I used to shoot weddings. I actually enjoyed doing it. I made a great deal of money doing it and met some nice people. But it’s very hard work and requires serious dedication. Many photographers avoid doing weddings for these reasons.
For those of you who want to break into the wedding market I’ll share three things with you that I wish I would have known before I took the leap.
1. Being a wedding photographer has MUCH more to do with being able to establish, and maintain good relationships than it does photography. You can be the best technically-gifted photographic artist on the planet and if the bride, the groom, the family or the wedding party all think you are a jerk – you will fail. This is a people business NOT a photography business. If you are a photographer of average quality but have above-average people skills, you will outsell and out-book the extraordinarily talented, but unfriendly wedding photographer every time. If you are not a people person – don’t go into the wedding business unless you can hire a people person as an intermediary.
Oh and I’ll piggy back on this tip by saying find the mean grandma at the wedding and get her to smile for the camera. There is ALWAYS a mean grandma and if you can get her to smile, get a photo of it and share it with the bride, she’ll love you forever. Really!
2. Have a plan, a backup plan and a backup plan for your backup plan. Spend significant time thinking about how you want to capture the day, then plan out how you will do it. Make sure you know the location. If you’ve never been there – go ahead of time and scout it. Scout it during the hours that match the wedding time frame. Meet the officiants. Learn about any local laws, rules, customs or traditions that you’ll need to be aware of. Make sure the gear you have will work in this particular situation and then make sure you have three of everything you might possibly need. Stuff breaks – usually during a wedding. Plan for every possible contingency. Have backup transportation for you and even the bride. I’ve seen more than one limo company leave a bride stranded because the offer of a better payday came around. Think through what you need to know in advance and be ready. This is a one-time deal. There are no do-overs in wedding photography. Be prepared.
3. Be friendly, be considerate, be caring, be careful, be insightful, be cordial, be friendly, but BE IN CHARGE! The one thing that you will quickly learn is that if the pictures don’t work, it won’t matter whose fault that was – YOU will be blamed. If the caterer, the DJ, the cake maker, etc., screw up and that screw up somehow impacts your pictures there will NOT be an asterisk by the photo saying “If only the DJ hadn’t dimmed the lights this would be a great shot!”
This varies GREATLY by market and budget but there are fewer wedding coordinators these days than in the old days. Where there is no wedding coordinator, many couples, especially young couples, will look to the photographer for leadership. When that happens, take charge. Be mindful that this is their special day and make allowances for that every way you can but also make sure that the cake is on the wall under the nice lighting, and that the window curtains remain open at sunset so that the nice warm light can be used as window lighting, etc. You get the point. You need to make sure that you love up the bride and her party but you also need to remember she hired you to make her look good. It’s YOUR job – nobody else’s job. Don’t take it if you can’t be a leader. That’s what good photographers do. They lead. They protect the bride. They protect her memories. They don’t let ANYTHING get in the way of her special day and they NEVER say “that’s not my job.”
Shooting weddings can be fun, lucrative and rewarding. I could give you 1000 more tips but start with these three. If you can get these three right you’ll save yourself 1000000 problems.