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Mileage May Vary, a European Photographer’s Perspective on Weddings

It’s a small world, unless you’re Swiss.

As an international wedding photographer based in Switzerland I am often asked by my American friends, “how is your market in Europe and how is it different from the market in the States?”

It’s difficult for me to give a conclusive answer because Europe is big and not homogenous at all. The countries vary in size, politics and economy, but especially in culture and history.

And even if you look at a small country like Switzerland, you’ll notice that every wedding photographer experiences the market a bit differently. Depending on your target client, your marketing, where your business is located and how you shape your price list. Some wedding photographers hardly ever sell an album, others do so with every client! Some photographers book mostly half-day assignments, others always cover the complete wedding day.

When I think about the photo business in Switzerland, the thing that always comes to my mind is how different the perception of distance is over here. It’s almost like distances in Switzerland have a crop factor like your DSLR has (if you’re not shooting full frame)! They multiply by a factor of 1.6 (or more) and seem way longer than they actually are.

Check a map of Europe; you’ll see how ridiculously short the distances are. Switzerland is in the heart of Europe and if I hop on a plane, I can reach every major European city in an hour and a half or less. Paris, London, Vienna, Berlin, Barcelona, Rome. All just around the corner. Next: find a client who understands that – it’s tough!

From the day that I started my business, I knew that I didn’t want to be a ‘local’ photographer. I didn’t see my hometown as my market. I decided from the beginning that my market was Switzerland AND the rest of the world. I am an international photographer who happens to be based in Switzerland.

When setting up my workflow and tools for my business, my first question always was: Will it work regardless of where my business is based and where my client lives? I love that in the time of broadband internet we can do everything online. Showcase work, deliver images to clients, sell prints, review album designs. To meet a client in person is great and can be important. But it is not absolutely necessary anymore to do business.

Weddings get more international every year. There are always family members or guests coming from abroad. Recently, I got an email from a guest telling me that he would love to have a print, but unfortunately he lives in Bogota, Colombia. No problem! He received his print within 5 days and was thrilled. As my lab is based in the U.S. anyway and ships worldwide that was an easy task! One of my brides moved – rather unexpectedly – from Geneva to the UK after her wedding. That didn’t affect the album design process or delivery of the finished album at all.

So, what about clients in Switzerland? They will always look first for a local photographer. Your phone number has the wrong area code? Sorry, you’re not getting a call. Because they KNOW that you live in a city that is one hour away. And this must feel like crossing time zones for a Swiss bride! But if they call you anyway because they couldn’t find your address on the website, their first answer for sure will be, “Where are you based?“

My answer always is, “I am based in Switzerland. And work worldwide”

About Daniel Zihlmann
Daniel is an international photographer based in Bern, Switzerland. Although he specializes in destination weddings, he loves to take family and baby photographs too. His mission is to capture the real emotions of life…but that’s not just his work. It’s his passion, which he follows with all his heart!
The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!
The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!