When I started my photography business back in 2007 I proclaimed loudly, strongly and with great confidence I was not ever going to shoot a wedding. In fact, I was going to shoot babies, kids, and families. But weddings, I would never shoot a wedding. It was too stressful, you only had one shot, and I never wanted someone to look back and think my wedding pictures suck. I am laid-back and chill, weddings weren’t for me. And who wanted to capture Bridezilla? Not this girl.
Then my dear friend Misty called me, and bugged me, and pleaded with me to second shoot her brother’s wedding. Really she needed me there to help with the family shots that she needed to be in and so the stress was gone. And I thought sure, I can do this. I will watch her and I try to get something that will count. I was confident I could shoot the group shot that she really needed me there for. Who knew that that day would change the direction of my business completely? I fell in love. And I fell hard. I changed my direction and my wedding business was born. I still capture families but weddings are where my passion is.
Breaking into the wedding business can be exciting, hard, scary, and fun all wrapped up together. I tell every photographer I know who wants to break into weddings to call a photographer they admire and offer to carry their bags, be an assistant. Offer to second shoot for free so you can learn from a seasoned pro. Be honest with them and tell them what you are wanting to do, most will be more than happy to help! Try to shoot with a few different photographers so you can see how different people do it and figure out what works best for you. Make your business your own, not a carbon copy of someone else’s business.
A great way to break into weddings is to tell your clients, I am shooting weddings now! Ask them if they know anyone getting married. Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals. My first wedding I booked and shot I did for ridiculously cheap. I look back and laugh but they needed a photographer and I needed experience. And it worked. I learned, they loved every moment and it was a good place to start. I was so grateful for the times I had second shot and was trying to remember everything I could to make sure I did it right. And to this day they still tell me they love their wedding pictures.
Be honest with your clients about experience and show them your work. If you have a full wedding you were the main shooter of then show them that. You want your clients to know what a full day with you looks like. If you only have second shooting images show them those and tell them you haven’t shot your own before. But once you have your own wedding images showcase as many of those as possible to really show your style and who you are as wedding photographer. People want to see what you do, what you created!
For wedding photography you really need to know your gear inside and out. And have backups! I cannot say that enough. You never know if you will have anything fail, and you need backups. Wedding photographs are some of the most precious moments a couple will ever have. They can never be shot again and you typically only have moments to get the required shots which means you have to act and think quickly.
Define your style of photography. I am super laid-back and brides come to me knowing I am laid-back and low stress. They will get real images full of moments, that are fun, relaxed, and full of who they are. Brides will come to you for your work, how you envision the day, and for who you are. The great thing about being you is no one else can be you no matter how hard they try. Embrace who you are and what makes you unique.
Having a successful wedding business also includes having a killer workflow. Otherwise weddings can be extremely overwhelming. There are thousands of images to go through and edit and it can feel daunting. I fell in love with ShootDotEdit. I outsource my weddings to them and I still have my life and everything still has my signature style on it. For me, outsourcing is the answer for staying on top of my workflow.
And lastly, network. Talk to vendors, give them images from weddings you have shot that they were at. Be helpful, be kind and be gracious. Look for ways to help out other people and be willing to refer business to other vendors. Find florists, venues, and DJs that you love and work with them!
Lee Ann Norris, Washington
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Lee Ann is a wedding and family photographer based out of Tri-Cities, Washington. She loves capturing the quiet moments between a couple at a wedding. She brings a fun and lively personality to her shoots, and believes fully that all clients are her new best friends. She has been married to the funniest guy ever since she was 19. She has two kids who are constantly plotting to overthrow the household and rule it with kool-aid and ice cream. When she isn’t busy running her business, or her kids all over the place, you can find her running down the road in her glow in the dark shoes.