10 things I Have Learned in my First Season as a Wedding Photographer
After a few years of being a portrait photographer, I decided to challenge myself and try my hand at wedding photography. I talked another portrait photographer into helping me out, and off we went. Knowing a little about landscape, portrait, and essential lighting we did our first few weddings at a low cost. This allowed us to test how we worked together and if we really would enjoy weddings. It also helped us build a portfolio, figure out who was best at what, and how long it really to edit all the files. We did not want to get stuck doing something that would drive us away from the art that we loved.
That was four months and seven weddings ago. In that time we’ve learned a few things that may help out other photographers make the leap.
To the interwebs!
The first thing I did when I decided to go “pro” was lots and lots of research. Blogs, business sites, photography sites…. You name it, I read it. I wanted to make sure that this was the right move for us.
2. Back Yourself Up.
No matter how little you plan on doing, after my reading, I realized that I would need to get some paperwork and hardware in line. First, a contract. There are plenty available online to build off of OR hire yourself a lawyer; they’ll make quick work of it and get you something to cover yourself. After my reading, I learned that people could go after you for merely missing a particular shot or not getting the EXACT look they are going for. Make sure to back yourself up in the contract.
Next type of backup? Insurance. Gear is expensive! Getting it covered from damage and theft is so easy, so why not? It’s cheaper than replacing the whole gear bag that someone just walked off with.
And lastly, file backup. I try to make sure that I have at least three copies of files on three different devices. Right now I have them on my Mac hard drive, an external hard drive, Dropbox, and all my final edits are copied onto my website. If one device goes down, I still have others to pull the file off of. It also gives peace of mind to the couple. If for some reason they lose their shots, you still have them!
3. Meet the Happy Couple and Scout the Location with Them.
To enjoy doing what you do, you need to make sure that the people you are around are enjoyable as well. If you get a couple who you’re personality does not mesh with, chances are, you’re going to start hating photography. Meet them at a central location and chat with them. Doesn’t have to be about the wedding, just a general sit down where you can gauge if you genuinely would like to work for them. I offer free engagement sessions with each of my bookings, in that time I have been able to see if I can truly capture what they want, or if I should direct them to another photographer.
Another way to set up a meeting is to see if you can walk through their wedding venue with them. Find out why they booked that particular place so that you know what to capture for them and what they are looking for. Also, use that time to figure out lighting. See how much natural light comes in if they’ll have the house lights on for the ceremony, etc. This is very critical to making sure you can get the cleanest, sharpest shots that you can.
That brings me to this. Verify everything with the officiant. Some churches and officiants do not want any photographers near the front. We were told to stay in the very back for one ceremony. Others want no flash or no pictures taken during certain times (prayer, communion, etc.) This brings me back to the previous paragraph and natural light. If no flash is allowed, then make sure you bring the right lenses to compensate for lower light. I usually put on my 35mm 2.8 prime to make up for it.
4. Shot List and Schedule!
The shot list can be a very important thing to the couple, or it could be nonexistent. It could be a piece of paper or a link to a board on Pinterest. Whatever it is, get it into your head before the big day. The list will tell you everything that is important to the couple. From the people to the poses and actions. You may not get that exact shot from Pinterest, but what you do get the couple will remember forever.
A schedule is another thing that can come in handy. It should tell you when they expect you to arrive (for getting ready shots, pre-wedding group pictures…) and it should have a basic outline of what they plan on doing. Some couples forgo the first dance, flower toss, and garter, while others stick to the traditions. This will ensure that you are fully aware of the approximate time of everything and what they expect from you.
This will also give you time to layout where you want to shoot from. I have Leslie as my shooting partner. We decide who shoots from where and who is responsible for the important shots. I am usually in back capturing the entrance of the bride, while she’s upfront grabbing the reaction of the groom’s first look. It’s always wonderful to have another photographer there to back you up if something changes or fails.
Now to the day of……
5. Sweat the Small Stuff.
Get all the details that the bride and groom have put into their special day. This not only includes the rings, but also shoes, jewelry, decorations, and any other details that made this wedding unique.
6. Be Patient and Watch for the Perfect Moments.
Every ceremony is different. Some are short and sweet, and some involve a full church service. You don’t need to be shooting the whole time. Watch the couple for looks, gestures, and hand holding. These are the shots you want to be sure to get. These are the ones the couple will come back to afterward and remember. Everyone has the same shots of the altar, group, and the kiss. It’s the ones that they are not expecting that count.
7. Make the Group Shots Fun and Unique
Sure, go ahead and do all the formals in the normal fashion. Most parents like them that way! But after, take the group somewhere unique to the venue and let them loose! This is where you get some really fun shots, and the couple gets to remember the excellent time that they had. Instead of the “I hated the group shots, they were so boring!”.
8. Don’t Forget the Candids!
These are my favorite. They bring out the personality of the couple themselves. Make sure to keep on snapping throughout the entire time; you never know what you are going to end up with. However, we have banned ourselves from shooting during dinners. No one wants pictures of themselves eating.
9. Confirm your departure.
Before you leave, make sure the bride and groom are comfortable with you leaving. We almost left a wedding before the couple threw the flowers! Double check the schedule and do not be afraid to confirm everything with the couple!
10. Take a Deep Breath, Relax, and Edit, Edit, Edit.
You did it! You made it through the wedding without any big hangups. Take a deep breath, pour some wine, and start unloading those memory cards! Everyone has their own editing style and program. I prefer Lightroom for my go to and I export into Photoshop it I need to add a little more umph to the shot. I also enjoy using the NIK software package for my black and whites and contrasts. Whatever you use, relax, enjoy, and hopefully you’ll be booking more soon.
Leslie and I have absolutely fallen in love with wedding photography. Not only do we get to me awesome people, but we get to be creative as well. We are hoping that our couple enjoy us as well and that we’ll be taking the wedding world by storm in a year or two. So if you know someone with impending nuptials, please send them over to www.MissyFantPhotography.com and maybe, just maybe, we can help them out.