How to Become a Good Wedding Photographer

As cliched as it might sound, the wedding day is the most beautiful and memorable day for the bridal couple. Everything needs to be in perfect precision – the rings, the bouquets, catering, decoration, and … the wedding album. Yes, without a doubt, the wedding album is one of the most important entities, because years later, these photographs will catapult the couple to a trip down memory lane. Which explains why the job of a wedding photographer is very important. He has to freeze the lovely memories in print so the couple can reminiscence about their happier times much later. It is however, not so easy to become a wedding photographer, you need an aesthetic approach and a natural sense of creativity, combined with a genuine dedication to make people’s lives happier. Not to forget, determination and hard work to make a success of your assignment. To help you in this regard, the paragraphs below enlist some of the things a wedding photographer needs to know.

Job Profile

  • The job of a wedding photographer is of course, to take photographs of the wedding day.
  • They mostly work on a contractual basis, irrespective of whether they are hired from a studio or they freelance.
  • They have to plan and take photographs – beginning with the bride walking down the aisle, the exchange of the rings, the reciting of the vows, the kiss, then, the guests, the first dance, the festivities to follow, luncheon, and on and on it goes.
  • What they need to remember is the order of priority.
  • The duties do not end with merely taking photographs, they have to be developed, processed, and designed accordingly.
  • The pictures of the bride and the groom must especially be taken care of very carefully, and must be artistically designed (like enclosing them in lovely frames, etc.).
  • They must discuss these details prior to the ceremony, and act according to the client expectations.
  • If you are running your own agency, your job responsibilities include staying abreast of the photography market and the latest equipment.

Key Skills

  • Hard Work
  • High Creativity
  • Dedication
  • Determination
  • Patience
  • Excellent Interpersonal Skills
  • Attention to Detail

Education

  • As such, there is no formal education required for this field.
  • Of course, that does not mean that you have to remain a high school graduate and expect to learn it all on your own – the statement merely means that formal education is not mandatory.
  • This means that if you have sufficient training as an amateur or assistant photographer, you may qualify for this field too.
  • If however, you want a formal degree, there are many associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and special diploma courses available at different design and art schools.
  • Your study stint will consist of varied courses and subjects, namely – basic photography skills, digital imaging, image processing, digital editing, graphic design, light exposure, color coordination, focus, shutter speed, etc.
  • You will be exposed to the technical aspects of the trade as well – you will be taught about the various tools and equipment, like the different types of camera, lenses, filters, sensors, tripod, etc.
  • You will learn about the scientific part as well – the solutions and tricks you will need to develop the photographs, the angle at which pictures have to be clicked, location, etc.
  • The software aspect will be taught too. You will learn about the various photo-editing software and the techniques to use them.
  • You will also be taught about the general poses, the expected poses, the list of ceremonies, etc.
  • What you need to remember though, is that this field requires more of a practical stint.
  • Even your courses will be 50% theory and 50% practical.
  • Therefore, practice as an amateur, and gain as much experience as you can.
  • Volunteer for minor league parties, parades, and events.
  • You have to build a good portfolio – it is your Bible, and it is what your prospective hiring agencies and clients will look at.

Training

  • As already mentioned, you will be expected to have a lot of practical experience.
  • You cannot immediately start out as an independent photographer, even with a specialization.
  • This is because this field requires immense customer trust – which means that you need to establish a loyal customer base, and this can be done when you have good contacts and you work through an already reputed agency.
  • After completing your studies, begin by joining reputed studios.
  • You may not be given on-location assignments immediately, you might have to wait for a while.
  • Even if you have experience, you will undergo training at your workplace so that you learn to adapt to their style and techniques.
  • You will be sent as an assistant photographer to various weddings.
  • Your pictures will be checked, analyzed, criticized, and approved by your senior, who is probably the chief photographer for the wedding.
  • As you learn more and more, you might be given a chance to cover a wedding assignment of your own.
  • You can work there for a few years, make contacts, establish your niche, create a loyal clientèle, and eventually branch out on your own.

How to Begin and Work

  • This is solely if you are planning to start your independent studio.
  • Choose your style and format.
  • Rent a good place to start the studio.
  • Buy good quality equipment, as mentioned earlier. Choose the right lenses.
  • Market your portfolio – this is the most important tactic.
  • If you have anyone from your loyal clientèle, you can request them to recommend you for an event.
  • Once you are publicized through word-of-mouth, you will start getting offers.
  • Choose a good name for your business – good wedding photography names go a long way to attract clients.
  • Set the price carefully. If you start off being too pricey, you will not get any customer. All the same, if you start off too low, you might be taken advantage of. Speak to the right people and arrive at a decision.
  • Your portfolio should be up-to-date.
  • When you get an assignment, first speak to the couple and family.
  • Hire an attorney and get the wedding agreement prepared. This part is very important, and it is a legal requirement. All the information regarding the event and your contribution and fees, should be mentioned in the document.
  • Check the venue carefully, decide on the shots and discuss this with the clients.
  • Check all the equipment, and think of the most creative and unique ways to make the best of this assignment.
  • Process and format the photographs correctly.
  • Be committed and deliver the album on time. If you procrastinate, it becomes a permanent blot on your career.
  • Have a backup plan in case of risks. What if it starts raining? Or you fall ill? Create a risk assessment plan.
  • After the wedding is over and you submit the album, follow up and check if the couple is happy with your work. You must take the plunge here even if they don’t.

Salary

  • Salaries vary tremendously in creative fields.
  • Your salary will depend on your skill, experience, the event covered (if it is a small-budget wedding, you will be paid less), and also the agency where you work.
  • When you are just an intern, you might probably be paid on an hourly basis.
  • An assistant photographer will again be paid according to the work done.
  • Since these jobs are mostly carried on a contractual basis, a general figure is difficult to determine.
  • According to the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics), as of May 2013, photographers can earn more than USD 36,000 annually.
  • However, this should be intended solely as a guideline, and you must remember that their salaries are always subject to change.
  • In fact, if you are an independent photographer, your pay check will vary greatly.

Job Outlook

  • The job is believed to have a decent potential in the years to come.
  • Come what may, weddings and parties are never going to cease to exist.
  • If you are talented and smart enough, you will qualify to be the right candidate and earn well.
  • Of course, your job is not going to be as glamorous as it seems – you will have to put up with late-night schedule, customer demands, style refinement, initial rejection, etc.
  • Despite all that, the work environment can be electric if you love the camera.
  • The BLS predicted that the growth rate for this job will be around 4$ between 2012 and 2022.

Mistakes to Avoid

  • If you are still an assistant photographer, do not try to go overboard and take individual pictures of the couple. Do not do any such thing until your senior tells you to. Neither will he appreciate it, nor will the couple.
  • Help choose the right background – an incorrect background will spoil the entire picture even if your shot is technically correct.
  • Take up an assignment only if you feel you can handle it properly. No, no, I am not discouraging any one. But if you feel you need more exposure, feel free to say so and wait for another opportunity.
  • Never, I mean never panic if your equipment fails at the venue. Most agencies provide a backup pronto, but if they don’t, keep a cool head and think of an alternative. You start panicking and create a scene, your career goes down the drain.
  • Do not use substandard quality. Irrespective of whether you work for a small agency, or you freelance, or even if the wedding is small-budget, use good quality equipment, image filters, and cameras. You work is visual, therefore you cannot afford a compromise.
  • Never forget your checklist – there have been instances where photographers have forgotten what to do when.Do not subject yourself to such an embarrassing situation.

Things to Remember

  • Prepare extremely well before the wedding. Know the schedule, remember the discussions with the couple, and triple-check all the equipment.
  • Make sure your backup is in place – this includes extra cameras, lenses, flash units, batteries, memory cards, etc.
  • It is a general norm to visit the wedding venue before the event. While doing so, pay close attention to every detail. Take in the background, the church, surrounding area, etc.
  • This will help you decide the location and lighting details.
  • Check your insurance. You might love kids of course, but you cannot deny that they can be absolute brats at such events. If children (or adults for that matter) break your equipment (high grade equipment can be really costly, by the way), you will need the payout.
  • Shooting all day can be very exhausting. So, take care of your health. Eat properly, and if you are prone to certain illnesses, carry the required medicines. You cannot afford to fall sick or faint during the ceremony.
  • You might face a lot of rejection initially, but don’t let this get you down.
  • Remember that this job is seasonal, and you might go for weeks without work.
  • The job requires you to be highly responsible. You might have a tremendous workload too.
  • The work, as mentioned earlier, functions on customer support. So, try to be at your charming best. Cultivate good relationships.
  • A very important point to remember – if you are one of those who dreams of a monthly pay check and a cushy, 9-5 job, this is not your forte. This field is subject to changing markets and clients, and will require you to be on high alert all the time.
  • Try to set up a niche, but do not get obsessed with the same. Your trend may be in demand for a while, and then, the gear will change. You need to adjust yourself based on your customer’s demands only.

If you are hardworking, you love the camera, and you have a creative sense, this is one of the best professions for you. Add to it a dash of style and you are all set. Play by the ground rules; begin small, but aim big. Eventually, you might open your own studio!