How To Book Your First Wedding When You've Never Done One
Jumping into the wedding industry is an interesting process. Someone asked me in my photography business class how someone can go about advertising as a wedding photographer without any experience and I thought it was a great question!
"How do you start advertising as a wedding photographer if you haven't ever shot a wedding?"
Photographers often wonder HOW one can start wedding photography when they have zero portfolio images for it. We count on clients booking us based on what our work looks like and booking a wedding without any prior work can be difficult. This blog post is here to give you some advice on how to get started, some tips on preparing and hopefully by the end of this blog post you have a better idea on how you can start wedding photography. Don't forget when you do book your FIRST wedding to read SHOOTING YOUR FIRST WEDDING? TIPS & ADVICE blog post!
PERSONAL STORY ON HOW I SHOT MY FIRST WEDDING
Funny story with wedding photography. When I first started, I SWORE that weddings were something I would never want to do. They seemed scary, overwhelming and it wasn't something I could see myself doing. If I feel like I can't deliver something 100%, then I won't take on a job, especially not something like a wedding. I shot professionally for years before even considering taking on a wedding. At this point I knew everything about my camera, knew how to achieve consistent work and wedding photography didn't seem so scary anymore.
My parents were using their beautiful land as a wedding venue, and one of their brides was in need of a wedding photographer. My parent's directed her to my website, and they really liked what they saw. As this point, I had 0 photos of weddings or anything wedding related. What I DID have was consistent work. I had a set style and felt that came out of all my work regardless of what type of session it was. This sweet couple decided that they wanted to book with me, and I figured it was the perfect chance to get my toes wet in wedding photography.
I photographed this wedding and instantly loved shooting weddings. Capturing images on such a special day was amazing. There's something about looking through my viewfinder and seeing two people make a promise to each other, a bride dancing with her father, the emotional connection a mother has with her son on his wedding day. Everything about it was something that made me want to pursue wedding photography more.
Every wedding I shoot is a reminder of how much I love my own husband, our own promises to each other, my relationship with my parents and the thought of one day seeing my daughter dance with her father on her wedding day and my son dancing with me on his. Shooting weddings is something I really love because I am passionate about watching people celebrate love.
As you can see, it is completely possible to jump into wedding photography with no prior experience shooting weddings. It's not something I would recommend to anyone unless they are 100% comfortable in what they can deliver. You need to know your camera inside and out. You need to know what to do when something breaks (ex: your camera not registering that there's a lens attached to it and giving you errors). And you need to be able to figure out the solution within seconds with a cool head. It comes down to being compfortable. If you are comfortable, then you'll have no problem in shooting your first small wedding without any prior experience.
SECOND SHOOT A WEDDING
Many professional photographers will use second shooters. Look for someone local and reach out to them and see if they ever need help with their weddings and that you would love to assist if possible.
Important things to remember:
UNDERSTAND THE SECOND SHOOTER AGREEMENT
Some wedding photographers will hire second shooters and will own the copyright of those images (even if you shot them). You are there to work for them, and their photography business. Some photographers are not ok with you using images from their wedding as your own. (although you are taking the images, the wedding was booked by the other photographer, it is their client, and it is up to them on what they allow their second shooters to do when it comes to the images.) Aways talk to the photographer and find out what they're are ok with. Understand all the rules. You should be signing a second shooter agreement and should know what you are allowed to do and what you are not.
BUILDING YOUR PORTFOLIO AS A SECOND SHOOTER
When I use second shooters, I am fully ok with them using the images as part of their portfolio. I believe second shooting a wedding is a wonderful way to learn more about weddings without the real stress of weddings. Make sure you ask whichever photographer you contract if they are ok with you using the images as part of your portfolio. If they say yes then great, if they say no then you can still shoot with them for the experience. (remember, the more you shoot, the more comfortable you'll get!).
Be respectful of the main photographer. I know how exciting it can be to shoot a wedding, and it's normal to get to know the bride and groom on their wedding day when you're there all day. You always need to remember that you are there second shooting for the main photographer. You are there to assist them and their business. (not yours). This means no posting images after the wedding, tagging the bride and groom. When you're at the wedding and someone asks you about the photography business you need to tell them about the main photographers business (maybe even hand out their business card.) This isn't your wedding and if the photographer is ok with letting you use the images you shot in your portfolio then you should use it for exactly that. Use it in your portfolio, upload them to the site, add them to social media but do this after the wedding gallery has been delivered to the couple from their photographer first.
So here are your two options:
1. Shoot your first wedding solo if you are comfortable and know you can deliver high-quality work.
2. Second shoot weddings until you feel comfortable and know you can deliver high-quality work.
Another great thing you can start is practicing certain shots that you will encounter at a wedding. You can create all sort of styled shots that look like wedding shots without ever having to shoot a wedding.
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!
Get a macro lens and find a few rings to practice on. See what looks pretty and create some pretty ring shots. Detail shots matter a lot in a wedding portfolio, and you don't have to shoot a wedding to practice!
Find some used wedding dresses and practice photographing dresses hanging in different locations. You can find pretty dresses at thrift stores. I also like to keep my eyes out for any type of dresses that could be used as wedding dresses. If you have a local bridal boutique contact them and see if it would be ok for you to come by and photograph some of their dresses in their shop because you'd like to write a blog post about them for your future brides.
WEDDING INVITATION SUITE
Contact one of the amazing wedding invitation creators on Etsy. Dove House Handmade has some really pretty sets that you could order and photograph in a styled setting. Again, show of those wedding details without ever having to shoot a wedding. Create your wedding portfolio for potential brides to see.
(image credit: DoveHouseHandmade)
Everyone wants to have that beautiful bride and groom shot to shot potential clients. Create a special casting call for a couple and shoot a few romantic shots with both of them. Bring some white tulle and create some magic. This show below was done in my back yard at a quick little engagement session. Looking at it most people would guess it was taking at their wedding.
Know of any beautiful locations that offer weddings? Go there and practice shooting. A big part of wedding photography is also photographing the location they choose. Look for unique spots, beautiful buildings and figure out a way to photograph it as part of your portfolio.
(image credit: martha stewart)
DESIGN A TABLE
Create a vision of a pretty wedding table. Vintage china, pretty centerpieces and photograph it! You don't need to set up anything big, just something small to showcase another wedding details.
Photographing flowers are something I absolutely LOOOOOVE. Contract a local florist and ask if you can come by and photograph some bridal bouquets.
Find a local cake maker and order a small sized wedding cake. The bonus is you get to eat it after you're done!
Remember that wedding photography is much more than just getting pretty images. It's about being able to plan, organize and shoot under pressure. With weddings you have once chance to get the perfect shot before it's gone so it's not something anyone should jump into before they are ready. Practice as much as you can. Second shoot enough until you are comfortable in being the main photographer. Weddings are a beautiful thing to document and if this is something you are interested in doing you should absolutely pursue it! Just make sure to go about it the right way and take your time in making the decision in being ready to shoot your first wedding.