Photography is such a fantastic thing! It’s become so accessible to everyone, and there are so many different opportunities. I’ve shot a variety of things, but my favourite thing to photograph is weddings. It seems like it’s one of the more popular areas. Almost every week, I’m hearing about a new wedding photographer. A week ago, I was photographing a wedding, and a random guy with a camera said he was thinking about getting into marriages as well. It seemed like something he had just randomly decided. That seems to be how it goes for most people.
We understand why so many people want to get into the wedding world. One, the money is right (or at least that’s what people think). A wedding photographer can make anywhere from $1000 to $10,000 for a single wedding. Two, weddings are fun! There are decorations, people dressing up, drinking, dancing, and all types of other craziness.
If you need advice on your wedding photography, check out our photography packages and services at Wild Romantic Photography.
Unlike other professions, a wedding photography career doesn’t have an established path. Instead of degrees or apprenticeships, wedding photographers discover the job in their unique way, with their own unique story. Without a trustworthy career guide, however, you may quickly find yourself headed down a difficult path, burning out and wondering where it all went wrong.
So we will share the steps that our team finds invaluable when trying to become a professional wedding photographer.
WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY EDUCATION
Educating yourself is so crucial in your early days as a photographer. You can read tons of blog articles, attend workshops held by local photographers, and take some great online ones. Technology is always changing, and you can continually improve your knowledge, so make sure to set aside time and money to invest in your photography education.
Before you declare yourself a wedding photographer and jump right in, it is essential to have solid knowledge. Weddings are very complicated and are incredibly different from one to the next. What works at one wedding might not work at another.
In the past, learning a new skill was difficult. You had to read books or find someone to train you. Today, training is available everywhere and often for free. You have websites that are here to help you. If you’re more of a visual person, there are thousands of videos on YouTube that can teach you the different skills needed to be a wedding photographer. Other people like the whole hands-on experience. I know there are wedding photographers out there who do one-on-one training, and there are also workshops you can attend.
Take advantage of all of these educational opportunities, and get a good solid foundation. We suggest learning about posing, off-camera flash, different equipment needed, what to expect throughout the day, and business tactics. Those are just a few, but that’s an excellent place to get started.
Network with Other Photographers
Do not be afraid to reach out to other photographers. I am continually attending gatherings to network with other photographers.
If there is someone local whose work you adore, ask to take them out for coffee. You would be surprised at how willing to help other photographers can be. Plus, they might ask you to second-shoot for them or send referrals your way once you build up your business!
WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY EXPERIENCE
Once you have a vital education and understanding, move on to gaining experience. Practice does make perfect, but more importantly, people aren’t going to hire you if you haven’t photographed many weddings.
Practice All the Time
Digital cameras are great because you can shoot as much as you want, and it doesn’t cost anything. Back in the film days, you had to pay for every shot. Get out there and practice as much as you can. Practice indoors, outdoors, with people, with objects, with natural light, with flash, or anything else you can think of. The more you expose yourself to, the more you learn and the better you will get. One other thing, don’t try something new at a wedding! Practice it at home first, figure it out, and then you can use it at a wedding. At Wild Romantic Photography, we have the best Melbourne wedding photographer to take memorable photos on your wedding day.
Be A Second Shooter
One of the best ways to get started is with a second shooting. This is where you go with the lead photographer and are the backup. You might be there to get different angles, or you might be assigned to photograph certain things. I usually have my second photographer get detailed shots at the reception and sometimes cover the groom getting ready.
With second-shooting, you can get a lot of experience quickly. By working with someone that’s already established, you will have plenty of weddings. You won’t have to find them on your own. The best thing is you get to watch the lead photographer work, learn from them, and practice yourself without being in charge.
Each photograph does things differently, so you’ll have to discuss that with them. One major thing to discuss is the photos. Will you be allowed to use any of your shots in your portfolio, or do they all belong to the lead photographer? Some might also put a non-compete clause in their contract. This would mean that you’d be limited on where you could work if you stopped working with them. Either way, you will be building skills and gaining experience. For most people, a year or two of a second shooting should be enough.
After you have reached out to some photographers in your area, ask if you can tag along to a second shoot at a wedding. Even if they don’t want you to shoot, you may get the chance to assist and see them in action! This will help you figure out how you need to approach shooting a wedding on your own.
Assisting with engagement sessions and weddings is the best way to start your wedding photography career. This allows you to gain hands-on experience, get a glimpse at how established professionals work, and ensure that you enjoy the whole process before investing in all necessary gear, education, memberships, and business expenses.
With a portfolio to house your work and some experience under your belt, continue the next step in your career and start making some actual money as a second shooter. Reach out to the same photographers you first assisted and new ones using the same approach of email, social media and in-person networking to land your first second-shooting gig.
Before your first second shooting gig, make sure you fully understand your expectations and roles for the wedding day. Most lead photographers want their second shooters to prioritise the following: groom prep, groomsmen photos, wedding decor photos, and photojournalistic moments throughout the day.
WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY EQUIPMENT
Now, people can buy a decent DSLR for around $500. Unfortunately, a lot of people think that’s all they need to be a wedding photographer. Please don’t do this! It would help if you much had much more to do a decent job.
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In general, the minimum you will need is two camera bodies, a comprehensive and long lens, a flash, multiple memory cards, and various batteries. Stuff breaks and gets lost, so it’s essential to have backups for everything. Each wedding is going to be different, so having different lenses and a flash is a must. Batteries are going to die, and if you don’t have more, you’re done.
Get Your Basic Gear
After you’ve assisted on a few weddings, start building your portfolio. To get started, purchase a basic set of gear. Whenever possible, consider buying used or previous generations of a camera. Also, consider 3rd-party lenses like Sigma and Tamron to save a little money. Limit your upgrades until your skill and income improve.
Now, all of that equipment will cost anywhere between $2000-$10,000 depending on the quality of the equipment. I’d say for most expect to spend $4000. That’s a lot of money, so there are some things you can do. One strategy is to rent your equipment. You can either rent everything or own a few pieces and rent a few. Some people like doing this, but I’d much rather own all of my equipment. I don’t want to waste money renting, and when I own it, I can use it whenever I want. This can also be what you do while you slowly build up your equipment. Shoot a wedding, buy a new piece of equipment. Shoot a wedding, buy something else. Eventually, you’ll own everything you need. For a few other people, you can buy it all at once. Be careful, though, and don’t put yourself in too much debt.
Please remember, this is just for the minimum equipment. I am still continually looking at equipment and upgrading and getting new things. To be a great wedding photographer, there are several other things you’ll need over the years: more lenses, more flashes, light stands, and plenty of other accessories.
REFINE YOUR PORTFOLIO
One of the most common mistakes photographers make is leaving old, outdated, or lower quality images in their portfolio. Practice with more friends and do more test shoots to increase the quality of your portfolio. By now, you should be leaps and bounds beyond the skill level you had when you did your first round of test shots, and your portfolio needs to reflect that.
Remember the concept of “less is more” and only show your best. Average to below-average images, relative to your best ideas, only detract from the perception of your services. Create lasting memories through your Yarra Valley wedding photography that will be cherished forever.
REACH OUT TO ENGAGED FRIENDS AND ACQUAINTANCES
When you are starting, you need to land that first wedding somehow. After you have gained some experience second-shooting, and you feel comfortable venturing out on your own, spread the word.
Do you have a former friend from college who recently got engaged? Ask if you can take their engagement photos, and mention that you have been working with other photographers to build a portfolio. They may want someone with more experience, but you can direct them to your portfolio and let them decide for themselves if you have been second-shooting.
Most people want a cohesive style, so if you lock in the engagement session, that’s a big step towards landing the wedding. Also, consider having at least one wedding package that includes the engagement session.
Getting Your First Wedding
Now that you know what you’re doing and have some experience, it’s safe to start finding your weddings. The real issue is, how do you get those first few weddings? Most couples are going to ask you how many weddings you’ve shot on your own before hiring you. It can be tough getting those first few because you’ve never shot any on your own. That’s why I suggest you start by doing the first few for free.
Free weddings are a great way to start. First, people like things for free, so they are more likely to say yes. If you start off asking for money, you’re less likely to get hired without the solo shooting experience. Two, there’s not as much pressure with a free wedding. Once you start asking for money, you have to perform. On your first few solo weddings, you will make some mistakes. It’s much better to have that happen when you’re doing it for free.
There are a few things to consider offering free weddings. Don’t just give them to anyone. Find someone that’s going to help you. Are they attractive? Will their wedding look good, or will it look cheap? Do they have connections that could help you in the future? I know some of that sounds judgmental, but remember, you’re doing this for free and to help build your business. Once you’ve done three or four of these and you feel more confident and have a solid portfolio, stop! Now you can move on to making money! At Wild Romantic, we have the best wedding photographer in Mornington Peninsula to capture every single moment on your wedding day.
As I mentioned earlier, there are tons and tons of wedding photographers, so getting found and booked can be a significant struggle. Here are some of my go-to tips for getting leads once you are ready to start charging.
Create a Website to Showcase Your Best Work
A good photography business website and a working knowledge of getting your website found online (SEO) is a must! Ask a professional photographer who has some experience to help you present your best work. Ask them what works and what doesn’t. Sometimes you may be too emotionally attached to your job to make the best decisions.
It would help if you worked on your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). SEO does take some time to work, so if you have the funds, you could use Google and Facebook ads first. Be careful, though; you can spend a lot of money with ads quickly. Do some research on the best practices before you start using ads.
SEO for photographers is essential. Having a great website is almost meaningless if no one can find it. Make sure you use precise wording in blog posts and site titles so that your site comes up in online searches. There is lots of information online about how to do this.
You could have a Facebook page, but that doesn’t compare to a website. A website has so many more features that you can control, matches your brand and look, doesn’t require someone to be on Facebook, and can be found through Google searches.
In photography and other jobs, it’s often more about who you know than how good you are. When someone is engaged, friends and family will often suggest photographers to them, but brides tend to listen to and take the professional vendors’ advice over their family. Think about it, who knows the wedding world better, your sister that worked with one photographer or a vendor that sees photographers every week? That’s why it is essential to build solid relationships with other wedding vendors. They can send a stream of leads your way or destroy your reputation.
There are a few ways to build a good relationship with venues and planners. One, be good at your job. Be easy to work with, produce good work, be kind, all of that. If people like working with you, they will refer you. Two, help them out as much as possible. That means sending referrals to them and sending them photos from weddings, and helping them out when they need it.
If you haven’t shot a bunch of weddings or been to a bunch of locations, it’s hard to have a relationship with these people. One thing you can do to start a relationship is to have a styled shoot. This is when you put together a staged shoot with the help of a bunch of vendors. The photos are then used for promotion. When you do these styled shoots, you can meet new vendors, and they will like you because you reached out to them and are trying to help everyone.
Book and Shoot your first set of weddings
As the leads roll in from your web marketing efforts, work on your sales and booking process. This is where your soft skills like communication and understanding take centre stage. The better you understand your clients and their vision for their wedding day, the sooner you’ll be able to build their trust and start booking weddings.
Initially, be careful not to take on more than you can handle so that you can always deliver a 5-star experience. Every client should feel as though they’re your only client. As your experience grows and you work out any kinks in your process, you’ll be able to scale your business and take on other bookings.
After you’ve successfully photographed several weddings, you should review your process to identify and address areas that need improvement. Then, when you’re ready, you can increase your marketing efforts to bring in more leads.
Exceed expectations & use those to market
Besides exceeding your client’s expectations with customer service, strive to create meaningful images for the clients and visually impactful for marketing purposes. You can then use the same pictures that wowed your previous clients to improve your portfolio and attract new leads.
Wedding photography can be a lucrative and rewarding career, but it takes a lot more than just passion and an excellent camera. We hope this article sheds some light on the process and gives you a rough idea of achieving success in a highly competitive field. If you’d like to work with professional photographers for your wedding, book with us at Wild Romantic Photography.
Being a wedding photographer is an ongoing process. Things are always changing, and there are still new things to learn and do. If you want to be a wedding photographer, please do it the safe way and follow these tips on becoming a wedding photographer, and you’ll be off to a good start. Please remember that weddings are critical days, and it is your responsibility to capture them and make them excellent for your couple. As long as that’s your goal, you’ll do great!