Advice for anyone starting in the industry
So you've decided to take the next step! First off, congratulations! Documenting one of the most important days of a persons life is a big deal, and can be nerve racking! Especially for photographers just starting off in the industry. Thinking back to when we first started, here is some advice we would give anyone taking the journey.
1.) Practice and shoot in manual mode! Gonna keep it real here, but if you can't shoot in manual, you might want to reconsider shooting someone's wedding. Aperture priority, auto mode, etc. have all gotten better on the newer cameras, but you are going to have some wildly inconsistent shots from an exposure, shutter speed, and aperture standpoint. You could take two photos standing in the same exact spot, and have completely different exposures. Also, when shooting in anything other than manual, you are allowing the camera to dictate what the scene is going to look like. Think for a second of the settings required to shoot a cake cutting? There is a good chance that someone is about to get smashed with cake, and a persons natural reaction is to move quickly when this happens. If you are shooting in one of the automatic modes, the camera isn't smart enough to understand that it needs to predict quick movement, and the photos will come out blurry. Also, from an editing work flow stand point, you will significantly cut down the workflow in post as images will be grouped consistently from scene to scene. Remember, aperture controls depth of field, shutter speed adjustment captures movement, and ISO adjusts the brightness/darkness of the photo. Remember that each manufacture is different, but the higher the ISO, the more noise (grain) that will be in the photo. Practice on friends and family as you are constantly moving to different events in a wedding, and you need to quickly adjust settings.
2.) Find your style. Each photographer has different shots, editing style, etc. Each client has their own likes and how they want their photos to turn out. We will NEVER take a wedding where clients want the photos to be bright and airy. It's personally not for us and not how we edit. Our couples are generally drawn to bold colors, candid shots, and romantic photos. What's interesting is our editing style is a reflection of us. We love to laugh with our couples, add to the experience, and deliver breathtaking photos. By finding your style, you are also finding your ideal couples. You are showcasing to them how you shoot and edit, and therefor making it easier for them to find you. Photographers that have edits all over the place will cause potential clients to question your consistency, and what their own wedding photos are going to look like. If your goal is to attract clients, it's important your style is showcased consistently.
Does this mean that you have to edit the same way year in and year out? Absolutely not! Take a look at most photographers social media pages/websites, and you will see that we all change a bit in one direction from time to time.
3.) Prepare and plan! If you are about shoot your first wedding, you might not be able to sleep the night before, but rest assured your nerves will be wide awake. You can never be fully prepared for how the day of the wedding will go, but you should have a pretty good idea how it should. We hold several sync up calls with our couples leading up to the wedding to understand timelines and events. We also encourage our couples to send us mood boards on Pinterest with any particular shots they like. By doing this we are able to help facilitate the wedding if a coordinator isn't present, setup for the next shots and get an understanding of what type of shots they are envisioning for their wedding. It's important that you also have a point of contact that knows both sides of the wedding party. The last thing you want to do is make the bride or groom make decisions, track people down, or do anything besides be lost in the moment enjoying their special day. We build a collage and save it as the background on our phones. You can do the same if you have an apple watch as well. This is a quick and convenient way to see timelines, as well as poses for the day, Whatever you do, don't just show up without a plan and wing it. It's your job to help ensure the day goes smoothly and add to the overall experience.
4.) Check all your gear. Batteries charged? Extra batteries charged? Camera set to capture images to both SD cards in case one fails? SD cards cleared from previous shoots? Flashes charged? Holsters/straps in your bag? Extra camera body/lens in case one fails? The last thing you want to do is show up and something is dead. Also, don't put yourself in a situation that if something fails, you have no plan B. DO NOT shoot weddings if you don't have back up gear. You are doing a disservice to your couples, and putting yourself at risk. We prepare and pack our bags the night before, and check them all once again in the morning. We don't like surprises and neither do your couples.
5.) Do styled shoots. This is a great way to gain experience, build your portfolio, and network with other wedding vendors. We have booked multiple weddings from referrals of other amazing vendors that were apart of our styled shoots. Not only that, but if things turn out great, you can submit them for publication to showcase the event, and gain exposure to potential couples looking for a wedding photographer. If you are just starting out, this is a great way to show couples what you are capable of!
6.) SEO is key. Think of your own habits when you want to find something. "Food near me", "Wedding photographers (enter city)". The higher you rank on google, the more followers and engagement you have on social media the better. Really take the time to understand what drives engagement to your website and social media posts. You don't have to have 30,000 followers and 10,000 likes on each post. But the more engagement you have, the more likely someone is to find you.
7.) Add to the experience! Lots of people can take a photo and edit it, but what are you doing to add to the experience? Wedding couples are spending all day with you. Make positive, memorable moments with them, not awkward paparazzi pictures from the distance. The wrong attitude/vibe can significantly alter the enjoyment of a wedding for a couple. Have fun and add to the memories! Connect with them and make it special.
8.) Have clear contracts. Not only does this protect you, but it also helps your couples know what to expect. Our contracts include: Start/end time, location, package selected (Cost, images, delivered by, payment schedule, printing rights, how many shooters, and all the fun legal terms. Send the contract to both people to review and sign.
9.) Be agile. Timelines are almost never 100% from start to finish. Be prepared for everything and anything on wedding day. There is almost a new situation/scenario at each wedding we attend. It's all about keeping a calm head and quickly helping with a solution. Remember, you are the hired professional that they paid. Sometimes it requires wearing different hats that don't involve photography, but that's ok. To them, this may be the only wedding they've ever attended. Act like a professional!
10.) Have patience, be understanding and flexible. Nerves are high during the special event and you may experience certain members of wedding being extremely direct. Don't take anything personally and remember who the special day is for and how you can make it easy and relaxed for them. Don't add tension or extra stress. Be flexible and understanding and I guarantee, your couples, family members, and those in attendance will very much appreciate it.
Whether it's your first wedding, or your 1000th. Master your craft, continue to learn, have fun, and be yourself! We absolutely LOVE each wedding. If you've ever seen the movie "Wedding Crashers", we feel like we get to show up and party with everyone at each event :)