Wondering how to learn wedding photography in a snap? Here are 5 tips to boost your confidence and start booking clients.
Your photography business is up and running. All the legalities are handled. You have built a solid portfolio and know your gear. Now, you are thinking hmmmm, I may want to give wedding photography a try. But, how exactly do I go about it, and where can I learn wedding photography?
First off, congratulations! High fives and fist bumps for following your passion and taking the leap. Photography is an amazing career, and wedding photography is one of the most emotionally fulfilling and rewarding fields you can go into. You are present for one of the happiest moments in your client’s life, and they are counting on you to document the occasion. And that is the challenge. There are no retakes or do-overs. The pressure is on because it is so fast paced. So, how do you know if you’ll like it? Or where can go to gain the experience to feel confident about booking weddings? Who can you turn to for help?
Well, help is just a click away.
1. Wedding photography websites and online resources!
There are many websites and Facebook groups who provide mentoring and advice for new and seasoned wedding photographers. Coles Classroom and CC Photo Pros is an absolute must for honest, friendly tutelage, where you can find answers and friends whom are invaluable on this journey. This is a unique site started by a Professional wedding photographer because he too encountered the frustrations of where to begin, and how. You can post a question, meet other local photogs, and face it, just feel like you are not the only one seeking guidance. There are hours of valuable resources on each aspect of the wedding photography business, from what gear should you have, to posing and lighting. Feel free to click the link here, to go check it out.
You are not able to commit to one particular group? That’s okay, find where you feel comfortable. Be aware of the overall interaction. Do they offer advice and constructive criticism? Or are they talking down to you, and treating you with negativity? Unfortunately, you will encounter a little of both until you find the right fit. The site which motivates and empowers, not deflates or degrades. Experiment. Go to Youtube. Watch videos on wedding photography. Do online tutorials. If you are serious about becoming a wedding photographer, you must be willing to put some time into learning your new craft. Educating yourself must be a priority.
2. Get out of the virtual world and into real life!
Okay, you have watched that wedding photography video a few times, and joined a local photography group. But, how do you step out out the virtual world and apply it to real life situations? It’s easy. Take notice.
The next time you go to a wedding as a guest, make a point to watch the photographer. See how they work. Where are they standing, and how they move. Familiarize yourself with their circuit, until you recognize the pattern. Wedding photography requires a lot of planning and knowing where to be and when. Yes, we all know not to miss the first kiss, or the happy couple’s exit or first dance. But, learning when all of these little moments happen, and positioning yourself to get the shot takes time. Familiarize yourself with a wedding timeline, or the breakdown of all the day’s scheduled activities. Basically, learn what happens when.
3. Become a wedding photographer follower.
Study other wedding photographers work whom you admire. Follow their accounts on social media. Analyze some of their shots, and practice duplicating them at home. I am not saying “copy” their work. Each photographer has their own style. But, by experimenting and evaluating what works for you, your style will emerge. You will find what makes you and your brand unique. And you will get an idea of what shots are expected as part of a wedding day.
Many well-known wedding photographers have a following and post consistently on their blogs. The pictures are usually in chronological order, documenting the couple’s special day. Subscribe to their blogs, and follow along. Watch them in action. Take notes. Pay particular attention to how they pose the couples. What looks good, and what doesn’t. Then practice perfecting these poses yourself at home. Learn the basic or 4 common core poses, and how you can adapt them for your style. Now, practice giving instructions. It is harder than it seems, trust me. Basically, learn to compliment. Practice certain phrases. How do you sound? Remember, you will be the director and your client’s the stars. Pamper and praise goes a long way.
4. Network within your community!
Search your local area for wedding photographers. If you are comfortable, reach out to them and see if they are willing to mentor you. If not, maybe you can offer to be a free assistant for a wedding or tag along on a session. Meet them for coffee and just talk. Show them your work, and maybe they will permit you to second shoot for them. Second shooting is where you are the “back up” or second photographer. The lead photographer takes the main shots, and you will be assigned different ones. You will also help move gear, assist with lighting, and whatever else the main photographer asks you to do. This is a wonderful way to get your feet wet in the wedding industry.
Second shooters can be free as part of a mentor situation or can be paid hourly depending on the skill level and experience. They are an extension of the lead photographers business and follow the direction of the lead photographer. Second photographers also do not edit the images taken, as they are the property of the lead photographer’s business. So, you just basically show up and shoot the images, and you are done. After delivery to the client, most second photographers are able to utilize a few images from the day for their own portfolio or website. This will differ with each lead photographer and their business model. You should ask for a contract, and be aware of the terms. Are you okay with shooting a six-hour wedding for free? Do you expect to use your images? Ask questions.
Practicing shooting a wedding and actually doing it, are like night and day. The adrenaline rush. The anticipation, the nerves. It is so frustrating. You want experience, but you need the experience to get experience. It’s a catch twenty-two. But, with some creativity and perseverance, you can do it!
5. Join forces with other creatives.
There are stylized wedding photography shoots you may participate in. Where a venue or company hosts a “mock wedding” in collaboration with several vendors. The number of photographers are limited, and there usually is a fee involved. But, you will be able to actually shoot a couple in wedding attire. The details and venue. You will watch other photographers interactions with the models, and learn how to adjust your camera angles to get specific shots. More importantly, you will be given the opportunity to direct or pose your couple. To see what it’s like in the moment. And how you interact with people. The client experience is far more important than the actual images. We are in the people business, and photography is just a side benefit.
No stylized shoots near you? Approach a venue or bridal salon and organize one yourself. Talk to florists, bakeries and hair stylists. Offer to shoot a few images for their website for free if they participate. Build a relationship, and network, network, network. Find models who are looking to build a portfolio or a couple who just want to have fun. Can’t find a model? Post a model call on Facebook. You will get someone. No bridal salon near you? Visit your local Goodwill or thrift store. You’ll find a wedding dress you can use. Get creative. More importantly, have fun. Doing a stylized shoot will give you valuable portfolio images you will need for booking your first wedding photography clients. No matter who you end up booking, they will want to see proof you are capable of doing the job.
Want more wedding photography tips!?
When should you start booking?
Okay, you have practiced and practiced. You learned on camera and off camera flash. You have posing down. Sorta. Your portfolio has at least some quality images showcasing your skills as a wedding photographer. Now it’s time to get out there and book a wedding. If you know someone who is getting married, you may offer up your services at a discounted rate. Talk to your church, priest or pastor; they may know of someone who is currently in need of a wedding photographer. Let your community know you are open for business as a wedding pro.
Wedding photography websites to market your work.
You can go to sites such as Thumbtack and bid on work. Couples will post when and where their wedding will be, and the highest amount they are willing to pay. You will be required to create an account, set up your profile, and job parameters to begin receiving notifications of work. Be advised. These sites are not about quality. They are all about the lowest price for the service, and you will be bidding against many other photographers for the job. But hey, we all need to start somewhere.
Shooting your first wedding.
So, you did it. You just booked your first solo wedding. Woot woot, cheers, and congratulations! After the excitement dies down, and you are left with pounding heart palpitations, thinking what did I just do? Stop and take a moment to just breathe. Preparation is the key to a smooth wedding day.
Contact your client. Send out a questionnaire asking for all the pertinent details, their likes, and dislikes. Their list of must-have shots, and timeline. Most photographers assist with setting the wedding timeline, as you will know more than your clients, how much time is truly needed to achieve what they want. Keep the communication open and light. Make sure you follow up regularly and the week prior to the wedding. Be available to answer questions. Wedding Photography is all about your name, and how you treat your clients. So go above and beyond to wow them every time!
Make sure your clients are aware of your experience level and protect yourself and your business by having a contract. Go over the terms with your client, and clarify anything which they may question. If you are nervous about being the lead photographer, maybe you can get a second shooter or mentor another photographer yourself. Working with a second shooter will allow you to set up certain shots and assign others so, you are not running and trying to do it all while you are still learning! Two are always better than one, and having another person on location will be a huge help to you. Even if it is running for a water bottle or moving a light stand. Sometimes it is our own self confidence which needs a boost, especially when we are just starting out. And having another photographer with you, may be just what you need for your own piece of mind. Smaller weddings can be shot solo, but for larger weddings–150 guests and up, I recommend always having a second shooter. The larger the wedding, the more overwhelming it can be.
Each and every wedding will be an opportunity to learn something new. You’ll see what works, and what doesn’t. You will eventually become comfortable with the pace and expectations. To be able to experiment and develop your style. For more on learning to pace yourself and still meet client expectations, check out this link. www.colesclassroom.com/wedding-photographer-chill-out/
Remember, growth doesn’t happen overnight, and you will have some failures along with the successes. Mistakes will happen, but they push us to do better. Be better.
In wedding photography, the learning never ends. It is a continuous journey. So, buckle up and enjoy the ride!