Wedding Tips: R. J. Kern On How to Be Creative & Competitive as a Wedding Photographer


All Photos © R. J. Kern/Kern-Photo

R. J. Kern is the owner and photographer of Kern-Photo, a Minneapolis-based wedding photography business. He started the company eight years ago after spending five years with the National Geographic Society. His wedding photography locations range from backyards to destinations around the world. He also teaches photography workshops and has won many awards, including making the “50 Top US Wedding Photographers” list from the website

Kern’s creative lifestyle approach to wedding photography is very distinctive but it is his enthusiasm for his subject that gives him a competitive edge. As he states on his homepage, “A friend recently told me that I’ve got as much energy as a roomful of second graders. He’s probably right. I do have energy. But more importantly, I have fun. Running around with lights. Rolling around on the ground to get the perfect angle. For me, wedding photography is an opportunity to turn up the energy, get creative, and share my enthusiasm with my awesome clients.” I could not agree more! Let’s talk with Kern.

Shutterbug: For marketing techniques, what have you tried in the past that may no longer work for you and how do you market and sell your wedding photography services today?

R. J. Kern: While blog posts don’t appear to gain the amount of comments they did a few years ago due to Facebook and Instagram, they still provide value to the client (as a sneak peek) and future clients. I do not post as many client images to Facebook as I once did since I like to share the complete visual story in the blog on my website (along with the story, vendor links, comments). The SEO (Search Engine Optimization) effort of a blog post still pays off, but nothing comes close to strong word-of-mouth referrals about exceptional service and quality of finished albums done in a timely manner. I ship less than two months after a wedding, on average. I believe you should do not just good work, but great work. I think this is the best path for long-term success. Being nice goes a long way, too!

SB: What do you think is the best format or technique to present a wedding photography portfolio?

RJK: I use a completed wedding album, 100 pages on metallic paper, leather-bound with matching slipcase. There is a sense of object-hood that can be held in a bride’s hands that they know is unique and handcrafted by me. Brag-worthy albums are a strong component of my marketing efforts. I blog photographs of my completed albums at least once a month on my website, as I feel proud of the result. At each wedding, I strive to walk about with at least one signature image I can place in my portfolio and 10 images that reinforce my brand for the blog. Then, everything else is on my website blog.

SB: What advice do you have for those looking at portrait photography as a business, pitfalls to avoid or opportunities to pursue such as contests or blogs?

RJK: Contests are fun, but not a direct business strategy. I don’t put much emphasis to promote my work on the wedding blogs since it seems everyone else is trying to do that. I recommend that you shoot the work that you know you want to shoot. Share only that work. If you burn out after only a few years, your investment in education and experience doesn’t benefit anyone.

SB: What skills or areas of expertise (other than photography) do you think are most important for a wedding photographer and how do you recommend our readers gain those skills?

RJK: I think it is very important to learn to be adept at sales and at reading people. Being yourself is highly underrated, not trying to emulate others is more important. Also, learning how to communicate effectively, both in writing and in person is critical to marketing success. I’m inspired to match compelling writing with a wedding day narrative. Read, read, write, write. And having a good editor to help with wordsmithing helps, too.

SB: What is the biggest industry change you have seen in the wedding photography business in the last five years?

RJK: Setting aside the perversion of cellphone cameras aside, the ability to “be present” on the wedding day remains a challenge for many brides, especially those who planned their own wedding without professional help. Many clients wish they had slowed down on the wedding day, got ready earlier, and spent time with more loved ones instead of following a traditional timeline. I like working with a good wedding planner! They help me focus on what I do best. They really are the experts when it comes to creating a flow of the wedding day. Here are two posts on the topic to share with your readers: and

You can see more of R. J. Kern’s work at his website,

catur's picture

good info. but we need good photo instruments or tools.