As Spring gathers steam and hits its stride, wedding photographers all over gear up for sleepless nights in front of a monitor, intoxicated Macarena dance moves, and most importantly, activity in their bank accounts once more. Feeling left out of all that fun? Here are some pointers for joining in on the fun.
Do The Necessary Homework, But Do Not Stop There
The photography industry is brimming with online tutorials that allow seasoned photographers to share their knowledge, and experience on to the next willing student. Vast wedding day resources exist on the web, including some terrific ones here on Fstoppers. These online resources are great foundation builders, they will get you familiar with the concepts, and allow you to pour a solid foundation. And while one could technically watch tutorials all day, and all night, after a while you will reach diminishing returns, as that knowledge never gets a chance to cement in place through hands-on use. Bottom line with tutorials is they are a great way to start building your knowledge base but don't stop there.
Network and Identify a Mentor
At a certain point, your interest level may start to increase towards the idea of taking this overwhelming passion for photography full time. Knowing that full time is a long-term goal, deciding for yourself to have a look around at a revenue generating opportunity like in this example, weddings are often inevitable. To start off is fairly simple, do what we all do nowadays, wait for it, that’s right a Google search. Type up something like “wedding photographers in my area,” and scout all of the local wedding photographer guru's online portfolio’s, matching yourself up with the artists' styles you most identify with. Then it’s time to send some the awkward blind emails out, with samples of what is your current example work, and a cover-letter-style explanation as to why you are contacting them. Remember photographers get lots of inquiries daily, so it’s important to not neglect this opportunity to provide a genuine, and concise overview of the purpose for why you are contacting them.
The overall goal of this step is to reel yourself in a mentor. It’s important to set for yourself realistic expectations, you are trading in your time, and energy for the opportunity to travel right to the heart of the wedding day beast, and dance around its fire, while as an extra set of hands avoiding any real chance of getting burned. At this point as an assistant, you are continuing the learning, and growing process you started online with tutorials but with the volume taken up a notch. Additionally you will continue to add more layers as you begin to graduate from assisting, towards becoming an extra photographer banking experience shooting receptions, and from there eventually working directly off of the primary photographer as a dedicated, and paid second shooter.
Your Turn to Walk the Plank, Not Without a Safety Raft
At this point, you will have bridged yourself into an existing network of wedding photographers. Also with the hands-on experience you built, a bit of a portfolio showcasing your own work, some outline for pricing, and how to package your wedding day service. Friends, family, and locals searching for this service will start to take notice, and soon inquiries will start to swim their way to your inbox. Sooner or later you have to make the leap, you built a solid foundation so is now the time? Yes of course, but with one caveat, pay the price, even overpay if you have to, tap into that network, and hire a reliable, and proven wedding photographer. A wedding photographer who is a veteran with tons of experience to run alongside you, especially for this first primary shooting foray.
The moment is undeniably big, and things move fast as your head spins. When things inevitably go wrong, which they will, having a calm, experienced hardened presence with to help pull you through the day is worth eating into your day's profits. This isn’t a day for getting rich, it’s a day for taking another forward step into a full time paid occupation. So do not be afraid to dial into the wedding photographer draft pool, even consistently busy wedding photographers don’t have weddings of their own scheduled every weekend of the year, and most would be happy to earn some unplanned income on the day of your wedding, as a well-compensated hired hand.
You have to learn to walk before you can run, wedding photography like any job has many layers to it. No one greets you in the parking lot with an employee handbook, outlining step by step instructions for the job when you arrive. Simply being a good photographer like so many of you clearly are is not enough to guarantee you will successfully document a couples once in a lifetime celebration. Grow in layers, and allow yourself to learn from those who grew before you.