I’ve been photographing weddings for just over 12 years now with an average of 20 to 25 weddings a year, and I’ve learnt a LOT in that amount of time. I have plenty of advice on what and what not to do when starting out on your own. Here are some of my awesome wedding photography tips for anyone aspiring to become a professional wedding photographer.
Create a kick-ass portfolio
For me this one is a no brainer. We live in an age where everything is online and my target market is primarily millennial’s. Most people love a one stop shop, so having a really killer website with a fantastic portfolio and transparent pricing I believe is key to helping you book clients. There are some great platforms out there specifically targeted to wedding and portrait photographers. My favourites are Showit, Prophoto, Pixieset and Zenfolio.
But what if you don’t have any wedding photography to show off? This is where I suggest reaching out to local photographers whom you admire and seeing if you can find a mentor. Have a portfolio of your best work on hand and present yourself professionally. I know many fabulous photographers who started out this way and still maintain great relationships with the people who gave them a leg up. Whatever you do though, don’t ever use anyone else’s images as your own. You only need to read the Photo Stealers website to know that this is a massive no go and never ends well.
Know your gear
Look, back in my early days I would shoot weddings with some cheap gear and I did well. You can have the most expensive gear on the planet but still not know how to use it. I believe it’s the person behind the camera and lens who has the vision, heart and technical skills to create a great photo. That said, you should carry some tried and tested basic photography equipment to get you through a full wedding day AND you should know how to use them in all modes.
One wide angle lens
One telephoto lens
One macro lens (or macro filters)
One prime lens (my favourite is the 50mm)
One flash unit
A well supported bag
Keep in mind that I think the above is a basic list of equipment needed. I have way more than this in my bag and I use all of it on a wedding day.
I know how expensive it is to buy wedding photography equipment and it took me years to build my bag. Consider renting gear (I’ve done this many times). A great place in Brisbane to rent from is Brisbane Camera Hire.
Oh my gosh, this one is super important. You absolutely NEED liability insurance if you’re a wedding photographer and in my opinion, no one should photograph a wedding without any. I would also recommend having all of your gear insured as well. The company I use to look after my gear and liability insurance is PPIB (Professional Photographers Insurance Brokers). They’ve always been excellent and provide great service when needed.
Go on, get out there! Meet other photographers and network and make friends. I did this in the early days and I’ve gotten to know some lovely people over the years that have been really kind to me. The AIPP (Australian Institute of Professional Photography) is also a great resource for local photography events. Check out their Instagram and Facebook feeds and stay up to date with your local photography community here and here.
Create a family and group photo list
I tell my clients well in advance that there is a section in their booking form to write down any lists and pairings that they’d like for their family photos. I place a lot of importance on these images and stress that I don’t want to miss any because I know too well how disappointing it can be not to get these on the day. Make that effort and also ask if there are a couple of assigned family members who can help direct you to find everyone. A good tip is to ask your celebrant or priest for use of their microphone to remind everyone of group images.
Prepare, prepare, prepare
I have a wedding photography list that I’ve been using for years and I cross off my to-do list in the week leading up to a wedding. On it I have everything from cleaning my gear to contacting the bride to putting petrol in my car. You never want to be unprepared!
Check out the venue
Make a date with your bride and groom to have a walk-through of their chosen venue together. Tell them you’ll schedule this a month or so from their wedding day and stick to it. This will ensure you create trust with them and you’ll also be able to see the venue and scout for locations for photos. A good tip is to do this at approximately the same time as their ceremony. That way you’ll be able to see what the light might be like so you’ll have a vision in your head before the day rolls around.
Look your best
Look I feel like this is advice that’s another no brainer. That said, I’ve come across other wedding photographers when working in popular locations and I’m always surprised to see the odd person in jeans. I would say think of how much effort your clients are putting into their big day and do the same. I always wear a smart dress with flats and I make sure I present professionally. It does go a long way how you present yourself not only to your clients but to guests and family as well.
Shoot in RAW
Ok so I know many photographers who would argue against this. But for me it’s the sage advice of ‘better safe than sorry’. This is a day that you won’t get to repeat. It’s not a portrait session that you can re-schedule because of rain. Do your best, buy extra memory cards and shoot in RAW. It will give you more flexibility and if for any reason you didn’t quite get your exposure correct on a shot that is still amazing, you’ll have more scope to correct this afterwards.
So here’s what I do on a wedding day. I have two cards in my camera and one is purely for backing up. I wear my cards around my neck zipped up, and typically shoot on 16GB cards. As soon as I’m home and in the door, my bag is unpacked and I’m backing up all of my RAW images onto three different hard drives. Over the years I’ve had a number of clients contact and tell me they’ve lost their wedding photos and I’m always happy to re-upload these for downloading at no extra cost. Honestly, it’s every photographers nightmare to lose images from a day. Put the right steps in place to make sure it doesn’t happen to you!
I hope you’ve enjoyed my tips. Feel free to leave a comment and ask any questions!