Eric Kelly has been named as one of the best wedding photographers in the country by a number of powerful publications year after year… after year. He travels internationally for some of the most stunning and beautiful weddings and events around the world. You’ve seen his work in magazines and he’s the creative genius behind some of your favorite celebrity weddings.
We talk about how he broke into the luxury wedding photography industry and how to practically increase your pricing as a photographer to get there as well. We also talk about how he pivoted during COVID and took on new creative projects like creating Cedar Garden Boxes and renovating and building his own home, along with the importance of putting yourself in positions to ask questions to get what you want in life.
How to Break Into the Luxury Wedding Photography Industry
Eric played a significant role in shattering my preconceived notions about pricing in the photography industry. We first met at an event in New York. I remember a specific moment when we were sitting together, side by side, and Eric was invoicing a client for $30,000… which totally SHATTERED my perspective on what could be accomplished in the industry. Up until that moment I had no clue that was even possible.
Eric reflects on his own journey and shares some crucial steps that helped him gain solid footing in the luxury market for wedding photography. He shot his first wedding in 2004 for just $500, and in the early years, he said yes to every opportunity that came his way, photographing a wide range of subjects and building his portfolio. This approach allowed him to gain experience and work with diverse clients, eventually putting him in a position to ask for more, and be respected enough to get more.
He explains how he gradually transitioned from accepting lower-budget assignments to selectively saying no to smaller projects, which allowed him to focus on higher-end weddings. A pivotal moment came when he attended a photo session with photographer Jose Villa, who inspired him with his aesthetic and approach. After this time Eric started shooting film and it led to a breakthrough in his work, and a breakthrough in his clientele.
Another turning point in Eric’s career was when he had the opportunity to second shoot Jessica Simpson’s wedding with renowned photographer Elizabeth Messina. This experience solidified his passion for high-pressure events and further propelled his growth as a photographer.
We talk about the importance of studying and learning from other photographers, finding inspiration in their work, and applying those insights to your own style. By gradually increasing your rates, continually testing the limits and seeing how clients respond, and remaining persistent in your strive to improve your craft – you can take your brand to the next level.
The Importance of Asking Questions
Asking is a skill that Eric has practiced throughout his life. He talks about his early childhood asking friends if he could play video games with them, which taught him the practice of asking and seeking out community. Later on his parents had to ask for support during their missions work in the former Soviet Union and Eric also asked people to donate money for a cause he was passionate about in Nicaragua.
Eric acknowledges that he hears “no” often but believes that asking is necessary to receive what you want. He also highlights the importance of putting yourself in a position to ask questions and gain knowledge to get ahead.
People are often afraid to ask and struggle to put themselves in positions where they can learn and grow. So many people want immediate success without understanding the hard work and challenges involved. They often see only the glitz and glamor of someone’s success without considering the underlying dedication and effort.
This mindset leads to quick burnout and a lack of longevity in careers or pursuits. Instead of expecting immediate success, creatives should dedicate themselves to learning, seeking feedback, and improving over time.
We also talk about the importance of humility in asking for feedback and not taking it personally, and how “being coachable” is essential to personal and professional growth. A lot of people seek out coaches when they feel lost or down, but it’s equally beneficial to have coaches during successful times to plan the next steps. We also discuss how a lot of creatives take pride in wanting to do everything ourselves without seeking advice, which can hinder our progress.
By being humble, asking for help, and finding the right mentors or coaches, we can all enhance our chances of long-term success and personal growth.