Editor’s note: This is a two-part series from award winning wedding photographer, Sam Stroud, who has been featured in various international publications. In this article, Sam is sharing advice on how he went from having 5 weddings in year one, to 88 weddings in year three.
Getting started in the wedding industry is brutal. It’s a daunting task. If you don’t believe me then just take a few minutes where you sit now and Google the phrase “Wedding Photographer.” Compare that number to any other industry in your area, and if it’s anything like the small town I live in, it’s a staggering number … and also downright depressing.
When I first decided to dive head first into shooting weddings full-time, I was scared—really scared. There was a moment of panic and fear that set in. Why would a bride ever decide to work with me? Not only were there a ridiculous amount of photographers who had talent, but there were also an equal amount of morons running around with cameras who had no idea what they were doing but were also calling themselves “wedding photographers.” And who was to say I fit into either of those categories? I am not foolish enough to believe that “just getting started” was all that was required of me to become successful one day.
Maybe you’re in the same place. You want to start, but you don’t know where to begin. Welcome to my hell. I like to call this the “I-want-to-do-this-so-bad-but-I-am-paralyzed-by-my-own-fear-of-failing-and-so-afraid-that-people-will-point-and-laugh-at-me-when-I-walk-down-the-street”. And no, I don’t have a more clever way of putting that. It is what it is. And it is downright terrifying.
So, where do you begin? How do you start? How do you begin to take the first step toward becoming successful? After all, this is an industry that has someone on every virtual corner tweeting about this workshop, or this technique, and “Why you need to shoot like this or with that.” With so much noise, how do you brush it aside and begin to create a voice (and look) that is uniquely your own?
I am going to give you a process. Not THE process, but my process. What I don’t care about is becoming the guy who thousands flock to in order to learn how to pose the bride and groom. While that is an important part of creating a beautiful image, it won’t help you get started. What I do want to do is help you along as I was helped along in taking the first step in doing something that I love to do—a career that I believe will create a network of shared stories. Emotions felt, moments remembered, told from generation to generation, and image by image … forever.
When I first started, I asked myself why. “Why do I want to do this? What’s the point?” And don’t mistake this for, “What’s my mission statement?” Those are nice. But instead ask yourself, what are you fighting for? What is it about what we do as wedding photographers that we believe in? And how are you going to empress that on the bride and groom? The “why” is our true north. If you aren’t sure why you are doing something, you can’t set your goals to succeed against.
So, stop Googling, “How do I pose the bride and groom?” and “How do I put a bed in the middle of a field and make the most amazing image that won’t make sense to anybody 10 years from now?” Becoming and staying inspired is important and completely different for each photographer. Ultimately, though, find your inspiration in what you are doing. For me, when it is July, and I am already 55 weddings in, with 45 more to go, I have to absolutely find something that keeps things fresh for me. What I don’t do is find out how everybody else is shooting. Find what you love about this industry and grab a hold of it and make it yours and don’t let it go.
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