I remember attending an industry event a few years ago when I was still an aspiring wedding photographer; a wide-eyed, clueless and ambitious nobody who merely just wanted to be a somebody. I tried my best to contain my naivete that evening simply by keeping to myself and navigating my way around the room with the same apple-tini someone handed me just hours ago. I was an invisible spectator to a culture I didn’t completely understand. I was the new kid on the block who clearly didn’t belong there, which was well-evidenced by the lukewarm umbrella drink I was now holding in my hands. There were a million people that I wanted to meet, and just as many questions that I wanted to ask.
What the heck was I doing here? What did I want to accomplish? And where the heck did that gentleman across the room get that beer?
While the prospect of embarking on a quest for beer sounded like a fabulous idea, I knew my mission that evening had to be much more meaningful: I had the opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the most influential and prolific wedding photographers in the area, and I would’ve hated myself if I didn’t at least try to extract some awesome secrets to their success.
And of course in good Ben Lau fashion, I was three sheets to the wind before the night was over. I never managed to extract any “secrets” from my newfound friends, per se. I did however, manage to gather a consensus of opinions regarding the life of a busy wedding photographer – many of which I’ve come to realize has proven true in every wayÂ imaginable.
The “off-season” is a myth.
While shooting schedules may calm down a little bit during wintertime in the Northeast, engagement season is already well underway. 70-80% of a photographer’s shooting schedule for the year is booked during these three months, and most of these “off-season” days are spent meeting with clients, writing contracts, scouting and managing the upkeep of the business (marketing, accounting, taxes, etc.). One well-known photographer was vehemently defiant as she told me: “I don’t give discounts for an ‘off-season’ wedding because there’s no such thing. I’ve got so much stuff to do, in fact, I’d charge them double!” Disclaimer: I’m pretty sure she was joking. But for the record, Ben Lau Photography does not charge double for weddings that take place during the “off-season” :).
The marketplace is not as big as everyone thinks.
While it’s nothing like two lemonade stands competing for the same customer, many wedding professionalsÂ generally know (of) one another, and are keenly aware that a good portion of their business is referral-based.Â Condescending attitudes generally don’t prevail, and there’s absolutely way more to gain from being genuinely nice and helpful as opposed to being snarky, mean and nasty.
It’s important to maintain a work/life balance.
Many of the photographers we met that evening were married, some of which were husband and wife teams just like us. They manage a work-life balance that allows them to feel fulfilled in their personal lives, while at the same time allowing them to pursue their dreams as successful entrepreneurs. I’m not sure how two little monsters would’ve been factored into their equations, but I do know firsthand how easily it is to become consumed by one’s work. In the end, I do believe prestige and success are meaningless if celebrated alone. And I’ll be darned if I look up from my computer again to find out that my kids have aged a few years while I wasn’t looking :).
And this, my friends, is exactly why we mix business with pleasure :).
I’m totally convinced Lil Monster 1.0 enjoys scouting NYC with his dad in the freezing cold!
Happy Monday ya’ll,
Ben & Karis