get into doing the big weddings it becomes pretty fun.  You meet some great people and get paid pretty good for it.  Not to mention I get to pretty much make up my own schedule.  :)

I would be really curious to see an anonymized scatter graph of yearly salary and working hours of wedding photographers. There is a fantastic quote by rock climber Eric Beck that states "At either end of the social spectrum there lies a leisure class." Not to say that wedding photographers are poor by any means, but as Lee said a few weeks ago, if you live by "I need $X to live" and setting your work to your living requirements, not your live to what 40-50hr/week work affords you.

Patrick Hall's picture

I think it depends on the stage you are in with your career.  When you are just getting started, you might work 60 hours a week and make $40,000 the first year.  But as your career builds, you might make $100,000 a year and work 15 hours a week.  Shooting a wedding might take 8 hours, then editing it and delivering it might take 6 hours.  If you run a blog or spend a lot of time on other things then that can add up but if you've done the work up front it's not unheard of that you could have a 20< hour work week with lots of free time.  Obviously if you live in NYC then $100,000 might not be enough to live off of once taxes are taken and expenses are paid out.  But in some places that might be a very luxurious lifestyle.  

Unfortunately I think the graph would ultimately be pretty dismal.  Something like 95% of all ideas are never started, 90% of new businesses fail in the first year, and 9/10 people won't push themselves to accomplish what the 1/10 people easily accomplish because they won't ever approach their plans with the work ethic needed to succeed.  But that's not to say it's not worth being the 1/10 and becoming successful in something you enjoy.  Just my random thoughts on the topic

That's exactly my curiosity! In progressive towns like Austin Texas (and NYC, I presume) pretty much everyone with a DSLR thinks they are a professional, and will do a wedding for $250 or a family portrait session for $50 including editing and DVD delivery of images. My point is not to bemoan the negative effects this has to the industry, but that it is obviously not a living.

In some ways, that is an appealing lifestyle as well; having a solid day job that keeps everything afloat, and a hobby that pays for itself. Of course, you don't get a month off for the holidays!

Patrick Hall's picture

Oh I don't think a saturation in cheap photographers has hurt the market at all.  Infact I think it has helped.  If you choose to price a full day's worth of work at $250 then that doesn't affect me at all....my clients are going to use the full budget they have for photography and not a penny less.  This is a crucial read if you haven't read it already: http://fstoppers.com/why-bad-wedding-photographers-have-made-the-industr...

Patrick - that was a great read, and you make some very valid points. I am amazed when I see people advertising video work for $250 - but the kinds of clients I deal with at my agency would not even blink at a five figure invoice.

Geoff Lister's picture

I agree, it would be interesting, but it's hard, as a good chunk of wedding photographers I know do other work as well, whether out of boredom or because they need the income. 

And unfortunately, for every successful photographer there are three struggling to pay the rent and working other jobs. But if you make it, it's a great world to be in.

Yes, David, I do agree with every single word you say. Being a wedding photographer IS a dream job. It's absolutely wonderful being able to decide on ones own schedule, being able to spend time with the family, being able to catch all the beautifil moments of a wedding day. But what reallyreally makes me happy about this job is the tears in the eyes of a bride when she and her husband get to see their pictures for the first time.

Janelle Rodriguez's picture

Absolutely love this post!  And I was in the same boat this past holiday season.  Being a wedding photographer allowed me to travel several hours to visit my father in the hospital.  We are so lucky to manage our own time.

traveling is almost enough to make it for me... Then you add the moments, the awesome food, the story telling, its the best

Ivan Luckie's picture

Thanks for it.I enjoyed the profession.I am also a wedding photographer.More on http://bit.ly/1zJJ9UU