5 Things I’ve Learned as a Wedding Photographer
I remember sitting a few years back next to a couple inquiring about my wedding photography services. It was not my first wedding, but it was my first paid wedding. I was sweaty and nervous, and for a reason: How do you pitch your barely developed skills to a couple to get hired as a photographer? You’ve read all the horror stories about bridezillas or, even worse, momzillas. Disappointed customers? Expectations not met? Why would you even want to get into wedding photography in the first place?
I did more than a fair amount of research and got educated in everything wedding photography. From working with wedding planners to culture-specific wedding traditions, nothing prepares you for real life. I cannot prepare you for real life, but I will share with you some of my experiences as a wedding photographer.
- Everything fails. This couple signed my contract. It was my first contract and model release, I wanted everything to look professional, just like my service. I could not afford the best equipment available then, so I decided to rent a lens and a top of the line camera body from a reputable gear rental website. I practiced non stop for a couple of days before the wedding to get acquainted to the new equipment. During the ceremony, the shutter button of the rented camera started to make an unusual noise, and a warning sign appeared on the screen. My old camera was in my bag just a few feet behind me, so I grabbed it and captured the kiss just fine. The gear rental site did a great job voiding the rental cost of the body and apologizing for the problem. This was my first paid wedding and my primary camera went caput. At a different wedding, the mother of the bride had to rush home before the ceremony, 20 minutes away from the venue, as she had left the bride’s veil. This delayed the family pictures and missed the “EVERYONE IN ONE SHOT” picture. She was mad at me. Sadly, you will quickly learn that everything can and will fail, if you’re lucky, it won’t happen all during the same event.
- Don’t just know your camera, know your environment. I needed to rent that camera body because I knew the church was dark, and when I say dark, I mean DARK. ISO 1600 could barely do the job. Do your due diligence and know your environment, where you’re going to work and who you’re going to work with. Sometimes you don’t need the extra equipment, but if your environment requires it, cut on your profits to offer a better product. Your clients will thank you for it in the form of worth of mouth recommendations.
- Wedding photography is more about people than about photography. My professional training is in software systems engineering. Engineers are known to be socially awkward introverts, that used to be me, but it is not anymore. I have, however, trained myself to be comfortable around others and become good at understanding and reading people. That mom was not mad at me, she was disappointed because things were not going according to the flight plan. I sat down with her and gave her a few options. We discussed when we could take that shot in a way that wouldn’t interfere with the regular course of the event. She then realized that she didn’t need that picture and felt good because it was going to be okay. You will find that you will need to act as a counselor, coach, wedding director, assistant, taylor (yes, taylor), and confident. That is the reality of a wedding photographer.
- Clients do trust you (and if they don’t, make them trust you). “Trust me, it will look [add any synonym of awesome here].” This is one of my mostly used phrases. Even though your clients have phones with cameras, they still trust your artistic view, your experience and your input. Showing confidence and coaching them through the process will help them relax and enjoy the day. This will make your life a lot easier.
- Be honest. Always. During my first interview, I was asked how many weddings I had shot. I said that I had never shot a wedding for money, but I had been fortunate enough to shoot two in the past for people with no resources. I went on to explain my experience as a photographer and showed confidence in the kind of work I can do for them. Do not be arrogant and promise something you cannot deliver, know your limits. You need to sell yourself, but always serve your client and their interests first. If they cannot deal with your honesty, they are not a good fit for you. When this is the case, your relationship will probably end in disappointment for them and frustration for you.
Always keep your clients in mind. Understand that your goal is to help make their wedding the most important day of their lives. This will allow you become a better photographer and a better business person. Always enjoy what you do and don’t give up when you have a bad experience. There will always be struggles, how you deal with them is part of the learning process. You are fortunate to be a wedding photographer.