It has been exactly a year since I began my journey to become a successful wedding photographer. The year has had its ups and downs. I am happy to admit it was mostly ups and some big learning curves, but I have learned a thing or two along the way. A little back story for those of you who don't know me at all. I am Stacie Pearce, I would describe myself as a pretty upbeat, outgoing and easy going. I am a mother of three wildlings and a wife to an extremely supportive and gracious man. Before pursuing it full time, photography was my passive sport. For money and fun, I worked as an event producer in New York City making magic (read smoke and mirrors) for big wigs like Coca- Cola, Google, Conde-Nast, Cartoon Network, Mr. Porter and a whole lot of other companies with massive budgets. It was a lot of fun, and the creative capacity was pushed at every moment. I was able to work with and collaborate with some of the greatest event producers in Manhattan. But, after 12 years, and after a LOT of hours, it was time for me to find a passion project. I am a visual person and I love the fast pace of a events, so it made the most perfect connection for me to find a new love as a wedding photographer.
Full disclosure I have been a hobby photographer for a long time. My first university course was photography 101 back in the 90s. So, I can safely say, that I already knew the in's and outs of my Canon DSLR. But, I was still insanely nervous when I accepted my first wedding to photograph. Weddings are so important, these are the memories and most likely the only heirloom that may be passed down to generations. My friend Emma graciously trusted me with the responsibility and I was hooked from the first frame, but I am really jumping the gun. It took a lot of research to prepare me for such a big responsibility. My research started a bit like this..."Gear??? Holy crap, what do I need to have in my bag? What lens, what flash, and what else am I going to need?" And then my thoughts went to..."What is the list of every photo that every wedding NEEDS to have?" After that, It was just a matter of of gathering as much information as possible. I will let you know what what my research led to and the out come of that first wedding shoot in another blog post. I can safely say it was a success. But, I really want to focus on what I have learned this first year as a wedding photographer starting from that first wedding. The little things that have kept me alive and starting to thrive. First, its best to ask, and if you need to ask again, ask again. Then there is style, I find that its a work in progress, and it will always be changing, but its really important to find your groove, so that your clients know who you are, and what they are getting. And last, its OK to change. Its difficult to find footings in a competitive market, and if at first you miss step, its OK. Its OK to change and to evolve. I will deep dive into these 3 things that have really made me in to a small business owner, and a working wedding photographer.
When I say its best to ask, I really mean it. My Yiayia always said "just ask, the worst they can say is "no."" And for me this has been a big part of pursuing my dream and understanding an industry that can be very isolating. Photographers mostly work alone. Most like me, do not have an office filled with colleagues to sound board ideas on. So, it has been really important for me to reach out to other professionals and ask the questions that I want to know. There is not a hard industry guideline that has to be followed, so it can be hard to find your footing. I actively insta stocked all of the talent that I admired, those photographers that I knew had found a groove. I was always completely transparent and honest when I reached out, letting them know that I was a photographer, and that I just had a question about...everything! Questions like, what lens a used on a particular shot, to what gear was used for back lights, to what are some strategies for gathering content, and most important, how do you find your price points? I asked all the questions that I had directly to colleagues and what I found is that people are really generous with knowledge, and people have a huge capacity to offer inspiration and insight that can take you to the next level. SO ASK AWAY!
I just love this quote..."You can't use up creativity, the more you use, the more you have" - Maya Angelo
Now, your style. Your style is always going to ebb and flow, and its going to change with the times, but there is a consistency of quality and position that is demanded from ever professional photographer. I find that this has been a bit tricky to manage. Its taking me some time to find my footing on this and It was had to not just try to copy what other people are doing. It is the sincerest form of flattery of course. But, with my respect for art, I have made it my duty to create my own style - with in reason of course. Full disclosure is that I have found consistency in my editing by using presets. These presets, have given my work an esthetic direction and allowed me to present to my clients work that they are expecting to be getting. I didn't use presets for my very first wedding, and I can see my work evolve, deepen and develop since then. Presets, are a commonly used set of functions that you can use to edit raw photos in Light Room and Photoshop. These are widely universal programs, used for editing. The programs can be tricky, but thanks to my years in production, I am a master. But, style is not simply based on editing. You style comes through in the emotion and attitude that you are able to pull from lovers, friends, kiddos and groups of people, who are celebrating the happiest and the most exciting day in their lives. Style is derived from a subject being comfortable with me, enough to be their truest self. It is definitely a work in progress, and I practice a lot. But, with editing and honing, I am hoping to master my own personal photography style. I am not truly there yet, but I can feel it. If you want to know what presets I am currently using, just ask!
And the real tricky question? I don't have the answer for, so please if you know, let me know. How do I price myself? I started off the year with a goal. I am constantly setting goals for myself, and my first goal was to shoot 10 weddings. With in the first year I shot 14 weddings, so I have been happy that I exceed my goal. But its pretty obvious that a first year wedding shooter can not demand the Australian wedding photographer cost of $2,500 to $10,000. And sheesh, that is a massive sliding scale of what can be commanded. So with my first couple of weddings I did them for free and then I charged $1000, and then I charged a little bit more. I have now landed on the figure of $2850 for 9 hours. This is relatively low for industry standards. And I hope that some day I am in such demand, that I can charge more for my art. My new goal for my second year in business is to book 25 weddings, and to be very busy at an affordable price. I know that some couples will think the cost of photography is expensive for just 8 hours of work, but the truth is its a minimum of one hour in office for every hour of shooting. That's the minimum, I have found. But the cost of wedding photography is a blog post for another day.
You know after this first year, I could not feel that I have been more true to myself. I have found a passion that lights me up. I love being behind my lens. I love the tech of it, the nerd in me loves the gear. I know that I have forever to keep learning, and I hope you'll be on this journey with me. And I really want to thank everyone who have bee so supportive of me on this journey. Looking at you hubby!
This was my first blog post. If you have read to this point, all I can say is "WOW"
I am happy to collaborate or let you pick my brain, so feel free to reach out to me. Here are some photos from my very first wedding.
All my love, Stacie