Becoming a wedding photographer

Why choose weddings?

For many, the answer is simple. You love using your camera, you like your photos (perhaps someone else did too) and then you were asked to do it for someone.

While many see it as an easy way to get paid for what they like to do, its actually one of the lowest paid disciplines of photography.


So, are YOU asking yourself about becoming a wedding photographer?

                        Kiss in the street.

Here I will attempt to discuss what it will take to become a wedding photographer.

What you should begin with, is recognizing that great wedding photography does not just happen because your camera is pointed at a couple who look happy. It takes talent, skill and a great deal of personality.

Got Talent?

How can you find out if you have talent?

There are many avenues available for getting feedback about your "eye". I would suggest you look long and hard at your own work, then compare it to the work of an established and recognized wedding photographer. Preferably a wedding photographer you respect and enjoy the work of. Don't be bashful, but don't give yourself credit where it is not due. Look at your work and evaluate it honestly. Are you that good or do you believe you can be?

If others have seen your work (not people you know) and loved it, or even liked it, that may be a good indicator about your talent. Try submitting some of your work to be judged by others. Photo.net is a place that will offer you great feedback about your work. You can upload an image and ask for ratings, critique and comments. That will shed some light on your natural talent, and along the way help you refine and hone your vision.

Right here on DPReview.com, you can upload images and enter them in competitions or just share them from your gallery. Ask the community to give you feedback. Ask if you have a natural "eye" for this, but be prepared for the truth.

My final suggestion for learning if you have talent (and probably one of the most telling) is your prospective client. If you have shot images at a wedding, ask the couple to give you a brutal opinion of the shots you took. Not on their wedding day though.

If you think you've got "it", keep reading...

Got Skill?

Honestly look at your best shot(s) and ask:

  • Composition: Is it well composed according to basic rules of thirds. 
  • Consistency: Is your work consistent with your vision (assuming you have one)?
  • Perspective: Do you have a unique or compelling perspective of what the shot captures?
  • Emotion: Does your work convey emotional energy (a hard one to answer of your own work)?
  • Colors or B&W: Can you see your vision best in color or black and white?
  • Light: Have you made the light available to you, work best for the shot?
  • Focus: Do you have the intended subject sharply focussed?
  • Camera: Are you aware of what your settings were to create an image?
  • Lens: Do you automatically know what focal length to select, to capture what you want.
These are not meant as the comprehensive list of skills needed, but rather a basic look at your skills in order to better understand if you have some. If you are answering these questions easily, and with some excitement at knowing the answer, you are on the way. Keep learning and honing your skills. Never stop or rest in finding better ways to use your skill to develop your work.
Join some professional groups or associations. Becoming a member of organizations that promote the talents and skills of photographers, will place you in the company of those who are serious about their craft, and have made a commitment to helping others succeed.
Get to know other photographers and respect their opinions. When you arrive at the decision to become a wedding photographer, seek out others who are willing to talk to you about their experiences. Pay attention and make notes about what you learn. Many great tricks are learned from seeing how others perform what you want to do.
Enter competitions regularly and listen hard to the judges critique. Absorb what you hear/learn from this, then see if you can rethink how you create images to better express what you hoped for. I often find that what I want from an image, is not what a judge wants, but the information is invaluable to honing my skills.

Got personality?

"Above all, to thine own-self be true." or Know thyself  (Shakespeare / Socrates)

When you take the proverbial floor, are there cries of "sit down" or do you easily command attention?

Many of us like to imagine we are God's gift to something, but having a great personality will be the key to becoming a successful wedding photographer. This is one area you cannot fake it. If you know yourself well, you will also know if you can make people (especially those whom you don't know) smile, laugh, cry or listen raptly to your every word.

We all want to think we have a great personality, but is it true? Here are some things that will tell you about your self, and help you answer the question.. Do I have what it takes?

  • Are you a story teller? Do others gather when you begin?
  • When you are talking, is it easy for you to command the attention of a crowd, group or some friends at the local bar?
  • Do you find children want to see what you will do next?
  • Are you a huggable or funny auntie/uncle? 
  • Do you have conversations that shine a light on the person you are talking with?
  • Will your friends ask you to join them in an activity whenever they are doing something?
  • Are your family generally keeping in touch with you?
  • If you are married, does your spouse feel cared for by you? (you should ask them)
  • Are you moved by the plight of others?
  • Can you sit through an emotional movie and feel nothing?
  • Do you prefer to be one of the crowd, or do you find the crowd following what you do?
  • When you talk, is it more about your opinions, life and experiences?
Answer these questions honestly and be aware of who you are. Knowing this will give you some of the best insight into your likely success (or faliure) as a wedding photographer.
I hope this helps for those who are becoming, or hope to become, a wedding photographer. Please let me konw any thoughts you may have that can be helpful to those seeking this path.

Best reagards, D.

See more of my work at David Wegwart Photography 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions held by dpreview.com or any affiliated companies.

Comments

Total comments: 7
eNo
By eNo (Apr 25, 2012)

I think the comments about the personality section are missing the mark, perhaps because the article also doesn't close the deal on why personality (who you are as a person) is so critical for wedding photography. First, yes, you do have to interact with your clients in a way that puts them at ease, inspire confidence, *and* get you their referrals. Second, and perhaps just as important, you have to connect with your clients personally (you have to care about who they are) if you are to capture photos that truly represent who they are and what they're feeling on a very special day. If you can make that connection, they will connect even more strongly with your photos, and here come more referrals.

In short, personal connections feed photos that connect personally, and for me, that's what wedding photography is all about.

http://imagesbyeduardo.com/downeywedding/wedfolio

0 upvotes
Patrick H Lockwood
By Patrick H Lockwood (Apr 22, 2012)

Oh, by the way, Wedding Photography is not the lowest rung of the payscale in photography. My bother is an exotic mushroom photographer and he makes a lot less than I do :)

0 upvotes
Patrick H Lockwood
By Patrick H Lockwood (Apr 22, 2012)

Hi David.

I am a professional Wedding Photographer, having shot over 300 weddings, and I find some of your opinions interesting. On the issue of personality, I do feel some clarification is needed. Being an outgoing person is an asset, of course, but one does not have to have the personality of a quintessential master of ceremonies ( like Bob Barker, for example ) in order to do a good job, either. I think it's a question of extremes. I believe someone who is extremely introverted, or has an inferiority complex, or is timid and shy, would probably not be a good wedding photographer. There is truth in what you say, but I think that if you are talented and not afraid of dealing with the public, you'll do okay. I used to work in sales, and I was a bartender for several years, so it was a natural transition for me. Being a funny person helps when you are trying to elicit smiles, but you don't have to be a veritable comedian, either. So, again, it's a question of extremes.

Comment edited 40 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Sociophotopath
By Sociophotopath (Apr 5, 2012)

So it's all about personality, or so it seems. Fair enough. But why exactly is that the case? What is it about having the most engaged personality in the Western Hemisphere that is so critical to being a successful wedding photographer? Let's say for instance that you can make good photos. You know your craft. You can pose people, you look at websites, you figure out what makes for some successful shots and you imitate them well. Is it not possible to be a nice person, friendly, capable of instructing people how to pose, being a little self-aware, and make good wedding photos? Can't some of this immutable personality business actually be learned, like good public speaking, or effective management?

0 upvotes
thorley
By thorley (Apr 11, 2012)

I would agree that I'm sure we can all learn an immutable personality, the reason for needing the right personality is this.
You will have wedding clients who will not give rich expressive candid action. With some clients the more you pose them the worse they look, sometimes they don't want the experience of posing. The purpose of a wedding photographers personality is to inspire your clients to laugh, smile and enjoy the experience of wedding photography.
So there is not one wedding photographers personality that suits the industry but different personalities that suit different clients

Nick Thorley full time wedding photographer www.thorley.com.au

0 upvotes
eNo
By eNo (Mar 14, 2012)

One of the lowest paid disciplines? Interesting. I guess for those who come and go over a 5 year period, perhaps. There are a lot of $3-5K a wedding photogs out there, and there's an even higher strata. I'd say that among mid to high success wedding photographers, the starving comments don't apply.

0 upvotes
thorley
By thorley (Apr 11, 2012)

You might be tempted to think it is 3-5k for a day's work when in fact I often find myself working on a wedding one year before the date of the wedding.

Advertising, phone bill, gasoline, time, lunch out at the reception venue and countless emails and phone calls are the investment wedding photographers offer to clients for jobs you might not even get.

I also break an average of two windshields a year driving across the state to shoot weddings.

Wedding studios open and shut as often as restaurants and it is not always because of early retirement, many of them go genuinely broke.

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Total comments: 7