Thinking about starting a wedding photography business? Our simple guide to calling the shots.
Want to start a wedding photography business? If you love meeting new people and enjoy taking great photos, starting a wedding photography business could be for you. Besides, who doesn’t love weddings? All the glamorous details, and a couple so much in love. Sounds like a dream job. Right? Well, let’s dive right into what it takes to start a wedding photography business.
Let’s get legal!
First, you must be legal. If you are just starting out, you have to name your business. You will need to contact the IRS to obtain an EIC number. This number will be needed in all other aspects of registering your business. Now, you must register with your county or state. This process will vary depending on your location. If you are unsure of whom you need to contact, give your local small business administration offices a ring and they will assist you. You will have to decide if you will be registering as a sole proprietor or LLC. We advise contacting an attorney to help you decide the best option for your business. Registration is a must to deal with any legal issues which may arise from owning your own business. For an in-depth look at how to legally start a business, check out this article!
Am I covered?
You will want to obtain liability insurance to cover your business. You may think, I don’t need this yet. But, you do. Photography equipment is costly. What if something breaks, or is stolen? More importantly, what if a client is injured on location and decides to come after your business? You need protection. There are many insurance carriers who offer small business coverage. Shop around. If you are a member of PPA, they also offer insurance to their members.
Take it to the bank.
Now, it’s time to set up your business with your financial institution. Depending on how you registered your business, the requirements will differ. Open a business account. This will make tracking your income easier than mingling it with your personal account. Besides, it looks so much more professional. Create a spreadsheet to track your income and expenses. It will come in handy when it is time to file your taxes.
Let’s get down to business.
Create your business marketing materials. You will need business cards, contracts, and email templates. There are many valuable resources both online and through organizations such as lawtog.com to assist with creating legal contracts. If you hired an attorney to assist with developing your business model, they may also guide you in preparing your contract. Contracts are so important, as they will state clear guidelines and expectations. Not to mention, cover you and your business should a problem arise. The more prepared you are, the more professional you will appear.
Wedding Photography Gear
To become a wedding photographer, you will need a professional camera. There are many excellent choices available, from full frames to crop sensors. While you do not need the most expensive model available, do your research and purchase the highest quality you can afford. This is your biggest investment.
Now, learn your camera settings. Familiarize yourself with the menus and options. Know how to change your ISO, shutter speed and aperture. Practice, practice, practice. You need to know how to operate your camera prior to shooting at a wedding. Also, be aware you will need a backup camera. In the event your main camera has a glitch or gets damaged. There are no retakes on wedding days, so be prepared!
For more on camera comparisons, follow this link.
Most professional camera bodies are purchased without a lens. Some do come with standard or kit lenses, but they are not the sharpest or fastest focusing lenses to use for weddings. Prime lenses with a high aperture are an excellent choice. They focus faster and operate well in low light situations.
Here is my recommended list of minimal lenses for wedding photography:
85 mm 1.8 or 1.2–this lens is amazing for producing sharp images in low light situations, and achieving that creamy bokeh background we all desire.
50 mm 1.4–this lens will work great in those tight locations where the 85 just doesn’t work. It is also my fastest focusing lens, and great for those church processional shots.
100 mm macro 2.8–you will need this lens to obtain those desired close up detail shots, such as rings, bouquet, etc.
There are other lenses which are amazing for wedding photography, and you may purchase as you become more established.
24-70mm 2.8–this lens will give you the flexibility for wide-angle shots and zooming in for those tighter ones. At 2.8 you will still be able to obtain that compression and background blur.
70-200 mm 2.8–this lens is spectacular for those tight shots where you are forced to shoot from a distance.
Good lighting is the most important aspect of photography. Unfortunately, weddings are often held in dark churches or halls, without access to natural light. In these instances, to obtain good photos you will need a flash.
Depending on your camera, there are many excellent and inexpensive flash options. For wedding photography, I recommend a minimum of 2 flashes, one on camera and one off. Do your research. Some have built-in transmitters that will sync with your camera and multiple flashes, where others you will have to purchase transmitters and receivers additionally. Click here for more on flash photography.
For a standard wedding, you can expect to be shooting for several hours. It is best to have backup batteries for your camera and other equipment. Make sure you have several batteries charged and ready to go. Pack your camera battery charger with you. When one battery dies, swap it out, and recharge the other. The Eneloop rechargeable batteries work excellent for your flash and accessories. Be prepared, and don’t get caught with a dead battery.
Pack extra memory cards with you. You will be shooting hundreds or thousands or images at a wedding, and cards fill up fast. Remember, not all memory cards are created equal. Purchase the highest quality memory cards you can. A faster card will support larger files and be quicker processing them. You do not want to press the shutter button, and oops! It won’t fire because the card is still processing.
I recommend using smaller cards such as 16gb or 32gb cards instead of the larger files and swapping out your cards at significant parts of the day. This way if a card or file gets corrupted, you do not lose all of your images. I also label my cards with a black sharpie with a number 1-5. When I am changing cards on the fly during a wedding day, I know what has been used and what hasn’t. I assign numbers to the day segments. Details and getting ready is 1, etc. This way you will never accidentally delete images on a wedding day, or grab the wrong card.
Computer and Editing Software
To start any business, you will need a computer and software to run it. You must have ample storage and memory to run programs and store your client pictures. We recommend having a backup or storage system. An external hard drive works wonderfully for storing all those client galleries. Editing software such as Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop is a must. There are also programs such as Photo Mechanic which will assist greatly with photo editing and culling.
Make sure you have a professional website.
For potential clients to find you, a website is a must. Your website will showcase your best work, give a little insight into who you are, and allow clients to book your services. Choose a web hosting service to build your website. You may select from set templates or purchase others to obtain the look you desire. Most importantly, your website must be easy to navigate and your contact information highly visible.
Building your portfolio for your new wedding photography business.
If you are just starting your wedding photography business, you may not have any images of an actual wedding to add to your portfolio. But, you need to showcase quality images to begin booking wedding clients. Well, here are a few simple ways to gain experience and the much-needed wedding images to add to your portfolio.
Attend a stylized shoot. This is where a venue or vendor hosts a mock wedding and charges a fee for photographers to participate. You will be able to photograph a couple in wedding attire, the venue, and details. Follow this link for more information on stylized photo shoot ideas.
Offer to shoot a friend’s wedding for a discounted fee.
Do you know someone who is getting married? Offer to shoot their wedding for a discounted rate. Just make sure they are aware of your experience level.
Second Shoot for another wedding photographer.
Contact local wedding photographers and see if one is willing to mentor you. Better yet, see if you may second shoot for them. This is where they are the lead photographer and you are their backup. This is a win-win for you both!
Marketing your new wedding photography business.
Not that you have your website and portfolio all set, it is time for you to start marketing your new business. Let all of your friends and family know you are open for business. Talk to your church and spread the word you are a wedding photographer.
Start a blog. This will allow potential clients to follow you and see your work. Share who you are and your backstory. People want to know who you are, and why they should book with you.
Get found on Google and searches. Make sure you tag your images with keywords such as your location, wedding photography and other relevant terms. This will help with your SEO.
Get on social media. Start a Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest account. Make sure you post frequently. Encourage clients and friends to share your posts on their social media accounts, increasing your reach and expanding your possible client base.
Network within your community!
They say it takes a village, and starting a new business is no exception. Spread the word to everyone you know about your new wedding photography business. Consider partnering with other local vendors or businesses to provide referrals or having the ability to showcase your work at their establishment. Maybe you can offer to shoot their business for free in return for displaying your business cards? Target florists, bakeries, and bridal salons. Approach them and offer to take some new pictures for their website, and in turn you gain valuable images for your portfolio. Weddings also need make up artists, hair salons and linens. Brainstorm a list of local vendors, and work on creating partnerships with them. Just make sure the arrangement is mutually beneficial to both businesses.
Offer free photo shoots or sessions.
You can run a special on your new Facebook page offering free photo sessions for a limited number of clients. Or what about offering your services at a local non-profit? Volunteering at a local event may just give you the exposure your new wedding photography business needs. Just make sure the terms are covered and you are gaining from the experience.
When you feel your portfolio has grown, make sure you adjust your pricing accordingly. It is wise to evaluate your pricing packages every few months to market level based on your current experience. Besides taking awesome photographs, make sure your client experience is amazing. “Wow” your clients every time, and get them talking. Ask for client reviews and testimonials. This will add to your credibility and assist potential clients in booking you. (And don’t forget to update your website with your new awesome photos and client reviews!)
Wedding photography is a great side hustle and possibly full-time career. The sky’s the limit on your potential. I hope this article has been helpful, and your new wedding photography business skyrockets you to new and amazing opportunities.