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Becoming a wedding photographer typically takes about thirty weddings to gain the experience needed to be able to handle every type of senario that you will face as a wedding photographer. Although what might seem an easy job snapping away with your camera and getting free food; its a lot more complicated than you can imagine and usually as a guidline thirty weddings allows you to find your feet and fine tune your skills so that it becomes second nature. The tricky part is that you only get one chance at it, if you mess up the first wedding and produce bad photographs you may never get that second chance! There are many stories of photographers who will only shoot one wedding in their life and be scared off from attempting another! So just how do you get to the magical thirty weddings? and what is the process of gaining the experience to get there without ruining someones big day?
This article will take a look at the process and offer tips. After all its a pretty unique job that is unlike anything else out there and more often that not you work alone. It can be a lot of pressure to get things right at the first attempt!
While there are no specific educational requirements to become a wedding photographer, it's important to have the right skills, knowledge, and experience to succeed in the wedding industry. Pretty much anyone can set themselves up as a wedding photographer and there are no governing bodies or certificates that are required. This can be a help and also a hinderance in that its easy to start but it also allows anyone to have a go which is why there seems to be so many wedding photographers out there! The standard of work varies from absolutley shocking to world class.
There are many different avenues that you could use for training, from shadowing another wedding photographer to reading books and also completing photography courses from A level right the way through to a degree course in photography, but whilst the academic path is good it doesn't usually help you with what is a very specific and unique job in the wedding industry. Wedding photography isn't just about taking great photos! Photography is only about fifty percent of what makes a good wedding photographer. Other skills such as personality, marketing, seo, accountancy all take their own priority when running a business. Personality and communication are equally as important as the photography element.
You tube is a great resource for any type of learning but it's an amazing resource to learn wedding photography skills from knowing correct camera and lens choices to learning how to work on the actual day itself. You tube would always be my constant go to channel throughout the whole training process. Taylor Jackson photo would be high on my list. Another would be Sam Hurd who offers great wedding photography training resources.
Once you've developed your photography skills and are comfortable using your camera and know all the settings inside out, the next step is to build your portfolio. Your portfolio should showcase your best work and demonstrate your ability to capture beautiful, high-quality wedding images. To build your portfolio, you can start by taking photos of your friends and family members. Offer to take their engagement or anniversary photos, and use these opportunities to experiment with different lighting, poses, and backgrounds. You can also attend weddings as a guest and take photos to add to your portfolio. Try and get to as many weddings as a guest as you can. I know this may sound tricky and a little cheeky! but there are thousands of people getting married every day and quite a lot are small weddings and couples who don't have a wedding photography budget. Ask at the registry office and they may help you out by mentioning it to a few couples. Even two or three weddings in your first year is a huge step forward and is a key start to becoming a wedding photographer.
Another way to build your portfolio is to do a styled shoot. A styled shoot is a photoshoot where you work with other wedding vendors, like florists and event planners, to create a specific theme or look. This can be a great way to showcase your creativity and demonstrate your ability to capture beautiful, cohesive images. It also allows you more time than in the high pressure environment of a wedding day to experiement and learn how to pose and interact with a couple.
An engagement shoot is a great way to learn and is similar to a styled shoot. Here's a destination engagement shoot that I was booked for in Paris.
Assisting a professional wedding photographer can also be a great way to gain experience and learn the ins and outs of the wedding photography business. Look for photographers in your area who specialise in wedding photography and reach out to them to see if they're in need of an assistant. Quite often they will help you understand what to do in situations that sometimes youtube cannot help with.
Even from day one its important to lay out a path and write down in the form of a plan a way forward. A business plan is vital to any business regardless of age. Wedding photography is no different. This will help your path and brainstorm ideas on how to get more weddings in the first year or two. However great and fun it is doing styled shoots or engagement shoots there's nothing quite like working on an actual wedding day to give you that vital experience. Your first two years should be trying to attend as many weddings as you can either as a guest or second shooting or assisting another wedding photographer.
Networking with other wedding vendors can be a great way to build your wedding photography business and find new clients. Attend bridal shows and wedding fairs, join local wedding industry groups, and connect with other wedding vendors on social media. By building relationships with other wedding vendors, you can create a referral network where you refer clients to each other. For example, if you meet a wedding planner who is looking for a photographer for an upcoming wedding, you can help each other out.
The image above made the best of 2017 international wedding images with Fraser and Jo in Verona, Italy.
Its important to make a checklist of wedding photos so that when you are starting out you know what to take. This will be your wedding photography go to best friend. Here are the top 10 must have shots for any wedding.
Bride and groom prep:
Photos of the bride getting ready before the ceremony are essential to capture the anticipation and excitement leading up to the big moment. Shots should include: wedding dress, bridesmaids dresses, jewellery, perfume, gifts and first look between bride and dad. Groom prep usually is only possible with two photographers on the day so try not to worry too much about this at the moment.
The wedding ceremony:
It's important to capture the ceremony, including the exchange of vows, the ring exchange, and the first kiss as a married couple. Shooting from the front of the ceremony and placing yourself on the left hand side means you are bride facing when shooting the ceremony. This allows you to get stunning zoom images of the bride as well as the usual 35mm shots and wide angle images of the couple exchanging vows.
Group photos of the bride and groom with their families are essential but weddings are changing and I'm now shooting quite a lot of weddings with only basic family groups. The days of "lists" seem to have gone with modern day weddings now prefering a more relaxed and casual candid wedding photographer.
Bridal party photos:
Photos with the bridal party are a fun way to capture the wedding party's personalities and relationships with the couple.
Beautiful portraits of the newlyweds are an essential part of your wedding " set " The set means the number of photos given digitally to your couple. A natural mix of posed and unposed photos in and around the wedding venue is ideal. I usually prioritise the couple photos over any other photos if the weather looks bad or its going to rain. Get these done and out of the way first. I use a range of prime lenses to ensure the bride looks pin sharp in the images. My favourite lens for shooting these is the Nikon 85mm 1.4
Speeches are often taken at 200mm. These are usually from the back and sides of the wedding room so that I've blended into the background. Multiple shots of each speaker and penty of candid natural guest photos at 200mm is my favourite way of capturing reaction and laughter amongst the wedding guests.
Candid shots of the bride, groom, and guests throughout the day capture the spontaneous and unscripted moments that make the wedding day unique. These photos tend to make up the majority of my wedding set. hundreds of natural candid images with a mix of 35mm and zoom throughout the wedding day.
Adding in a drone shot if possible adds and extra element to your wedding photos. This is not always possible due to location and also the weather. But if you can its a great idea to add in a dramatic wedding photo from a drone. This shot was take with a Mavic Mini 2 whilst I was working at Hensol Castle as a wedding photographer in South Wales. Although quality wise drone cameras are not up to the same quality as full frame cameras they make great instagram images and can be brilliant for social media interaction.
In general, it's important to remember that becoming a skilled and competent wedding photographer takes time and dedication, and it's an ongoing process of learning and improving one's craft which takes years of practice. Some photographers may have a background in photography and may only need to learn the specifics of wedding photography, such as lighting and composition. In this case, they may be able to start shooting weddings after a few months of training.