Wedding photographers spend their careers capturing love stories. If a love story starts with a spark, how does a wedding photography business start? The dilemma is a what-came-first-the-chicken-or-the-egg sort of problem.
How do you start a wedding photography business when you don’t have any experience? How do you get experience when you don’t have a wedding photography business?
Here’s how to get your wedding photography business off the ground.
Photography Basics Essential for Amazing Wedding Photography
Having an eye for photographs is a start. It’s not enough to build a career on.
Couples will entrust you with capturing the memories from what’s likely the biggest day of their lives. You need to know all the photography essentials, and then some.
Can you capture a photo in a dark, candlelit venue Hochzeitsfotograf Erlangen without blur? Can you switch on your flash to freeze motion on the dance floor?
Can you pose a bride and groom — and an entire wedding party? Can you get through that shot list in minimal time?
Before you launch a wedding photography business, you should understand these basics:
- Manual mode. You don’t have to shoot on manual mode 100 percent of the time to get great shots. I spend about 75 percent of a wedding in aperture priority mode. But, you have to know how to shoot manual if the situation calls for it. You need to know how aperture, shutter speed, and ISO all work together. You’ll need to get technically correct shots that blur the background, but not the motion.
- Light. I cringe every time I see a wedding photo with raccoon eyes. You should know how to work outdoors in bright sun and indoors in a dimly lit venue. Understand how direction, temperature, and intensity play a role. And what the difference between hard and soft light is. If the light that’s there isn’t working, you should also know how to troubleshoot to get a great shot.
- Flash. Photographers can prefer the look of natural light. But it’s not okay to use natural light because you don’t know how to use a flash. Before you launch your business, you should at least know how to use an on-camera flash. You need to freeze motion on the dance floor, to light a dark ceremony venue, and to eliminate those raccoon eyes from bright sunlight. You can learn advanced flash such as off-camera lighting as your business grows. But, if you don’t know flash basics, you may not be able to shoot in the dark venue that your couple booked.
- Basic posing. Some photographers use elaborate posing, others prefer a more natural, candid look with minimal intervention. Neither one is wrong. Why do you need to understand posing basics if you prefer the more natural look anyway? The quickest way to make a bride hate her photos is to make her look bad. Wedding photographers should understand the basics. How to avoid a double chin and how to quickly pose the family for the traditional group photos. Couples will ask what to do with their hands. Make sure that you have an answer ready.
How to Build Experience as a Beginner Wedding Photographer
Some wedding photographers start when a family or friend enlists them for their big day. Most brides won’t book a wedding photographer without experience. How do you get that experience?
There are a few different strategies you can use to gain experience. These same strategies will help you build a portfolio too. If you’ve never shot a wedding before, try at least one of these ideas:
- Work as a second shooter. Photographing a wedding with another experienced photographer is one of the best ways to build experience. Weddings are unique. It’s tough to mimic every scenario in a stylized shoot. Look for job postings or reach out to photographers in your area. You may need to start as an assistant. You’ll work your way up to working as a second shooter.
- Photograph engagement sessions. What better way to practice posing and light than with an engagement session? When I first started out, I included engagement sessions with each wedding. I could refine my posing skills before the actual wedding day. I still offer engagement shoots in most wedding packages. It’s a great way to get to know the couple and identify what poses work the best for them.
- Create a stylized shoot. A stylized shoot is a “pretend” wedding. Think of it as the formals part of the wedding day, only not on an actual wedding day. Recruit a couple you know that recently tied the knot and have them put their wedding garb back on for a portrait session. Or, work with a bridal shop in your area and put out a model call. The bridal shop will receive images to use in their marketing or to decorate their shop. You’ll get experience and images for your portfolio.
- Photograph the rehearsal. Before you shoot your first wedding, photograph the rehearsal. You’ll be able to determine essentials like where to stand, what settings to use and more in the same venue where the wedding will be held. This won’t help build a portfolio and you’ll need to book a wedding first. But I highly suggest every newbie wedding photographer shoot the rehearsal before their very first wedding.
- Photograph everything you can. Photographing your kids’ soccer game won’t help you build a portfolio. But it will help you develop the ability to adjust your camera settings without looking at them and to build troubleshooting skills. Individual portraits, candid moments, street photography, even landscapes. The more you use your camera, the more comfortable you’ll be with your gear.
Improve Your Business Skills With Online Classes
Photographers don’t spend 100 percent of their time out taking pictures. Running a business and editing photographs is a significant part of working as a photographer. You’ll likely spend more time on that than actually pressing that shutter button.
You are working to enhance your photography skills and building your portfolio. But don’t ignore your business savvy (or lack thereof). Use books, online or in-person classes, blogs, and vlogs to build business skills.
Many classes and books are designed for photography businesses. Mentorships with other business owners are another great way to learn.
So what non-photography skills should you brush up on? Skills in marketing and business basics are great to have.
Honing your people skills is also a great idea. How you make people feel on their wedding day matters just as much as the photos you take.
Research Your Local Market to Set the Right Prices
How much does the average wedding in your town cost? What other photographers are in your area? What are they charging? How is their work different from yours?
Understanding the market you will be running a business in, is essential. Research area weddings and other photographers in your area to get an idea of what the market is like.
Don’t fall into an obsessive pattern of “keeping up with the Joneses.” Researching the market shouldn’t be a days-long process. You should not try to imitate other businesses in the area.
The idea is to get an idea of how much couples in your area spend. And how your style differs from other photographers, not to try to become the competition.