Recently I had the opportunity to photograph a friend's wedding. This was a great privilege and honour as my friend is an amazing wedding photographer himself. I am not a wedding photographer, but always wanted to take on the challenge of a wedding. This post is aimed at photographers in a similar position.
If asked to photograph more weddings I will and these are the reasons why:
1. It is not as difficult as they all say it is.
Don't listen to all the negative advice on the internet. The reason lots of people want to discourage you from doing weddings, is because you are competition! Don't be distracted by this. We all have to start somewhere.
It is really important though that you don't get stuck on this entry level. If your plan is to forever continue to do £250 weddings for example, then don't get into wedding photography. For example if you are a portraiture photographer and you've built up a demand for your promotional work, then do you really want to erode the integrity of that work by doing cheap wedding photography on the side?
It might sound obvious, but look at other wedding photographers' websites and be inspired by their work. Never blatantly copy, but it is good to get ideas in this way if you don't yet have a wedding portfolio yourself. Look at the poses, look at the light, look at the space, look at composition and make notes of what might work for your couple. Be open with your couple and send them links to photographers websites you liked. This is really useful in terms of setting their expectations too.
Always do a test-run a few weeks in advance. Even if you are friends with the couple, chances are you've never photographed them in this formal manner before. The more comfortable they are with your direction and your presence, the more relaxed they would appear in the photographs. This is key to what you want to achieve on the day as you want them to look like they're having the time of their lives.
Take an assistant along. Your wife or husband would do! Anyone that you can direct on the day to help with lighting and doing the running-around work. Prepare them well as this too will be hard work and some basic knowledge of how 'their' equipment works is also really important. It is also useful to put them in charge of the photography schedule on the day.
2. If you don't try it, you won't know whether you'll want to get into it.
Essentially a wedding day is hectic. It is fast paced with little opportunity to retake shots if you've missed it. Wedding photography is one of those areas of photography which you either love or hate. It is not for everyone, but if you don't at least try it, you'll never know.
Have a clear written-down plan of action for the day. List the photos you need to take at each part of the day and at each venue. And agree it with the couple. Write down exactly who and what you need to photograph. Double check this again and again in the week up to the wedding and make sure you don't miss anything! Otherwise you WILL forget important details on the day.
Even with a schedule of photography ready, it is crucial to still be adaptable on the day. Work fast, but don't rush it. Make sure you get the shots you know your clients would love and expect from you - don't move on until you got it right.
You have to make split-second decisions on exposure settings, composition and posing positions - all this whilst you have strict schedule to follow and are interacting with various people. You will most certainly be under pressure on the day, but always check you get all the shots listed.
3. Your next client might be on the guest list.
Be professional at all times and friendly to the guests. It goes almost without saying, but your next client might be on the guest list. Talk to the guests and make sure everyone know where the images will be available to view and for sale.
4. You'll add a venue manager / owner to your contacts list.
Make friends with the venue manager / owner - they are a special kind of contact! I didn't realise this until I had to arrange my own wedding, but wedding venues are amongst the first places couples would ask about photographers in the area. Venues always know which photographers can do their venue well and will direct couples to their websites. Leave your card or some flyers. Many photographers do exactly this and venues usually have loads of photographers in their address book.
Most venues don't just do weddings and it could bring in business from other types of events and corporate dinners. Make sure the venue manager / owner also understands what other kind of events you photograph.
5. These are tough times and you will save your friend loads of money.
The photography industry is in turmoil. Access to pro-level equipment has never been so easy. Post-processing of imagery has never been so simple and software like Lightroom and Aperture has revealed to the mass market a photography box of tricks usually only known to photographers and other visual artists.
There's a massive debate out there at the moment about how amateur photographers, semi-pro's and weekend photographers are hurting the market. The view I take is that there is a massive demand out there for the low-end wedding photographer and this demand isn't going to go away.
Both clients and photographers alike need to be realistic what £250 for example will achieve. A wedding is a huge amount of work and you have to ask yourself whether you're willing to work at £250 a go for the foreseeable future. £250 per wedding is ok if you're only doing it to sustain your craft whilst you hold a cushy day job, but the truth of the matter is that there are loads of really good photographers out there that depend on the bottom end of the market to make ends meet. For that reason don't continue to operate at this bottom end of the market - it is really crowded. Instead use a friend's wedding as a springboard into wedding photography and then continue to adjust your rates to a realistic level as your experience and reputation in this niche develops. If you've been a photographer for years and years and you still depend on this bottom-end of the market, then something is obviously wrong with your business model.
In the end you have to charge what you're worth and this argument that the £250-photographer is hurting the market doesn't hold too much water. Yes, competition is higher than ever before, but I firmly believe that if you are good and offer something unique, you will survive.