Dear New Wedding Photographers,
You’ve done it. You successfully booked your first wedding! Now, you are freaking out. Understandably so. It happens to every wedding photographer, ever. Yes, even the big name “celebrity” photographers. Everyone started exactly where you are right now…overwhelmed with everything.
Congratulations on joining the awesome wedding photography industry! Ask your photographer friends about generous photography communities (such as the La Brisa Aspiring Photographer Workshop group on FB). There, you will find support, encouragement and inspiration. I love photographing weddings because of the overwhelming joy, emotion and excitement. Weddings are such an addictive adrenaline high and I hope you absolutely love the privilege! Based on personal experience, I want to share with you a few helpful ways to prepare for your first wedding…
- Make sure you have back up equipment! Anything can happen on a wedding day, but equipment is one thing that you have complete control over. When your primary camera body fails or you drop a lens, you immediately and reassuringly know that you have back up equipment in your bag and can continue on with the day. Be redundant with everything: camera bodies, flashes, lenses, sets of charged batteries, formatted memory cards, etc. Borrow or rent what you don’t have, but make sure you are very familiar and comfortable with how all of your equipment works. That confidence will enable you to worry less about your equipment and focus more on your clients.
- Make sure you have liability coverage and insurance! This is by far the most boring piece of advice, but probably the most important. Even if you don’t know if you will ever photograph another wedding again, you should still have liability and equipment insurance because anything can happen at weddings. You could accidentally trip and hit someone with your camera. You could accidentally drop your camera and have it smash to pieces on the dance floor. You could knock over a candle and start a fire at the reception. Yes, all of these situations are extreme, but they are all legitimate hypothetical concerns. Do the smart thing and make sure you are covered. My coverage is around $700/year for $30,000+ in equipment plus $1 million in liability coverage from Hill & Usher.
- Make cheatsheets of names and formal portrait preferences! I ask my clients for the names of everyone in the wedding party and all family members so I can memorize them ahead of time. By knowing their names, I spend less time figuring out who is who and more time interacting and engaging with everyone. Also, by knowing the family arrangements, you can better estimate how much time is needed for formal portraits and you know exactly what your clients want in order to meet their expectations. I keep my cheatsheets on my phone so that I can quickly retrieve them. Other photographers like hard copies so that they look more professional. Different methods, same result! You can download the wedding docs that we send to our clients, Names of Wedding Party and Family, Formal Portrait Preferences and Wedding Day Schedule to help you!
- Be proactive in working with your clients’ wedding schedule! For my first twenty plus weddings, I was adamant that I was there just to document my clients’ day. Some weddings I would have an hour for formal and creative portraits while at other weddings I would have 2 minutes immediately before the reception for photos. I knew that I needed to place myself in the best opportunity to be successful and that meant helping my wedding clients with their timeline. For your first wedding, you probably don’t know how much time various events take, so reach out to those communities/photographers to educate yourself so that you can educate your clients. In my experience, everything takes twice as long on a wedding day as it does normally. Make sure to insert buffer time throughout the schedule to account for anything.
- Bring snacks/water! You have no idea when or what you will eat on a wedding day. Sometimes clients will offer you food; other times, you won’t have any time to eat. Pack bars, trail mix, snacks, etc. that will boost your energy when you become tired. And yes, you will start dragging at some point throughout the day.
- Dress for the clients you want to attract! I am a firm believer in dressing like one of the wedding guests. Yes, you want to be out of the way and as discreet as possible, but your clothing style is an extension of your personality which means that it is an extension of your brand. If you like wearing dresses, wear a dress. If you don’t like wearing traditional ties, find awesome suspenders or a bow tie. Showcase your awesomeness!
- Nerves are a good thing! If you aren’t nervous, you don’t care. For my first twenty plus weddings, I could never sleep the night before. I was fidgety and my mind would race about everything as I lay in bed. After photographing 149 weddings, I still get nervous before each wedding, but I love that feeling. I love that feeling because I know I am still passionate and excited about each wedding that I shoot.
- Be Adaptable! Weddings very rarely go according to plan and you will be compelled into multiple jobs: coordinator/planner, family therapist, florist, tailor/seamstress, server, DJ and more. Your flexibility with the schedule, family dynamics, weather, etc. will enable you to mentally be in a better position for success.
- Have fun! You will immediately think of everything that you did wrong throughout the day. Take the time to enjoy what you are doing. If you are having fun, generally, the wedding party and families will be in better moods (read: more agreeable) for photos. I missed the first kiss, the entrance into the reception, I photographed family formals in horrendous light, cake cutting, and essentially everything that a photographer is “supposed” to photograph. Mistakes will happen, but you can’t allow them to dwell because they will negatively affect your performance for the rest of the day. Brush them off quickly and enjoy the happiest day of your clients’ lives!
Wedding photography is awesome. I absolutely love the adrenaline rush, the opportunity to meet so many people and the relationships that I photograph. Hopefully, these tips will allow you to be better mentally prepared for your first wedding!
Here was my first wedding (old blog) almost 8 years ago…
Check out our latest TOP TEN! post…TOP TEN Reasons for including a First Look at your wedding!
Check out our latest Dear La Brisa post…Dear Parents: “Things to Know Before Your Family Photos” by Sarah Gudeman!