By Amy Phipps on | No Comments
Welcome to the first, in a series of posts where I will be sharing everything I know about shooting weddings and becoming a successful wedding photographer!
In each post I will cover a different aspect of wedding photography - including things I've done wrong, things I've totally rocked and important lessons I have learned along the way.
Eight years ago, a friend asked me to shoot her brother's wedding photos. I had an old film camera, a Canon Rebel to be exact. I was reluctant to switch to digital. I had no idea what to charge, so I told her $200.00. How did I come up with that number? It would cover gas to and from the wedding site, the rolls of film I would have to buy, cost of developing the film and maybe a little extra if I was lucky.
I then headed down to a local camera store, purchased a book on wedding photography and read it from cover to cover. The wedding was only a week later. I had never felt so scared, so alone and so unprepared in my life.
3 years later, I started my own photography business and thought I would never photograph a wedding again. I learned from my first experience 3 years prior, that I had no idea how to properly shoot a wedding and really had no business taking photos on a couple's most special day!
However, within the first year of my photography business, I actually changed my mind. Why? Because I had not yet decided what kind of photographer I wanted to be. My first year was spent doing anything and everything that came my way. I photographed birthday parties, newborns, cake smash sessions, seniors, family photos, head shots, etc.
My motto was "if you have a need for someone with a camera, I'm your gal". So when I was approached to do a wedding, I had to say yes, didn’t I? I had done everything else, so why not find out if this was something I would want to actually pursue further.
As it turned out, I loved photographing my first wedding (I don’t count the “real” first wedding I mentioned previously because I had no clue what I was doing and didn’t make any money from it).
During this first real paid wedding, I fell in love with love! Everything about the wedding day gave me an adrenaline rush. I loved watching the bride have her mascara put on and the back of her hair perfectly curled. I loved seeing the look on the groom’s face as he saw his bride in her wedding dress for the first time. I loved everyone celebrating their love for each other and I cried every time the bride and groom danced with their parents!
After that first wedding, I knew I absolutely wanted to shoot more weddings. I also knew I didn’t want to focus exclusively on being a wedding photographer.
As much as I loved photographing weddings, I had also photographed enough families and seniors to know I loved those as well. So I set my goal each year to photograph only a handful of weddings. I try to book 5-6 weddings throughout the year, focus on photographing families in the Fall and seniors sessions year round.
I believe one of the key components to running a successful business is to do what you love and love what you do! Do not become a wedding photographer only because you want to make a lot of money. You should choose wedding photography because you truly enjoy the work and the joy it brings to those that hire you!
The first and best thing you can do for yourself is to be a second shooter, so you can get an idea of what it’s like to be a wedding photographer.
The best way to do this is to look up wedding photographers in your area and ask them if you can second shoot with them. I almost always have a second shooter for my weddings. This allows two points of view for the same part of the day or allows the main shooter to focus on the bride while the second shooter focuses on the groom.
Some of my second shooters work for free (to get experience) and there are some that I pay. I generally download their images, which are edited by me and their name is not involved after the wedding day.
Personally, I do allow my second shooters to edit and use the images they shoot to build their own portfolio. However, you will find the editing process (and pay) will vary depending on the photographer.
If you want to prepare wedding photography marketing pieces, but have not yet shot a wedding, ask a friend that recently got married if she would put her wedding dress back on, do her makeup and hair so you can take photos of her.
Make it a girl’s day and something fun! From this one day, you can photograph her and get images that you can use on your Facebook or photography website. That’s how you can build your portfolio for a new genre.
Let your friends know you are now shooting weddings. Ask them to spread the word. Do you have a hair or nail salon you go to regularly? Ask them if you can leave some of your business cards and marketing material with them.
When you decide to start photographing weddings, the best thing you can do for yourself and your business is to know how to price yourself. Not only do you need to know how to do this, you need to know why.
These are questions you will need to ask yourself.
I charged $500 for each of my first 2 weddings and also included a CD of high resolution images that the couple could print - no frills, not even a print credit! But I figured I was photographing their wedding day for 4-6 hours, would spend a couple days on editing, give them their CD and be done. Sounds fair, right?
No, I quickly learned this was a big mistake! And I will tell you why. Culling wedding images (sorting the good photos from the bad) and editing them takes MANY, MANY HOURS. If you only charge $500 for a wedding, by the time you are done, you will have made minimum wage (or less)!
I could write pages on this subject, but here are my best tips when it comes to pricing:
Do you have any questions or comments about How to Become a Wedding Photographer? Leave us a comment below - we would love to hear from you! And PLEASE SHARE this post using the social sharing buttons (we really appreciate it)!
Amy Phipps is the photographer behind On the Phippside Photography, located in Stockton, California. Amy has been married for 21 years and has 4 children. When she’s not trying to decide between which of her 43 black shirts to wear, you can probably find her sipping on a Dr. Pepper and walking around any day of the year in flip flops.