Event photography


One of the many ways you can make money as a photographer is to specialise on events. Weddings, christenings, and all sorts of other events where people make memories can be lucrative business. The great thing is that all you need is a good camera, lots of memory cards, and some business cards.

Let me show you how… 


Where to take photos

It’s vitally important that you get creative on where to take photos. The best possible events are events where people want to keep the memories alive. Extra bonus points can be had if the event is the type of happening where people want extra high quality, or if you can offer something which means that the people couldn’t have taken the photos themselves.

I have a friend who is making a green-grassed fortune off photographing junior football (that’s soccer to most of you, I think…) games. Here in England, kids are dreaming of being the next Beckham or Best, and their parents are often encouraging of their sporting efforts. What my friend does is that he calls up the team manager, ensures its okay to take photos at a football game (getting labeled as a pervert is bad for business). He then goes to the game, and takes photos. When my friend shows up with a huge 600mm lens – same as all the parents have seen on television – he is taken seriously, and he takes great care in making sure he’ll get a couple of action shots of every kid on the field. At the end of the game, he hands out his flyers (printed cheaply from an on-line printing company such as printing.com). Later in the evening, he uploads all the photos to his events photography website, and sells the prints for £10 each – or £20 in bigger formats, framed. The only costs incurred are the petrol he uses for driving to the game, and the flyers, which cost next to nothing. At bigger tournaments, he can shoot 8-9 teams in a single day, hands out around 100 flyers, and in the longer term, sells £300-500 (that’s approx $600-$1000) worth of photos. Not bad for a day’s work.

Myself, I’ve done wedding photography on the same model: You arrange to shoot the wedding reportage-style, and make sure that you capture everybody. People talking, people smoking cigars, people flirting with the bridesmaids, along with all the ‘official’ photos you do. You can charge the regular fee for photographing the wedding, and in addition you can arrange for your URL to be printed on the wedding invitation (offer the happy couple a 30% discount to get the URL on the invitation and on any other paperwork they distribute, then make sure to mention to everyone you photograph that they can buy the photos on-line on the URL on the invite). It’s a lucrative business, and in addition you are offering a service most photographers don’t: The option of letting anybody get copies of the prints easily and conveniently.

The trick is to find a niche where you can can excel by being the best photographer in the room, and offering an easy way for people to buy your photos. Horse shows, car shows, dog shows, livestock competitions, fashion shows, parties, rock shows, plays, festivals, portraiture – everywhere there is a market, you can try and do events photography. In addition, for many of the events, you can make money by selling your best images as stock!

Marketing the photos

Personally, I’ve had great success by having flyers printed – simple A5 flyers in full colour, with 2-3 of my best photos, and an URL. Mention who you are, mention how easy and cheap it is to buy photos from you, and hand them out to anyone who might want to buy your photos. If the event has a car-park, all the better: Stick a flyer under the window wiper of the cars.

If you can get a tie-in as an ‘official photographer’, it’s worth setting up a booth at the event as well. Hire someone to sit there with a printer and a computer, and print out the best photos there and then, allowing people to buy them, but make sure to have a stock of business cards or flyers as well, to allow people to buy the photos at their leisure, at home, via the internet.

How to sell the photos

The mechanics of selling photos can be quite complicated. Back when I started doing concert photography, I decided to have a go at doing it all myself – and Rockprints is a testament to that (incidentally, Rockprints was designed by the same guy who did the current Photocritic design – Martin Jacobsen). I ended up using a commonly available gallery software called Coppermine, and hacked the hell out of it, so I could use it to sell photographs via Photobox.

In retrospect, it was a clumsy and extremely annoying way of doing things. The solution wasn’t particularly scalable, and I spent more time adapting the PHP code than actually uploading photos.

A lot of things have happened since then, and there are much more efficient ways of selling events photography. There are quite a few specialised sites out there, who help you out by providing ways of selling photos. I ended up using Printbutton (the professional photo sales service offered by Photobox – as used by Reuters and lots of other big photo suppliers), but when I signed up, you had to pay £400 up front to set up a Printbutton account. Now, one of the requirements for printbutton is “Company turnover in excess of £100K (€150K) per year”, which means that Printbutton, while being a phenomenal service, is unattainable for most of us. Gutted.

Luckily, there are other solutions out there. Photo Stock Plus offer a ‘events-photography-in-a-box’ solution, which works far better than anything I’ve ever managed to puzzle together myself. In their own words, “We provide you with your own e-commerce enabled website, a fully integrated printing system that allows you to set mark ups to a variety of print sizes and over 100 photo gift items, bulk uploading software that will get your photos online quickly, and customizable marketing material such as business cards and fliers that you can use to direct customers to your storefront.” Sound familiar? Yup – that was exactly what I was trying to do with my rockprints website. In the immortal words of Homer: Do’h!

The company takes a fee up-front of $99 (aroudn £40) per year. That’s a hell of a lot better than the £400 I had to fork out for Printbutton. For your money, you get a 500MB printing account, which can store up to 10,000 images. All you need to do is to use the uploading tool (which also watermarks and resizes your photos for you, saving you a metric tonne of time) to create events galleries, and you’re up and running.

Don’t take my word for it, find out more on the Photo Stock Plusal website, and sign up for a trial account to find out what they offer.

A final word of warning

Events photography is damn hard work. No, seriously. You’ll be constantly on your toes, trying to get the best images, fielding questions from people around you, handing out flyers, travelling to locations, copying images, preparing galleries, etc. You’ll hate it until you’ve managed to get used to the pace of the work, and managed to work out a good workflow.

On the other hand, there is a lot of money to be made if you are happy to put in the hours. I have half a dozen friends who make serious money doing events photography, and most of the photographer friends I have use a similar setup to this whenever they do weddings, to maximise their income.

Best of luck to you!

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