Former Art Buyers and current photography consultants Amanda Sosa Stone and Suzanne Sease have agreed to take anonymous questions from photographers and not only give their expert advice but put it out to a wide range of photographers, reps and art buyers to gather a variety of opinions. The goal with this column is to solicit honest questions and answers through anonymity.


I am freelance shooter and have been working in photography for the past 5 years. It is my sole income. I have a wedding and portrait business which is my bread and butter, at this current point in my career and most likely will be for some time. 3 years ago I started investing in a more personal exploration of photography by enrolling in an MFA program. Currently school is on hold as I could no longer justify the expense. I am now working hard towards pursuing personal projects outside of the realm of my business which I hope will eventually lead to opportunities in the Editorial and Fine Art markets and of course some advertising work would be nice too.

For some reason it has always seemed to me that being a wedding photographer has not been looked upon favorably by other areas of the photography world. In fact I have been advised by more than a few people to avoid letting editors, AD’s, galleries, etc know that I shoot weddings! I am curious about how to address this as I begin to market myself to the different tracks that I want to pursue.

Case in point, I have been accepted to Review Santa Fe which I will be attending next week. I am showing a body of work which I believe has potential for both Editorial and Fine Art application. Ultimately I am very proud of what I do and I see it as a collective whole. I also realize that everything has its place so I am trying to be careful about how I promote myself. Regardless all you have to do is google my name and you can find out what I do. So how do you balance all this?

I gotta eat you know…

Amanda and Suzanne: This question is something we tackle everyday in our business.  What to do, who to be and when to be it.  It’s a hard balance to feed your soul, while still finding a way to fill those pockets.  Fortunately, it is possible.  It’s not easy, but possible. You can be both – if you want to be and that is the real question here – WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO and BE?



Shooting weddings or any other kind of work has no bearing on how I feel about working with photographers, as long as their non-wedding work is solid and fits what I’m looking for. If anything, a photographer who shoots weddings might be better at dealing with difficult subjects — wedding clients (or, more accurately, their parents) can sometimes be a real pain in the ass.


If I were marketing a photographer to the commercial world, one who also happens to shoot weddings as part of their business, I likely would not depict them as a “wedding photographer” to my advertising client base. However I do imagine that some of their beautifully styled, natural, ‘aspirational’ wedding images could be edited into a general lifestyle portfolio with a clear commercial application. Keep in mind that the overall look and style of the collection of images would still have to work together to convey the photographer’s vision. And while I would not promote them as a wedding photographer, I also would not discourage them from continuing to photograph weddings. Not only does everyone “gotta eat”, but a wedding is indeed a complex production and photographing such a demanding event can support the development of their photography and their skills set to help excel in business.


I’m old school and was taught the same thing. Wedding photographers – ew. Commercial photographers – cool. Not sure if that is still the same today but they ARE totally different animals. I coach my friend and colleague who’s in the same boat to run the businesses separate and do everything you can to separate the marketing and websites.

A wedding photographer does not have to market themselves by their name. I suggest they build a business around a moniker.

One of the busiest wedding outfits in Atlanta go by “Our Labor of Love”.

The same person could then market commercial/editorial with their full name and build web presence around that (ie: Douglas Cooper Photography) For fine art: another version of your name: Fine Art by D.G. Cooper.

PHOTOGRAPHER #2 (who has balanced both):

If you shoot everything to the same standard, then none of it will hurt your career in advertising, it will only help. It’s really hard getting started for most photographers; there are tons of expenses and the competition is insane. If you can remain flexible about how you will earn income with your camera, but maintain consistency in your work you will do just fine.

In the past, I’ve taken on a handful of weddings for the very same reasons: they pay the bills (and I enjoy shooting them too). I had an art director call me to shoot her wedding, and it took a long time for the right assignment to follow but it did. Eventually it turned into a couple of great jobs and it built a lovely relationship. There was also a personal project I worked on when I was getting started, something I poured my heart into, as well as a fair amount of resources. The resulting work was very photojournalistic in nature but I shared it with some art buyers and it too turned into a string of great advertising assignments.


YES! If you do a great job with someone’s wedding, they talk about it. Then in the next conversation where photography comes up, you will often be the first to mind. This can pay off because remember, when these people aren’t hanging at a wedding, they could be working at the country’s top companies.

To Summarize: The PHOTOGRAPHER’S REP and PHOTO EDITOR nailed it! Understanding how a wedding is produced is your FIRST schooling to how a major ad shoot is produced. It’s production 101 – and you get paid for it. Secondly, you understand how to manage the client and how to keep everyone happy. Shoot both and market them differently. We recommend (especially in this economy) – shoot both – but be smart how you market them. We received honest (and surprisingly very positive) feedback and at the end of the day – never once did you hear “only do one thing. However the message repeated – be smart how you approach doing both.

Call To Action: When marketing your 2 identities, decide who you are in each market, put a brand to each, get 2 websites and you are off and running. Consider how you will be googled and work around the name issue – like PHOTOGRAPHER #1 mentioned.

If you want more insight from Amanda and Suzanne you can contact them directly (here and here) or tune in once a week or so for more of “Ask Anything.” Amanda and Suzanne review your comments for 2 days, and then they are off researching next week’s question.

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  1. For me, this was a really interesting post. I shoot both wedding work and commercial work. The thing is, I don’t distinguish between the two. I market myself as a documentary photographer.

    When I approach a commercial client with a project, I’m selling my storytelling capabilities. If documentary fits with their current marketing brief (or, as happens in some cases, they change the brief to fit with a documentary approach), the client doesn’t really care that I shoot weddings as well. It’s all storytelling.

    This weekend, I’m shooting a series of documentary photographs for the packaging of a new beverage. Next week I start a six-month project with a five-star hotel chain, shooting documentary promotional and advertising photographs.

    Do these clients know I shoot weddings? Yes.

    Do they care? No.

  2. Excellent post Rob. APE is such a valuable resource. THANK YOU!

  3. As a lifestyle photographer who got her start in newspapers and weddings, I will share my thoughts on this. Weddings are a great training ground for becoming a great photographer, no question. But, correct me if I’m wrong, I believe commercial buyers are looking for great photographers who can produce the work in a commercial fashion. Shooting a wedding, you have no art directors live viewing your images and giving you feedback. And your client is the people in the pictures – in the commercial world they are talent. Nice wedding work is hard to shoot and a way to show off your talent, but it doesn’t show your ability to work with clients on set, place products, and hire a great crew. My advice – shoot samples in your style using commercial tools and you won’t need the wedding work in your book anymore.

  4. I love it when you read my mind with posts :-) Seriously, keep up the great work.

  5. Thanks for posting this. Definitely something I’ve been wondering about for some time!

    Happily, I seem to have done almost exactly what was suggested; I’ve completely separated the two aspects of my shooting (except on the blogs) and neither of the two overlap in terms of marketing.

    Hopefully in a few years I’ll have some semblance of a success story to tell from these choices.

  6. Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t you apply all your present and past experiences when you’re looking for work? Life experiences is what makes us all so rich and will help us problem solve in business.

    For example, I’m probably one of only a handful of photographers who was a standup comedian before I started shooting professionally. I let people know because I can explain how this is an asset (I can deliver clear messages and think in terms of a much larger audience, am able to improvise, and always have an entertaining way of tackling a project). I don’t hide the fact that I’m new to shooting and I don’t hide the fact that I had a life before photography. I don’t see why wedding photographers can’t do the same.

    The fact is: wedding shooters DO get dissed a little within the industry but dealing with hecklers is just part of life. Personally, I’d sell it as a bonus.

    Also, I’d suggest doing some work you feel will compliment your wedding work. For example: if your wedding work is light and breezy, do some dark and thick personal work that will show you are not a one-trick-pony


  7. “A wedding photographer does not have to market themselves by their name. I suggest they build a business around a moniker.”

    I had always wondered why a lot of the well-known wedding photographers use fake names. Pretty clever I have to admit.

  8. It’s OK, wedding photographers can look down on fine-art photographers, too.

    Seriously, though, Callie nailed it. The styles of working are just way too different from most commercial work, that the smart ones won’t look down on you for wedding work, but it’s kind of irrelevant for the different skill set needed for most commercial projects. I actually find shooting weddings a hundred times more rewarding and challenging as a photographer instead of a manager, but if you’re looking to break out you have to show you can make the pictures they want while making everyone’s life easier.

  9. And the “different skill set” thing goes both ways. Even some of the commenters on this blog show editorial work that is pretty decent and wedding work that is pretty terrible.

  10. Show me one example of a top notch commercial photographer that shows weddings on their website………that’s right they don’t. Wedding photographers are one step above camera store employees


    • @Stu, That is not a fair statement to make. There are some amazing wedding photographers out there that shoot commercial as well. And some wedding photographers are making 6 figures a year. Not a fair comparison to a camera store employee- and for that matter what is wrong with someone who works in a camera store.

      • @Suzanne and Amanda, Right on ,my post today was really in response to Stu’s comments because that is typical of the attitude that many have. The funny thing I have noticed over the last fwe years is how many of these top notch commercial shooter are now doing wedding too? Hmmm

      • @Suzanne and Amanda, Yup, some wedding photogs do fantastic work that is every bit as good as the best non-wedding photography in any segment of the medium. Wedding photography is no longer just star filters and black-and-white-prints where only the roses are red. (Although there is certainly a great deal of wedding photography that is still unbelievably cheesy.) There is some very good, very sophisticated wedding work out there, and, it’s easy to find if you look. People who dismiss wedding photographers out-of-hand need to familiarize themselves with a lot of the good work out there that is being done.

    • @Stu,

      Larry Fink and John Dolan are two that immediately come to mind for me.

    • @Stu, me thinks you never shot a wedding and must be part of the commercial world where everything is done for you.. advertising agency, photo editors, location scouts, assistents, more assitents, art director, creative director, graphics designer, etc etc.
      so it looks like if commercial shooters just have to press the button while wedding photographers have to be a fully equipped one-man-army that needs no sleep, food or anything else while working a whole day or two on full throttle. every decision they take has to happen right on the spot and there is no rewind, no redo, no safety net. well.. lots fail that totally, which is probably the main reason that wedding photographers have a bad reputation. masses of mediocre work.
      but if done well they are shooting a full reportage in a day, edit the next, deliver photos, prints, albums in less than a week. that’s tough. that is why journalistic photographers are usually way better at doing weddings than art or commercial shooters. you need a different mindset to do them on a really big scale.

      wedding vs commercial is like theatre vs cinema. both can be beautiful but not every actor can do both. some can, and they are usually incredible.

      • @grubernd, lol… grubernd, your comment reminds me of a movie with Julia Roberts. In the movie “Stepmom”(I think that’s the name) the beautiful photographer with the huge smile dashes onto a very elaborate shoot, with all of the assistants,crew, direcctor etc. as you mentioned in your above post. Anyway, she fires off one shot and leaves because… well, she is Julia and she had her image! The saying, it’s who you know that get’s you there, and what you know that will keep you there rings true in many, many lines of work. Ms.Leibovitz shoots Weddings,and Family Portraits as well. I guess a Kennedy and a Cruise family make it ok to not use a moniker. I prefer a name…kinda like Annie :) My favorite photographer graduated from The Corcoran… Website includes landscapes, portraits, commercial print work, Joe Flacco(Ravens QB), Michael Oher, Dave Matthews, Elton John, and YES Weddings! Someone will like your style, craft, your own personality, and either you will click or you won’t!!!!!

    • @Stu, I wonder if the fact that “top notch commercial photographers” don’t show examples of wedding photography on their websites could be something to do with the fact that they’re commercial photographers?

      Perhaps you’d like to show one example of a top notch wedding photographer that shows commercial work on their website?

  11. I have lots of feeling about this post,hopefully I will make some sense.
    Yes you are looked down upon as a wedding photographer in the commercial field. Commercial field being Ad agencies,magazines ect,all the glamour stuff. Now if you work for local companies manufacturers ,business people who need a good photographer and not a rock star ,it doesn’t matter they just want a good job at a good price. Corporate is also a good place for wedding photogs. They need portraits and event coverage perfect for Wed photog.

    Photographing a wedding is ten times harder and much more emotional than any commercial shoot with some arrogant art director.(The only thing tougher than wedding work in my opinion has to be war photography.) Many commercial ,rock star photogs can not do weddings. They do not possess the people skills required to deal with the demands of a bride or somebody’s MOM. Most Rock stars are all about themselves,the work and their working condition ect ect. If you ever get a chance to see a rock star do a wedding it’s quite amusing.

    On the other hand many wedding photogs have no idea how or where to start with a commercial shoot. Many wedding photogs are self taught and through trial and error have managed to get something right. They do the same thing over and over. Put them in a situation where they have come out of the comfort zone, the results are not so great.

    The perception as I see it is that anybody can do wedding photography. The entry level is low because the demands of the client(consumers) is uneducated . They see you have good photos the price is right and you got a job. On the commercial (glamour stuff)side the buyer is much more sophisticated and can tell in a heartbeat wether you got it or not. So why is the arrogant AD gonna look at any wedding photog,why would they waste their time?

    The bottom line is this if you want to do Glamour high end commercial work say In NYC then you are gonna have to make a choice. You may have to hide behind some business name so that the arrogant AD or art buyer doesn’t see your wedding work. If you want to do weddings and some commercial work for real people than no problem.

    I made up my mind along time ago that I just want to be a photographer and have a successful business. I do glamour and weddings and whatever I WANT TO DO.

  12. I’m a documentary photographer and wedding photographer. I do both and work hard at both. The income that the weddings provide allows me to be really pure with the work I do on the documentary side. But I don’t see weddings simply as a means to an end. I serve a very important role in the lives of my wedding clients and am proud of the work I do for them. This is my tenth year as a full-on wedding photographer, a fact I make no attempt at hiding to anyone.

    • @Ian Martin, Thank you. Very well put. It doesn’t have to be a means to an end. I have known very well respected celebrity and commercial photographers who gave it all up to shoot weddings because it fed their soul more. Shooting weddings is a true art form and is becoming more respected.

    • @Ian Martin, SO why not put the wedding photography on your website ?

      • @Jonathan Waiter, Thanks! And good question, basically, I have two distinct photography businesses, each has its own distinct set of clients; editorial and people getting married, so I have a web site dedicated to each. Both of my web sites mention the other business on my “Bio” or “about” pages in case one set of people is curious about the other side of my photography. (I recently met with a magazine photo editor in New York. We were meeting to discuss my black and white documentary work, but he had been all through my weddings site and gave me a gracious compliment about it–I often find that magazine photography editors appreciate how tough it is to make a living these days on editorial work alone and are sympathetic to photographers who have figured out ways to sustain themselves and their careers in tough times.) Also, while both sides of my photography have their roots in the documentary approach, they both have a specific look and style. One web site says “If you hire me to photograph black and white for your magazine, you can expect the photographs to look like this.” The other site says, “If you hire me to photograph your wedding, you can expect the photographs to look like this.” Blending the two bodies of work would just dilute both and slow down my potential clients on either side who are often not interested in the other kind of work. (If you’d like to see my wedding work, click my name at the top of this reply. For people who want to see my documentary work, please click my name on post 12.) Great discussion!

  13. This is dilemma can be sorted somewhat by the size of the market you’re in: The bigger the market, the more demands and expectation that you’re a specialist.

    Market awareness allows one to understand that in NYC, showing commercial and wedding would be the kiss-of-death in attempting to get work from some NY ad agencies; they have the money and the clout to hire “the best of the best”–in any subject area.They can–and want to– hire an “auteur.” Hence, the wisdom of the advice of having a separate wedding business company name (a service business).

    In a small market there’s a very vital word-of-mouth network. There the clients are more forgiving; they understand that you need to shoot more than one subject to survive and they’re also more loyal to suppliers overall. In small markets the value of a good relationship with someone who has the ability to solve many different visual problems, soars.

    In a medium-size market, it’s more challenging. Your own self-definition will come into play. Do you see yourself aspiring towards a national base?
    Then have two identities. Do you see yourself as being the #1 go-to-shooter for the clients in your area? Then you do not necessarily have to split yourself in two–as long as you have well-edited and well-segmented web site with a highly-targeted marketing plan.

    Finally, throughout decades of the ups and downs of this industry, the fundamental traits that I’ve noticed in all the winners – in either the B2B or B2C sector–(besides talent, of course!) are:
    1. self-knowledge and a lack of ego
    2. great people skills (with both with the people hiring them as well as the crew they’ve hired)
    3. adaptability (i.e. they can either be the director or be directed)

    You need all three to succeed in any sector/any size market.

  14. Very informative post…thanks for taking the time to put it together. I am going to notify a few photographers I know about this as I think it will really help in regards to the quality of their work.

  15. In short, yes, you sometimes suffer by being labeled a wedding photographer.
    A few years ago, at Photo Plus in New York, I was in a circle of “star” photographers and everyone was introducing themselves. As the intros came my way I said, “I’m a wedding photographer.”
    It was as if I said, “I have a touch of the Hanta Virus.” People scattered. One of my friends in the circle said, “Why did you do that?” I shoot documentary work as well, but my answer was, “I wanted to see the reaction.”
    I think, in short, this same reaction is fairly common in the commercial editorial world. I’ve been called for ad work because of my wedding work, and I’ve lost jobs for the same reason.
    For years photographers did weddings if they couldn’t do anything else. There is virtually no barrier to entry, thus about anyone can do it. These days, totally different scene. Over the past ten years, due to the absolute destruction of the genres, you have fashion, sports, pj, editorial, car, commercial and fine art photographers suddenly and mysteriously developing a keen interest in all things nuptial.
    So now, at least you have a chance of being on a level playing field. I can also see reps repping commercial and editorial photographers who are also, secretly, doing weddings on the side.
    Look, have you EVER, and I repeat EVER run into a young photographer, student, etc, that said, ‘You know, I can’t wait to get my degree so I can go shoot weddings.”
    Answer. No.
    EVERYONE wants to be a mag shooter, commercial person, ad person, pj stud(with multiple scarves) or other remotely cool persona, but “Wedding Master” rarely creeps in.
    But here is the kicker. You know why shooting weddings is so good? And please, I’m not trying to be a jerk, but one of the best parts of shooting weddings is you NEVER have to deal with anyone who judges you based on this lame and tired stigma. Wedding clients are civilians. They could care less about magazine photography or commercial photography. They could care less about egos and fame. These folks are simply looking for someone they can trust with their history, and for them, these images are far more important than anything they will ever see in a magazine or print ad.

    • @Daniel Milnor, Words so true!

  16. This is a timely post…New York’s Leica Gallery has exhibited work by renowned “fine art” photographers such as Alfred Eisenstaedt, Ralph Gibson, Leonard Freed, Susan Meiselas, Inge Morath, Alex Webb, Erich Hartmann, Karl Lagerfeld and Antonin Kratochvil. Their current exhibition is “The Marcus Family: Three Generations of New York’s Elite Society and Wedding Photographers”. Photographs of joyful, happy occasions…

  17. This is for Stu…

    The irony is that a wedding photographer has the best business model in the industry.

    -Bookings made months or years in advance
    -Deposits/advances are the rule, not the exception
    -Contracts that photography buyers sign, not the reverse
    -Strict licensing, even Walgreens won’t copy a wedding photo
    -Charges for every line item, every service and every add-on

    Very few commercial and editorial photographers have the guts to even try to pull of any of the above standard wedding photographer industry practices.

    So the next time you’re feeling smug about the heights you have attained with your dandy art school degree and your ability to tape together reimbursement receipts for Cokes and meatball subs maybe you can think of me.

    I’m the guy that shoots work that will be treasured for generations, maybe even rescued in a fire. I’m the guy that can make a client cry tears of joy when she sees my work. When I’m working I’m in charge and people call me mister out of respect of my experience and abilities. Furthermore, I’m the best dressed person on the set; the set that happens to be one of the greatest days of someone’s life.

    One more thing Stu…

    The guy working at the camera store will always take care of me, and I think you know why.

    • @Grandpa Jones,
      don’t forget weddings are recession proof. yes, fees may go up/down depending on the strength of the economy but there’s always work.

      • @miteybig,

        Not true.
        The details of business are fundamental to understand the big picture.

        There is probably more media being used today than ever before. Unfortunately the supply of images available may out strip the demand. The final (sales) price realized by image creators needs to have enough margin to net a return. This is true in every segment of the market – including family photography.

        If Joe & Jane are both struggling financially they may have a very small budget for a wedding. With all the photographers (not making a living in other segments) now flooding family photography markets the supply is way up. Low balling, and Uncle Bob with his new D90, and low budgets have hit the returns in the family photography markets too.

        btw – There is some valid concern we are in a depression, not recession.

    • @Grandpa Jones, Seriously….ok…..enjoy being 6 out of 10. You and Gonzo are probably the kind of loser photographers that watermark their crappy wide angled shots of slow shutter speed waterfalls or sunsets. As if someone really wants to steal your awful photos. Wedding photography is a piece of cake…get it wedding….cake….that is if you have gone to a fancy art school where they teach you how to use your camera. I’m sick of you moronic fools, I’m not saying doing weddings is bad, I’m just saying it doesn’t take nearly the same amount of skill. But hey most of us are not skilled and that’s fine, shoot your weddings, someone has to. But if you think your wedding is high pressure, try having a $150,000 budget on the line with two executives from Coke watching over your shoulders for a one in a million shot that you’ve prepped three weeks for. That’s right I’ve been there and done that and it was stressful and exciting all at the same time. So grandpa suck it TREBEK!

      Your Pal STU

      • @Stu – It’s been a long time since I read such idiocy. You clearly have no idea. I also doubt your experience… I can’t assume such a grade one fool as you ever made it out of school, let alone to a commercial shoot.

  18. I don think you can clearly say yes or no on this subject. It all depends on your vision and mode of communication. It also really depends on where you want to take your work ultimately.

    I’ve shot some weddings, but I could never show that work even though I have a really good eye for it. It doesn’t communicate as selfishly as my personal work. The two don’t work together.

    Ultimately , I am shooting fine art and fashion photography. Except in the most rare cases ( And I mean really really rare) , I cant see mixing the two working for a photographer with my same goals.

    In fashion, your reputation is wildly bloated . Who you work with matters. You work with top models, and you are more respected. You work with A-list styling and A-list publications and you are A-list. I happen to look younger than my age(I’m 30). People don’t take me seriously until they see my work. So even the age thing matters. Now unless my wedding work had exactly the same mode of communication, people in my industry wouldn’t take me seriously. My vision would appear unclear and immature.

    Weather we like to admit it or not, wedding photography does have a poor reputation. It’s many photographers professional starting point. And like any genre of photography, most wedding photographers are really bad, only the difference is, they have a really bad reputation for it.

    • @Jonathan Waiter, I totally get the A-list thing but I’m not sure about the “mode of communication”issue. I went to your site who do you show your work to? Is your work A-list? Do you make your living from this type of work? Do you really think a wedding photographer can not shoot like you do? Or express themselves like you do. I think you need to rethink the mode of communication thing? There are a number of very high end wedding folks who shoot just like you. Oh by the way they are making six figures:)

      • @Gonzo, I would love to see the wedding photographers whom shoot just like I do :) Please post links in your reply.

        Anyone can express themselves, anyway they want. I’m saying, if you market your self as something other than a wedding photographer, you could be doing your self a disservice by including wedding photography in your book. You really want to communicate with a very clear voice. Clients respond well to a strong vision, and you could end up saying the opposite about yourself unless your mode of communication is exactly the same in both your personal/aspirational work and wedding photography. In my case, the commentary is so wildly different that it would never work. Not together. And in my industry, it would definitely be looked down upon. Its not good advise to say include your wedding photography.

        I am a full time photographer, and I do make my living with this work. I’m still learning about who I should show this work to. I’m only a couple years old. Recently , I shot the Creative Director of Calvin Klein and top model liu wen. I’m lining myself up to shoot with A-list clients. I don’t make six figures yet. But I’m optimistic.


        • @Jonathan Waiter, Don’t get me wrong I like your stuff.I hope you make tons of cash. More power to ya!
          I guess what I’m saying or feeling from these posts is a real discrimination when it comes to one from of photography to another. Or someone is deciding that if I shoot weddings somehow I’m not as good as say “you” because your book is of a more narrow focus.
          The way I see it this is not about if you should show your wedding work and your commercial/personal work it’s about who will see it and their opinions about photographers. You need to know something about who your showing work to but if wedding work fits why not use it? Could I not shoot B&W film with a model wearing a wedding dress in front of a wall with different expressions and call it art? Richard Avedon did a couple of wedding shoots with his famous white or gray backgrounds.
          Its all about the people you want to hang with and there attitudes.

  19. A lot of commercial photographers got their start in weddings before moving into advertising. I’m the opposite. I got started in advertising and then started shooting weddings. Now I just shoot whatever I want. I really don’t care about labels so long as I’m creating work that I love.

    My commercial website:
    My wedding website:

    From Photo Editor: “If anything, a photographer who shoots weddings might be better at dealing with difficult subjects — wedding clients (or, more accurately, their parents) can sometimes be a real pain in the ass.”

    There’s this common misconception that wedding clients are a PIA’s to deal with. They can be, but so can commercial clients. Anytime you deal with a cheap, low-end client, the chance of being harangued, micromanaged and disrespected goes way up. Charge 500 bucks for a shoot and you’ll be bossed around and pushed to do more faster and without so much as a thank you – I don’t care whether the client is a wedding or commercial client.

    The problem isn’t wedding clients verses commercial clients. The problem is with cheap clients.

    For me, weddings are fun to shoot and I get paid well. It’s no coincidence that I don’t see them as a pain at all. I may do some running around, but in all they’re pretty easy. My clients have tremendous respect for me and my work – they give me wide latitude to create. The stereotype of the PIA bride and her mom does not exist in my world.

    One thing I love about weddings is the long relationships that I form with my clients. Later today, I’m photographing the baby of a client whose wedding I photographed about six years ago. It’s rewarding to document someone when they’re still engaged, be a part of their friends and family on the wedding day then photograph the first kid then the second or third one.

    With advertising work, I can’t get my calls returned the second the final images are delivered. To the art director, my work is just part of his day job. At night he/she goes home to their family and to what really matters. Being on the wedding/portrait side, I get to be a part of what really matters.


  20. As far as how to market weddings verses ad work, it’s a pretty simple formula. If you want ad work, show great work that meets the needs of ad clients to ad clients. If you want wedding work, show great work that meets the needs of wedding clients to wedding clients. It’s basic marketing 101 stuff: target your marketing.

    It’s not that ad clients care one way or another if you shoot weddings. It’s that they want to be convinced that you’re going to be able to brilliantly execute their campaign. (“What are you doing to do for me?”) A common problem made by a lot of photographers (myself included) is that they try to show too much range. Start throwing in work that’s irrelevant, be it from weddings or anything else, and you’re going to lose the job.

    Last year I shot an agency job where I’d been brought in by an art director whose wedding I shot. She knew that I shot advertising so she threw me into the mix for a campaign they were working on. I won the job by demonstrating that I could fulfill the vision for the pretty complex shoot. I didn’t show any wedding work to win the job; in fact my shooting weddings (and prior relationship) didn’t factor in at all once I had my foot in the door.


  21. This is a VERY timely and interesting subject. The influx of talent into the wedding photography market in the last few years is huge, with a lot of editorial photographers seeing it as a way to supplement their income the way annual reports once did. A lot of these photographers have made this their full time pursuit. Thus, the bar has been set pretty high for a certain segment of the market. Then you have the clients who are only interested in price, and that seems to be where the lower end talent goes. There is some beautiful work being done, and there are some people making some serious money. Check out the work of a guy named Joe Buissink, for just one example…
    I’ve been shooting for magazines for 20 years, and personally I couldn’t care less if people know I shoot weddings. The people who wouldn’t want to work with me because of that would be people I wouldn’t care to deal with in the first place – I have no interest in that kind of attitude, especially in the economic climate we are functioning in now. The magazine business will never be what it once was, so those magazine photographers without the trust funds better have a backup plan in place. I include both weddings and editorial work on my website, because I try to approach both types of work pretty much the same way, and I’m determined to show that I can combine the two in one business. I have had a few wedding clients tell me they hired me partially because of my magazine portraiture on my site. However, I don’t think there is anything wrong with separating the work either, I really think it depends mostly on what kind of work it is, and how well the different disciplines and approaches fit together…

  22. dont forget senior prom and bar mitzvah work too. Does that count?

  23. There are some really thoughtful and reasoned responses to this topic in regards to distinguishing differences between markets and the possibility of using creativing editing to work wedding pictures into a portfolio. Most photographers, regardless of status, have shot a wedding at some point in their lives. Hopefully nobody gets too mad because I’m just being honest, but I’m going to be the bad guy and say that wedding photographers were the butt of every joke I heard during my time in commercial photography. The main reason that wedding photographers seem to be looked down upon by commercial people is probably because they take the work too seriously. If anybody seriously claimed that wedding experience is good preparation for commercial because of planning and dealing with bridezillas then that would definitely get a big open laugh from the crew of any sets that I’ve worked. Maybe the key to dealing with wedding photography is to NOT take it very seriously. There are plenty of wedding shooters that have made the leap to commercial but most of them look back on their time in weddings as something to take pretty lightly. I knew one guy that handled it pretty well by saying,” Hey, weddings were great because nobody cared how much alcohol I drank on the job.”

  24. “you are what you practice most” Regardless of the subject its you the photographer that is telling a story using the method of photography. It is very true that most photographers that shoot weddings are Hacks at best. But let us not become self righteous. As a international documentary photographer of a decade or more i have run across my fair share of parasitic journalist leaching the suffering of other for their benefit. Hacks and trash are everywhere, they are pan industry and know no prejudice for where they land.

    The bigger question is to shoot all your projects large and small as if they were your last and that your legacy of your creative life were in the balance. How your market yourself and show your work is where a trained experience professional like Suzanne Sease comes into play.

    Ego can be the downfall of all creatives.

  25. “Hopefully nobody gets too mad because I’m just being honest, but I’m going to be the bad guy and say that wedding photographers were the butt of every joke I heard during my time in commercial photography.”

    What may have been true back in the day is hardly the case now. There’s are many, many excellent wedding photographers out there. Most commercial guys would have a hard time keeping up and producing the same quality of work that’s being done in the wedding world.

    But even if photographers don’t acknowledge the fact that wedding photographers have gotten much better, their clients sure are. Commercial clients are increasingly pitching their jobs to wedding photographers because, not only do they have the skills to do the job, they’ll work for cheap because they don’t appreciate the value of their work in a commercial context.

    For example, my wife – who is a wedding photographer – was approached by the one of the largest for profit universities in the country to do a shoot. The amount they were offering was ridiculously low. No doubt they couldn’t get a commercial photographer to shoot it so they went fishing among wedding photographers.

    In another case, a wedding/portrait photographer was approached by a large catalog company to shoot their catalog. The deal was that the company would handle all of the production – assistants, talent, etc – and the photographer, not knowing any better, would do the shoot for a low fee.

    Just last week I advised a wedding photographer who was dealing with a company who wanted to use her images in every Costco store in the country. Or the pharma company who almost got a worldwide campaign for $500 (I helped the guy get $18k for North America). I could go on…

    Since I’m pretty active in education with wedding photographers and because of my background in commercial work, I get a lot of requests from wedding photographers for help with dealing with commercial clients. The amount of commercial work that is going to wedding photographers is growing and growing.

    Anyone who thinks that wedding photographers are just hacks may well find their lunch eaten before too long and wonder what the hell happened.


    • @John Mireles, your post is just confirming what I wrote earlier about how wedding photographers tend to take themselves way too seriously. Making threats that all of the sudden wedding photographers are going to eat the lunch from commercial photographers is exactly the kind of attitude that is so comical. Notice that I never inferred that wedding photographers were hacks and that’s because I honestly don’t think that photo skills have much to do with preventing them from going commercial. I think their main problem is mostly culture and attitude.

      • @Mike M, it may be true that wedding photographers may take themselves far too seriously. However their (our) hubris is only exceeded by that of commercial photographers (insert eye roll here).

        Are wedding photographers going to kill off commercial photographers? Absolutely not. Are they just another straw (Getty, Flickr, death of print media, DSLR’s etc.) that’s breaking the camel’s back? Well, I’d say that there’s an argument that can be made for that.


    • @John Mireles,

      Commercial photographers (including advertising, marketing, client direct, corporate, editorial, and PJ) have been missing lunch for almost a decade. I’ll presume you didn’t move to family photography because commercial work was such a ripe cherry.

      First hit was from stock image sales. Then news/editorial corporations requiring work for hire contracts. Next the Getty/Corbis strangulation – including agreements. Followed by (free) digital access and a move to the consumption of digital media – rendering traditional media as less valued, less consumed. The computer era with the technological advances in (digital) cameras providing cheap, popular, high quality, easily accessible & distributed images. Add in the bust, 9/11, and the current failure of global economies. Finally, the popular trend of reality styled (documentary) imagery has a very low entry requirement with regard to talent and technical ability. There is the “lunch”.

      Some exceptional image makers work as family photography businesses. However the great majority of family photographers are followers. Borrowing & buying others looks (actions, plug-ins, seminars, etc.). But then most of the commercial photographers are followers and borrowers too. Same with fashion. The documentary *style* -for the most part – lacks much signature as well.

      It’s not that the clients are acknowledging any regard for talent – in any segment of the markets. They are looking for the lowest cost (good enough) solution to their imaging needs. That may include dollar stock (micro stock) as well. Now the bar has been lowered even further. Get a flickr account and bend over for Getty.

      Participation in the current imaging market(s) with regard to ROI might be summed up with a quote by a famous Hollywood computer :

      “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?”
      – Joshua

      • @Bob, “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?”

        Not to stray OT, but that last line in your post sums up my exact thoughts on the current state of commercial photography.

  26. Reading the many comments in here reminds me of the different religions around the globe where each one seems to be above the next one and they all got the truth, or “run LOLA run and close the blinds when those Jehovah Witness come marching by.”

    Folks I got plenty of wedding photographers friends who are/were also very successful commercial and editorial photographers and their work has always been very powerful. And for that reason many of those wedding photographers are making over 150K per year plus what they make with their editorial and adv work. They are treated with respect , get pay on time, have it all in writing and with their own terms, and can call the shoots too.

    In the photography field you will find great photographers and those, as someone sarcastically put it here who are a “step above a camera clerk.” But make not mistake that photographer can be anyone. All depends on the quality and honesty of your work and the clients who come knocking at your door. You will have some brilliant image creators and perhaps some who are shooting now and shouldnt be allow into this forum or even work for a camera store.

    That said, is truth that many art buyers have ways to go before accepting a wedding photographer into their world. Is not an easy passage but it doesn’t meant that it can’t happen.
    The “dont ask dont tell” stigma use in the military is still very alive and well when it comes to uttering the words, “lets hire a wedding photographer for this cover or adv campaign” or freely saying to a new client “I am a wedding photographer and would love to do your new adv.” Some changes had occurred but still far from saying I shoot for Time or Sports Illustrated and this is my last Perfume gig.

    When is a great idea to showcase your wedding, auto or wine photography along with your commercial, editorial and fashion work? I would say put your mark on a solid piece of work that will have your stamp and will give you tracks. After that you can diversify and do as you wish. If you are not sure if you wedding/auto/wine images should be in the same space as your commercial and magazine work then built two separate site with two different identity.

    And let me say to any young photographers who feel this way “I’m lining myself up to shoot with A-list clients. I don’t make six figures yet. But I’m optimistic.”

    Optimism is always a plus but what is to you A-list of clients is the same for wedding or documentary photographers. All depends what target you are aiming and what rewards you are seeking. Is not all about money and glory. What matter the most is that at the end of your career you can have a vast legacy of images that will stand strong for centuries to come and that your work can make a difference in your life and someone else too. SO speak from the heart and let your images do the talking. Only then will a picture truly be worth a thousand words.

    More 2 Come


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  27. @ Stu – dude, you’re a total fuckwit.

  28. Great post! I honestly never considered that some might look down their noses at wedding photographers. I can see that in the soft-focus, cheesey pose days that might have been an issue. These days, some of my favourite photographers only shoot weddings and are some of the most creative and inspirational photographers out there.

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