Building a wedding photography photography business takes time. If you are looking for a shortcut or some quick cash, this is not the business to do that in. Weddings are high pressure and require every kind of photography there is. Macro. Editorial. Event. Portraiture. Natural light. OCF (Off Camera Flash). Candid. Posed. I could go on. Wedding photography also requires an insane amount of gear. Multiple camera bodies. Flashes. Wide lenses. Long lenses. Macro lenses. Back ups. These things are not cheap.
1. Get a camera
Before you do anything, you need to get yourself a decent camera. It doesn’t have to be top-of-the-line, but it needs to be up to the industry standard. You should certainly be able to shoot in manual mode because auto isn’t going to cut it… especially in low light. I personally started (10 years ago) with a Canon Rebel and nifty 50. It definitely was not the BEST camera, but I knew how to use it.
2. Learn your camera
LEARN your camera. Before you are in a high-pressure situation, you need to hone your craft and practice, practice, practice. If you want me to teach you how to use your camera, hit me up!
Pro-tip: use the gear you have until you are limited by it. I could have gone into debt getting a bunch top of the line camera equipment, but I would have been overwhelmed and wouldn’t have known how to use it! You do NOT want to start a small business like this with debt. Start small and build up.
3. Build a portfolio
Go take pictures. Lots of them.
When you have a portfolio that shows you are comfortable in a variety of situations, it’s time to meet some people in the industry. If you approach working wedding photographers with humility and respect, many of them are willing to show you the ropes. I personally love empowering people to be their best creative self. I believe strongly in community over competition and have a few options for mentorship here.
5. Shoot some weddings
After establishing trust, you can start assisting and second shooting with them. Second shooting gigs are paid! In my area of Michigan, I know people to be paid between $20 and $50 an hour for second shooting. Make sure to have a contract with the photographers you shoot for that allows you to use the images you take in an online portfolio. A lot of times the agreement is that the photographer uses the pictures that you take as their own (since you are their contractor), but that you can use them in your portfolio so long as you mention that they were taken while working for them and do not tag or communicate with their clients. A small watermark or caption on the image should do the trick.
After you (1) understand the typical flow of the wedding, (2) are producing images that you are proud of and (3) are not missing any major event, it’s time to look at booking your first solo wedding!
6. Get your business in order
Before you do anything. Make sure to get insurance, get yourself licensed, and make sure to create a solid wedding client contract. While most people are kind, there are some people in this world that would like to take advantage of you. It only takes one to destroy everything you have built.
7. Establish a presence
Create a website and start social media accounts. People need to know how to find you and need a place to see your work. Your first year, bridal shows may be a good way to build a client base.
8. Price yourself
Pricing at this stage is tricky, because on one hand, you want to charge what your images are worth, but on the other hand, people are still taking a chance on you. Personally, I think the best way to price yourself at this stage is to look at other photographers in the area who produce a similar caliber of images. List your prices as what they are charging, but be up front with potential clients and offer discounts for your first few weddings. Being upfront at the stage is crucial. It is always better to under promise and over deliver them to disappoint someone with anything wedding related. It is one day they can’t get back.
9. Book clients!
From this point, you build a little by little. Buy more gear as you are able, continue to add to your portfolio. Attend some workshops. Treat your clients right, and the sky is the limit!
If you would like to make a game plan with me, I would be happy to help! Hit me up here.