Becoming a Wedding Photographer
I adore wedding photography! Without a doubt, wedding photography can have its challenges but it can also be very rewarding! In this post, I will share some of the personal experiences I had as I transitioned into wedding photography and then share the 7 steps you can follow to become a professional wedding photographer yourself!
How I Got Started in Wedding Photography
In my final years as a college student, I began thinking about what I really wanted to do with my life. I have always been more of a creative person, so the idea of getting a 9-5 job seemed really stifling to me. I had always loved to read and write, so during my junior year of college I switched my major to English. I also took my camera out for fun on the weekends.
In November of 2010, my future sister-in-law’s sister got engaged and asked me to shoot her engagement photos. She had seen some photos I had taken of my brother and his wife (her sister), and wanted to know if she could hire me.
I was hesitant at first. I had never taken any paid jobs before. However, I told myself that she obviously liked my work, or she would not have contacted me. So, I decided to officially start my business and set up a Facebook fan page. At the time, I thought it would be a fun part-time job while I finished my degree.
Over the following years, my Facebook fan base continued to grow, I ran contests and sought out senior representatives to get my name out there (for senior sessions). Wedding photography hadn’t even crossed my mind.
Then I received an email that Winter that changed the game for me. A colleague of my mother’s was getting married the upcoming summer and wanted to know if she could hire me to shoot her wedding. I decided to go for it and charged her very little since, at the time, I had no wedding experience.
I created a website through ProPhoto to showcase my work, and I immediately set up some bridal shoots to start a portfolio. Then I started receiving more inquiries. I shot my very first wedding with absolutely no second-shooting experience and I was terrified. The couple was very happy with the photos, but if I could go back I would have shadowed at least one photographer first.
When I got engaged that Spring, I asked the wedding photographer I hired for my own wedding, if I could second shoot with her. It was incredible! She was so helpful and allowed me to use all of my images any way I pleased (which is rare, I know).
I was then approached by a former portrait client who already had a wedding photographer, but offered to let me second-shoot her wedding. These two experiences were great and both photographers’ guidance helped me to triple my bookings for the following year.
7 Steps to Become a Wedding Photographer
I currently have several wedding seasons under my belt, quite a few weddings already on the books for next season and inquiries coming in regularly. I am always learning how to further improve my business, but I wanted to share the steps that I have found invaluable when trying to become a professional wedding photographer:
1. Educate Yourself
Educating yourself is so important in your early days as a photographer. I read tons of blog articles (some links at the bottom of this post), attended workshops held by local photographers, and took some great online ones. During slow season I practically live on CreativeLive. It’s an amazing resource for photographers, and you can do it from home. Technology is always changing, and you can always improve your knowledge, so make sure to set aside time and money to invest in your photography education.
2. Network With Other Photographers
Do not be afraid to reach out to other photographers. I am constantly attending gatherings to network with other photographers. I have also contacted everyone from successful photographers in my state (Maine) to Jasmine Star for tips.
If there is someone local whose work you adore, ask to take them out for coffee. You would be surprised at how willing to help other photographers can be. Plus, they might ask you to second-shoot for them or send referrals your way once you build up your business! This leads to my next point...
3. Be a Second Shooter
After you have reached out to some photographers in your area, ask if you can tag along to second shoot at a wedding. Even if they don’t want you to shoot, you may get the chance to assist and see them in action! This will help you figure out how you need to approach shooting a wedding on your own.
4. Reach Out to Engaged Friends and Acquaintances
When you are starting out, you need to land that first wedding somehow. After you have gained some experience second shooting, and you feel comfortable venturing out on your own, spread the word.
Do you have a former friend from college who recently got engaged? Ask if you can take their engagement photos, and mention that you have been working with other photographers to build a portfolio. They may want someone with more experience, but if you have been second shooting you can direct them to your portfolio and let them decide for themselves.
I have found that a large percentage of my clients who initially contacted me about engagement shoots also booked me for their weddings. Most people want a cohesive style, so if you can lock in the engagement session that’s a big step towards landing the wedding.
Also, consider having at least one wedding package that includes the engagement session. I offer this in my highest package and I always suggest this to couples when they contact me about an engagement shoot.
5. Create a Website to Showcase your Best Work
A good photography business website and a working knowledge of how to get your website found online (SEO) is a must!
Ask a professional photographer who has some experience to help you present your best work. Ask them what works, and what doesn’t. Sometimes you may be too emotionally attached to your own work to make the best decisions.
I played around a lot with the opening slideshow on my site before I found the right combination to draw attention (remember, you only have about seven seconds to keep someone on your page, so put your best work first).
SEO for photographers is incredibly important. Having a great website is almost meaningless, if no one can find it. Make sure you use very specific wording in blog posts and site titles so that your site comes up in online searches. There is lots of information online about how to do this.
6. Submit Your Wedding Photos to Magazines and Blogs
One of the best ways to get your name out there is to submit your work! Do your research and find magazines and blogs that you think you would be a good fit. You can find them for every niche.
Obviously you won’t get accepted every time, but when you do it will feel incredible! Plus, you can use that publication to sell yourself to future clients.
7. Never Give Up!
I decided to go full-time into professional wedding photography in early March, and the timing was horrible! It was the middle of slow season, but it felt like the right time for me personally.
For at least a month there was silence. I checked my email obsessively every day and assumed I had made the wrong decision when there were no new inquiries. I even considered taking a part-time job, but my husband told me, “You want this. You’re doing this.” So, I stuck it out.
I’m so glad I did because by the beginning of May the emails started picking up significantly. I have now reached the point where I am comfortable being a full-time wedding photographer, and absolutely have no regrets.
To learn more about wedding photography, read these other great resources:
- Do You Want to Be a Wedding Photographer
- 9 Tips for New Wedding Photographers
- 4 Tips to Be a Better Wedding Photographer
- How to Survive Your First Wedding Consultation
- Wedding Contract: 6 Things You Must Include
- 6 Tips for a Perfect Engagement Session
- Bride Getting Ready: Tips for Fantastic Bridal Images
- First Look Wedding Photos: How to Capture Romantic Images
- Photographing Wedding Details: Ultimate Wedding Photo Guide
- How to be a Perfect Second Shooter at a Wedding
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