Make her big day your pay day!
Once your friends and family know you’re a photographer, sooner or later you’ll be asked to shoot a wedding – and while it can be great fun, it’s not something you should take on lightly.
Many pros consider wedding photography one of the hardest ways to earn a living with a camera: the client’s expectations are huge, the stakes are high and the responsibility is all yours. However, if you’re competent with your camera and image editing software, have high-quality reliable kit and enjoy working with people, then it is possible to earn money by photographing a wedding. Even if you don’t fancy taking on the main photographer duties at a friend’s wedding, you could offer to take on the second photographer duties, shooting from alternative angles and getting background shots – it’s all good experience.
If you decide to get serious about shooting weddings, the Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers (www.swpp.co.uk) and the Guild of Photographers (www.photoguild.co.uk) have lots of information to offer, and it’s worth considering joining.
Get the kit
You only have one chance to shoot a wedding, so you can’t afford to miss any opportunities because of gear failure. Make sure your kit is in perfect working order, with backed-up batteries and plenty of freshly formatted memory cards.
If possible, have at least two camera bodies (with spotless sensors) and if you only have one camera, consider hiring or borrowing a second so that if one camera fails you can switch to the other. The same goes for lenses – make sure you have plenty of overlap in focal length so that if your standard zoom lens stops focusing you can swap to another, or perhaps to a 50mm or 85mm prime.
If the worst happens and you drop a lens, or a piece of kit fails, you have to take it in your stride and carry on; the bride and groom won’t be happy about you crying over broken glass. With two camera bodies you can also mount different focal length lenses on each, and switch seamlessly between shooting wide scene-setting images and tightly framed details.
Visit the venue before the big day to assess the light and find good backdrops
Visit the wedding venue before the big day, but at the same time of day as the wedding. This will enable you to assess the light, and find good backdrops for the posed portrait shots – it’s no good finding a great background if the sun is shining directly in the bride and groom’s eyes and they’re squinting in every shot.
Remember to look for good and bad weather locations, so you’re prepared if it’s raining on the day. Flash isn’t usually allowed inside the church, and the low light will mean using high sensitivity settings, so a more recent digital SLR with a good focusing system and noise control could be the difference between beautiful, atmospheric images and soft shots that are ruined by noise.
Make a plan
Before the wedding, speak to the bride and groom about the type of images they want, and show them examples of your work to be sure they like your style; get a list of guests, and who they want to be photographed. You also need to agree a price, and draw up a contract the specifies exactly what you’ll provide for that fee. It’s a good idea to mention that you retain the copyright of the images, and that you will only store the images that you show them, and any others will be deleted.
10 top tips for making money from weddings
Shadow a PRO
A great way to get started is to find a wedding photographer who’ll let you shadow them as a “second shooter” at a few events. You’ll be able to build up a portfolio of photos without the risk and stress of shooting solo.
Build up an online portfolio. Your website should be clean, clear of distractions, and contain no more than 50-80 of your best photos. Your website is your shop front: it’s how you show clients what you do, and get bookings.
Ready to shoot your first wedding? Make sure you have insurance. It’s essential to protect your business, your kit and the venue, and it gives your clients confidence that you take your work seriously.
Make it pay
You might be tempted to keep your prices low when you’re starting out, but don’t put yourself out of pocket. Factor in the time spent on pre-wedding consultations, editing, and the cost of travel, gear rental and prints.
When you’re starting out, look at renting equipment for more professional results without the huge outlay.
Prepare a shot list including classic shots like the rings, the bride getting ready, the kiss, the first dance and the cutting of the cake as well as candid shots. Get the couple to set aside half an hour on the day for some portrait shots which won’t be captured by family and guests.
Couples often think they have copyright to images, but copyright always stays with the photographer, so make this clear from the outset. Couples can buy copies of photos, but the right to reproduce them stays with you; you can supply prints, or send out discs with reproduction rights.
Get a diary
Timetabling is key. You may have a wedding every Saturday of the summer, but don’t forget to leave time for pre-event meetings and editing. Couples will look to book a photographer up to a year in advance, so pencil in those dates and have a consultation after six months or so.
Once you’ve shot ten or so weddings you’ll have hundreds of images of table settings, flowers and other accessories. Anything that doesn’t need a model or a property release is ideal to sell as stock, which is a nice way to make money in the wedding-free winters.
Get some business knowledge if you want to take wedding photography seriously. Find local business courses, and join networking groups for wedding photographers; they’re invaluable contacts for referrals, training opportunities and a bit of support.