How I Learned to *Not* Sell Myself Short. Meet Photographer Jake Baggaley
With a background in documentary photography and an appetite for outdoor adventure, Jake Baggaley is always chasing the perfect moment.
After a request from a friend led to his first wedding shoot, Jake soon realized he could use the fly-on-the-wall approach he developed in the field to capture real emotion on camera without falling into the corny trappings of traditional wedding photography.
We caught up with Jake to learn more about whyraising his priceswas a smart move and the big lesson he learned about having a website.
My Dad has a PhD in photography and my mom has an MA, so my destiny was sealed from a young age. I studied Commercial Photography at Arts University Bournemouthand took every opportunity to include documentary-style projects in my coursework, which meant I had a strong enough portfolio to be booked by publications likeThe Times,Geographical MagazineandGQ.
I never planned on becoming a wedding photographer, but I gave it a shot after a friend asked me to take pictures of her big day.
I really enjoyed the contrast with the documentary work I’d been doing up until then — which included a photo series on Chernobyl and another on vigilante superheroes in New York — but found I could use a similar approach to capture the best moments during a wedding. While it’s always rewarding to see my work in print, it’s a much more personal and gratifying experience to get positive feedback from a newly married couple.
Who was your very first customer?
When my friend asked me to shoot her wedding, she became my first wedding photography client.
She said she’d seen my photography blog and liked how natural all the images felt. I saw wedding photography as a little corny before this, and I hadn’t really thought about how I’d be able to bring my own style to it. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the experience!
What has been your favorite experience working with a client?
I was asked by another photographer to shoot her wedding in Florence, Italy, which felt like a huge compliment.
The event itself was incredible, but the best part was being able to personally deliver the photos to the couple back in England afterwards. They loved the shots of the big moments, but were even more pleased with the spontaneous ones I’d caught throughout the day.
When did you know your business was going to work?
The first time I got a job in America was huge for me. Realizing that there was someone who valued my work enough to fly me from England to Chicago was an honor, and it gave me the confidence to make a real go of my photography business.
What has been the biggest surprise so far after starting your own small business?
In addition to being a wedding photographer, I’m also a designer and run a digital creative studio called Tedworth & Oscarwith my brother. Working on that other business meant I had experience working with clients before shooting weddings, which proved to be really helpful when I was starting out on my own.
I’ve always enjoyed producing work people are pleased with, but it’s surprised me how much more I like getting positive feedback from the newly married couples who let me share their day with them.
How do you price your services?
Pricingis difficult for photographers, but the biggest lesson I’ve learned is to not sell myself short.
When I started out, I set my prices competitively low. This meant I got more work, but also that people valued my style less. Clients picked me because I was cheapest rather than because they felt I was right for them.
After setting my price higher, I now only get requests from people who respect my style and opinions on how to capture their day. I charge based on a full day’s photography for me and a second cameraman, and I factor in equipment costs, travel expenses and the time it will take to edit the images, which can often be up to a week.
I always give my clients every shot I’ve taken, unlike other photographers who price based on a certain number of images and charge extra for additional photos.
What does a typical day look like for you?
On the morning of a wedding, I wake up early and pack the car with my gear, then I pick up my assistant.
Each wedding is different, but we generally split up when we get close to the venue — my assistant goes to the groom while I head to the bride’s house or hotel to capture shots of the pre-wedding prep and nerves. This is often where some of the most expressive images come from.
After this, we move on to the wedding venue and shoot throughout the day, capturing real moments while staying unnoticed. After the vows, we take the bride and groom away for posed shots and eventually invite the entire wedding party into the frame. We normally stick around until just after the first dance, unless we’re asked to stay later.
If you could go back in time, what’s the one thing you’d do differently when starting your photography business?
I’d set up a dedicated website for weddings a little sooner.
When I started out, I just had my personal site and blog and would send over examples of wedding images on request, but I've learned it’s great to have a dedicated place for people to see my work.
Having a website dedicated to my wedding photography work had a big impact on my business and has been a huge factor in being booked for more international weddings.
What would you like to learn today from a network of other small business owners and self-employed professionals?
I would love any suggestions on how to get my work seen by more clients worldwide.
Weddings held abroad are always so exciting and rewarding, and I’d love any advice or suggestions on how to extend my customer base outside the UK!
Can *you* help Jake out?
Word of mouth has gotten Jake some awesome gigs so far, but now that he’s fully established, he's looking for tips that will help him get his work seen by a wider audience. If you have experience with building a client base outside your local community usingsocial mediaor via referrals, let us know!