A few times a month I will get an email from an up and coming photographer asking for tips on making the transition to wedding photography. And while I wish my schedule allowed for me to sit down with each one over coffee sharing all of my tips, that just isn’t possible! As a wedding photographer, you wear many hats in your business so free time is hard to come by. So instead I thought I’d put together a blog sharing my top 5 tips for becoming a wedding photographer! Here we go!
For so long I was incredibly intimated to put myself out there and call myself a photographer. I was afraid of harsh criticism or having flaws in my technique pointed out by seasoned pros. So instead of being proud of my work, I avoided the topic. But as my skills grew, so did my confidence. Before long I realized that no one would ever celebrate my work if I wasn’t the head cheerleader for myself. So I started sharing my work with friends and family and eagerly talked about it when the subject came up. And you want to know the craziest part about that? Only good things came from this! Being confident in your work allows others to be just as excited about it – and having that support from your friends, family and clients will make you unstoppable.
If I had a time machine, I would go back in time and convince Ali of the past that she needed to put herself out there more. There are a lot of ways to do this – from inviting local vendors to coffee to attending networking events in your city. There will be times that it can be discouraging and people will turn you down. But please don’t take it to heart. Keep trying and keep showing up. And if you don’t feel that a certain networking group is for you, that’s ok! I tried a few before I found an event that I really love! Check out The Perfect Wedding Guide luncheons if you’re local to Indianapolis – you’ll probably see me there! This group is packed FULL of incredible Indianapolis wedding vendors and everyone is so kind!
I know, I know.. this seems obvious. But I can’t stress the importance of getting out there and shooting enough! I first started my photography journey back in high school on 35mm film. My photography teacher, the amazing Mr. Kousari, absolutely insisted that we practice constantly and my goodness I am so glad he did! He gave us each a small notebook and encouraged us to write down our settings for each frame we took. Once we developed the film we could compare each print to the settings we used to take it. These days, almost everyone is using a DSLR so we can see our results much faster, but the same concept still applies!
When I decided to really pursue photography again years later, I used this same practice. Back then I shot in auto mode and had NO CLUE what lenses did what. But I took Mr. Koursari’s advice and practiced my heart out. Before long I was shooting in manual mode and there was no looking back! Once you have manual mode conquered, start practicing your off camera flash skills. I looked up you tube videos and studied them for HOURS. Then I’d make my friends stand in the back yard in the dark while I practiced sparkler exits or use my dad’s garage to emulate a reception. (My dad and husband filled in as dancing wedding guests for me which lead to some serious fits of laugher – totally worth it.)
But how exactly do you practice a wedding? I get it, this is a tough one. Weddings can be tricky to break into because most established photographers will want to have an experienced second shooter with them on a wedding day, myself included. This is 100% not anything personal, I promise! Weddings move SO fast and it’s such a special day to my amazing clients. When they book me, it’s critical that I give them my absolute best, and that includes bringing a second shooter that is just as strong of a photographer as I am.
So how did I do it? Once I got the hang of manual mode and off camera flash, I shot a few weddings for friends. These were incredibly small weddings with just a handful of people so it was the perfect way to get the hang of things with out a fourteen person bridal party to wrangle. I learned so much from these weddings and I was able to build my portfolio and gain enough experience to start second shooting! But what if you don’t have friends getting married?
There is a new trend in the wedding photography world: styled shoots. (Pretty much a fake wedding) Now, styled shoots have been around for awhile and are amazing for several reasons, including networking as I talked about above. But the new trend is for one vendor to host the shoot, style it, plan it and charge a fee for other photographers to attend. This covers the expenses of the shoot and allows for photographers both new and seasoned to get some practice in, let loose and have fun with out the pressure of an actual wedding day or just get creative. Pretty cool, right?
Join local photography groups on facebook and you’re sure to see plenty of styled shoots popping up! There is also a national group lead by the amazing Heather Benge that is full of talented vendors planning these shoots all over the country. Check it out here. If you’re searching for some wonderful educational courses geared specifically towards wedding photography, check out Amy and Jordan, Justin and Mary or Katelyn James! I wish these had been available when I started out!
It’s important to lay a good foundation for your budding business from the very beginning by setting yourself up for success NOW. All photographers should carry insurance, but especially wedding photographers! Did you know that some venues won’t even let you in the door if you don’t have it? That would be a tricky thing to explain to a bride on the day of her wedding! You’ll also want to be sure you have a good system for tracking your profits and losses so that you are ready to go once taxes are due!
One of my favorite tools in my business is my client management software. As my business grew, I found that it was becoming increasingly difficult to juggle handing all of the tasks that come with being a wedding photographer. That’s where Honeybook comes in. It has helped me keep things organized, send clients contracts, accept payments and communicate effectively with my prospective couples and current clients. I LOVE it! You’ll want to check out their free trial and for 50% off your first year, click here.
Over the years I have been fortunate enough to find some fellow wedding vendors who I am convinced have hearts made out of absolute gold. When I see their names pop up on vendor lists for weddings I’m photographing I do a little happy dance! Treating others in the industry with genuine respect and love is so important because it makes your couple’s wedding day just THAT much better. I remember vendors who are great to work with and I eagerly refer them to my clients. However, not every person you meet in the wedding industry will have this mentality. Some are downright rude, some will think they’re better than you because they’ve been around longer or think they have *better* weddings and some will be your friend to your face but say negative things about you behind your back. My advice? Be kind anyway. Press on with a positive attitude and throw genuine compliments around like confetti. That good energy will follow you and will open doors for as you go.
If you’re ready to move forward with wedding photography and would like a one on one conversation on how to get started or if your existing wedding photography business needs a little love – I offer mentorship power hours and would love to hear from you! Learn more here.