Being a completely self-taught photographer, I know how hard it can be to get started. I was thinking that I would make a post like this to do whatever I can to help those who are beginning wedding photographers!
I’ll start by saying that being a couples and wedding photographer is WAY MORE than taking photos. It’s learning how to market, building a website, building your brand, figuring out what type of clients you want to work with, spending hours culling and editing, learning how to edit the way you want to edit, doubting yourself constantly…want me to go on?! ANYHOOZER, here are a few tips and tricks that I wish I would’ve known when I started out.
Free Shoots and Styled Shoots are Your Best Friend
Free shoots. Whaaaat?! I know this part seems kinda sucky because you’re starting a business and want to make money. But trust me, when you’re first starting out, it really helps.
I have done A LOT of free shoots because it’s a way to not only practice but also beef up your portfolio. It gives you the chance to work with different types of people and get an understanding of the types of couples you want to work with. You can also have complete creative freedom over free shoots—from the couple to the location. I usually posted model calls and boosted them on Facebook or Instagram or even posted in my local buy/sell clothing group. Many people will respond, but you get to choose who you work with! I like to have each person that inquires tell me a little bit about their relationship and all that jazz. It gives you a good idea of who people are and if they’re someone you want to work with! A similar way to do this is by hosting giveaways. That way if you’re not 100% comfortable choosing out of a group of people, you can let a random generator do it for you.
Putting together your own personal styled shoots is a way to get some wedding-related images when you’re beginning to build your portfolio. The biggest downfall is that they do cost money unless you can find vendors that will donate their time and services.
You can find affordable wedding-like dresses on websites like Lulus or other online boutiques. I find that most men already have a suit, but you can also collaborate with companies for both dresses and suits. Personally, I find a dress (or dresses or suits), a couple, a HMU artist, a florist, and a venue. I’m a super couples-focused wedding photographer, so the details such as table scapes and all that jazz aren’t important to me when it comes to putting together shoots. But that’s just my personal preference. This is also a GREAT way to build connections with other vendors!
Free and Styled Shoots are Your BFF, but Actual Friends Are Important Too
This part may not be the easiest, but the whole reason I’m giving these deets is because it’s NOT easy. I do want to possibly help others and make it a tiny bit easier though. MAKE FRIENDS! Find someone you vibe with really well. I got REALLY lucky that I was friends with someone in high school that just so happens to be an amazing wedding photographer. And I still look up to her to this day and ask her for advice on the regular (shout out to Shelby Robinson!) Your intention in making friends with fellow photographers should NOT be to copy their work or know exactly how they edit or anything of that manner. You need people who understand the struggle and will be there to support you. Maybe it’s just me (although I doubt it), but when you first start your business, it can be emotionally taxing. You may have a lot of questions. FRIENDS SUPPORT FRIENDS!
Second (or Third) Shoot Your Freakin Heart Out
I second shot 15-20 weddings last year. I lost count to be honest. There was a weekend or 2 where I second shot 3 weddings in a row. But it wasn’t easy at first. My poor socially anxious soul went out of my way to e-mail wedding photographers I admired asking them if I could second shoot for them. I don’t think anybody really replied. This is where the above free shoots and styled shoots really help. I’m going to be 10000000% honest here—I’m not going to hire a second shooter that doesn’t have experience. Ultimately (in my opinion at least) a second shooter is there to capture moments in case something crazy happens and the main misses it or if I’m deathly ill and need that back up. Sometimes first kisses are really short and fast. Life happens. Third shooting is a different story though. WAY less stress on you and primarily a portfolio building experience. And for me, this depends on the size of the wedding. If it’s a smaller wedding, a third shooter probably isn’t a good idea. Have you ever been in a decent sized bridal or groom’s suite? Cause there aren’t many. Anyway, second shooting is an amazing way to build your portfolio. My one piece of advice: DO NOT EVER DO IT FOR FREE unless the wedding is out of state and your food, travel, and lodging are paid for. You are still putting your time and effort into the day, and you deserve to be paid. Join second shooter groups and local photographer groups to find gigs!
Just. Keep. Swimming.
Pardon my French, but this shit is hard. It takes time, patience, money, and energy. Time and patience especially. But you ARE good enough. Most importantly—BE YOURSELF. YOU are the backbone of your business. YOU take the photos. YOU do the things. So why be somebody that you’re not?!