Many photographers think about becoming a wedding photographer at one point or another. For some it becomes an extremely rewarding and potentially lucrative photographic career, either full or part time.
The standard first steps on the ladder to getting paid to shoot a wedding are to photograph a friend’s wedding and to work as a second shooter with a more experienced photographer. But to progress from getting occasional jobs at the lower end of the market to becoming a high-end, in demand wedding photographer can be a tough journey. Here are five tips from Andrew Mason of 36exp Photography Workshops and award winning wedding photographer, Adam Riley.
Allow the bride and groom to enjoy the day.
As a wedding photographer your number one job is to ensure you create memories and capture the emotion, key moments and overall feel of the day. Your rapport with the bride and groom is an essential part of this and your relationship with them should be nurtured from the very first time you meet. They need to be totally comfortable in your presence and confident in your abilities; both will be key factors in their decision to hire you.
On the wedding day the bride and groom should be happily oblivious to your presence for the majority of the time. It’s their day, and they’ll know you have a job to do, but don’t be in their face or do anything that encroaches on their, or their guests, enjoyment of the wedding. Being inconspicuous but in the right place at the right time is a difficult balancing act that you need to get right.
Take a considered approach.
Shooting a wedding can involve working non-stop for 10 hours or more. Maintaining your creative and mental focus can be extremely tough as your mind and body tire. No matter how worn out your get, it is extremely important that you consider every shot you take and have a reason for shooting. Remember you’ve been hired based on your portfolio, which displayed a specific style. Resist the urge to spray and pray. Snapping away randomly will result in hundreds of average images that are of little value to you or your clients. Constantly look for shots and uphold your principles in terms of lighting, composition and capturing the moments that matter. Do not solely use a long lens to shoot random headshots. Do get close to the action and tell a story.
Offer something unique.
Thousands of photographers would jump at the chance of being paid to shoot a wedding. What do you have that they don’t? You need to give a bride and groom solid reasons to choose you. The best place to start is your portfolio. It needs to be as strong as you can make it, and consistent so that potential clients can easily understand what they will get from you. If you’re displaying work that is only slightly better than uncle Bob with his new camera, success will not be yours. If your website is confusing and difficult to navigate customers will go to the well built websites of your competitors. Think hard about what it is you offer and why it is unique. Understand that you can’t please everyone, but you can delight a few. Don’t overstate you ability though, ensure that your portfolio is honest and reflects what you really do.
Progress as quickly as possible.
If you want to shoot high-end clients, you’ll need to display a portfolio of stunning images taken at amazing venues. It’s a chicken and egg situation. You want to build a portfolio that shows images of top venues and beautiful brides, but you can’t win these clients until you have similar images in your portfolio. Luck, hard work, and perseverance are the ways forward here. Jump at any chance to second shoot at attractive venues and seek out friends and family who may be getting married there. Be very selective about the images you choose for your portfolio. Avoid the temptation to offer cheap pricing. It will not attract high-end clients. It will attract bargain hunters who don’t value your time and skill and you’ll shoot weddings that won’t give the right impression in your portfolio.
Don’t eat anything you don’t trust for two days before the wedding.
If you’re booked to shoot the most important day of someone’s life you have to show up no matter what. In the run up to the wedding avoid any situation that risks your appearance. Don’t eat anything even slightly dodgy, plan a night out the day before or play in a rugby match. Your reputation and the bride and groom’s day will both be spoilt by your absence. Check your route to the venue, factor in a traffic jam and a flat tyre, and get there early.
Adam Riley is an award winning wedding photographer based in Cheshire. He runs a Wedding Photography Workshop with 36exp in London.