Tips on what it takes to be a Professional Wedding Photographer.
I was a wedding photographer for more then 10 years. I began at the time when the idea of a camera being something other then film was not even a thought.
The wedding photographer then, as now, was a special breed of professional photographers. Where other professional photographers who photographed models, nature, scenery, landscape, etc had the opportunity to retake the photographs if they did not come out the way they wanted, however, the wedding photographer did not have that opportunity. I do not what this article to appear that I am taking away from the other type of professional photographers. However, the wedding photographer has to have a greater confidence in his ability since more times then not his job photographing a wedding is a one time deal.
Remember if you present to be a wedding photographer you are telling the bride and groom you are a master in the craft of wedding photography.
Even though the modern professional wedding photographer has the opportunity to see the shot they took, with the introduction of the digital camera, they still have to be extremely confident in their work. Remember as a wedding photographer, even with that new 35mm or medium format digital camera, you have to decide if the photograph is the right one. You can not keep running up to the bride and groom and asking them to look at the picture you just took to make sure it is okay. (Kind of hard to do when they are at the alter exchanging their vows). You may have the opportunity to show them some of the alter shots at the reception but if they don’t like them that opportunity is gone and will never come again.
A nice thing about the digital camera you can view the shot immediately after you take it. Another nice feature of the digital SLR cameras is the megapixel rates. If you want to spend several thousand dollars you can get the top of the line DSLR in the neighborhood of 10 to 12 megapixels. There is news on the horizon that a major digital camera manufacturer is going to be coming out with a 24 megapixel DSLR. Also, the memory cards that these digital cameras take can hold hundreds or thousands of photographs on one card. No more changing film on the fly.
Now back to your dream of being that wedding photographer. Here are some tips for the beginning wedding photographer. REMEMBER – to be a good wedding photographer you really have to love the work. You can’t think of it as just a job. It has to be a passion that is in your blood.
First – Personality: Being a good wedding photographer is more then just taking good photographs at the wedding. A good wedding photographer has to have the personality to go along with the profession. When you first meet the bride and groom don’t be all business. They are as uncomfortable with you as you are with them at first. Lighten the atmosphere and don’t jump into the business end right away. Ask them how their wedding plans are going, or how their parents are doing, etc. Once you feel that the ice has been broken then you can show them your work and begin talking about your packages and other aspects of how you work the wedding.
TIP:Ask the couple if their wedding has a theme or if there is something special they would like to achieve.See if they have an idea how many shots they want. Have a contract that also has a model release on it. If you elect to use some of their photos at a later date they would have already signed the model release when they signed the contract.
Second - Photo List:After getting the bride and groom comfortable help them to create a PHOTO LIST. Help this young couple to think ahead. They have so many other things on their mind they will welcome your help about the shots that you will be capturing on their special day. See if they have any key photos that should be on the list. This list will become a check off list for you on the day of the wedding in helping you get those shots they want.
Third – Location, Location, and Location:Ask the couple if they have a specific place in mind where they would like the formal photographs taken. If not explain to them that you have a few places in mind you feel will go with the theme of their wedding. Make sure you scout these locations before the wedding and set the photographs up in your mind. This way you will know how long it will take to go from the church to the location and by having the images in your mind it will help making the shoot go quickly.
Fourth – The Coordinator: Believe it or not one of the biggest jobs of the wedding photographer is that on the day of the wedding you are not only the wedding photographer but you are the wedding coordinator. At times I actually had to take control of the wedding especially at the formal and reception photos. Coordinating between the bride and groom and the DJ or band so I could get the bride and grooms first dance, the bride and groom with their parents dancing, the throwing of the garter and bouquet, the cutting of the cake, etc. before everyone had too much to drink. Be pleasant but be able to take control.
Fifth – Using an Assistant:Having an assistant can be great not only for you but for the bride. A good assistant will make sure your additional equipment is ready to go if you need it right away. The assistant will help in posing the bride and groom and wedding party. I always like using a female assistant because she would always make the bride feel comfortable on this busy day.
TIP:My assistant always had a kit she took with her. It had straight pins, safety pins, tape, a wet face cloth, etc. in it. Don’t laugh believe it or not all those items came in handy especially when something would let go on the brides gown. She also used the wet facecloth when a bride nearly fainted while at the alter.
Sixth – Know Your Equipment:If you just brought this brand new DSLR only a week before shooting the wedding I recommend not using it unless you already know the camera inside and out. Use equipment you are familiar with. The one thing that will automatically ruin the confidence that the bride and groom has in you is to show them that you’re a little confused with the equipment you are using. What ever you do when you’re taking that group shot do not say, “Hold on a minute, this is a new camera I’m still not to use to it”. This is when you see the smiles go to frowns. If your confident with your equipment this confidence will reflect in the bride and groom.
TIP:Make sure you have back up equipment like extra cameras or flash units. Have extra batteries whether standard or rechargeable. Additional memory cards are not a bad idea.
Seventh – Composition and posing people:I can’t tell you how many times the bride and groom would tell me they want a wedding with totally candid photographs. It will never happen!! I would explain to them that there is no such thing as a totally candid wedding but I would try to get as many candid shots as possible. Remember, if you took even a candid shot of them dancing more then likely you would get the back of one of the heads and the face of the other. Even in this case I or my assistant would get their attention and briefly have them look at the camera. Learning to pose people will help you make money in selling extra photographs. If you can find a course in photography posing or composition it is not a bad idea to sign up for it or even a good book on posing or composition will help. Also, don’t be afraid to be creative.
TIP:Buy the different Bride magazines and study the poses.
Eighth – Quality:When you shoot a wedding shoot for the quality not quantity. Take passion in you shots. Put yourself in the bride and grooms place. If you were them wouldn’t you want the best quality photographs in your album to show your family and friends? Remember, long after you are gone your photographs will live on. A year after the wedding the bride and groom will be lucky if they remember what they ate or what songs were played at the wedding. Your photographs are the only thing that brings back all those memories.
Ninth – Be Invisible:A good wedding photographer will become invisible during the wedding. As you learn the trade you become more and more invisible to the bride and groom and others around. I was actually accused after a wedding by the bride that I did not get all of the photographs she wanted because she never saw me taking the pictures. When the proofs came back she apologized. Move and try to time your movements to coincide with songs, sermons, readings, etc. You can be bold during formal shots since you know what you want to get the right shot. However, the more invisible you are the more they like it. No one likes another person in their face especially the bride and groom.
So now that you have seen just a smidgen of what a professional wedding photographer goes through do you still want to venture into this field? It can be very rewarding but also very frustrating at times. You also have to remember that after the wedding all the other professionals that the bride and groom hired (caterer, DJ, florist, coordinator, etc) are finished. However, the wedding photographer’s job is now only beginning. The digital images first have to be made into prints then sorted and decide which photos go into the proof album. After delivering the proof album to the bride and groom they now have to decide what photos they want in their wedding album, what extra photos they want or photos for the parent albums. After you get their selections from the newly married couple you now have to complete their package. Buy the time you end up delivering the final product to the couple a year has nearly gone buy and that wedding that you photographed a year ago has finally come to and end. You can now file it as closed!
Bruce Bouley is a retired professional photographer. He photographed weddings as far away as Texas and hundreds in his career. He currently resides in Ocala, Florida with his wife and still takes photographs but now as a hobby and no longer a profession. You can view his photographs on his website at the PHOTOGRAPHER’S HOME