Skip to main content

30 Days of Wedding Photography

Lesson 4 of 76

Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned

Susan Stripling

30 Days of Wedding Photography

Susan Stripling

Starting under


Get access to this class +2000 more taught by the world's top experts

  • 24/7 access via desktop, mobile, or TV
  • New classes added every month
  • Download lessons for offline viewing
  • Exclusive content for subscribers

Lesson Info

4. Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned


Class Trailer

Day 1

1 Introduction 32:46 2 Evolution of Susan's Style 1:01:14 3 Branding and Identity 30:27 4 Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned 20:51

Day 2

5 Introduction to Gear & Equipment 10:58 6 Lenses Part 1 1:06:53
7 Lenses Part 2 27:48 8 Lighting 42:59

Day 3

9 Seeing the Scene 29:12 10 Seeing the Scene Q&A 25:16 11 Rhythm and Repetition 24:08 12 Leading Lines and Rule of Thirds 23:45 13 Rule of Odds and Double Exposures 39:49

Day 4

14 Intro to Business 24:51

Day 5

15 Financing Your Business 30:49

Day 6

16 Q&A Days 1-4 1:25:43

Day 7

17 Pricing Calculator 32:48

Day 8

18 Package Pricing 20:57

Day 9

19 Marketing 23:07

Day 10

20 Vendor Relationships & Referrals 15:03

Day 11

21 Marketing w Social Media 52:06

Day 12

22 Booking the Client 1:00:42

Day 13

23 The Pricing Conversation 08:15

Day 14

24 Turn A Call Into a Meeting 12:24

Day 15

25 In Person Meeting 21:58

Day 16

26 Wedding Planning 28:41

Day 17

27 Actual Client Pre Wedding Sit Down 19:17

Day 18

28 Engagement Session Details 36:48

Day 19

29 Engagement Session On Location 35:48

Day 20

30 Wedding Details & Tips 25:49

Day 21

31 Detail Photos Reviewed 36:07

Day 22

32 Bridal Preparation 1:02:57

Day 23

33 Bridal Preparation Photo Review 33:14

Day 24

34 Bridal Prep - What If Scenarios 09:18

Day 25

35 Q&A Days 5-11 1:01:22

Day 26

36 First Look Demo 32:08

Day 27

37 First Look Examples 19:42

Day 28

38 Portraits of the Bride 37:45

Day 29

39 Portraits of the Bride and Groom 20:20 40 Family Portraits Demo 25:29 41 Family Formal Examples 27:43 42 Wedding Ceremony Demo 12:24

Day 30

43 Wedding Ceremony Examples 39:01 44 Different Traditions and Faiths 12:14 45 Wedding Cocktail Hour and Reception Room Demo 13:34 46 Wedding Cocktail Hour and Reception Room Examples 44:05 47 Wedding Introductions 29:39 48 First Dance 25:02 49 Wedding Toasts 41:28 50 Parent Dances 08:16 51 Wedding Party 44:27 52 Reception Events 12:57 53 Nighttime Portraits 33:01 54 Nighttime Portraits with Found Light 10:08 55 Post Wedding Session Demo 27:51 56 Post Wedding Session Critique 18:57 57 Wedding Day Difficulties 53:54 58 Post Workflow - Backing Up Folder Structure 16:46 59 Post Workflow - Culling Shots 16:20 60 Post Workflow - Outsourcing 20:55 61 Q&A Days 12-23 1:22:10 62 Post Workflow - Gear 30:34 63 Post Workflow - Lightroom Editing 27:36 64 Managing Your Studio 41:33 65 Post Wedding Marketing 37:30 66 Client Care 14:29 67 Pricing for Add-Ons 18:03 68 The Album Process 44:53 69 Balancing Your Business with Life 47:36 70 Post Wedding Problems 26:06 71 Parent Complaints 42:54 72 Unhappy Customers 16:10 73 Working with an Assistant 27:33 74 Assistant Q&A 16:08 75 Lighting with an Assistant 23:47 76 Q&A Days 24-30 38:29

Lesson Info

Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned

Let's have a nice little chat about stuff that I did stuff yogis let's start with grammar stuff that I've done but I shouldn't have done but you know what? I don't like to look back on any mistake that I've made and say that I wish that had never happened to me because I believe that we are as people and as business is the sum of our mistakes and it's not that you make mistakes we all make mistakes it's how you handle the mistakes that you make and how you use them both personally and professionally to better yourself that's what's important so opening a portrait studio that went really well that was that was awesome promotion lived at the portrait studio and it was not being a portrait photographer was disingenuous to me I hated the sale sessions I wasn't good at them can everyone learn to be a good salesperson? Of course you can can you sell something if you don't believe in it no you can't and I had a really hard time sitting down in front of my clients and selling to them in person...

that is not one of my strengths in any way at a really hard time with that I had a hard time with the scheduling I just had a hard time with all of it do I regret it off course? I don't regret it was that time that could have been better spent doing something else instead? Yes, it wass like in retrospect, I never should have tried to be a portrait photographer, but how would I have known that if I hadn't done it right? If I hadn't messed up, if I hadn't pushed my business in a new way and we kind of had a joke that my business for a long time was like dubai build with absolutely no thought to the structure whatsoever it's like taking a house and building these add ons without really thinking about it. Now you have a room here and then you have a roof here and then you have got a carport over there and they're all in kind of different styles and it doesn't really mish and then you look at the house, you're like what I done like I just ruined it like the roads don't lead to where they should be leading in this door doesn't lead to the right room and sometimes you just sit down and you re renovate sometimes you burn it to the ground start over so that's what my business had begun there was there was a commercial portrait there was there was the commercial part, there was the portrait part, there was a little bit of this there was a little bit of that and I was running in too many different directions and I was specializing in nothing now there are people who can do that jeff and julia woods run an extraordinary portrait studio and they do beautiful wedding work and they do it seamlessly I can't do that so was that a misguided attempt at making my business something that I thought it needed to be it wass but he didn't need to be that it never should have been that that what what is that just going god what is that you have to say I'm up here right like you guys hear me talk you've seen my work if you took the logo off of that would you even think that was my website now it's ratchet let's just not look at it anymore carrying too much about what other photographers were doing you can hear yourself phyllis business minds by looking at other photographers blog's all day long it doesn't matter what they're doing it doesn't should you be inspired by them yes but should you be on their belongs every single day wondering what they're doing and oh my god they're booking were more weddings than me and they're working in this fancy venue and I'm not and they're speaking at the o p p I and I'm not and there they just won this award and I didn't it's none of that matters it doesn't matter and I am here to tell you that being on creative live means and nothing in my clients they go oh that's nice they've no idea what it is they don't know what winning a grand awarded w p p I means they have no clue it doesn't matter it's a resume item that makes me look a little bit more trustworthy but this doesn't matter to your clients. It doesn't so becoming really obsessed with what other photographers were doing or even worse what other photographers think of your work? That doesn't matter either getting constructive feedback, yes entering competitions and hearing what educators can tell you to make your work better your composition needs help here you're lighting needs help here that's important don't oh my god, that photographer in my town said something on their facebook page and I think they're talking about me and I'm gonna get really sad and no, this isn't personal it's all just business, you can't take it personally if I cared about every single photographer on the internet that thought that I was an idiot and they thought that my work stunk, all I would do is sit at home and cry they're people out there who don't like what I'm doing that's fine and there are people watching this creative life have been like I don't like that girl that's okay to every instructor is not for everybody every photographer is not for everybody but stop caring what other photographers think about what you're doing it doesn't matter it doesn't matter so much about this industry is like being in high school again and high school sucked enough the first time around I don't want to do it again, so it doesn't matter I don't care what other photographers think about what I'm doing I am humbled that I'm able to stand up here and teach to you and it's an honor that enough people like what I'm doing to want teo to want to hear my whole process but for every you know hater out there that says something bad about you or your competition tries to bad mouth you it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter just think didn't matter in high school now it doesn't matter now they feel note the overarching theme of the slides we're looking at is weeping, letting my clients personally upset me you can't do that did every single upset client in two thousand to devastate me doesn't upset client now devastate me because you have to realize that there are two types of upset clients they're upset because something you've done and they're upset because something beyond your control that has nothing to do with you and you're just the last vendor that they can interact with and even if I have messed up, even if I have done something wrong owning up to a client saying listen, I screwed this thing up, I miss this shot I didn't get a picture of your kiss someone stepped out on the island, I couldn't move around them fast enough if in years past the client and said I'm really disappointed in that I would have gone to bed with ice cream and cried all night long and I'm not saying that that makes me unfeeling now but now I go well, that wasn't good let's not do that again okay, move on. You can't sit at home and be down on yourself when your clients are down on you even if you screwed up even if you screwed up and you had to own it right like because I think that if you mess up with a client, the most important thing that you could possibly do is tell them the truth don't lie to them it will bite you they will appreciate your honesty even if you screwed up. Listen, I'm really sorry and just make up an example I was in the other room shooting something I didn't notice that you guys were cutting your cake there was no announcement I missed it I'm so sorry what can I do to make it up to you and then move on? Do you feel bad when you screw up off course you d'oh but the way I am now versus the way I used to be is I feel bad kind of shaken often I figure out how I can improve in the future that's not saying that I'm unfeeling that saying that I'm harnessing that I'm putting in a different in a different direction going to bed with ice cream and crying is not going to accomplish anything watching a twilight marathon and weeping in the corner of just don't just don't you can't take it personally of course we all take it personally because we're all artists like we just do we're crazy and we're over emotional but letting every single oh I had really been hoping you were going to get a picture of my bouquet by itself that shouldn't render you until like weeping jelly on the ground you need to find a better way to deal with upset clients than letting it devastate you personally mixing friends and business just don't don't I have mixed friends and business several times with varying degrees of success I've lost friendships because I attempted to mix them with business and it's always the friend that you think this is never going to affect us it affects you now jen from sidecar post is one of my best friends she's been one of my best friends for years and we work together I hire her company to provide a service for me jen and I were friends first and we went into our business relationship knowing each other's business is inside and out knowing I knew her set up for sidecar, I knew how it was done and we're professional enough that we were able to do that together but that business relationship is not our friendship like our friendship is is beyond that there's just a business component and sometimes you can do it but if you are going to do it you better do it carefully and if you have a chance to not do it, don't do it just don't do it for all of the many, many obvious reasons that I shouldn't have to list out don't mix your friends in your business and you're sitting there thinking but I have this opera just don't when you think you're the exception to the rule is when it all blows up in your face in all points in time oh look we're still crying letting work took over my life I feel so strongly about not letting that happen that there's an entire hour out of the thirty days dedicated to not letting the business take over your life because it will ruin your life it will ruin your marriage it will ruin everything just there is no business success that I could have right now that would replace the life that I have right now it's just not possible so spoken from great experience pretending that I do this for the art and not the business right? I'm not in this for fun I'm in this put my kids through college and I'm in this to make some money and I'm in this to be able to retire and I don't want to shoot weddings until I die I don't so am I in this because I like the art of wedding photography oh yes but do I go out and shoot weddings for free and I know there is a the whole thing about photographers that are afraid to ask people for money for their services I was asking on facebook well, you know what are some of these things that I can help cover for you in these thirty days and one person said I have a really hard time asking my clients for money when I know that they're financially struggling what do I do? You man up and you send the invoice you just dio I'm sorry like it's it's business this is not personal you sign a contract with me you still have a due date you still have to pay me and I'm not I I realize that this makes me sound like an absolutely heartless business person who isn't an artist at all but I've been doing this for thirteen years and I've seen businesses crumble all around me the entire time and if you look at the p p a benchmark studies they say that the average life span of a business from opening the closing photography wise is six years we'll have more than doubled that and I plan on still being here for a while so if I'm deluding myself to think that I'm in this just to make pretty art that the business component isn't a massive part of what I'm doing, I would be wrong oh god, we're still crying thinking that I'm above making dumb pedestrian mistakes a couple years ago called cliff from a wedding I don't know what I'm doing wrong all of my reception images look like dirt there is nothing looks right everything is over exposed everything's completely messed up I'm literally shooting on all that I mean it was befuddling I was like I used a different flash I don't understand what's going on I changed lenses he thought about it for a second and he's like, well, have you done this kind of look at the camera like I didn't I'm like I looked at all of my settings haven't bumped anything is maybe, you know, maybe you bumped something I always bump from single to continuous then I don't understand what I'm doing and he's like, did you bump your exposure compensation dial o yep gotta go. I'd ruled my exposure compensation dial up like re stops like I was, but I I know not to do that but it's a dumb pedestrian mistake first shot of the day with the lens cap on I've done that too if you can think of a stupid mistake, I've made it, but the second that you think you're above making these dumb mistakes because, oh, I've been in business a long time I'm not going to make a stupid screwup yeah, you are you're just going to make it more epic than you did at the beginning of your business. You're going to screw up really and there's a really beautiful slide that you'll see a little bit later this afternoon where I share with you every single pedestrian mistake I've made over the last five years my assistant I sat down and we listed them all out and I could remember the time that we did this and remember the time that we did this and then we cried and then opened a bottle of prosecco and moved on. So yes, thinking that you're above making pedestrian mistakes means that you will immediately start making pedestrian mistakes, phoning it in don't do that don't wake up in the morning and go okay, well on another wedding at this country club again, here we go on, just go to work and just shoot if you just start running on autopilot every single time you go out to shoot, you're just not going to a very good job well, you do a competent job sure will you make your clients happy? Probably but if you just start thinking oh here's another wedding here we go again you're gonna miss so many opportunities to make a nice picture and so many moments and so many times that you could've creatively bettered yourself just by thinking I'm here at work and I'm just gonna do my thing no ugo mean and I hate to use a sports thing and you know analogy here because I mean listen I don't watch sports but if you don't go out there and play one hundred ten percent all the time or what are they saying in wedding crashers you know rule number seventy to play like a champion whatever that is like if you don't go out and bring your a game every single time it's like the snowball effect you'll just stop caring don't stop carrying yes sir so did you have any um did you have any problem with that like at the time when you were going through a divorce no I made some of my best work that here because I tried really hard okay and because I have a good ability when I start shooting a wedding that nothing else matters I wasn't asking personal no and that's that's a very it's a personal question that's a very appropriate personal question what do you do in your entire personal life is falling apart around you and you're sitting at a wedding and you're like I can give you five years tops six I mean it's hard to not pull that bitterness until what you're doing but to me, it's exactly the same as going to work sick. We'll just do it like you just shut eye, shut down everything else in the back of my head and just see what's in front of me and then I go home and I have a hard cry and a good bath and wake up in the morning, resume eating chocolate and watching twilight. I don't want to you keep bringing up like that's a really, really watch a lot of japanese horror during that year. So do with that. Whatever you will. Any questions from the internet so far, there's a lot of fear, I think around wedding photography. Yeah, and this is bringing up a lot of questions about it way I'm tapped into every security is not everything is gonna go it's good to face um s late season and beginning any wedding photography business moving from from porch it's and events how do you approach this? Fear of this is a one day, one moment event. What if something happens and the pictures don't turn out? Get up the next day and do it again. You just do it that was the worst part of my couple of years of being in business is the fear of get up and go, yeah it's their only wedding day but if you're technically competent and you know what you're doing and you have confidence in your abilities should be fine and if you totally and completely really screw something up on it up, make amends, move on, do it again do it again going I mean, the on ly a way to get over the fear of it is to get through it and get on the other side like I have no silver bullets of and I will tell you this thing and then you will not be afraid you're gonna keep being afraid, but then one day you're gonna wake up and you're gonna be like, I'm not scared of this anymore I'm good good keep on even right thinking that you've made it that's the worst don't you've never made it ever so the second you started thinking, oh yeah, I'm good, I don't need I don't need anything then you're going to start making really, really, really bad mistakes so before we move on to the next step is gonna actually start walking you through thes thirty days we've got about ten minutes I can jump into it, but anything else that I've talked about before anything prior to this anything inspirational any any anything that you can ask me now before we move on and really start delving into these thirty days too many questions says you know susan we have some questions here this is funny this is from you sonny could you talk a little bit about what to do if it rains or what when those natural disasters happened during summer saying there many multiple segments of what we're going to talk about during these thirty days that cover how do you do portrait's in the rain what do you do if it rains during getting ready what do you do if it rains in the time line runs behind what do you do if all of these there is an entire day dedicated to situations and solutions that we'll talk about all of these awful things that can happen to you and how you not only kind of get around them but rise above them and still make beautiful work during that time we talk about that when we talk about getting ready when we talk about portrait when we talk about ceremonies when we talk about receptions we will also for every single one of those revisit and what could go wrong here and what could go wrong here what do we do about the weather what do we do about the timing so if you wanted to learn how to work in the rain you're in the right place awesome! I will help you and laura coil photography yes um ask how did you get your name? How do you recommend getting your name out there when getting started? Start out free cheap offered to be a second shooter isn't funny. All of these things lead into full days. I will talk to you about your pricing and we're gonna cover this a little bit about lunch. We'll get a teaser from every single day talking about pricing from day one onwards talk to you about how to set your rates the very first time before you even walk out the door to make sure that you're not losing money they talked about how to find your first clients how to take care of those first clients how to turn those first clients into other clients so if that's your question you are also in exactly the right place for sure. Great now this one is from j w ay what happens after you? I have invested all of the time into a wedding at the end of day you realize your client feels you've missed the most important moments that the bride has envisioned. How do you best handle that? Well, my question to you would be two fold is it that you've delivered an accurate representation of the day and it didn't look like what the bride thought it looked like because that's the worst is when the bride has kind of made up in her head that the wedding looks a certain way and then you deliver the pictures, and that doesn't go with the fairy tale that she had in her head and then it's, whether or not it's whether she's right or not, I mean, they say the customer's always right, they're not they're not always right. Sometimes they're dead did dead wrong, but it's, how you handle it? Did you screw something up? Did you legitimately miss a moment that she asked you to document? If that happens, the only thing you can do is say, I'm really terribly sorry I miss that moment. What can I do to make it better? And then shut up and let them tell you a couple extra prints great few more spreads in the album is yours complete and total refund now, let's talk like new, but is it sometimes just buyer's remorse? When it's all over? Do the brides have a little postpartum depression and you're the last vendor that they talk, too, so you're kind of the that's it I've had clients email me and say we got nine hundred images, that's all we thought we're gonna weigh more than that or I don't know, I just thought they'd be more special. At some point, you just want to say, hey, listen, like here's the number to a to a shrink, you might want to talk to somebody I'm not trying to be a jerk, but like the psychology of the disappointment of the bride falls on you because you're the documentary of those memories and sometimes all they want to do is just have you listen to them like, oh, I'm not I'm so sorry for what I did. I'm so sorry you feel that way. Can you tell me a little bit more about it? Then you start to get a sense of did you legitimately miss something that she thought you were going to document? Or is she disappointed in her day in a way that has absolutely nothing to do with you? It's kind of this psychology that's a really, really, really good point, and there are, and I'm gonna share a bunch of web sites not only about marketing that there's actually, psychology for photographers is a website very helpful learning how to deal with with the crazy, and I don't mean that people are crazy, but with unrealistic expectations that you could not have met even if you were like. I can't even think of a good analogy. Like if you were the greatest photographer ever in the entire world, you still would have made the people happy, but has nothing to do with you or your work. It's about something above and beyond, completely different. How do you handle that? I'm so sorry you feel that way. Can you tell me more about it? What can I do to make it better? Sometimes you just want to talk.

Class Description

Success as a wedding photographer requires more than just raw talent and the desire to be a professional photographer. To survive in this highly competitive industry, you need strong business skills and a deep understanding of your craft. In this documentary wedding photography experience, Susan Stripling will teach you how to launch and sustain a successful wedding photography business.

During 30 days of step-by-step instruction, Susan will show you how to:

  • Develop your business — everything from honing your creative vision to marketing tactics to studio management
  • Fundamental shooting techniques for every possible wedding scenario by inviting you along to an engagement session and wedding day and with real-life clients — not models! 
  • Post production workflow
  • Marketing and sales
  • Album design
During the start-to-finish documentary coverage of the wedding day, Susan will teach you how she handles each part of the experience, from photographic technique to client care, all with zero re-takes or re-shoots. Susan will wrap up the 30 days with detailed instruction on post-production workflow, post-wedding marketing, album design, post-wedding sales, and much, much more.

By the end of this course, you will have accompanied Susan through every step of a wedding and will have the skills, mindset, and tools needed to make a living — and a name for yourself — as a wedding photographer.


Misty Angel

oh Susan, you are AWESOME!! I am not a wedding photographer (despite dipping my toe in this intimidating pool for one of my dearest friends), I shoot all forms of portraits and love sports too! Your '30-Days' has been the single most influential and educational moments since I started my venture into photography in 2009! THANK YOU! Your honesty, directness, bluntness, humor and vulnerability makes these 30-Days the most worthwhile time spent away from actual shooting; while simultaneously is the most inspirational motivator to push you out there to practice these ideas/techniques! #SShostestwiththemostest You raise the bar in this industry, not just with wedding photographers, but with all genres of photography! I wanted this course to learn about shooting and thought, great... I'll get a little bit of the business side too... OMG! I got it ALL! I'm dying! What an awesome investment in myself, my business and in YOU! PLEASE keep doing what you are doing! I love your new Dynamic Range, I feel that it is a wonderful extension of the work you do with Creative Live! I watch you EVERY DAY, every morning... I know that I continue absorbing your wisdom through repetition! I don't want to be you, I want to rise to your level! So thank you for the inspiration, motivation and aspiration! Keep on being REAL, its what we love about you! We embrace your Chanel meets Alexander McQueen-ness! :) Thank you for stepping into this educational space and providing us with your lessons learned so we can avoid the negative-time investment making mistakes... we are drinking your virtual lemonade!! HA! Like the others, whatever wisdom you offer in this medium, I will be jumping at the opportunity to learn from you! THANK YOU!


All the positive reviews say it all. When Susan took on the challenge of teaching this course it must of looked like attempting to climb Mount Everest...and she accomplished just that. Susan is a detailed, well-organized photographer and this clearly comes out in her teaching. Using repetition, clear instructions, a logical and well laid out presentation, she answers most any question you might have when it comes to wedding photography. I felt like I was having a private consultation when watching the course. She is real, honest, tactful, funny, and a gift to the photography community. Finally, her photography is professional and inspiring. Thank you Susan for the tremendous amount of work that you put into making this an outstanding Creative Live course for us all.


Wow. What a super, comprehensive, entertaining, informative course. Well done. I've taking a lot of photography classes and this one is definitely top of the list. Susan Stripling was very well prepared (and great job by the CreativeLive Team too). Terrific course. Susan shared so much. Thank you! P.S. Love the CL boot camp courses.