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Tips & Tricks

The Costs of a Bridal Show For Photographers (Wedding Show 101- Part 1)

By Amii & Andy Kauth on November 17th 2015

Disclaimer: We are not marketing geniuses and didn’t study business or marketing in college or even read too many articles, blogs, etc. about the topic (full disclosure we have master’s degrees in Roman History, Special Education, & Social Work…everyone needs a few hobbies, right?). But we knew that wedding photography was going to be the foundation of our photography business.

So the inevitable question for us was how do we get more clients? Wedding show! We had no idea what we were getting into but after this “wedding season,” we’ll be seven shows deep. Here’s what we’ve learned and here’s what you need to know if you are thinking about “doing a show.”

[REWIND: THE 5 THINGS WE WOULD DO AGAIN AS FIRST YEAR WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHERS]

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 The Initial Cost

First, you have to prepare yourself to spend a few thousand dollars just to get into a wedding show. We’re based in Arizona, which is ripe with bridal, wedding, and trade shows (there are several names/descriptions of these types of events floating around out there, but we just call them wedding shows). An average small show (under 500 registered brides/grooms) will run you just about $1,000 for a booth that is 10 ft. x 8ft., which is plenty of space for a smaller event. A larger show (over 1,000 registered brides/grooms) will cost at least twice that for a booth that is 15 ft. across, and you’re going to need that if you want to attract attention to your business.

After paying for the show (many will let you do monthly payments for no additional fee), you need to build a booth, get some marketing materials together (in the wedding show business we call that “collateral”), figure out how to present yourselves at the show, and set up a plan for following up with potential clients, or “leads.” And that’s about it really. So let’s start with the booth.

The Booth

For once, YouTube wasn’t much help (it didn’t really matter though because, as it turns out, it isn’t that difficult to screw four pieces of wood together and attach plywood to the front regardless of your level of construction-related skills). You have three options when it comes to building a booth: decorate the table and backdrop they give you at the show (this is a bad idea because they give you one of those white plastic tables with a black curtain around it and hang a black curtain off steel pipes), buy one of those crazy pop-up trade show displays (not a bad idea if that’s your style), or build something cool yourself (we opted for this even though construction is not exactly an area in which we excel). We consulted a colleague’s husband who is a rocket scientist (he’s smart as all get out, but he also actually really does work on rockets), and we drew up a basic sketch.

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The wood guy at our local hardware store (definitely not his official title) helped us figure out what type and how much wood to actually buy, including how many cuts we’d need to make and additional purchases that would be required: a bit of crown moulding, some screws, liquid nails, a new drill [!], a gallon of paint, a paint sprayer [add another “!”], and that was about it.

Then we built it and painted it.

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sunshineandreignweddingshow

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The build took about three days, including going back to the hardware store about 20 times. After getting the actual booth put together, we bought some flooring to class it up a bit (3/8” foam tiles that fit together like a puzzle and are easily found online), canvases to go on the walls, and three gallery-style lights to hang at the top. We decorated it with our own furniture and also hauled in our iMac. And voila!

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Final Initial Cost (The Show + The Booth): Breakdown Estimates

We recommend budgeting about $3,500 because you will undoubtedly need some kind of tool, break a piece of wood, and maybe even go so far as to miscalculate a few measurements even though you spent 10 years teaching math in the inner city of Milwaukee (Andy). We spent about $3,250.

Registering for the show: If you want to go big, prepare to spend $2,000.

Wood: We purchased 2x2s and 1/4” plywood to make it lighter/easier to carry, and we bought it all from Ace, which is our local hardware store. The cost was a bit more than Home Depot or Lowes, but we saved time and money by not traveling 30 minutes out-of-town: $100.

Paint, Tools, Liquid Nails, Misc. Screws, Etc.: $200.

Flooring (120 square ft.): $150 (Rubber Flooring, Inc. – talk to a sales rep and save 30% easy).

Canvases (logo + our images): $700 (CGPro Prints & Canvas On Demand [logo]; we went big to attract people and sold several post-show, used some for additional shows, and have several hanging in a local coffee shop (very justifiable expense).

Gallery-style lights: $100 (Amazon).

In the next article, we’ll detail our specific ideas for marketing yourself specifically at a wedding show. Questions? Comments? Comment below or hit us up on Twitter @sunshinexreign.

Amii & Andy are a wife and husband team of rad portrait and wedding photographers (Sunshine & Reign Photography) who absolutely love life and are generally just stoked! Yeah! When they aren’t photographing or writing and teaching about photography, you’ll find them off on a seriously legit adventure with their little ones, lifting weights in their garage, training jiu-jitsu, refining their archery skills, or surfing every chance they get. And on the rare chance they escape off on a “date night”? Yep! They’ll find a wedding to crash (true fact).

Website: Sunshine & Reign Photography
Instagram: @sunshineandreign

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Andy & Amii Kauth

    Absolutely, Richard! Our pleasure!

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  2. Andy & Amii Kauth

    We so appreciate your questions, and interest in the topic, Richard! For us, the size of the booth is relative (if that’s the correct term) to the size of the show. At a large show (thousands of registered brides and grooms and hundreds of vendors), you’ll have trouble sticking out if you don’t have a prime location (end of an aisle, for example) or a 15- or 20-ft. booth. The first large show we ever did, we got over 400 leads (that was us speaking with a person and getting them to provide us with their info.). For smaller shows, where there are less vendors and brides & grooms (let’s say 500 or less brides and grooms registered and maybe 30 vendors), we found that you’ll get about 100 leads regardless of the size of your booth. We do the shows together, yes. If one of us isn’t able to (we have children) then our assistant goes with. We are scheduled to do a large show again in Jan., and we are thinking of taking our assistant. That would put three in our booth–it’ll be interesting to see if that will get us more leads. We’re thinking probably not, but it’s worth the experiment (though we also pay our assistant). And all that begs the question: do personal contact leads result in more inquiries/bookings than just working off the lead list provided by the show? We’re not sold either way on that; it seems to be 60/40 or so (in theory). Thanks again!

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  3. Richard Bremer

    Love this article, can’t wait to read the next chapter. I’m trying to compare the US shows to our european ones. Or more accurate, the dutch ones.

    Usually, booths (sturdy wall, basic lighting, descent tables and such) are included in the fee here. So we only have to put up marketing materials. Are your booths supplied always as basic as you describe (white tables with curtains, black drapes from steel pipe as wall)?

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    • Andy & Amii Kauth

      Yep, Richard. No booths supplied other than some pipes with a black curtain (back & sides) + a plastic table with a black “skirt.” Thanks for looking forward to our next “chapter.” All the best!

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    • Richard Bremer

      Hi Andy & Amii! Thanks for your reply. Do you mind if I ask some more questions?

      You state that the 10x8ft is large enough for smaller shows. What I’m wondering, have you noticed different visitor responses to different sizes of booths? Or perhaps different visitors that stop at your booth at different sizes?
      And do I understand correctly that you do shows together, so two employees in the stand that speak to the visitors? Having your experience, why not more/less employees?

      Hope you don’t mind me asking, I’m really interested in this subject :)

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  4. Gustav Neumann

    Great article guys…thank you! Looking forward to more.

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  5. Barry Chapman

    How much room did all this take up once you broke it down for transport, and how long for setup and breakdown?

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    • Andy & Amii Kauth

      For larger shows, we have to use a U-Haul (8-foot walls + 2 pieces of furniture from home + canvases + flooring), which is an additional cost. For smaller shows, we have a set-up that fits in our van. Large show set-up is about 5 hours and half that to take it down. Small shows is 2 hours to set up and 1 to take down. That is on our own (no help from other friends, family, or our assistant). With help, it can go really quickly.

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  6. Pye

    This is such a great article, can’t wait to see this entire series unfold! Great job guys!

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  7. Matthew Kozovski

    Thanks for the breakdown. Wondering what you guys did in terms of handouts to the people who visited your booth? Flyers? Business cards only??

    Also curious to see what you’ve been averaging as a ROI. The way I see it, not only are there costs for the booth space, and the booth setup itself, but there’s also the fact that you’re giving up a weekend where you could potentially be shooting.

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    • Andy & Amii Kauth

      Absolutely, Matthew! We’re going to cover handouts in the next article, but we did business cards plus a simple “one-fold” handout (“collateral”). It had the image from one of our canvases on the front, package info on the inside, and a “discount” on the back. Yes, there is a lot that goes into it. If you don’t book at least 6 weddings, you’ll probably not get a very good ROI at all. On the plus, once the booth is built, you can reuse it.

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