I receive messages each month from aspiring photographers who want to know “How did you get started in weddings?” or “My friend wants me to photograph their wedding, but I don’t know what to tell them.” I want to help you figure this out, are you ready to photograph your first wedding?
Before you even think about photographing a wedding there are a number of factors you need to consider. For most people their wedding day is the MOST important day of their life up to this point. It is something that people spend their entire life planning and invest thousands of dollars into. Blood, sweat, and tears all go into the wedding planning process and this day can not be recreated. It is so important to make sure you are properly prepared for photographing a wedding before you even think about saying “Yes” to that request.
Lets start with the technical stuff.
- Know your equipment: It is so important that you know your equipment like the back of your hand. It is vital that you are comfortable shooting in manual mode and that you can change your settings at a moments notice without even thinking.
- Having the proper equipment: In order to shoot a wedding and do your clients justice, you have to make sure you have quality equipment. This is a loaded statement as there is no true definition of what is the right equipment to shoot a wedding with. Here are some things to consider: Resolution (can you blow these images up to a 30×40 or even bigger if your client requests it), Low Light Capabilities (will your camera perform well in low light situations, can you crank that ISO up?), Good Glass (is your glass fast, is it going to perform well in low light situations), and even The Right Glass (do you have good focal lengths for every part of the wedding day from bridal prep in a tiny room, to shooting a ceremony from the back of the chapel, and even photographing those wedding rings, each of these requires a different lens).
- Back Up Equipment: What happens if your camera pops up with and ERROR message right before the first kiss? What if you drop a lens, or your bag topples over sending your favorite lens into pieces? What if heaven forbid someone snatches up your camera bag? Your flash just overheated, now what?! Are you prepared? You need to be ready with an extra camera body (or even two), lenses, and even lighting equipment so you are prepare if something breaks or malfunctions on a wedding day.
- Lighting: Wedding days can be crazy lets be honest. You have to be prepared for all situations. That gorgeous outdoor ceremony at sunset could start 30 minutes late, and BAM, you are shooting a ceremony in the dark. If it rains you may end up shooting portraits indoors. What about the dreaded pitch black church, or that yellowish brown barn. My favorite is when you get stuck taking bride and groom portraits, in the dark because their January ceremony started at 5:00pm. Or on the flip side, you may end up shooting all of your portraits in 12 noon in full sun. It is vital that you come to each wedding prepared for every lighting situation you can imagine, and have a back up plan for every lighting situation you can imagine. From triggers, to flashes, and light stands.. and don’t forget those back ups, if they can freak out or break on you, I promise they will always do it at the worst time.
Now on to the wedding day.
- Education: Before you consider photographing a wedding I highly recommend you attend multiple workshops or classes that focus on photographing a wedding, find one where they will walk you through an entire wedding day from the time you arrive till the exit at the end of the night. This will help you figure out what you duties are through the wedding day and when these events should happen. Most workshops also give you practical shooting experience. As a photographer the one thing you can always count on is that you will always have something to learn, there will always be a workshop to attend. Each year I attend 2-3 wedding photography related workshops, and at each and every one I am always surprised by the wealth of new information I learn.
- Contracts: Just like with any business transaction, you should have a contract that outlines the responsibilities and expectations of all parties involved. Make sure your contract has been looked over by an attorney and that it protects not only yourself but your client as well. Your contract needs to include things such as what services are included in the wedding collection from hours of coverage to digital files, a timeline that outlines the delivery of files and products, and even when payment is expected. I recommend checking out the LawTog for resources related to contracts.
- Pricing: This is one of my least favorite things to talk about. And honestly it requires an entire blog post all to itself. One of the best pieces of advice I received when I was just getting started with my photography business was to not “sell the entire industry short.” As a professional in an industry your number one goal should be to build the industry up. Pricing is the number one area where I see “new” photographers make a huge mistake. They simply throw a number out there or charge less than what they see others charging since they are “new”. Even as a new business owner you have the same type of expenses as every other photographer out there, from equipment to insurance, education, and professional memberships. Don’t forget about taxes. A good rule of thumb is that 1/3 of your business income will go to taxes, 1/3 to your expenses, and 1/3 of that is what you can actually pay yourself. Although as a new business your expenses will probably be much higher. You might spend anywhere from 60 hours up to 150 hours or more working on a wedding from the time to you first talk with a bride to the time you deliver their images after the wedding so it is important that you are being paid accordingly for the work that goes into a wedding. Don’t forget about your equipment expense for each wedding as well as things like your computers, editing programs, etc the list goes on and on that you must take into account when figuring out how your expenses are for each wedding. Next week on the blog I will be outlining how to figure out what you really need to be charging in order to make it as a full time wedding photographer.
- Posing: Shoot a lot of couples sessions before you photograph a couple on their wedding day. A whole lot of couples. You want to make sure you are comfortable posing two people together and really showing the love between the two of them before you try to pose a bride and groom on their wedding day. When you are standing there on a wedding day with what seems like mere minutes to photograph a couple *and you know these are the most important images of the day* you want to make sure you can pose them and be confident in knowing that each and every image will be one they will cherish for a lifetime.
- Timing: There is so much more that goes into photographing a wedding than just taking pictures during the day. As a photographer we have to anticipate what is going to happen and make sure we are in the right place at the right time. Often times as a wedding photographer we have to play coordinator. It falls on us to keep people on track during bridal prep, and it is our responsibility to ensure all parties involved in the wedding are aware of how much time we need for portraits on the wedding day and to make sure we adhere to the official wedding timeline. At the same time, we have to be flexible and be prepared to adapt to any changes that come our way. There have been wedding days where we have 45 minutes planned for portraits of the bride and groom but life happened and we ended up having to photograph the bride and groom in only 15 minutes. We knew we could do it, after photographing countless couples we have a set game plan when we have to shoot couple portraits in a time crunch and we are still able to provide our clients with a variety of amazing images.
- After the wedding: Once the wedding day has wrapped up, the real work begins. From culling 1000+ images to editing, blogging, and uploading. Don’t forget storing your digital files. It is SO important that you back up images. If you take one thing away from this entire blog it should be to make sure you back up your images. Not just once, not just twice, but three times (or more) in different locations. There area also things to think about like how will you deliver these files to your clients? An online gallery, CD, USB drive. And don’t forget you have to make sure you are delivering these images to your clients in a timely manner (as promised by your contract).
- Get LEGIT. Yep. I said the word Legit. It is so important to make sure that you are running a legitimate business from being registered as a business and paying taxes to carrying the proper insurance. I know this sounds big and scary, but it is really a simple and painless process. Spend a few days reading about the different types of business organizations and find the one that is right for you. Don’t put this off.
Have questions about photographing your first wedding or tips for other photographers thinking of jumping into wedding photography? Leave them in the comments.
I love to help other photographers grow, feel free to email me about mentoring opportunities at firstname.lastname@example.org.