I am looking into doing wedding photography and need help

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by dan_belmont, Dec 14, 2003.

  1. I am looking to begin earning some money with my camera equipment and
    would like some advice on how to start. I want to work into this
    slowly as I have a full time job. I am considering buying some
    equipment for wedding photography. At this point I have some books on
    the subject, a nikon N80 and a good tripod with a few good portrait
    lenses. The rest I need advice on. I also need advice on where to
    practice as I really dont want to ruin anyones wedding pictures. I am
    quite used to doing on the spot work but only outside and as I have
    begun practicing shooting anything indoors that will allow me I have
    found it most difficult. Need all the advice you can give. I am not
    in a hurry and love to learn any thing I can about photography.
    Thanks. Damian
  2. Find a willing pro that will let you tag along & learn the ropes.There is a lot that can go wrong,and no way to repair it if you screw up somebodies wedding.It is not rocket science,but I doubt a rocket scientist could shoot a wedding without learning how first!
  3. There's been a lot of discussion of this topic in this venue, do a Google search and you are bound to come up witn something. My stock advice (I've been there and done that) is to learn how to keep books and take a course in marketing.
  4. You also need (equipment:) a flash bracket, a pair of strobes (one for back-up,) two camera bodies, two flash cords (SC-17) for Nikons, and lenses to cover wide angle to medium tele. A tripod is OK but not required.

    Paperwork (sometimes needed:) a business license, a sales tax certificate, a business checking account to make deposits in, and quarterly [little ol' IRS formality] tax payments to add to your social security taxes and *if you earn a profit* some income tax.

    Generally, you can operate for three years without a profit: then you should be looking elsewhere to 'fudge' your income taxes with photo equipment purchase receipts.

    Have fun!
  5. Assisting a professional wedding photographer is the best way to learn. Having the right equipment and reading books will help but you also need to practice or at least experience the real thing as an assistant or secondary photographer. There's nothing like it. As an assistant, you get to watch, experience and learn things that are not found in books or written in these threads. Weddings are not easy, you need to work fast, you need people skills, you need to work under pressure (not just on the day but all the way to delivering the proofs to the couple), and you need to have a good eye for documentary/journalistic photography and of course portraiture... coz that's what you are: an observer - someone who will document the couple's day. Remember that at the end of the day you need to be able to tell a story with your photos. (At least this is my perspective on wedding photography, others may see it differently). I like doing weddings, you learn heaps as a photographer, you get to sharpen your skills and work out what you like and don't like... coz you get to shoot so many images. And a well captured human emotion in a black & white photograph is just beautiful. It's a wonderful feeling when you see the couple open their album for the first time.

    Attend some bridal expos as well and check out wedding photography studios so you have an idea on the type of photos that are taken for weddings as a starting point (so you know that you should at least have one good photograph showing the bride's dress in it - I learnt this the hard way when I first started out - there were lots of photos of the bride but none showing her in full head to toe) and then you can develop your own style... which only happens through doing lots and lots of weddings. Speak to wedding photographers (in person) and ask them about how they run their business, what equipment they use, how much they charge, digital or film?, workflows, etc.

    Make sure you know your equipment... make it simple. Have a back up camera if possible and use only good quality lenses. I won't suggest equipment as I'm not a Nikon user and I'm sure someone else will in this thread. Use professional film (NPH, Portra 400NC, NPZ, XP2 & Tri X are the ones I use). Learn to shoot with flash indoors in low light and outdoors... you can practice with family portraits first. Another way to practice is to shoot birthday events and try to simulate a wedding job by covering as much of the action as possible - work quickly. Organise people into formal groups if you need to and shoot lots of film. Choose a good pro lab. And have fun, enjoy what you are doing otherwise it becomes a chore and you may end up hating it.
  6. Hi Dan. I'm writing this to help you.<P>I did weddings in the late 60's to mid 70's then put it aside primarily because I found something else I was good at and I could earn a lot more money in corporate consumer sales than wedding photography. At 55, I've pretty well retired from that field. I've still got desire in me to accomplish more with my life. I have picked up again the art of wedding photography. <P>As I see it, here are some of the essential ingredients to be a successful wedding photographer:<P>You, as a person, need in your constitution, the ability to be able to work with a fast paced, fun and what can be a stressful event. This includes, the ability to be a leader, a coach if you will, of people who are usually very happy, on cloud nine, who need direction and guidance without having that someone be arrogant or frustrated. I find weddings constitute a diverse group of people of various ages, professions, maturity levels and stages of life. <P>I would recommend that you join the PPA (Professional Photographers of America) and/or the WPPI (Wedding and Portrait Photographers International. Get involved with thse fine organizations, attend their trade shows as they both offer excellent classes you can take to better your art as well as the opportunity to meet some of the people who are successful with wedding photography and are also willing to share their talents and help others like you and me. I haven't looked for or really been interested in finding a local wedding photographer for various reasons. This is a continual learning process for me.<P>I once heard Any Marcus, a successful New York wedding photographer, talking about what he thought was successful wedding photography. It's what I have in my mind. He admitted he didn't win many competitions or was really interested or focused with that aspect with his art, although I believe he has won numerous awards. He is focused on what each of his clients have as a vision of their wedding day and how they wanted their story told with his photography.<P>You need to have a business plan and/or the people who will help you with designing your plan. You need to be a self motivator, realizing that ultimately it is you that will determine your success or failure.<P>And you need to be a successful salesperson. I've met many people who can create beautiful art with their cameras, processes and technically wonderful, digitized and so on but are making little if any money. I know I'm not the best photographer around but I do know how to get along with people. I had two client appointments this past week and signed both up them up as their wedding photographer. You need clients who are willing to hire you.<P>And finally, this internet has been just a wonderful medium to use as a wedding photographer. I still capture with film but have the rest done by a company called Pictage. They do all of the back office stuff I used to do back years ago. Now, I can focus on signing up clients and creating their wedding story with my art of still photography. I love it!
  7. I'd advise you not to do it. You're taking on the responsibilty for creating the primary record of a day which is hugely important not just to the couple but to their families. The primary skill for a professional photographer is not photographic, but small business; and the primary skills for a wedding photographer are marshalling people (being prepared to annoy the guests, but doing so as little as possible), and understanding what the client wants. That means putting time in before and after the wedding, and to be perfectly candid someone who gets their pictures done by a photographer who is still trying to hold down their "proper job", is taking a huge gamble.
    If you want to make money from photography of any kind, then start by building a portfolio to show prospective clients. It's a good excercise for you because it is also practice getting the right kind of shots.
  8. Answer this:

    Would you hire someone like you to take photographs at your wedding?
  9. Hans -

    Was that advice you offered? I think not. Dan has said he wants to work into this slowly to see what's possible, so why not offer him the advice to get him off to a start and then let him make the decision as to whether his skills will support shooting weddings?

    Dan -

    Whoever implied that you can't hold down a full time job while doing a decent job shooting weddngs... umm... they are wrong. I know several shooters who do this and they are awfully good but it took hen a few years to get there.

    The people above are trying to tell you that shooting weddings is a tough business, and that you should be VERY careful about doing this just to pay for your equipment. Your investment to date has been minimal, and you will be spending a lot more than you have so far just to get rolling. As you start learning about what it takes to make money with your camera, carefully consider whether you have a passion for people shooting. If you don't, then I'd say stay away from weddings. Your lack of passion and enthusiasm will come through in your photos. There is a very real possiblity that you will make the wrong person angry and get sued.

    Assuning you like people photography, You CAN do this, if you practice as much as possible, read and learn voraciously, and make sure you've got the equipment to do the job. Search through all the forums, read all the advice, then go out and start photographing people for pay in a non-wedding environment. You really need to take a year or two to build your skills before going solo in a wedding environment. You need to build your base of equipment (have two of everything), and you need to learn what to charge to make at least a small profit. Hooking up with a professional shooter and observing weekend weddings is a GREAT way to start. Later, assuming you have average skills, you will have to pick up some very basic wedding work at cheap prices to get started and build a portfolio.

    There are plenty of couples out there who truly cannot afford to pay a photographer more than several hundrd dollars, and this is the market I got started in. I am not ashamed to say that I used to charge $350-$500 to cover my film and expenses. But I had an agreement with the bride and groom that I was just starting out, and they're getting me at cost because I was learning the ropes. All were pleased with the end result, but it was a stressful experience to say the least. I charge a lot more now, enough to make it worth my time. For instance, I've significantly increased my prices twice in the past two years, but it took me 4 years to get to this point.

    You will need to handle a ton of pressure at some weddings. Be careful of what you are getting into - don't take on the big jobs until you are confident in your organizational/people/shooting skills. When I began shooting I had brides tell me they couldn't afford much, only to find out later there were 200+ guests and a lavish reception. That's a different kind of pressure than a wedding at a local park with 50 guests and a low key brunch afterwards. Learn how to ask the right questions.

    I have to ask you to post what those "few good portrait lenses" are. I have some friends who think their $199 lens is good portrait lens. And it might be - until you start using it indoors. If you have an N80 and a few lenses... you might find yourself at a serious disadvantage. Assuming you are sticking with film for now, I'd go for a serious zoom, like the Nikon 28-70 f2.8 AFS. You need to have at least one main workhorse lens, and you need another camera body as a backup and two good flash units. Make that investment of about $2K when you can swing it. You can save by going with a few individual prime lenses, but then your flexibility is limited in some situations.

    If you do find that you really enjoy it, then I'd say go for it and learn everything you can about the business. If you stick with it long enough and make it a point to keep building your business/photography/organizational skills, you'll make a decent income in addition to your full time day job. If you want to go farther than that, you have to double your efforts and that's another story altogether.

    Good luck!
  10. I am in a similar boat to the guy posting this thread, but perhaps a little farther down the line. I have alREADY shot my first wedding, even as a beginner photographer, and I did wonderfully. Here's how.

    First off, I am a compitent photographer. I have been shooting for fun for a few years, but with serious photographs in mind. I know my equipment and photography basics like the back of my hand, and I have pretty good (and redundant) equipment. All of those things added up, and I simply had to apply my current knowledge and experience (along with a dozen wedding photography books) directly to the wedding.

    Me and my best friend started our photography company a few months ago, specializing in environmental portraiture, and weddings. What we first did, was offer to shoot the wedding for free, in exchange for them buying all the prints directly from us. So we shot a 100 person wedding, with two shooters, D100s, and a range of lenses that include a 50prime, 15-30, and a 70-200 f2.8 (a must). We took a total of 1300 photographs, narrowed down to 230 final pics, and we nailed it! Not only that, but it was a NIGHTMARE of a lighting situation. It was an indoor ceremony, in an UNlight, grey carpeted church, with spot lights.

    We knew we could do it because A) we had more then one shooter B) more then enough redundant equipment and C) we simply had to apply our already good photography techniques to a wedding scenario.

    It also didnt hurt that we read between 1 and 2k pages on wedding photography. Once you do a few weddings for cheap/free, and start to develop your wedding portfolio (like we are currently doing) you will be able to get some decent paying jobs.

    BTW, we also print our own photographs strait to our own 7600.
  11. work on becoming a better photographer in general. Learn about llight, look for
    flaws in your photos and correct them. When you think you are ready start at the
    bottom like second marraige just fam and best man maid of honor kind of thing.
    Many people just want less than big packages.
  12. Hey thanks for all of the POSITIVE responses. Its nice to know that not everyone started out as a PROFESSIONAL photographer. I do understand what I am getting into, thats why I am looking for all the help I can get, reading all the books I can and asking all the photographers in the area for help. I have a fine-art degree and have been photographing any thing and everything for about six years. As to lenses I have one Sigma 28-70 2.8. A sigma 90mm macro and a nikon 28-70 2.8. and a couple of cheap nikon zooms. Other advice for lenses and flash units is definetely needed. I am not afraid to spend a couple grand but am trying to stay low for now. Thanks again
  13. Do a search on google for "wedding photo.net" or "wedding borcherding" you will get some good advice. Buy some Norman 200b units, Stroboframe.
  14. you need a 200! My sigma EX HSM 70-200 made my shoot a sucess. I was able to get the ceremony "kiss" relativly up close, along with numerous other shots, including great closeups of the "first dance". The 200 will allow you to stay completely off the dance floor, and get a nice close shot. Without the 200, you will be in everybodies faces.
  15. Dan:

    You should be a very advanced photographer FIRST before going into wedding work. Why? So that you do not have to think at all about what you are doing and can concentrate on the job. You do not 'learn wedding photography on the job'. Would you like your dentist to do that?

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