Educate yourself and get to know your camera
To be a full-time photographer you need to know your camera very well as you need to capture important moments at the wedding. And there is no second try for a better shoot. So it's very important to understand how to set up the camera before the wedding day.
If you will choose the path of being a full-time photographer, most probably you will educate yourself your whole career. There is always something new to learn. However the most important is an education in your early days as a photographer because you need to learn the basics. Once you will know the basics you can focus on developing your style, playing with color grading or learning post-processing in programs like Adobe Lightroom or Adobe Photoshop.
Invest time and money in your photography education. If you are a self-learning type you can try out online courses led by experienced photographers. There is plenty of online platforms with great courses like Coursera, Skillshare or even Youtube! Another great way how to learn during your way to work/school, or during training in the gym is to listen to photography podcasts! If you are the type of person who needs to be led by someone, you can check out local photography workshops. Do not be afraid to reach out to other photographers for help. Most of the photographers will offer you great tips or offer you a workshop session where they will show you their own style of making pictures. Also, they might ask you to second-shoot for them or send referrals your way once you build up your business! I recommend you to try out all of the learning techniques to find out which type is the best for you.
Reach out to engaged friends
When you are starting out, you need to photograph your first wedding somehow. The fastest and most comfortable way how to get experience is to ask your engaged friends if you can photograph their wedding day. Most probably you will feel more relaxed surrounded by familiar people and also another big advantage is that friends of your friends will notice you as a photographer. You need to understand that every time you will photograph the wedding day, each time you will be noticed by more people. If you will be friendly and you will do a great job with the pictures, there is a big chance that they will recommend you to their engaged friends.
As a wedding photographer, you must have a photo plan for your friend's big day. I recommend you discuss the plan with the couple. Ask them which part of the day is the most important for them. What kind of pictures they like. You can even ask them for some ref. shoots to understand what kind of photography style they might like. Once you will have a plan, you will be more relaxed during the wedding day as you will know crucial information on how to make your friends happy with your shoots.
During your meeting with the couple try to not promise unrealistic services which you can't deliver. Agree with them on some tolerable photo plan which you know you are able to fulfill. It’s always a good option to promise less and deliver more. The couple will be happy and give you better feedback.
Be a "second shooter" at the wedding
After you will get to know other photographers in your city, ask them if you can be their second-shooter. Being a second photographer is a great option if you want to get more experience in wedding photography. If you get a chance to assist an experienced photographer during the wedding you will learn much faster because you will see how the other photographer works. This will help you figure out how you need to photoshoot a wedding on your own.
A second shooter brings a different perspective. You as a second photographer cannot physically stand in the same place as the lead shooter, so you are "forced" to find another spot and like that you are creating pictures from a different perspective. Being a second shooter will help you to find out your own style and bring different artistic ideas to capture unnoticed moments. Never duplicate the shots! Remember that you’re there to provide a creative variety of pictures, not to duplicate the main photographer’s photographs. Always check out where the other photographer is standing while shooting, you can observe what lens the main shooter is using or even check from what angle shooter is taking pictures. Be creative and unique! Photograph special moments with the style which you like and if the photographer does accidentally miss a key shot, your photo will save the day! Also, be sure to capture the detail shots like flowers, decorations, rings, programs, etc.
It’s a huge benefit not only for the main photographer but for the one who is assisting. Both of you are learning how to work as a team, growing your organization skills and also getting better at communicating with each other.
Create a website to show your portfolio
The website is super important if you want to look professional and also if you want to get more clients. A great website is essential to get potential customers. Have you ever seen any good photographer without a website? I honestly did not. In my experience, simple design and branding are best. For making first impressions with people that have likely never met you, the design of your site is very important. The most important page is the homepage, because its the first page which your client will see and on that page depends if your client will stay and discover more or close the website. Your homepage needs to clearly communicate your message – in as little time as possible.
"If you're looking for a wedding photographer, you've come to the right place. "
"Hello, I am Anna and I am a wedding photographer based in NYC. Let me capture your special day."
What you should have on your website:
Your best wedding pictures (portfolio)
Information about you (who are you? what you do for a living?)
Information about the area where you are able to shoot
Information about services and prices
Information how your clients should contact you
Links to your social media accounts
Create social media profiles with your wedding pictures
Social media are a great tool for reaching new clients! And the best part of using social media is that they are for free! The social media landscape is constantly changing. The trends keep changing, new features are added, the algorithms switching, etc. The strategy that might have worked a year ago may already be outdated.
If you consider Facebook to be a thing of the past, you are wrong. It remains a popular platform not only among the users but also businesses. Great tip on how to get more connected to your clients is through stories, start using them! Even though the stories on Facebook are not so popular as they are on Instagram, Facebook is slowly changing this. Another great tip for wedding photographers is to publish wedding pictures as soon as possible! If you can, publish them already the next day! You don't have to publish the whole album, but make sure that you will publish at least a few of them. This is the time when the emotions still run high and when people are sending congratulations to the happy couple. The post is sure to get a lot of attention and reach people that don't know you yet.
Instagram is probably the most popular social media platform wedding photographers use to promote their work and reach new clients. But there is some bad news - users don't see 70% of posts on their feed. Therefore, just because someone is following your account, it doesn't automatically mean they will see your posts too. It's super important to get people to engage! Encourage your followers to comment by asking questions and try to connect more with the people who are following you. Showing your photographer's daily routine can help you to convince someone to book you. A great way how to do that is to use stories. You can share a sneak-peak from your ongoing shoot, show your editing process, show behind the scenes or even your thoughts about photography in general. If you are not a shy person make it personal! Show your face!
Organize wedding editorial with local suppliers
The best way how to practice your photography skills to organize a wedding editorial. Find the local suppliers and ask them if they would like to create the wedding editorial with you. Most of them will agree as they will get free pictures of the service that they offer and they can use them in their portfolio. You will also get new contacts for wedding suppliers and if your editorial will be successful they can recommend you to their clients (and you can recommend them to your clients). Wedding editorial is a great opportunity for testing new photo styles, getting used to working with the models, learning how to work as a team. And the best part is that you are not in the rush, you have a lot of time to play with your pictures.
Check out blog post about teepee wedding editorial.
Don't give up in the beginning
Your first moths will be very hard and you will get to a moment when you will want to quit. This is how most of the "fresh" photographers feel like in the beginning! It's okay, remember that nobody had fully booked calendar at the beginning of their photography adventure. Everything requires time. Be active on social media, share your work with others and slowly clients will contact you. Being a freelancer is always very hard in the beginnings, as people don't know you and they are not familiar with your work. However, once you will get first clients everything will start to be much easier. Be patient, work on your skills and don't give up.