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Wanting to break into wedding photography? Here is our guide to preparing and impressing during wedding season!
Wedding photography is an exciting niche that can catapult your photography career! You’ve searched every site and training on weddings and studied posing until your fingers are ready to fall off. We wanted to give you a few (well, 17) easy tips to make weddings a tad less stressful. Planning and communication with the couple are imperative, along with just HAVING FUN! When you’re relaxed and stress-free, your couple will more likely feel at ease and comfortable on their big day as well. It’s your job to capture their day in the most authentic way possible.
1. Communication before for the wedding day!
Communication with your couple is unquestionably KEY! Before the day, you’ll want to make sure that you’ve answered all of their questions and that they are comfortable with what is to come. At this point, you’ve probably met in person a few times, and have maybe done their engagement photos! Make sure that you are always available to answer their questions, as they will probably have a TON. Answering their emails and calls with 24-hours to give them the confidence that they can trust you when things get hairy.
Contracts are essential in the wedding business. Making sure that all of your bases are covered makes for less miscommunication and more ease on the actual wedding day. Being clear also helps avoid any issues post-wedding in regards to what will be included in your pricing, timelines, image delivery, turn-around times, editing and how the images are to be used. You can also reference this contract if there is a miscommunication of some sort after the wedding! Some photographers also opt to have a contract between themselves and their second shooter, just to outline expectations and how images are credited.
Pricing will vary (depending on a lot of things…like location, your skill level, etc.)! Many photographers include a complimentary engagement session when a couple books a full wedding package! I’ve seen weddings range from $1500 to $10,000…so make sure to check out where other photographers are priced and see where you fall regarding skill and package offerings. The market will tell you if you’re priced correctly, based on the number of bookings you secure!
Wedding days tend to last from four to 12 hours! Make sure to bring snacks and water, just in case you haven’t contracted to eat a meal at the reception. *Usually photographers will get a contracted break during the dinner service and are given a seat to eat as well. Make sure to clarify this point with your couple.
5. Deposits and Full Payment
Weddings take up a LOT of your time, so you have to make sure that you secure a non-refundable deposit. Just remember that you are blocking off that day for your bride and groom, meaning that you can’t take on another wedding that day (unless the cancel far enough in advance). Usually, this is a percentage of the package the couple books. So 15% of $4000 would be a non-refundable deposit of $600. You can determine what works for you. This deposit is then applied towards the full balance, meaning they would still owe $3400 to secure your services.
Most wedding photographers require that payment is made in FULL before the wedding day. You can structure this however you’d like, but just make sure they pay before you show up! You would hate to put in a full 10-hour wedding day and not get paid.
6. Preparing the Day Before
On the DAY before the wedding, make sure to gather all of your gear (extra batteries, flash set-ups, etc.), clear your cards and take a deep breath! Speaking of which, here are some great tips for getting rid of that pre-wedding day anxiety.
As another tip, make sure that you know what time and where you’re meeting. Send your couple an email telling them how excited you are to meet them and to confirm the time and place of the initial meeting. Be sure to go over any posing techniques and if you’re having trouble remembering, take a photo of some poses on your camera (so you can scroll through them if you forget).
Regular portrait lenses are great for weddings of all types! Here are some recommendations for lenses that wedding photographers favor! Don’t stress if you don’t have these lenses (kit lenses also work great and crop sensor cameras too)! You can work with what you have!
8. Go Over the Shot List and Timeline
Most wedding photographers ask for a shot list to make sure that they get everything covered regarding family formals. This will include extended family, and shots that are unique to each couple. For example, maybe they list a shot of the reserved chair of a loved one who’s passed. You don’t want to miss those.
Make sure you also study your timeline to make sure you remember the general times of the ceremony start time and when you will have some opportunity for the bride and groom portraits.
9. Second Shooters
Hiring someone to be your “back up” photographer is ALWAYS a good idea. Second shooters tend to get the shots that you can’t, based on your positioning. For example, one photographer may be at the end of the aisle getting traditional photos, while the second shooter is moving around to capture candid moments during the ceremony. Typically, the main photographer will give the second shooter a few SD cards, which the main photographer will then take and edit at the end of the wedding day. This ensures consistency in the editing of the images. Make sure that you and your second are on the same page as far as shots and camera settings throughout the day! Check in every 30-minutes or so!
The going rate for an experienced second shooter is about $50/hour.
10. Camera Settings
Getting dreamy or bold wedding photos can be done in camera with the right settings. For those dreamy shots full of compression and bokeh, try opening your aperture! Maybe focus on the ring or the bride/groom’s face, while letting the rest blur into perfection. Make sure to be aware of your focal planes if you want to capture the entire image in focus (so f/4.0+). You’ll want to use a few different lenses for different shots. For example, a 24mm or 35mm will allow for those pulled back shots, while the 135mm or your 70-200mm zoom lens will get you up close and personal. For formal family shots with larger groups, make sure to narrow your aperture to make sure everyone is crisp and in focus!
11. Detail Shots
Suggest to the bride and groom before the session bringing along special mementos and other details like rings, bowties, shoes, invitations, and flowers. You want to make sure that you photograph ALL the special details of the day (which always make for great blog images). If you want to impress the couple, bring a small special gift in their wedding colors! Bring a few things like a lay flat board, ribbon and other accessories that will add to the detail shots. Set these things up next to a bright natural light source (like a large window or skylight) and snap away!
12. Keep the Couple on Track
I get it, you’re not the wedding planner, but it’s imperative that you keep things flowing smoothly…for the couple AND for you. They will thank you for it. We don’t recommend being pushy, but taking control will serve you well on such a hectic day! Make sure you have your timeline printed out and check it regularly.
13. Sneak Peeks and Blogs
Sneak peeks are vital with weddings! Newly married couples are desperately wanting to see their photos of such an exciting day with all of their friends and family. Sending a sneak peek within 24 hours is a great way to keep the excitement going after the session, and as they are potentially leaving for their honeymoon. The goal is to get them excited and sharing them all over social media.
Blogging is another avenue to get your clients talking and for you to showcase your work. If you want to knock their socks off, edit your favorites and post a blog describing their big day. This keeps the excitement going and will hold them over until you can deliver the final set of images. Blogging is also the best way to get people talking and sharing. It’s a quick way for brides to show the absolute best images from the day to their (potentially unmarried) friends. Hint, hint.
14. How to WOW!
There are some fun things you can do to really wow your couple! Adding extra time or photos to their package is ALWAYS a big hit when trying to impress. You can say, “as a big thank you; I wanted to add an hour of coverage on your wedding day! I’m just so in love with you two, and it’s the least I can do to celebrate such a special time for you both.” You can’t go wrong with being friendly and genuinely happy for them! You may be wanting to stay anyway to grab extra photos, but make SURE they know that you are doing this. A little gesture will go a LONG way. Also, make sure to thank both the mother/father of the bride and groom (if they are available). Often they are helping pay for your services! It never hurts to be nice and acknowledge their contribution!
Another quick tip is to be nice to EVERYONE. You don’t know how many newly engaged couples are in attendance, and could be future clients as well. So aim to serve and treat everyone as if they are your future clients!
15. Gallery Deliver and Delivery Times
Pixieset and Shootproof are both excellent options to deliver your wedding images! As for delivery times, this will vary depending on your time and workload. You always want to under promise and OVER deliver. So that means if you say you’ll turn the photos around in six weeks, send them in three! There is nothing better than a surprise in your inbox WAY before you expect it.
16. Give a Gift!
Consider sending a few prints to the newly engaged couple OR a canvas! They’ll LOVE you, and you’re making it easy for them to show their family and friends with a big print on their wall! Making sure to add value to your client’s experience is what is going to get you more clients, so it’s worth the few extra bucks to impress! You won’t lose money if you add it into your cost of doing business! To go even further, really pay attention to your couple and find them a quirky gift that only THEY will appreciate…like a Star Wars themed wedding album or vintage shot glasses!
This is probably the most important tip of them all. When you go into this work for the love of serving, versus the money you may make, you will take better photos. Your goal will be to make people’s lives better, not just your own. So come from a place of genuine care and concern, and you simply can’t go wrong, I promise you! When people feel genuinely cared for, they will tell EVERYONE they know. Word of mouth is going to be your best friend in the wedding business. There can be 300+ guests at a wedding, and at least a few will need a photographer soon!
While wedding photography can be a heck of a lot of work, they usually give the most reward. Making sure that you are well prepared on the big day will help ease the stress for everyone involved…so plan, plan, plan! Make sure you are well rested, organized and have everything under control. The beauty of being a wedding photographer is that your clients trust that you will keep their day calm while capturing their love and authentic emotion on the happiest day of their lives!