Skip to main content

Final Q&A

Lesson 33 from: Creative Wedding Photography

Susan Stripling

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2200+ more >

Lesson Info

33. Final Q&A

Lesson Info

Final Q&A

Ta design wants to know what advice can you give to student photographers? How can we get that first job with no experience? You really sure you want to do this? That very first job with no experience is a really terrible thing like it's terrifying chances are you're going to have to do a favor for a friend or a friend of a friend. My very first job was a colleague of my ex husbands you've got to find that one person who's getting married, that sort of waffling on the budget or maybe doesn't have the budget and you've got to just slide in there and take it for me, it was working darn near near free for a handful of weddings before I had a portfolio to shoot to show people and then it was just chipping away bit by bit, trying to pull things from every wedding after that to make more portfolio better. But I don't know a single photographer whose first paying job wasn't a friend me no favour for a friend or a favor for somebody nobody's gonna hire you with no experience at all. So anythin...

g you can do to get those first couple of jobs under your belt and then start moving on you know you need the work nobody's gonna open up a store and hope that you're going to buy your clothes without samples of your clothes so sometimes it's kind of a do whatever it takes to get those samples first, I have a follow up question to that, so to those of us who made you do ever the first few jobs under their belt but don't have a paying on yet. Um, if you were to go back to this position in your career, what would you do differently? Good question. Well, I probably would have skipped years two thousand for and you're gonna laugh, but two thousand forty through two thousand eight, when I opened a studio, I never would have opened a studio that was a time sock and a money suck and a pit of despair, and it was, you know what? It was selling out, you know, I was doing something when you have that sick feeling, like in the back of your throat of this's, just not I know this isn't right, but I think it's what I should do don't do it, you know, I I bought a building how dumb is that? Right? Like I bought a building and I had employees and I was doing portrait and all I could think was, god, I hate babies and I was so unhappy, but I thought it was your natural business like progression what I would recommend is don't do anything that you don't want to do try to make it do you try to make it go with what you want to dio and then reassess if you're not getting where you want to be? I know that sort of generic, but I wish you'd never opened that studio add some really good times there with the woman that worked for me, who is one of the best people I've ever met in my entire life, and I got to know wonderful families and babies, and I think that family photography, baby photography, that is an extraordinary art and I am terrible at it, so it is best left in the hands of those professionals. I wish I was just very unhappy as a studio owner, I wish I'd never done that. Yes, um gestures of appreciation for clients or vendors. What, you d'oh? I don't know if any of you saw it was tweeting a couple of weeks ago trying to find a place to buy macaroons, it would send them to me because I wanted a really good, like under forty dollars a gift that I could just order online, no matter where I was and have it sent out, I'll send flowers. Also, sin candy macaroons are generally pretty easy, I don't want to send wine because they don't know if my clients drink or not. Um for vendors that I get to know a little bit better than I start to make it a little bit more personal. Do I know? Is it a spot that I know that you love? You know, is there a restaurant that you really like? If you're going to do something great for me with every referral, I'm going to try to send a little bit something back to you. And if you think that that's not built into the price of my packages, that totally is I have a little discretionary fund with each wedding to give gifts to my clients or vendors or whatnot, as I choose for clients, is it after booking? Is that after the wedding? You know what? It's? Whenever I feel moved to do it, some clients, I'll send them something nice and little right after they book me some, I'll send them something after the wedding summits kind of midway in between when I, since they're a little stressed out some, if they have taken all of my time and they're not very nice, I said, you don't get anything at all. I mean, we were I'm gifting the people that are that are good in my life, but I do always after every single wedding, sit down in hand, right? Letters a beautiful stationery I have beautiful envelopes I'll take the time to go to every single vendor that's on the list and I will hand write a note saying how nice it was to work with them and I will send it and then I'll assess whether or not I want to send a gift on top of that and it's really vendor by thunder how well do I know them sometimes it's a note sometimes it's a note in candy sometimes it to note in flowers it really kind of have to feel it out whatever you're comfortable with yes vendor thank you are for referrals or for everybody for everything like a vendor thankyou all send for I'll send a thank you for referral that's really strong even if it doesn't book like if they really went out of their way to try to help me I'll send them something everybody after the wedding gets a hand written note the bride, the groom, the coordinator, the venue everybody gets a note I just like the sin presence whenever I'm motivated to send a present you know sometimes I'll get a burst of sending a bunch of stuff out to a bunch of people sometimes I'll be somewhere and it will remind me of a client or a vendor or something and I'll pick it up and send it to them I just like it to be christmas generally at all points and I mean, if they want to send me stuff back preston bailey, that would actually be o is my attempt to name drop it's never gonna work but that's ok, but no, I I I try to remember that my clients are humans too and they like to be appreciated. They like teo get presents and vendor's not only want the images back and forth and the albums back and forth but it's nice to reach out and do like a little bit of a personal touch as well whenever you can and part of the decision toe out force my files to sidecar was to give me time to do things like this because I was really lacking on the sort of personal touch client appreciation side of things and it freed up some days where I could really think like, what can I do for these people? I would like to have an annual gift that I sent out. I would like to have something with a little bit more consists instead of just being like a spastic santa claus all the time. So that's something that's always kind of in my mind how can I improve that part of my own business as well is that when you just moved to new york and you had like this three brides did you have some kind of known or for old program for them toe no, no, you know, I I've thought about like, if you were for a client, you get an x y z, but then I feel like I'm selling cars on I would rather than just refer me because they wanted to refer me not so that they could, like get something from me, so I never put together something like that. I know a lot of photographers will also have, like, layaway programs or the bridal registry where you know their friends or their family could they could be registered with their photographer and they could pay towards their package. I mean, I'm not seers like that that's that's, not it it never really worked for me. I tried it briefly for awhile, thinking that it would help literally no one used it like no one ever, ever, not even once what do your current goals for your wedding business, but really like a vacation? Oh, no, I'm just kidding. I can tell you my my fleshed out twenty year plan if you really want to hear it, which I'm sure you probably do could you all just nodded? I'd like to keep going on about the pace that I'm going for about another six to seven years, the fifty weddings a year as hard as I can, right then I want to eventually reach by that point, I'll have enough of a stable of clients behind me that I can start sort of start looking towards that double your prices and work half the time philosophy just on a much gentler level, prices will eventually start to inflate themselves, and a number of clients will start to go down. I'm not what my husband at, you know, at his age is still shooting fifty weddings a year, and sweetheart, I do not mean at your age, like you're old, you know what I mean? Hey is an extraordinary person, he has more energy than anyone I've ever met, and he does fifty weddings a year like it's, nothing, but I don't want to be doing that. I want to start backing off a little bit before that so hopefully have a stable of clients behind me that I can start increasing my prices and backing off on shooting eventually, you know, I do still want to educate other photographers. It would be nice if it were a more regular component in my business. However, I'm only thirty five only been in business. Oh god, I told you my age! Well, I told you how much I made last year that's fine, too, no, I'm only thirty five and I've got a long way to go, and so you know, I look a at like mani zucker, like in his later years of life, he was a portrait instructor, and he is a legend and he is a genius, um, that's something that I would like to consider, as you know, my older, you know, very attractive like that grandmother from yesterday, years hopefully approach is cultivating the teaching side of things, possibly a few portrait clients on a very lucrative, you know, small level, but it will just be a gentle flow pull back. I've considered eventually somewhere down the road, grooming associates that who work for me that's not something that I'm comfortable adding in right now, possibly a studio of shooters that shoot under me that's something that's a possibility, but the next ten years or always in the forefront of my mind, I don't want to become, you know, a crazy, busy studio of seventy five weddings a year, eighty weddings a year, tons of people working for me because I've tried something like that before, and it didn't make me happy, so right now I'm thrilled with where I am right now, I just want to book another wedding, right? Like I mean, I could talk about my ten year plan all I want my fifteen year plan, my twenty or planning my retirement, my hermann accounts, but what I'm thinking about is that skype call that I have a ten a m on sunday, and then I really hope she hires me and, you know, if a client said get up and leave creative live right now and I'll book you for my wedding, you know, I might give you guys a hug and be out the door because that's what's gonna get me through the next twenty years so that's, kind of my onward plan beyond this, can you tell us, sort of looking back, uh, over the years as you've grown as a photographer, what stand out to you? A sort of those milestones that felt really satisfying when you hit them and made a difference to you internally in your business? Yeah, even though I talked about how much I hate hated opening a studio opening, that studio was a really beautiful moment. It got to be a really bad moment when I traded my beautiful small studio space for a huge studio space, and then it got out of control, so the first client in that very first studio was a major, the very first booking when I moved to new york um with major because it was that first taste of being able to do it on my own. My first booking of over twenty thousand dollars at a wedding was huge. I mean, the responsibility of that wass insane. Um, meeting my husband in this industry. I mean, you know, doing this for a living gave me a husband like that. You don't know what you think is gonna happen for all of you, but I know, but I met him here, meeting all of my best friends. I mean, these were all like this. The industry has given me an extraordinary amount, and it when I think about it, it moves me to tears. It's been pretty spectacular winning the grand award w p p ay wedding photo journalism wass that was pretty sweet. Every fearless award every you know, june bug contest of the year every you know, honestly, every single time somebody tweets and says something that you've said has helped me the letter from that client with the grandmother with the fingernails and that had passed away. I would give up my entire teaching career to be able to satisfy my clients like that on a consistent basis, so it's it's a lot and little steps. All along the way like if you don't cherish those little steps I mean seriously it's like watching your kids grow up but the most important thing that I can say is that even even as you build your business you can't let your business eat you you have to continue putting gates and fences around it um I was married before I'm not married to him now there are a lot of reasons why and I apologized to him that I would even mention him in something like this because you know he doesn't he doesn't this isn't part of his life but the fact that I couldn't stop working and the fact that I couldn't stop building my business in the fact that I would go back to the studio when the kids went to bed and the fact that I would get back on the computer when the kids went to bed you know there are a million things that go into the very sad unraveling of a marriage and one of the spouses being an obstinate workaholic who will not listen to reason it doesn't really help so in my fifty percent of the blame of the demise of my first marriage was my aggressive competitive nature and my ambition got in the way of my own life and that that will never happen again I will leave every single bit of this before I lose my husband and my children come before everything in the world so you have to keep all of this in check because because it will make you a very sad person if you let it and I thought this was supposed to make us happy like come on we work one day a week and then we have the whole way paid so much money god, we're not all gonna cry but I mean if you're not taking joy out of this business and if it is not giving you something happy for god's sakes please don't do it like go work at starbucks michelle stalls something funny really fast, but no, it really isn't especially in this marketing thing when you're out there and you're trying to flog so look at your work and you're trying to meet venders for the first time and you're trying to just push your work in front of anybody who will look at it it starts to become I start to become that kid that I was in high school where I just wanted everyone teo wanted the popular table toe look at me you're constantly running around and saying no, no no meaning me validate me but if you can't at the end of the day close the door on your office and go home to your husband what do you really have to offer so constantly look, I am not looking at you now I'm constantly reconfiguring the fences around my business so that I can close them and go outside of them when I go home and I'm not perfect at this you'll see me on facebook at three in the morning you know I'll get really mad at my husband when he takes a phone call we're on date night but these were the concessions that we make sometimes running the business that we do but before it gets too far you know don't let it eat you you know whatever the endeavour is don't let it consume your soul or else you know that's just that um you mentioned the w p p ay so can you talk about the value of being part of that? Those kind of groups you know what to me the value for part of that is to fold it is educational the component of being able to go to like a p p a or a photo plus for a w p p I heard the mystic seminars which are extraordinary or even something like like a workshop like kevin cambodia's workshops for my husband's boot camps or anything like that part of it is the education that you'll get from it part of it is the professional support just of your peers um and a lot of it is the networking you know you guys hear the six of you over the past couple of days what you've been able to give to each other and pretty excellent and then imagine something like that on a huge scale w p p I you know, something like that completely changed my business it's where I met all of the people who have become incredibly influential to me both on a professional and a personal level. And then things like going to all of the different workshops, you know, all of the different people has the super mondays that aaron all different types of locations w p p I if you have never been to print competition and you've never sat and watched the process of the w p p I r a p p a print competition, judging that we'll just force you to become even more frighteningly meticulous about your own work and you might go to something like that and say, oh my gosh, this is not for me, this is too big. This is too overwhelming. I can't even see where I'm going with this, so don't go back. You know, if that's not your you know your arena of learning for me now, it's reconnecting with honestly, what these things have become now for me is like a family reunion it's actually legitimately seeing my friends? Um but the professional resource is like, you know, maybe you'll go there and maybe you'll need a photographer in your market you never really knew before and then you get to know them a little bit, and then they become friends, and then you become a support system for each other, or then you can refer back and forth to each other. You never know when you're going to meet people that, you know, you can help that can also help you. So and I also think things like that, like, if you're a p p a member, you have access to marsh, which is their insurance. The dpp is affiliated with hill and usher business, and, you know, professional on gear and liability insurance your people membership comes with legal services. If a client sues you, you have a small deductible on their legal team will help you. So all of these things have their different benefits, and you have to weigh whether or not they would help you and then go out and try them. And if they don't help you, no big deal, we'll find something else that does help you, but for me, the networking has become really invaluable to things like that. Anything else? Yes, yeah, we'd love to hear some sort of, you know, start to wrap the day up a little bit. Um, you've mentioned a number of times over the past three days, which has been so sweet, and I think is really resonated with so many people what you think the role of the wedding photographer is what this sort of the honor and the responsibility you hold in that can you kind of talk about that again just a little bit how did you learn it? Like when did when did those moments come to you? How did you come to where you are now as a wedding talk for and seeing your role for people for your clients um you know what? First I thought like everybody who gets into this industry thing I think that as I kind of joked about the first day if you have a camera and a prayer you know when you just leap out there and you follow your passion in you trust in whatever higher power you trust in that you're going to take pictures and your clients are gonna love you and everyone's gonna love you and you're going to dance around and like gold plated houses and you know, confetti dollar bills and it's gonna be awesome. Um but it's not like that and then you go through a period where you're a little disillusioned about it all and oh god, this is a business and this is gonna be really hard and the taking pictures portion of my business is like this big and the business portion of my businesses a house I mean it's huge but then you start working your way through it and you start getting a handle on your finances and you start getting a handle on your savings you start getting your financial life in order and that called starts turning and then you start going the workshops and you start going to boot camps and you start learning your gear inside out and that dog starts turning and then all of a sudden you realize I'm not stressing out about the business side of my businesses much yeah I'm worried about bookings and I'm always worried about you know, trying to up my marketing but I'm starting to get a handle on it and then my gear has reached a point where I'm not fighting it or thinking about it I'm just going to weddings and I'm just shooting and then all of a sudden it's like a huge weight just comes off your shoulders and you realize that all those things that you wanted your early years in business when you were desperate for someone anyone to give you that magic bullet that just takes you right to the top you realize that doesn't exist and once you get through sort of the stage of dying where you accept that and you realize that the only thing that's really going to help you is your own hard work and your own ambition and perseverance and years of experience and you say okay now I'm willing to pay my dues and I'm willing to work hard and you start working hard it's like the air, starts lifting its like that clarity in commercial when you're seeing everything through the film and all of a sudden the film is gone, then you can go to weddings and you, khun, just you could just listen to the weather. Hey, you know you're prepped with your gear, you don't have to think about it, you know that you're being well compensated for your time and then you can step back all of those business things aside, and we've been talking about business all day long when you put all that business stuff behind you and all of the tech talk and all of that, and you've kind of opened your heart a little bit and also open your mind and just you're just ready and then your clients, you realize they've trusted you and they're giving you these moments and what you're creating for them. When I look back at our at our wedding pictures in ten, you and my kids were little, they're twelve, they're nine and his daughters were fifteen and they're not going to be this small forever. And eventually I'm gonna look back on these pictures and right now I look back at them and I'm like my kids are so gorgeous but I'm gonna look back at the next two and I'm like, oh my god there's a small in five years from now they're gonna be even smaller and ten years from now they're going to high school and twenty years from now they're going to be adults maybe with families of their own and this amazing day win this decision that I made put this family together and set it down the road and this is the visual documentation of when that got started and someone gave that to me and daniel gave that to you mary beth gave that to me and then chrisman and that mendelssohn and and my own husband and me couldn't put our cameras together we came together to make this thing to mark this day that wass the start of the rest of my life in some ways um you kind of go from the camera and a prayer to oh my god, I love weddings aren't they awesome through the whole life cycle of it and then I feel like I've come to a place of very deep understanding and very deep respect and almost all toe what I'm able to do and the fact that I can support my family with it and that I can feed my children and clothe my family and that one day I will be hopefully laying on a beach in bora bora, not shooting a single sinking wedding ever again, living out my golden years with a mai tai, you know, when I did that with a camera and a prayer that's pretty incredible. So I mean, there's really hate you three days trying to show you I have a cool black but no it's it's the it's that punch in the chest and the thought that maybe I'm going to go to a wedding too, now, and I'm going to make a picture that is better than any picture that I have ever made in my entire life ever. And then I can give that to you for the rest of your life, and then you'll give me money for it e that's pretty fantastic. So if you're new, if this is your first year, if you've never shot a wedding, I really encourage you that the years that you're in business, we're going to be really hard and setting up your price is going to be very they're going to be very frustrating, and there will be yours when you're not doing so well, and there will be yours that you are doing well, but I promise you that if you educate yourself if you're smart about your finances, if you reach out for help financially and professionally, when you need help, if you're smart, if you educate yourself, if you don't sit there and wait for people to hand you things, if you're not entitled, if you aren't righteous, if you are humble and honest and hardworking, I promise you, this will get you somewhere, and if this doesn't get you somewhere, there's, no shame in going in a different direction. And so I just hope that over the past three days, that anything that I said in any way might have been able to help you, you know? And at the very least, you liked my dresses, which is very, you know, also pretty good on your hair is very shiny, but no, I mean, it's really it's I feel like for three days, I've given you every single thing I've had for thirteen years that's helped me and shown you the mistakes I've made and told you where I have screwed up and told you what my fears continually are, so that you can see that I'm I'm literally just like you, I'm just out there trying to work and take care of my family and book wedding and keep moving on year two year amazing, thank you so much for that, um, I think we are wrapping it up here, we want to say, after all that way, want to say thank you so very, very much to everybody out there on the internet who has joined us for the past three days, it's been an honor to get all of your questions, to hand them over to susan and hear her responses big, big, thanks to our studio audience, every single one of us. Fantastic with all your questions. We love getting to know you, um, thank you to our models yesterday and raise our offsite location. University christian charge. Thank you so much, belltown bride. Thank you for helping us with the fashion. Um, and again to susan, who has been so generous with us, let's all join and giving susan a big round.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Gear List.pdf
Susan Stripling Presentation Slides

Ratings and Reviews


Outstanding, one of the best courses on Creative Live. Wow! The delivery is sharp, on point, and focused. I've learned tons. There are so many gems I've watched this video many times and have now purchased more videos from Susan Stripling. Outstanding presenter. My photography has already improved greatly by implementing some of the techniques shown.

a Creativelive Student

The content of the course was perfectly taught at a "real" level. Susan's work clearly, speaks for itself, but her willingness to be so generous with her knowledge is fantastic. She has become an instant favorite of mine and her style is truly special and unique. The course was reasonably priced and I am beyond thrilled that I have taken the time to learn from one of the best in the industry. INCREDIBLE course in every way!!


I Loved this course. I would definitely take another course by Susan Stripling. Her images are beautiful. She has the posing, timing, lighting, mood, etc. all down perfectly and makes amazing, beautiful pictures. She is an excellent communicator as a teacher too.

Student Work