When it comes to being a photographer, our overall mission is to create consistently incredible imagery. But to become a successful photographer, there are vital skills you must acquire. These skills fall into two categories: hard skills and soft skills. The hard skills are the technical ones that come from using your gear creatively, coming up with new ideas, and know-how to find and create a light, post-processing, etc.
Soft skills involve the ability to properly communicate with your clients and understand what they want and need. If you need advice on your wedding photography, check out our photography packages and services at Wild Romantic Photography.
Many successful photographers you may come across in the industry aren’t necessarily the best artists, but they have fantastic technical skills. Or you may find some that are incredibly successful because they’ve mastered the soft skills of client relationships and communication but are not necessarily as technical or artistic.
If you want to become a successful photographer, it’s essential to have these critical skills, with a balance between them.
25% Hard Skills
The hard skills can be referred to as internal skills because you can improve these skills by studying and practising on your own. These are very important, but they’re not the sole means of success. Hard skills encompass the technical side and the artistic side and make up about 25% of a successful photographer.
75% Soft Skills
The soft skills are labelled “external skills” because these need to be practised with people. These soft skills are a more significant part of the process; therefore, these soft skills are more critical and weighted more in the balance of being a successful photographer.
Hard Skill: Technical
As stated above, hard skills are easy to teach and learn. On the technical side, there is a camera, composition, and exposure control. You’ll need post-production skills, and then there’s posing and directing, one part hard skill, one part soft skill.
Hard Skill: Artistic
The artistic side covers the artistic camera, composition, and exposure control, which is discussed in all of the courses listed above. Technical and artistic are two very different hard skills. Think about some of the photographers that you know, or even yourself. Would you classify yourself as a technical photographer or as an artistic photographer? Some incredible photographers are amazing artistically; they can create breathtaking images, yet they don’t know much about the technical components of what they’re doing.
On the flip side, do you know incredibly technical photographers? They know their lighting ratios, everything there is to know about aperture, maximum dynamic range, optimal shutter speeds, etcetera, yet there always seems to be something missing from their photographs? These are technical photographers. Generally, most of us will have a balance between these two, but it might be weighted on one side.
A photographer strives to have the right balance of the technical and the artistic, making up what we call the skilled photographer. It is only a small fraction of what it takes to be a successful photographer. The bulk of it comes from the soft skills side. Check out our range of wedding photography for your wedding day.
Soft Skill: Communication
Communication is key to building a relationship. Communicating with people and discussing their interests, backgrounds, and anything other than photography is an essential soft skill. It involves smiling, being genuine, and being interested in what others have to say. You’d be surprised how much this could do for you. It’s the ability to use positive and reinforcing words and provide positive solutions to your client’s sometimes random requests.
As we mentioned above, there’s a technical side when it comes to posing, but much of posing comes down to communication and how you guide and direct your clients. You can have the know-how of what makes the right pose, but you need to have the ability to communicate and guide your clients through it.
Soft Skill: Understanding
Being able to ask targeted questions is part of communication, but a significant component of the soft skill of understanding. While communication is about your words, how you speak them and how you communicate your vision to your clients is critical. And learning involves talking less, listening more and asking targeted questions so you know their vision.
When you seek to understand your client’s wants, needs, and concerns and have the ability to address and resolve those concerns, it will show that you are present at the moment. Having the ability to communicate clearly and understand people makes you an empathetic communicator, understanding their vision and sharing your vision effectively.
External Soft Skills vs. Internal Hard Skills
The combination of a skilled photographer and an empathic communicator is what makes a successful photographer.
Throughout the entire process, almost every touchpoint will draw on your external soft skills. From understanding the vision, tailoring expectations, proper planning, and exceeding expectations, communication and understanding are required. Only when you get to the shoot execution, do you use those external hard skills, but even then, both soft and hard skills are incorporated on shoot day.
In the process of creating consistently incredible images with every single client, the vast majority of your interaction and the process itself relies on your soft skills and your ability to communicate and understand, versus your technical and artistic ability. It would help if you had both sides and all four gift sets to succeed.
How to Become a Wedding Photographer
Wedding photographers are professionals who specialise in memorialising some of the most critical moments of their clients’ lives—their wedding day. Succeeding in this field requires a photographer to have extensive knowledge of indoor and outdoor photography and an ability to improvise under a variety of changing conditions. Wedding photographers must effectively work with the bridal party, event planners, relatives and venue managers.
Learn the Basics of Wedding Photography
Weddings are magical. A professional wedding photographer is part of laughter and joy, from the bride walking down the aisle and the wedding party’s celebration to a mother’s tears and dancing at the reception. But while documenting weddings can be a fulfilling career choice – and can lead to more than one free glass of champagne – it’s crucial to take a severe approach to learn your craft. The happy couple is unlikely to forgive you for botched or subpar photos. So, to be successful in this field, you’ll need to make sure your skills are top-notch.
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As with most types of photography, you will need a varied array of skills to be successful. This includes a working familiarity with your camera and lens or lenses. You should be able to switch seamlessly between camera modes, understand white balance, create a shallow depth of field (giving you the “blurred background” effect), determining the right DSLR exposure, the rule of thirds, ensuring horizons are horizontal, everyone and everything is in focus and more.
Traditional university classes, continuing education courses at a community college, photography books and online tutorials are viable approaches to learning photography. However, there is no substitution for an education when you only have one shot, and it must be right. Photography schools typically cover equipment, technique, processes, and design and composition. An artistic eye and creative ability are also essential as you will be responsible for framing a good photo. Strong communication and people skills and the capacity to meet deadlines are skills a wedding photographer should have. You will talk with clients before the event, during the event and after everyone has gone home. Even freelance photographers with no or little formal training must-have skills and knowledge beyond the ability to take a great photo.
Master Multiple Photography Styles
Becoming a good wedding photographer requires mastering a variety of different photography styles. For instance, unlike still photography, many of a wedding photographer’s subjects will be in motion in which people and objects are ready and poised. On the other hand, unlike a genre such as sports photography – where most of the items are in motion – you still need to command portrait and group photography. To move fluidly between staged shots of family members and wedding parties to candid snaps of dancing and bouquet tosses requires skilled familiarity with the camera.
Wedding pictures also require many different focal lengths and camera angles, ensuring both people and objects shine through your photographs. This is crucial when you’re documenting someone’s special day. For instance, during the cake cutting, a wedding photographer will highlight both the happy couple and the delectable dessert. Similarly, for wedding party shots, a photographer will focus on both the bridesmaids and groomsmen, along with the decorated gazebo in the background. A professional will know the relationship between aperture and shutter speed, how gap affects field depth when to use a flash, or how light affects a bride’s face.
You’ll also need excellent organisational skills. To make fabulous wedding shots, you need to understand the program’s timing, organise the wedding party and family members into a series of images that limit the number of switch-ups you do and keeps things moving. The organisational challenge involved in wedding photography and an inability to take beautiful photos is what usually trips up new photographers just entering the field.
Building Your Business
Learning to market yourself & attract new business is essential. Now that you’ve understood the basics and are skilled with a camera, lens, tripods, light meters, etc., and the organisational challenges of large events, it’s time to build a stellar portfolio that shows off your professionalism as well as your work. One of the best ways to do this is to work alongside a well-known professional who may give you access to other solo opportunities. This isn’t to say that your friends’ weddings aren’t great for gaining experience, or that you can’t start there. However, marriages involving well-known people or stunning surroundings can showcase your skills well and are a perfect next move if you’re having trouble building a roster of clients.
Plus, if you impress industry professionals who have as much work as they can handle, they may begin to pass some of those clients on to you. This is a fantastic way to start a business. It’s beneficial if you also photograph in similar situations, such as anniversaries, bridal or baby showers, corporate events, or other galas involving many people, because these clients may begin to call you for their other celebrations as well.
Marketing yourself as a wedding photographer is crucial, so a website and a portfolio are must-haves. You also need business cards to pass out at weddings and other events to direct people to your site so that they can see your work and qualifications. You will also need sales skills, contracts detailing the bridal parties’ expectations and payment arrangements, good records for tax and accounting purposes, and a reliable means of transportation for yourself, your gear and any assistance you might hire. Wild Romantic Photography has the best range of services of wedding photography Yarra Valley. Check them out here.
Tips to Improve Your Wedding Photography
Suppose you are a beginner who is about to photograph your first wedding ever or a seasoned pro shooter who could pick up a second job critiquing the moistness levels of wedding cakes from hundreds of different bakeries, regardless of your skill levels and experience. In that case, there is always room for learning new tricks and adding new, great images to your portfolio.
One of the most echoed and consistent advice we heard was: Scouting. Nearly every wedding photographer stressed this aspect of their imagery. Scout it out! Know the venue, the light, the cool spots for photos.
During your consultation with the bride and groom, topics related to the types of locations and settings they prefer to use for portraits should have been discussed. Your clients are paying you a decent amount of money for your knowledge, experience, and expertise. Put in the time and research ahead of their big day, and be sure to review the options that you feel would work best for them based on their feedback. Have a plan A, B, and C in case of unexpected issues or inclement weather. Also, be sure to check for requirements related to the need for having a permit. Typically, the clients are responsible for securing one if necessary, especially when there are fees involved, but knowing ahead of time the risks involved with having or not having one will put you ahead of the game.
Know Your Gear
Another commonly held view among wedding photographers was that shooters need to know their gear inside and out. The wedding day is NOT the time to experiment with new equipment, try out different settings, or figure out a wireless trigger.
Don’t practice on your clients. New flashes? Sort them out the week before. Make sure they work and have a plan for if they don’t. Sure, go ahead and try new poses, shoot a sunset or night portrait for the first time, but make sure your equipment is working the way you think it should, and at least have practised at home.
Realise that there is a big difference between merely having great gear and knowing how to use it. No lens or camera will make up for lack of education or experience. Know your gear better than you know yourself, and you will be able to adapt to the many unexpected changes that can occur on the wedding day.
Learn the basics inside and out before even trying to book a wedding; not just camera basics but also framing, lighting, and portraiture with lots of different body types. The better you are when you start, the more trustworthy your overall branding will be, and the better for your couples.
The key to all photography. Without it, there would be no images, or life, for that matter. All photographers have different lighting approaches, and there are infinite possibilities and options on how to control and manipulate the lighting in a scene—some provided by nature. Learn off-camera flash (like yesterday). Use multiple light sources. Know and be OK with available light, but know how to balance ambient light with artificial light.
Practice exposure! Bring your camera around with you everywhere and practice getting perfect directions in a heartbeat! This will save you a significant amount of time editing and help you avoid taking unsalvageable shots of important moments.
Composition and framing come naturally to some. To others, it is a skill that must be learned and refined. There are some things to think about every time you depress the shutter release on the topic of framing. Wedding days can be very fast-paced; be extra careful and remind yourself to slow down when posing your subjects. Take a moment to scan the frame before you press the shutter and look for any distractions that could potentially ruin the photo. Nothing is worse than having everything perfect, only to find out later that tree branches or horizon lines are cutting through your subject’s heads. When shooting family formals, make sure to leave room to crop for an 8 x 10″.
Nearly every photographer emphasised file backup at length—backup your photos. Once isn’t enough. You should have a backup to your backup—two onsite and also an offsite.
Take file management seriously. That includes the day of and after the wedding. Once you’re home, ensure that you have a redundant backup system where your files reside in multiple places. The cloud is a great option, but possibly less so for high-volume shooters (your uploads will never catch up). Be sure you’re backing up your Lightroom catalogues, too. It’s no fun to find out you have all of your files but none of your edits.
Several pros suggested starting the card backup process as soon as time allows, even between the ceremony and the reception. Looking for a Mornington Peninsula wedding photographer? Look no further! Wild Romantic Photography has you covered.
Cameras are mechanical things. Many of them are electronic. Mechanicals and electronics have limited life spans. They will eventually fail, and the Law of Murphy tells us that the failure will not happen while out taking snapshots—your gear will fail at the worst possible moment. Pros need to be ready for this.
There are always a few guests with good cameras these days, but you do not want to ask them to borrow their gear. In conclusion, know your equipment inside and out. Learn how to troubleshoot fundamental problems and have a strategy for WHEN, not if things fail.
It is often said that every photograph you take, even non-selfies, is a self-portrait. Your photographic style defines your brand image. Versatility as a photographer is never a bad thing, but it might negatively affect your wedding business. Keep your editing consistent. Could you find what you like and keep it that way? Showing different editing styles in your website is confusing to couples.
Be consistent. It can be kind of broad, but it’s essential. As personal as your service is, you’re still a business from the client perspective, and they want to know what to expect from you. From your Web presence to your in-person meetings, your message about who you are and what you do needs to be consistent. The processing of your images needs to be consistent. Your ongoing communications must be consistent. When clients know what to expect from you, you’re easy to work with, and they can have confidence in their purchase.
Regardless of your style, whether it’s formal, documentary, classic, or something else, it’s important to remember not to lose sight of the task at hand. Be hip, fun, and creative, but don’t forget the traditional. It’s essential to get one traditional bride and groom smiling and looking at the camera photo. Every mother and grandmother is looking for this simple portrait.
The last tip we’d like to share is about your presence. Be a ninja. The best wedding compliment is: ‘We didn’t remember you were there.’ When you’re invisible, sometimes you get the best shots! If you’d like to work with professional photographers for your wedding, book with us at Wild Romantic Photography.