There is of course much to consider beyond taking pictures. How will you build up a portfolio to show clients? How will you win clients? How will you present your portfolio? What packages will you offer? What equipment do you need? How much post- processing will be involved? How much can you charge and how can you maximise profits? Importantly, can you make a living from professional wedding photography?
It is actually easier to get started in portrait photographer compared with wedding photography – you can start with family and friends who are usually willing subjects.
It is harder to build a wedding photography portfolio with no experience, but it can be done. There might be a wedding in the family, where you could ask for a short time with the bride and groom to photograph them. It can be a problem if they have hired a photographer who may not appreciate the competition. Alternatively you could hire a model and a wedding dress, hire a local wedding venue or church. Portfolio workshops could be a good option if you are in a hurry, although might be expensive and you have less control. Working as a second shooter at a wedding could be a good option.
Running a successful wedding photography business involved around 20% photography and 80% marketing. You will need to consider how to win clients otherwise you have no business. We have found the best way to advertise your services is to have a website where you display your online portfolio. A targeted online advertising campaign can generate several phone and Email enquiries. Other forms of advertising (adverts on cars, in magazines) may not be so successful. Wedding fayres can be good, particularly if they are at local venues where you hope to find work. Be careful to only show your very best work and it must be very well presented. You will have an initial conversation with the bride or groom. Remember the main purpose is only to book a meeting with the couple.
Your pricing structure depends on your target market. It is best to avoid the ‘budget photographer’ label, it can be very difficult to shake off as you gain experience.
Remember to factor in all the hours that will be spent preparing for the wedding, the post-production work (which could be several days for one wedding), the cost of equipment, insurance and transport. You need to have an idea of what the serious competition is charging. If you are just starting, you will need to be reasonably priced compared to them. You can put your prices up as you gain experience. My advice would be not to work for free just to gain experience! You will be valued more highly by paying customers who appreciate good photography. An effective pricing strategy would be to offer at least 3 levels of service. Your lowest priced package should be above the ‘budget photoographers’ in your area. Clients should clearly see what they will be getting, both the hours of photography and the format of presentation. In many cases, clients opt for the middle package when presented with a choice of 3 levels!
The booking meeting, start with the highest level package. Show only stunning and creative shots of brides, bride & groom together and reportage style shots. Don’t show group shots, they are often much less inspiring and will not win many clients!
Decisions are made based on you and whether they like you. Believe it or not, they are not analysing your photography so much as your behaviour! They have most likely already seen some of your work on your website. Be relaxed, confident, friendly and business like. Your posture will win the assignment! You don’t need to start planning the wedding at this stage. Later, you will have a pre-wedding meeting, where the wedding photography will be planned in detail. It is usual to take a deposit of around 20% to secure the booking and the remainder needs to be paid before the wedding (don’t wait until after, you will struggle to get it!)
In many ways, your choice of equipment is much less important than the marketing considerations already discussed. Photographers have their own view on what equipment they need and will be determined by style.
In general, you will need professional grade equipment, with spares of everything! Be prepared for equipment failures.
As you progress, you will develop your own unique style and preferred ways of working. How much posing do you like to do? Do you prefer to be a fly on the wall and record a documentary style. I have always felt more secure with an element of intervention and posing, but keeping this to a minimum and working quickly is likely to produce more natural results. Gone are the days of long sessions talking formal groups, although some group shots are recommended. A group shot can be turned into a reportage shot quite easily, for example, by asking the subjects to look at each other and smile!
I would recommend attending a training course to develop technique and working knowledge of the method of wedding photography. Professional Wedding Photography is a big responsibility, but also hugely rewarding for the right people. So why not give it a go?