In these unpredictable times, there’s one corner of the Wedding Market that remains largely unaffected by the fluctuations in both fortune and restrictions that affect us mere mortals. I’m talking about the luxury end of the market, where weddings can cost as much as an average house and photographers are commanding fees in the tens of thousands.
These weddings are for people whose wealth has been in their families for generations, or highly successful individuals of either High Net Worth or Very High Net Worth. Money is no object and they are often hosted over multiple days in glamorous destinations. Imagine being flown all over the world and getting to shoot the most spectacular weddings imaginable. If this sounds like the lifestyle you aspire to, then I have a few tips on how to break into this lucrative market.
LOOK THE PART
Have you ever turned up at an airport dressed smartly because you are hoping to be randomly upgraded? Getting into Upper Class can involve looking like you actually belong there. So think along these lines when it comes to presenting yourself and your business. If your profile photo is you in casual wear, it’s time to rethink. Make an effort to look polished, as if you would fit in at a high-profile event. Bear this in mind anywhere that you are marketing your services, so yes I do mean Instagram stories too – no more chatting to the camera on your sofa in your dressing gown.
This also applies to your branding, does it have a luxurious feeling? If it’s feeling a little too basic, invest in a refresh. Then have a serious look at the navigation of your website. Rich people are busy, nobody is going to wade through you waffling on about how you picked up a camera aged three, blah, blah, blah. They just want to see if your photos are exceptional and then contact you for availability.
GET LUXE CONTENT
Now, this isn’t a quick fix but nothing of value ever is. If you are wanting to get bookings at high-end locations then you are somehow going to have to get this content into your portfolio. You could look for styled shoot workshops at exceptional venues. The advantage of these is that you only invest the cost of a ticket and you can create some beautiful work. The disadvantage is that it’s not your exclusive content and you are shooting someone else’s vision.
Alternatively, you can invest in creating your own shoots with the goal of showcasing your photography and projecting the kind of wedding you would like to shoot. These can be hard work to pull together but you will find that if you are prepared to invest, they are highly possible. You might have to pay a hire fee to a venue and rent wedding dresses and models but this is all investing in your future bookings.
I spoke to luxury destination elopement photographer, Rebecca Carpenter who built a portfolio of content with a view to building the business that she has now. She realised early on in her career that the bookings in this market were not going to land in her lap so she invested thousands in attending portfolio workshops and creating her own styled wedding couple shoots in glamorous places like Santorini.
Rebecca made connections with other wedding professionals that also wanted to upgrade their portfolios and she worked on these shoots with them. She said that this led to her “being really intentional with my marketing, being very selective about what images I am sharing so that they reflect the type of high-end weddings that I want to shoot.”
In order to level up, you need to elevate from where you are now but it’s entirely possible to start from where you currently are. Look for the luxe elements of the weddings that you are shooting now. This might mean you have to get creative. Shooting wedding prep in a basic hotel room? How about bringing in some luxury paper and creating a flat lay with some of the accessories? Your bride might not have a designer dress but maybe she has designer perfume or shoes, I challenge you to create images using these that have a luxury feeling. Move the standard hotel pictures off the wall if you need to.
Terence Donovan once said that “What you see in the photograph isn’t what you saw at the time. The real skill of photography is organised visual lying”. So maybe you organise your current weddings to appear more like the future weddings you wish to shoot.
Working in these high-level circles is often about who you know. The couples are not sitting on Instagram looking at hashtags so forget that approach. Many of the photographers working in this price bracket do not maintain a social media presence at all. Most of the weddings they shoot are under Non-Disclosure Agreements anyway and their clients are not comfortable showing their weddings in public arenas.
In fact, these clients don’t search for most of the suppliers for their weddings at all. Like most things in life, wealthy people pay someone to do it for them and with weddings, this means getting a planner. So shift your marketing to target wedding planners. Do your research, starting with luxury editorial publications like Vogue and Tatler magazines. They both publish weddings and include the names of the people who worked on them, including the planners.
Be brave and reach out to them. You could curate a gallery of your images specifically to show them and introduce yourself via email. The best day to do this is a Wednesday when things tend to be quieter for wedding businesses. Sending emails on Mondays or Fridays will be just sending them into an abyss.
Nobody gets anywhere in this industry by sitting at home and hoping. This kind of work isn’t going to come to you, you will have to go to it. Get creative with your marketing and how you are approaching people who are already successful in the luxury market. Chances are you will not be the first photographer that tries to get bookings from them. Think of a way that you can be helpful to them. Maybe ask if they’d like some new profile images or a photographer to attend one of their events just to create content for them. It only takes one or two connections to come to fruition for you to start getting work.
Rebecca also advises being brave when it comes to the timespan involved in these weddings. The bookings come in more last minute as the couples don’t have to save up or wait for a slot at a venue that does weddings every week.
We’ve already spoken about investing in your appearance, your brand, and your portfolio but finally, I’d say invest in your equipment. When I started showing up to weddings with a Hasselblad, people took notice. They understand that it is a superior piece of kit and shooting medium format comes with a gravitas that isn’t there with mirrorless and DSLRs.Trust me, nothing says luxury photographer more than using a luxury camera brand