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film + digital photographer, living in the mountains and traveling to your city to tell beautiful stories that last

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10 years as a wedding photographer

10 years of wedding photography with Mary Dougherty New YorkThis post is a look back at the last 10 years as a wedding photographer. For some of you I’m bringing you up to speed and others are checking in for the first time. No matter how well you know me, I hope you find some helpful information regarding how many weddings I shot every year for the first ten years, as well as insight into what worked, what I’m currently working on and the things I didn’t consider at all when I started. I would love nothing more than for you to make it 10 years as a wedding photographer – if that’s your goal – and for you to join me for the next ten.

What does my business currently look like?

You know those graphs that show the artistic journey or life of a creative – I resonate with that so much. My business has definitely grown, but it hasn’t been a straight line or exponential curve. I’ve taken the long road on some things (moving 3 times – Western New York – Virginia – Rochester – Saranac Lake) and I have intentionally slowed down since we (actually I, let’s give me the credit) birthed 3 babies. No small feat. Definitely want to take more time telling you how big of a deal that is, but if you don’t have kids you probably don’t care that much. However, I’m sure your life has had twists and turns and unexpected bumps in the road. We all compare ourselves and are at our best when we are able to accept where we are, and what we can currently give.

The number of weddings I shoot is around 15 a year down from 30 five years ago. As a hybrid photographer I now use film + digital cameras so my workflow has changed. The Find Lab processes my film and matches digital edits, so my post processing has become easier. I travel for 80% of my work to places like Cape Cod, New York City, Portland, Buffalo and Philadelphia. My expenses have gone up due to film and travel. I hosted my first workshop in the Adirondacks for photographers. I gave up blogging for a while. Paid advertising is not something I currently invest in, and I am fully booked (15 weddings) for 2019.

Writing this out makes me realize I have it more together than I think. Do you doubt yourself? Compare yourself? Well, I do too. I currently have nothing booked for 2020 so reach out if you want to get rewarded by referring your friends.

What has worked?

The thing I have done consistently no matter the season of life is to show up and build relationships. Taking care of my clients comes first, then vendors I work with and finally networking within those circles of people, industries or regions I am in. Showing up could be on my blog, on instagram, through an email or all of the above. The relationships are what have paid off in consistent work over the last 10 years.

Building a community of photographers and creatives has also been vital to staying in this job and not getting burned out. Talking through ideas, referring people when we are booked, celebrating wins and walking each other through the low points has been essential.

Finally, and this is an obvious one, but becoming a better photographer has continued to move me forward. There are a few ways I challenge myself to do this – through getting featured, creating a styled shoot / personal work, or investing in mentoring and online classes. If you search these blog archives you will see what my early work was like.

What I’m working on…

Building my team and establishing ways to teach, mentor + build community are two new projects I’ve been working on. I am excited to have Lyndsi on my team as an associate photographer and serve more New York couples. My workshop, #marydoughertyWKSH is the way that I bring other photographers together. See the features from last year on Once Wed + Amber & Muse. We enjoy the amazing landscape of the Adirondacks and shoot a gorgeous intimate wedding. On top of that we go in-depth on how to grow your business. These are two things I’m really excited about!

There is consistent work still needed in the area of marketing. Everyone has to evolve and continue to reach their ideal clients, but I have made it harder for myself. Remember when I mentioned quitting blogging? My SEO took a hit. Combine that with moving+ having my website hacked a year ago and I think you can see I have some rebuilding to do. It still feels hard to find the right people to work with, but that is probably because I am being very selective. Currently I am re-working my marketing plan and once I have something to share I’ll do so.

What I didn’t consider 10 years ago

The biggest thing I wish I worked on yearly was casting a vision and setting goals. I didn’t start this business with an idea of how I would retire or grow my income or evolve over time. I’m not sure many people do. I started because I love being creative and impacting people’s lives by telling beautiful stories through images. In the first ten years I really established my business and evolved it to meet the needs of our family. Now I need to figure out where I want it to go. Do I want to pay for college for my kids? Do I want to give myself a raise? How long can I actually shoot weddings?

These are the big, super hard questions to answer and I’m reaching out for mentoring and coaching so I don’t have to figure them out on my own.

The second smaller thing I didn’t think about – and should have – is how I reach people. Showing up in an inbox is an easy way to connect and not deal with algorithms of being seen. I didn’t realize investing time in growing a facebook or instagram following didn’t mean as much as I thought. You can have a successful business without huge followings, if you are reaching the right people.

how many weddings I shot each year as a wedding photographer for 10 years

download here

Writing is very helpful for me, and if you don’t put on paper where you are at and where you want to go I recommend it. Dream up big goals, projects and visions to give a sense of where you want to go. Set a goal for this year and work backwards to figure out what you need to do next. I usually try to do everything at once, but I find I’m at my best when I can dedicate time to one project – or figure out how to outsource it! The truth is being a wedding photographer still feels hard and like there is so much work to do. The good news is, I’m not alone and neither are you!

Join me this August 12-14 for my Workshop to have in-depth conversations about your next step + capture some beautiful imagery up here in the mountains. If you are interested in one on one mentoring send me an email through the contact form. Finally, download the pdf that shares how many weddings I’ve shot over the last 10 years and get on my email list to learn more about creating a business that fits your life.

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March 4, 2019

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