Top Tips for Getting Started as a Wedding Photographer
So, you want to be a wedding photographer? I get emails and messages on a weekly basis asking me how I started, how to get into wedding photography, saying their friend has asked them to take their wedding pictures and they don’t know where to start etc etc This got me thinking about putting together a top tips kind of post, something that may help you, may get you thinking and be a little launch pad for your own ideas.
I just wanted to start with a little short summary of my journey into wedding photography, which I plan to expand on in a full blog post later in the year but for now I thought it would be nice to share a little bit of how I got into photography. I was never one of these people that grew up with a camera in their hand or watched their dad take pictures, infact it never even occurred to me that I liked photography. I was so busy in my day job that I don’t think I even looked around me a great deal. However the day job got more and more stressful so I decided to try something that would give me a hobby and as a result bought my first little Nikon 40x and went to college to learn how to use it. Simple as that, I fell into it, suddenly wanders at the beach lasted ages as I took my camera. The short story is, is that I was one of those people where I was asked if I would do a wedding and never shy of a challenge I took it on. Before the wedding I undertook a weeks long wedding specific training, researched, practised and made sure I hired all the right equipment to get me through the day. The couple knew it was my first wedding and to this day I haven’t looked back.
Top Tips for Getting Started
I’m not saying this is the right way, the only way or the best way … it was just my way. It worked for me. I am sure there are other ways that would work just as well, or more professional ways or ways with years of training but this is real and with ALOT of hard work this way worked for me.
1. Practise and play in your own time as much as possible.
You all know couples? Do you have a wedding dress hanging in your wardrobe? Do you have wedding rings or know somebody who does? You know where to buy flowers? When I was asked if I would photograph a wedding, I thought about all different elements of the day and practised, practised, practised photographing them. How many ways could I photograph wedding rings, bought bunches of flowers and tied them, set a dinner table to look like a wedding table, hung up my wedding dress and photographed in lots of different ways, put my daughter in my wedding dress and photographed her outside, indoors, different light, bugged couples I knew to let me practise, took pictures at different times of the day. I know this doesn’t give you the speed of photographing at a wedding day but it does give you confidence in knowing how you like certain pictures to be taken.
2. Find a Wedding Photography Training Course
There are loads of wedding photography courses, beginners ones available and also with photographers you may admire. If you research them, you can find an ethos and style that suits you, give them a call, talk to other photographers and then invest. It will honestly be the best money you spend. It will give you a good basis of what to expect, how the day flows, usually experience with a model couple, which although they are models it is practise at directing people you don’t know and leaving with more knowledge.
Think about those dark small village churches, or hotels that have only one small light but the couple would like the curtains closed because they have candlelight or it rains or its just one of our typical British dull days. How is your camera in low light? What are the images like if it is used on high ISO. I knew my Nikon d40x wouldn’t cut it back then, so I hired equipment to get me through my first wedding. If a camera fails do you have a back up? What length lenses would you need? Do you have enough memory for the day? Most importantly, are you insured? Research and ask yourself what you need.
4. Talk to other photographers, network, join forums
When I first started out, there didn’t seem to be so much freely and widely available information like there is now. I kind of learnt as I went along never sure if anything was a mistake and just trying to work out if something felt right. You are so lucky – join photography groups on Facebook, build relationships with other photographers – this can take time and doesn’t happen over night, talk to other people in the wedding industry, offer to work with others in the industry, find another photographer with a similar style and at a similar level and get together to chat, talk and photograph together.
5. Be Honest
When you have that first wedding whether it is for a friend or a booked couple, be honest that you are just starting out. I remember I had a wedding consult and told the couple that ‘I have a wedding photography course in a couple of weeks, please can I come and see you after that as then I would have more knowledge as some images to show you’. They agreed and went ahead and booked me. Its okay to say you are starting out, its okay to say ‘I’m not quite sure of that but I can go away and check and come back to you’ and its okay to show them images and say that they were models at a training course. People are understanding and if they like you they will put faith in you.
6. If possible, try to find the opportunity to assist or second shoot
This is a whole another blog post about second shooting, being respectful to the main shooter, reliability, equipment, use of files … I will do a blog post on this too! But in your process of networking and building relationships with other photographers look out for opportunities to assist. These can be really hard to come by as a main photographer does only like to work with people they trust but having a portfolio of work to share (doesn’t have to be actual weddings), talking and engaging with that photographer and when they email you back with answers to your questions be polite enough to say thank you.
7. Get yourself out there
Don’t wait for the perfect website, you can get yourself out there in the meantime. Its free to set up a business Facebook Page, register yourself on twitter, pinterest, linked in and google plus, start a Blog. All of these places are there for you at your finger tips. A Facebook Page gives you a presence with your family and friends and a place to showcase the work you are doing. It takes time and effort and you have to share things on a regular basis but it will gradually grow. A Blog is also another great free place to start, set yourself up and write your first post. It gets you out there. Of course a beautifully designed website is wonderful but its better to just be ‘doing it’ than always waiting for that perfect moment.
8. Lastly, Accept that there will be late nights, exhaustion and hard work.
If you are looking to start out as you have a full time job with an income that your family relies on, like I did, you have to accept that this will monopolise you and your time whilst you start out and begin to build a business. You are at work all day and as a result, you will be editing in the evening, if you are at the stage of wanting to be a photographer you will be using your weekends to practise, if you are in your early days you weekends will be photo sessions and continuing to practise. The money you earn will be invested back into your business and your equipment and it will feel like you do all of the work for very little financial reward. I lived like this for a little longer than a year. It was hard and it was a huge strain on my family. After that I went part time in the day job for a year and then after that I made the leap into being a full time photographer. However, in honesty I worked less hours and earn’t a whole lot more in my day job even now. You have to want this!
I really hope this post encourages you and makes you feel motivated to get going but to also understand everything you need to put in. It may be different for you, like I said I didn’t grow up wanting to be a photographer so I spent a long time practising (and I still practise). It is amazing, fun, an honour to be part of such a beautiful and special day and I love it dearly but in the same breath it is the hardest job I have ever done (and I used to be a Probation Officer!!!) . Have fun and keep me posted how you are getting on.
Summer Love Photography also offers 1-2-1 mentoring days and will be running a 6 month Business Hub from October 2014. More details can be found here training or feel free to email me at email@example.com for more information.