Digital Photo Pro: So let’s say we have a photographer who has just shot their first wedding as lead photographer. They were happy and the client was happy. What’s next? What advice would you give to that photographer as step two?
Hurd: As a bit of a controversial direction, in the early years, even if you’re an experienced photographer shooting professionally in landscapes or some other portraiture, the biggest differentiator you have is your price point, and you should charge for what your experience allows for. I only charged $500 for my first wedding, even though I was working as a salaried press photographer in D.C., because I had no idea what I was doing, and over time, I scaled up. And being aware of that while not making it a permanent situation is key.
Digital Photo Pro: Pricing certainly is a hot topic amongst photographers, in general. What else should a photographer consider while growing their business?
Hurd: Aside from pricing, getting people to see your work and pay more and more attention to it is key. I majored in computer science in college, so I’ve always had a real interest in the technical side, like equipment reviews and the newest, latest and greatest camera bodies and lenses. So I started early on doing gear reviews that got picked up and shared on social media and other sites.
In fact, my first destination wedding that I ever booked was all the way in New Zealand, and that groom found me by reading one of my early camera reviews. That openness and sharing was just another way to start driving influence and interest over time.
Digital Photo Pro: What are your thoughts about budding wedding photographers who opt to shoot their first few weddings for free in exchange for gaining experience? Do you think that this practice has had a negative impact on, say, your ability to charge what you do for your services?
Hurd: I think that’s a great idea, and I think that photographers who charge a lot of money for their weddings should never feel threatened by somebody that is shooting for free or for cheap. Maybe over the incredibly long arc of time, it does drive prices down a little, but if you’re shooting at a starting price of $5,000 for a wedding, I doubt you’re being considered against somebody who’s charging nothing. I don’t know a client that says, “Well, we’re thinking about spending $4,000-$5,000 on you, but there’s also this other guy that’s going to shoot it for free.”
Digital Photo Pro: You had mentioned that since your first wedding, you’ve always been the primary shooter. What are your thoughts around being a second shooter for another wedding photographer, especially if you’re new to the business?
Hurd: I’d say that as much as you can, it’s important to consistently shoot actual weddings to get that experience, even if it’s for free or for cheap. One thing that I’ve noticed, especially nowadays, is that the community of wedding photographers is much more open and receptive to new people and new ideas. Be persistent if there is somebody in your local market that is already established about working with them.
Stay on top of them because most established photographers already have their go-to list of people, but eventually they’re going to have a time where you’ll be needed. I promise that time will come, because there will always be scheduling and availability conflicts. And if you knock it out of the park—not only selfishly taking photos for your own portfolio, but being a real asset and providing wonderful images that the client will love—that’s another great conduit.
Digital Photo Pro: Can you walk us through what your workflow looks like from the beginning through to delivery of the final photos?
Hurd: Sure. At least in terms of all contracts, paperwork, etc., it is all done digitally. I have no paperwork whatsoever for anybody. When I get the initial inquiry, before I ask for any details about the wedding, I ask for the wedding date. Early on, I’d ask to share everything possible about the wedding, and it’d end up that I was already booked or generally unavailable. People would be pouring their hearts out, and it’d be completely for no reason. So now, immediately it’s about the wedding date, and if I’m available, I immediately write back with a pricing guide that’s on a mobile-responsive webpage.
Digital Photo Pro: Why do you feel that having a mobile-responsive webpage for your pricing guide is important?
Hurd: Because the way that most people will interact with you is on a mobile device, literally. All their wedding galleries, emails, everything is viewed on their mobile devices. I also send them links to a handful of galleries [to give] them a sense of the full set of images that they’ll be getting. That usually acts as a pretty good filter, which then leads to the next email, where I suggest we meet in person if possible.
There’s nothing like meeting in person. You’re dealing with a lot of different personality types at a wedding, so it’s important people like me and I like them. I generally like everybody I meet with, but it’s good to get that face-to-face contact. I go out of my way to try and meet everyone with zero expectations that they’re going to book me because most clients that “come to the table” do end up booking me, and even for the 5 to 10 percent that don’t, it’s still worth my time to make the effort. I think that people really appreciate meeting in person.