Interested in becoming a professional wedding or special event photographer? This is a somewhat competitive industry, so be prepared to bid aggressively on jobs and to need to really “wow” potential customers from the very first meeting.
How can a freelance photographer do this? The first step is to be sure to have a very accurate and up to date portfolio of all of the wedding and special event work already done. This should use select images that you believe illustrate your particular style or “look”. Remember, you will not want to limit the images to weddings alone, and should try to include things like parties, special events, conventions, and more. Anything which shows that you have a good way of capturing people in large and small groups, and in an attractive and appealing manner, will tend to work in your favor.
Develop a Portfolio
If you haven’t already been doing this kind of work, then you need to get started on building a good collection of images. This means using your opportunities as a guest at other events and weddings to make as many great pictures as possible. You will want to ask for permission to use the images if you intend to post them to your website or even to send sample files to potential customers.
Photo by Nate Kay
Have you already developed a winning and signature look to your work? If not, you can go ahead and scour wedding magazines and publications, websites, and even corporate websites to see what their group photographs and special events images look like. If you see a style or technique that you like, you should go ahead and try to incorporate this into your own work too.
Once you have a nice group of images available, you can then create a gallery or two at your website. This is essential because so many brides and grooms have such a limited amount of free time that they tackle as many of the wedding planning tasks on line as possible. If they can peruse dozens of images quickly at your site you will have already started to win them over. Be sure that the files are optimized for the Internet and be willing to answer all kinds of questions about the work you do as well.
The Basic Equipment
When it comes down to actually making wedding and special event photographs, it is going to require only some basic camera equipment. The first is a high-quality DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera body, a lens that will convert from wide to telephoto easily (this is because you won’t want to carry two cameras around your neck or try to swap lenses frequently), and some easy to use remote lights or strobes.
Photo by Thibaut Pietri
Because so many wedding venues are low-light environments in which flash units are forbidden, a professional wedding photographer is going to have to develop some good methods for using ambient light, reflected light, and longer shutters. The best approach is to visit the venue well ahead of the wedding day or the ceremony (and at the same time of day as the event is scheduled to occur). You can then make accurate meter readings of all of the significant locations and even gauge where you might be able to position the camera in order to get the best exposures possible. This same theory applies to any and all events that you have been asked to document.
The Business of Wedding Photography
Wedding and special event photography is also a unique variety because it is one of the few in which contracts are vitally important. In general, a freelance photographer is going to want to get a contract for the cost of the agreed upon work, but nowhere is this so tremendously important as with wedding photography. These are events that are planned for months or years, and you don’t want to have an unhappy customer because you failed to get a shot that they said they ordered. A true professional will make an actual inventory of the photographs required by the client, and review this with them ahead of the “big day”. For example, your bride might want you to be at her home on the morning of the wedding in order to document everything from the arrival of the hairdresser to the moment they leave for the church. If this is not in writing, you may not realize that is something expected to be included in the cost of the work.
Additionally, if you don’t give printed proofs of each photograph taken on the wedding day or during the special event, and instead opt for an electronic copy of the work, you will want to be sure and put that in writing too. Often times a couple is angry that they don’t get an album of every single image to choose from and don’t realize that the photographer is trying to save paper and money by simply presenting them with a disc or memory device instead.
Special events and weddings days are great opportunities for consistent work, but it does take good communication and planning to ensure that the photographer is a success.
Share Your Wedding Photography
If you would like to share your wedding photography please feel free to join our flickr group and add your images to the pool. Make sure and tag your images with “TPA_Wedding”. From the pool of images we will be selecting the best examples and showcasing them in a future article.