Interview with Sandra Åberg | GBPW Episode 102

I think the first two years were hard to really sustain. It would have been great to have kept that other job in hindsight. But then again, I probably wouldn’t have thrown myself into it the way I did.

Sandra Åberg

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How to Start a Photography Business is led by award-winning American photographer Krystal Kenney. Over 6 modules and 50 lessons, you’ll learn everything you need to run a successful photography business from anywhere in the world. Krystal covers everything including website design, finding customers, marketing, and much more!

In this episode, I speak with Sony ambassador Sandra Åberg, a luxury wedding photographer and very successful business owner! Sandra has photographed a wide variety of weddings across the globe, making her one of the top high-end wedding photographers in the industry. Her work has been featured in VOGUE and many other publications.

We talk about:

  • Why you need more than photography skills to have a successful business
  • What it’s like to shoot high-end weddings in different parts of the world
  • Portrait “soul sessions” and what they mean to Sandra

& much more!

I hope you enjoy listening to this episode. Sandra is a friendly, optimistic, and very creative person whose story inspired me to take more initiative as a photographer. I hope her marketing strategies and business tips give you a boost of motivation!

Here is a preview of our conversation with Sandra Åberg.

Q: What are some common mistakes that photographers make when starting their own businesses?

Sandra Åberg: I run workshops and do online courses as well. I see so many photographers that take amazing photos but don’t know how to market themselves, how to position themselves, how to do the branding, or how to get someone that can do the branding for them. I’m talking about logos, a website that looks really good and professional… all that stuff rounded is so important.

Today, it’s just not enough to take beautiful photos. I think that’s really one of the things that is super important to look at and have in mind when starting out. Where I see a lot of people fail is if they don’t get that working. It’s made a huge difference that I’ve built a brand around my photos and not just shared my photos on their own.

Q: You had a career in marketing before this. How did you become a photographer?

Sandra Åberg: I started out in marketing and sales. I took photos on the side. It was just my hobby. I went on a big trip with my cousin to Australia and took a lot of photos there. I remember saying to her, “Wow, if I could one day be a photographer, I think that’s what I’m destined to do and be.”

Eventually, I really was unhappy in my job. From one day to the next, I quit. I just felt like I had to take a risk on something else. It wasn’t really the wisest of decisions, but it definitely pushed me over the edge and into something completely new. I did a little bit of marketing for other companies through my own company for quite some time. Photos were still a bit of a side business.

I randomly met a girl that was going to get married and we talked about shooting her wedding. There were very few euros she could pay for that, and I was like, “Oh, but I’d like to try!” So that’s how I slipped into the wedding photography side of it.

I don’t have a formal photography education, but I spent a year in Milan where I got to tag along with a really great photographer there, a fashion photographer for big brands. That was my introduction to the fashion world. On my own side, I stumbled onto the weddings. That’s how I got started.

Then I realised that I loved both sides. I liked weddings. I didn’t so much like how at that time, they were very traditional. I always tried to get my clients to be more adventurous with their photos. At the same time, I loved creating these fashion universes. At some point, I just started merging the two. That’s when it really came together – where I got to mix this fashion creativity with normal weddings. It became this ethereal wedding fashion world.

Q: Many of your photographs have been featured in Vogue and other famous publications. So many photographers want to get to that level. What advice would you give to them?

Sandra Åberg: I think that as photographers, we have this hope that if we just produce great work and sit back and relax, someone will come and find us. Very rarely that happens. It does sometimes happen, but I think in my case, that has been quite rare.

It’s really about putting yourself out there, showing up, being present. For me, it’s researching. Who is the editor of this magazine that I want to be featured in? How can I make them know that I exist? It’s important that we do that in a good way.

I see some people, when they try to approach a magazine, do it in a backwards way, or almost in an entitled way. It’s really important, or at least in my case, to be really humble with what I do. That has really served me. I am probably like that by nature, but I also think it’s important that we don’t have to be like, “Hey, I’m just the best in the world.” They see a lot of photographers and they hear a lot. My approach has always been to approach them in a kind way, saying who I am, what I love to do, showing a beautiful collection of some of my best work, and only my best work.

That can be a great challenge for most people, to actually curate their own work. That’s one of the harder things. Once you have that curation, you can show them that. It can be adjusted to fit the specific magazine. If I approach Vogue, for example, it’s going to be much more high-end and fashion-oriented, even though it might be wedding related. I won’t show them low-budget weddings, even though that might have been beautiful. I know that they’ll be able to tell by the clothes’ details.

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