Building a wedding portfolio?

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by kim_l., Apr 17, 2008.

  1. Hi..
    Maybe this has already been asked elsewhere...
    I wonder if anyone would share their thoughts on building a wedding portfolio. I
    am very interested in pursuing this field, but have never photographed a wedding
    and therefore have zero wedding pictures to show a potential bride.

    I spend hours reading all I can and learning all I can about the business, but
    I'm seriously lacking real world experience. And obviously a lot of it can only
    be learned through hands on experience.
    I don't have any friends getting married, so that's out. It's sort of like the
    old "how do you get credit if you have no credit already" scenario.
    I'd be more than happy to do some shooting for free if I knew where would be the
    best place to offer this. Churches? Wedding gown stores?

    I believe that shooting a couple's wedding is a big responsibility to a
    photographer... a bride is only going to have this day once in a lifetime.
    (well...that's what she thinks anyway, and hopefully she is right) so I would
    not want to seem flippant about "oh I'll shoot your wedding for free" as if
    their day doesn't deserve a "real wedding photographer", and plus sure would
    hate to screw up someone's important day. But you have to start somewhere and
    I'm just racking my brain for ideas.

    Your thoughts, suggestions and experiences would be greatly appreciated.
  2. Craigslist and word of mouth. You have a myspace? post a bulletin. You should be able to drum up a free weddng there. I doubt people would be offended, because they're replying to you as an interested party. I'm doing a friends wedding simply cause they cant afford a pro. Some people also just dont care that much about the photos, and if you offer, they may be receptive.
  3. It is tricky, but if you are looking for a portfolio then 'invent' a wedding with friends etc. This get's you some nice pictures to put on your advert/website until you gain more weddings.

    David is right, firends and free weddings help, but I would not recommend doing a whole wedding yourself until you realise what that involves. So a few ways to gain experience is to shadow a photographer. Either, go to a wedding and observe the photographer and what they do etc...or get in touch with a local wedding photographer and approach them as a second shoote/assistant [for a minimal wage, or for free]. Remember though if you are keen on becoming a wedding photographer then you will be in competition with these photographers and they may need persuading why they should help the competition :)

    Also, if you can afford, attend a seminar or work day on social/wedding photography. A lot of courses and other photographers set up these days for a fee and then teach you what's invovled. But they aren't cheap!

    How much 'general photography' experience do you have? This plays a big part on where you stand.

    I'm going to invest on a course this year, and I do weddings myself as a professional, so learning is very important to everyone...not just those who don't have any experience. Learning how others work and how things unravel for others gives you a great platform for building a better and more rounded profile, and ultimately reflects in what you yourself achieve.
  4. Look for opportunities to be a 'Second shooter' either by posting a request to second-shoot on this forum or elsewhere on the 'net... try and work with an established pro who is willing to teach and give pointers, and whose style you like. No point learning from a willing pro who does photojournalistic style wedding photography and what you might really like is the more traditional formal, posed-shot style...
  5. Hi,

    In my opinion I think it is getting very tough to find an established wedding photographer that is wiling to take on someone looking to learn the business. They are out there but can be hard to find not to mention that there are lots and lots of eager applicants trying to get these positions. Almost 3 years ago when I became interested in doing weddings I contacted photographers in my area and posted my plea online in various forums with no success. I finally decided to find a few couples who were going to marry and didnt plan on having a photographer to photograph their wedding. I offered my services with the full understanding that I was trying to break in and needed the experience and the portfolio shots. I found this great way to start building my portfolio but it was a hard way to gain knowledge because I was trying to learn without the benefit of an experienced wedding photographer to guide me. I suggest that you first get to know your camera inside and out. You cant or most always cant shoot a wedding on auto mode and get good results. You need to be able to use manual mode and make adjustments and compensation changes on the fly.
    Lots of people want to be wedding shooters but only some will be successful and survive. You need to take pride in your work and ALWAYS listen to your clients wants and needs. I have learned that you sometimes have to remind yourself that you are shooting to please your clients and not necessarily please yourself. It is very hard work and can be extremely stressful but I find it is a great creative outlet and it is very rewarding when the job is done and you see the clients reaction to your efforts. Anyhow I am getting off the main subject and starting ramble. Good luck!
  6. I started my photo business a year ago and was also having a hard time building a wedding portfolio. However I went ahead with the buisness, building my portfolio outside of weddings. While still offering weddings on my website a budget bride contacted me and asked me to shoot a wedding on short notice. I made her aware that I hadn't shot a wedding before and she was okay with that. This one wedding opened up a world of possibilities. Find a way to get the first and they just flow in. I still don't have a huge portfolio but have several weddings booked this year. Another way I plan to build my portfolio is with a group I work with innovative Imagemakers they set up models who work in exchange for photos. This August they are going to do a bride/groom shoot. And since they will probably be attractive it will really benefit my portfolio. By the way don't stress to much a lot of photographers on this website can be tough on new photographers who want to enter the wedding market.
  7. Kim - the best way to do this, if you ask me, is to first assist another photographer, and then second shoot for another photographer, and then do your own wedding. there is a LOT to good wedding photography that has nothing to do with the camera - it has to do with people skills, organizing and knowing where to be and when.

    if you don't go that way, an easy way to do it is to shoot a wedding for free. I don't mean going to some ritzy hotel and promising free photography - I mean going to some place where a couple might be married and not have a photographer anyway, like a justice of the peace. or go to a small church, talk to the pastor or priest and tell him that if there is a couple in the congregation that aren't budgeting a lot of $$ for their wedding (a lot of people can't afford the US average $28,000 weddings!), and were NOT planning on having a photographer, that you would like to offer your services for free.

    the reason you want to connect with couples who would otherwise have NO photographer is because without knowing what your skills are, you do NOT want to convince a couple who would otherwise hire an established professional to go with you, and then risk messing something up.

    if you photograph a couple who otherwise would have nothing, the worst that you can do is mess everything up and give them nothign at the end of the day, in which case the only real damage you have done is disappointed them, but at least you didn't PREVENT them from hiring someone who knows what they are doing.

    do a few free weddings, start putting the best stuff in a book, then show it around.
  8. Kim-
    I was just having this problem this week but mine was with maternity shots. I posted an ad on craigslist. So far I've gotten a few candidates. So you could try that.
  9. Hi Kim,

    I hope this doesn't sound condescending or discourage you. Do you have experience
    photographing people? I was looking at your youtube site. You could be the greatest
    undiscovered wedding photographer ever, but the gap between photographing a dog
    playing on a beach and wedding photography is bigger than the grand canyon.

    Do you have good pictures of any people to show a bride or a photographer that you are worth taking a chance on even for free.
  10. l_e


    have your friends play dress up and photograph them.
  11. My question is why weddings?

    Every beginner is charging from $0 to $500 thinks it is easy money. Those more established are sometimes limited to $1500 to $2500 in my area. That gives the beginner room to cut into their business.

    It's a hard business model to build into a successful business.

    Expect to spend a minimum of $5,000 on equipment. Add another $5000 for computers, programs, sample albums, website, insurance ($700 annually), phone, rate cards, bridal fair booths.

    Then there is the ernormous, and I mean it seriously, the enormous amount of time investment. Travel, the wedding itself, post processing 1000 images, meetings, etc... Are you any good at Photoshop?

    I'm not trying to discourage you on give you a realistic expectation building from scratch. Any second shooter job where you can lean on a pro is the best approach. It's a crash course and the quickest way to improve. Then there freebies or at cost weddings.

    It would likely take you two years of second shooting and doing Craigslist brides to have the experience. Even then you likely wont be able to use many images, because the pro you worked under isn't stupid and the Craigslist bride might not always be an ideal venue.

    There is so much to this that the picture taking is almost a bonus.

    I wouldn't think of putting on a fake wedding. That is false advertisement and begging someone to sue.

    Put it this way. If I charge $1600 for a wedding, after I pay for the album, prints, travel, taxes, an assistant, I might be left with $700. (That doesn't include the fixed overhead of the phone, website, insurance, gear needs).

    So why invest 20 hours in a wedding to net $25 per hour, when you could make that and much more doing portraits, with far less of an investment in time, money, and gear.

    My best advice on top of second shooting an CL brides, is to contact your local weekly newspapers and offer to freelance. You make alot of connections, shoot in similar venues, gain practice working with people, see your name in print each week, and gives you an excuse to experiment and shoot often.
  12. To clarify my points... not meaning to sound bitter, only realistic.

    I LOVE doing weddings... but it took two years of working essentially for free, investing $10K, and investing probably 20+ hours per week before I got my first few paying jobs, and it's still a struggle.

    Just weigh that vs the thirty mom's with a camera taking a camera class at the local camera store with the same ideas floating around in their heads.

    I'm moving as fast as I can back to film, shooting portraits in B+W and trying my hand at fine art and enjoying photography... :)

    Good luck and feel free to email me if you have any specific questions...
  13. l_e


    Everyone is different. You could have an experience like Robbie's which is pretty common. Or you could be in your 2nd year, after assisting for about 6 months, with a minimum package of $4500, booking 25-30 weddings per year, and clearing over $100K both your first and second full years. You can also expect to invest between $10K and $30K depending on your kit.
  14. Thank you for your honest and straight forward input. offense taken at all. I appreciate all advice. I don't expect to be able to just jump into something and have it be a "get rich quick" gig. I know that I have a lot of hard work and a lot of learning to do if I want to pursue any kind of professional photography, much less weddings.

    In my "real job" I do airbrushing (temporary tattoos, t-shirts, etc) at Bar & Bat Mitzvahs, company parties, corporate events, etc. and so as I already have somewhat of a clientele in the event planning industry, I'm hoping that I can get competent enough to be able to offer photography services to these folks and possibly weddings as well.

    I hope I'm not seen as one of those folks who show up on a board and expect everyone to just "tell me your secrets". On the forums that cater to airbrush artists I know how annoying it is when someone shows up and just expects everyone to turn over their hard earned knowledge without any knowledge or expertise of their own to contribute to the community in return.

    Here is a link to some other photography I've you think I have any potential?
    Misc. Photos

    Thanks again Kim
  15. Where are the pictures?

    It's exciting to be around beautiful people on such a wonderful day in their lives. That is the bonus for all of the work you do managing the business, meetings, and post wedding processing etcc....

    My opinion is that portraits might be a better place to start, then ease into the weddings. Working for a newspaper gives you some credibility and wins awards, meets paople. Second shooting is essential.

    My goal was never to venture out unprepared, so I took a little longer. 40 weddings as second shooter allowed me to always have a plan in certain situations. You never want to use somebodies wedding as OJT.
  16. Hi Robbie... does the link not work?
  17. Here in the UK, when I wanted to build my portfolio I approached the local registrar's office (place for civil ceremonies) and asked if I could put up a card offering free coverage and an enlargement in exchange for the experience. Of course I got the calls, not the prettiest place to work from but then again it got me started.

    The suggestion of portraiture is also a good one - less risks and a good way to build your creativity and shot making.
  18. Post on craigslist. Get some TFCD with models in your area. Build your port anyway you can.
    Offer LOW cost weddings and go from there. If you are good it will show :)
  19. 1) Do NOT shoot someone's wedding without experience. How do you get experience? Second shoot with an established photographer. While not every photographer out there is willing to educate others, some of us are. There are also books on how to get started in wedding photography. I cannot link you to my own as that would be a violation of TOS here on the forum, but I do know such books are available because I (among others) have published them.

    2) When you're second shooting, work with a studio who will allow you to post the photographs you took at those weddings, on your own site. Most studios will require you to provide that studio with credit, such as "Joe Photographer for ABC Wedding Photography"

    3) Once you have LOTS of practice, you can not only shoot someone's wedding, but not have to charge minimal prices to get the work. Your partner photographers will likely also start referring business to you if you have shown you're good enough and they have the date already booked.
  20. The recommendation of starting with portrature is a good one, especially for someone like me. Being more of an introvert, I have great difficulty working with people and posing them. That is what the wedding formals are, portraits. And that is the one wedding photo that the couple will display in their home. All the other photos will be hidden away in the album.

    Do you have a list of the shots you should get? They are probably in the various books. And if you are like me, until that list is burnt into your brain, you may need an assistant to keep track of all the shots you need to get. Even then you may want your assistant to check off the shots on the list, because the client may add some shots of their own. If you miss a shot, you may not be able to recreate it later.

    I would get a few friends and do a mock wedding, actually several mock weddings. This will cost you at least a few dinners for them. You will need one friend to act as wedding coordinator, to get thing moving at the pace a real wedding would. As part of your mock wedding, you need to shoot the photos in the list above, just like a real wedding. Make it as realistic as you can, so that you can learn the shots, where to stand for which shots and alternate locations, the timing, what to do when things go askew, etc. The good thing with doing a mock wedding with friends is, you can stop things in the middle and back up, to work out a shot or figure out timing. And some of the shots may need work, like the different way to shoot the couple going into and leaving in the limo. Do the mock wedding in various venues, so you can learn how to work in a church, hotel, park, outdoors, etc. You can fake different venues in practice, but sometimes you will want go to the actual venues and churches to see, learn and figure out the qwerks that you may run into. A common one is how DARK some churches are, and they don't let the pro use a flash, never mind that all the guests are shooting flash. Another one is you can use a flash every place, EXCEPT for the part where they are up at the alter with the priest.

    This may seem obvious, but you need to carry all the gear as you would when shooting a real wedding, and in the clothes or similar clothes that you would wear to shoot the wedding. This lets you learn how to carry, work and handle your gear. I can move around a lot easier in my cargo pants, T-shirt and sneakers than my suit and dress shoes, and the cargo pants has big pockets. But I won't be shooting the wedding in cargo pants and T-shirt, so the cargo pants would invalidate part of the practice.

    If you practice in a church, expect to give the church(es) a donation for the use of their church to practice in. You might also give them a photo of their church for them to display. This is where it helps to be active in your local church. You may be able to get permission and access easier than an outsider could.

    BTW, who is watching all your expensive gear that you are not carrying on you? I once saw a pro leave 2 Halliburton cases with Hasselblad gear sitting unattended and open (which is how I knew what was inside). That was THOUSANDS of dollars of gear left exposed that could have been easily stolen, along with the exposed film of the wedding. If you are not carrying everything all the time, you NEED someone to watch the gear that you are not carrying.

    gud luk

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