When I first started photographing weddings in 2013, let me tell you- I was a completely different photographer. I had only ever attended 3 or 4 weddings myself, and I had yet to grasp actually telling a compelling story through those photographs. I shot with one lens, which was a great way to push myself artistically but missed the mark of framing those fine art atmospheric photographs that I longed to make. When I look back at the photographs of my past weddings, I still love them so much, but the ways I would shoot those weddings today would be wildly different. Today, I am here to help you avoid the mistakes I made, and change the way you approach wedding photography.
As you travel down the path of being a wedding photographer, you’ll likely notice yourself making some profound realizations about how you want to approach your craft. This is a good thing; it means that you’re growing and becoming a more unique photographer, which is what will lead you to success working with couples who share your same ethos.
Photographing the most special moments of someone’s life, along with all of the joy, tears, and emotions that we feel in our line of work, makes our careers so much more than a regular job. It’s time to ask yourself the questions: “What drives me?” and “Why do I enjoy my career?” Likely, your answer will have nothing to do with money. It may be that you feel empowered by capturing such beautiful photographs for people, or that you enjoy the social interactions and storytelling that always take place at weddings. Maybe you understand the importance of photography due to personal reasons, or you know that owning your own business is what you were destined to do. Understanding your “why” will catapult you into the next level of photography and likely change the way you want to photograph weddings.
The latter of that sentence may be the most important thing you can figure out to grow your business. You are not for everyone, and that’s totally okay! In fact, that’s exactly what you want in your business. You cannot serve everyone, but you can be an expert in your niche. Take some time to pinpoint your ideal clients and connect with them, because taking on everything and everyone is a great way to feel burnt out.
Assisting other photographers is such a great way to gain a new perspective, technique, or technical approach to weddings. You get to observe the way that photographer interacts with guests and family members, how they catch the light in their photos, and how they direct their couple. These first-hand experiences are really invaluable when you’re a novice at weddings! You will leave with tips on posing, lighting, navigating unexpected situations, and so much more that you can use at your own weddings.
Literally, this will change how you physically approach weddings for the better. Shooting with prime lenses forces you to move around instead of staying stationary and zooming in and out. I feel that this leads to more creative choices in framing and more variety in the gallery. I do like to shoot with my 70-200 lens during ceremonies to get closer when I physically cannot, but other than that, primes all the way. My favorite combo on a wedding day is 35mm and 58mm.
When you know who the couple’s important people are on their wedding day, you’re more likely to spend a little extra time focusing on them. You’ll notice relationships, hear inside jokes and stories about the couples, and your photos will be more genuine and candid. You may not have otherwise known that a great aunt had flown in from Paris, and your bride hasn’t seen her in 10 years but used to be really close with her. You can then focus on getting more candids of her throughout the day, knowing her relationship to the bride.
Especially in Maine, we get a lot of destination wedding clients. Sometimes this means they don’t choose/aren’t able to do an engagement session, and as photographers, we lose out on part of that connection that we gain from meeting our couples in person. It can be a little nervewracking to arrive at a wedding and not even really know who the partners of the couples are (this has happened to me before and I thought a groomsman was the groom!) Since then, I now ask for a photo of the couple if we’re not going to meet face-to-face, and explain to them that I just want to know who I’m looking for day-of. That, along with a good phone call that sets them at ease about the flow of the day with you is going to lead to better photographs and a stronger client experience!
Brain-dumping, voice memos, and writing things down are great ways to remember the important moments of a wedding day. I do this firstly to help with my blogs and social media posts, but also to recall anything I could have done better, anything that was out of my control, and things I really loved about the wedding day. You can use these notes to hone in on who you want to work with in the future.
For example, you may realize after shooting in a church that you were unable to move around and get those really close photographs of the couple that is signature to your style, so you’ll know in the future to approach those bookings with caution. You could also take note of things like how the first look really eased the couple’s nerves, and you could ask them for a review of that after gallery delivery to encourage others to do the same!
I attempt to set a photography goal for each wedding I shoot. For smaller weddings with a lot of portrait time, I generally have more time to practice creative camera techniques. It is important to take advantage of any opportunity to get creative at weddings. So often, weddings consist of taking the necessary shots, those key moments, and focusing on showcasing your style as well. It can be overwhelming to think of also practicing something new, but it can be a game-changer in the style and advancement of your skills!
Blogging is one of the most important marketing steps you can take in your business. When you create a blog, you are curating the day of images in a way that showcases your style, the moments you loved, your editing techniques, and your approach. For example, I include a lot of atmospheric shots (venue, details, light, and textures) in my blog posts, because I know these help to tell a better story, and I want my future couples to be sure to hire me for enough time to photograph those. I’ll say it one more time if you’re not already blogging about your favorite weddings, start now!
Having a professional photographer who has already gone through everything you are in your career, coaching you on best practices and how to make your business soar is the best way to make rapid changes and improvements in your photography! Together with a mentor, you can skip the confusion and frustrations that come with figuring everything out on your own. If you think mentorship is right for your business, I would love to talk with you!
Learn more about business coaching here.