Please Don’t Fake It Till You Make It 

Please Don’t Fake It Till You Make It 

Tips for New Wedding Photographers

Why I Think You Shouldn’t Rush To The Top

We’ve all heard some photographer educators saying to just ‘Fake It Till You Make It’ but I’d like to put forward a case for doing the opposite – to indulge yourself in the early phase of your career. Doing your apprenticeship, learning your craft, and discovering where your place is in the market.

Let’s start by talking about pricing as there seems to be a trend in the industry currently for new photographers to very quickly start charging the same as established photographers at the higher ends of the market. There is no one correct way to price wedding photography and I understand that when you start out, you look to photographers that you admire to see how they present their prices. Does that mean you simply do the same? Should a photographer in their first year or two be asking for the same rate as someone with much more experience?

Should a photographer in their first year or two be asking for the same rate as someone with much more experience? 

One element that clients are paying for is that experience so if that part isn’t there, why would they pay a premium for you?  It is wonderful to have people that you admire in the industry, people who are where you wish to get to. They are your benchmarks, your goalposts and it’s great to have beacons set for where your path should be leading to.

But am I right that now sometimes people just want to get straight to those destinations without having the journey that gets you there? Why are you in such a rush? Listen, you are skipping some of the best parts. Learning your craft is fundamental in shaping the photographer that you will become. By skipping to where other photographers are, you are aiming to be an imitation of someone else instead of the most incredible version of yourself.

1. Studying, Not Duplicating:

Starting out, I too was heavily influenced by seasoned photographers I admired. The key was to strive to understand their techniques, not simply replicate them. To study their process, understand their compositions, and then weave some of the insights gained into my own style.

Tip: Break down images you love. Analyse lighting, composition, and posing then think about why these elements are appealing to you. What is within you that is drawn to this work? 

2. Crafting Your Unique Path:

The early years allowed me to experiment freely. It was a period of self-discovery, defining my unique style and narrative. Use this time to play with different editing styles, directing techniques, composition, settings, cameras etc. This fundamental creative discovery is one of the most fun parts of developing as a photographer and something you will come back to again and again when you feel stuck. 

Tip: Create a mood board of your favorite images. Identify recurring themes. This will help you articulate your distinctive style.

3. The Algorithm-Proof Advantage:

In an era dominated by algorithms, authenticity is the key to standing out.

I cannot tell you how empowering and magical it is to truly dig deep into your own passions and to find your own path instead of following one set by another photographer. 

You become algorithm-proof, more fulfilled and here’s the most wonderful pay-off – the customers who find you are so wonderfully in tune with you. Imagine this, you do not even feel like you are going to work, you feel like the luckiest photographer around, getting paid to shoot your true passions with people that you could be friends with anyway. When people ask me how I’ve managed to maintain such a long career as a wedding photographer, this is the key. I cannot imagine that I would feel like this if I spent all this time emulating others. 

Tip: Share your voyage of discovery – Let your audience in on your process of learning – photography is exciting, people love to see behind the scenes and see the person behind the lens. Being authentic builds trust and people love to see others focus on self-improvement.

4. Finding Your People:

Attracting the right clients is an integral part to feeling fulfilled in this job. The early stages are also about exploring what it feels like to work with different types and what you feel most inspired by. This isn’t just about finding clients; it’s about finding your ideal clients.

Tip: Identify your ideal client and have this written down to refer to so it’s not just some wishy-washy notion of what they might be like.  What are their interests? Where do they spend time online? Give them names so that it’s easy to visualise them then tailor your brand to attract these individuals.

5. Turning Work into Passion:

It’s one thing to photograph weddings; it’s another to be truly passionate about it. I’m a big advocate of always planning and executing work solely for your portfolio, turning your camera towards subjects that genuinely fire you up. Showing this work will always influence the paid work that comes your way. 

Tip: Create personal projects and portfolio shoots. Develop your style and passions without the pressure of paying clients.

6. Longevity in the Industry

Stay hungry for knowledge – always.

Every step in the early years contributes to your longevity. Develop resilience, learn to adapt, and understand that the path to mastery is ongoing. The early journey is the foundation for a sustained and fulfilling career.

Tip: Keep a learning mindset. Attend workshops, webinars, and engage in continuous education. Stay hungry for knowledge – always.

7. Contributing to the Industry:

Another reason that I do not want you to skip the early part is potentially selfish. It’s when new photographers come into the industry that new techniques, new styles, and new trends are developed. As new people play and experiment and learn their craft, as they go through creative discovery, the entire industry benefits and rejuvenates. This doesn’t happen if everyone starting out just copies what is already established. Imagine if all art was like this, what a dull world it would be. Don’t just be a consumer; become a contributor. The industry evolves when fresh perspectives are injected. 

Tip: Share your insights. Start a blog, a YouTube channel, or engage actively on social media. Contribute to the collective knowledge.

8. Managing Expectations:

Clients’ expectations are tied to the price they pay. Through the early stages, you’ll refine your craft, learn to manage expectations and handle unforeseen challenges. In my first year I was open and honest that I was still gaining experience as a wedding photographer and the couples understood that they got me on the way up at a reduced rate. If I made any mistakes they would have been forgiving, if there were any ‘crumbs on my fork’. 

Tip: Just be honest about being new. Use language about people getting you at ‘introductory Rates’ so that there is an understanding that people are lucky to get you at these prices but the pay-off is that you are still learning.

9. Safeguarding Your Reputation:

it’s going to be much better for you to go through the stages, to work your way up because if you make any mistakes – and we ALL make them – then the client that got you at what they felt was a fair price will be understanding and forgiving but the client that paid a premium will probably not be so lenient as they are expecting the best of the best. Is this important? Yes because something that happens to wedding photographers that often breaks them is getting a complaint that escalates. It’s such an awful feeling that can take a big toll on your mental health. Please consider this, one of your most precious assets as a photographer is your reputation. A good one is very hard to earn and very easy to lose.

Tip: Treat your reputation as your most valued business asset and do everything that you can to protect it.

10. The Café and Michelin-Starred Restaurant Analogy

Have I convinced you yet? If you are still thinking ‘No, I am sticking to my guns and I’m going to fake it until I make it, I want to be where my peers are’ then maybe think of another service industry – restaurants. 

We can dine at a cute little cafe or we can dine at a Michelin-starred restaurant. It’s all just food but of course, we pay much less for the cafe than the restaurant. Now picture yourself in the cafe, your expectation is that it will be nice but not mind-blowing. If something goes a little wrong, like there’s a long wait, you are probably going to be pretty chill about it. Your expectation for the experience that you will receive is relevant to what you pay. So if you pay to have a fine dining experience your expectations are high. You would be prepared for attention to detail, the best ingredients and the service element to be elevated. If there are crumbs on your fork at the cafe, you’d probably just wipe them off; if there are crumbs on your fork at the Michelin-starred establishment – you would lose your mind about it. Now apply this thinking to wedding photography

Tip: Research the market and understand the average pricing in your niche. Use our PRICING CALCULATOR to help you figure out your rates but make allowances in the beginning that are based on your skill level. These can increase as you gain experience.

Finally, I’d say do this:

Look at other photographers by all means if you feel that helps you to set goals and figure out where you would like to get to but do not look at where they are now and use that as your starting point. Look at where they started, look at the early part of their career, there is so much more to be mined from studying what others did when they were at your point. Podcasts like our Perspective series with the Thrive speakers are wonderful for this kind of thing. Listening to photographers talk about their early days, or how they got their breaks will enrich your own learning experience and inspire you to forget the faking part and just focus on the making it part. 



Drop me a note with any industry issue that you might have and I will do my best to offer up some advice.

After a couple of decades as a wedding photographer, the chances are high that I will have some experience that might be relevant or have some insight into what your best course of action could be

The process is 100% anonymous, so feel free to share whatever is on your mind currently and know that this is a safe place.