Updated: Feb 6
This is a question we get asked A LOT in our group as well as in mentoring sessions! To answer your questions, we've put together this easy guide on how you can get started!
My biggest piece of advice would be to start practicing and building your portfolio! Give yourself a goal around how many shoots you'd like to do per month or per week and just do it! When I started out and wanted to practice for a wedding I got Mum and Dad to 'model' for me at a location that I had booked a wedding at later in the year! I got Mum a bouqet and I even made them wear black and white to practice getting my exposures correct! I also took a group of friends to the Hamilton gardens to practice photographing groups like a bridal party. Aside from being hilarious this was great practice directing people at very low risk to me! After every shoot I'd look critically at the images I was producing and figured out ways they could be improved. Haley started her career in weddings off by doing styled shoots with couples, buying the dresses off websites or getting them from the second hand shops and getting other up and coming vendors involved to create images to showcase their work as well. This is massive for starting a network in the industry that will send you referrals!
Shadow Another Photographer
Another way to get some quality practice in and understand what to expect on a wedding day is to shadow another photographer.
Choose someone you admire the shooting style of, and reach out to see if you can shadow them at couple shoots and weddings. Often we love having a helper along to carry things, move furniture or simply have our water bottle on hand. Doing this can allow you that opportunity to watch some one at work and to see how they handle the various situations, lighting and timelines. Every wedding is a bit different and knowing how to think quickly in any situation thrown at us is super important. The more weddings you go to, the more experience you have with doing this.
Keep in mind, that when you photograph with another photographer you are a reflection of their brand, so most photographers will want to meet you to check you're going to be a good fit prior to the day in terms of your personality, how you present yourself and your communication skills. These relationships you are building have the potential to lead onto referrals. Same with how you act at the wedding, you're there to represent yourselves just as much as the photographer you are shadowing or assisting. If you spark up a great connection with the makeup artist or caterer, they will remember you.
When you consider offering yourself up for second shooting it's important that you're honest about your experience level. The photographer is likely going to want to see your portfolio before they hire you and will also likely want to know what gear you have. Another consideration a lot of photographers will consider is whether you are confident in shooting in Manual, not just Auto or Aperture Priority. If you find that your experience level doesn't yet meet what photographers need from you, assisting or shadowing with the option to practice taking photographs throughout the day might be a good place to start. This means that you don't have the responsibility of being part of the package the client has purchased.
If you are second shooting there should always be a contract between both photographers to clarify expectations. You might find that some photographers will not allow you to publicly use the images you shoot while working for them. This can create confusion for the client if the images are edited differently and the clients have signed a contract with their photographer, which may or may not include a clause around the use of the images.
Just like with assisting or shadowing, the photographer is likely going to want to have met you before they agree to taking you to a wedding. You are a reflection on them and their brand so they will want to ensure you are a good fit.
When you start offering yourself up for assisting, second shooting or shadowing there are some super easy ways you can do this.
Email, message or call the photographers you admire and would like to work with and see if they have any opportunities for you. Go to networking events for photographers and make connections. Join online Facebook groups where referrals, second shooter and assistant jobs are listed. Even post in the groups you are already a part of that it is something you would like to do and see if there is anyone willing to meet with you for coffee or take you along.
Mentoring is an amazing way for you to gain confidence, knowledge and experience. Many photographers who offer this are taking their time to invest in you and so they will charge accordingly for that. Many photographers offer different types of sessions based on their experience and expertise. Both Haley and I offer various options ourselves but there are plenty of others in the industry and around the world who do this too.
Mentoring can be giving you experience at a photoshoot and talking through posting directing and lighting, it could be looking at your communications, website or marketing. It could be looking at your pricing or even giving you creative critique or a gallery review. There are so many different ways in which you can get help through mentoring whether that is a one off service or something you do as a regular or ongoing service.
One of the most valuable things Haley did was organising styled shoots. You have a couple of options for doing this that can hugely help you with networking with other vendors, venues or even other photographers.
Being willing to pay other vendors or partnering with other people that need photographs and creating images that are styled specifically for weddings creates content not only for your own portfolio and website but also for the other vendors. Meaning that they'll be sharing your work to their audiences as well which is great for getting your name out there to other people, who may not hear about you otherwise.
You can even shoot styled shoots specifically to be blogged in a magazine. If you are planning to do this, make sure to check the requirements of your chosen magazines as they often have specific rules when submitting work.
Doing styled shoots or even just couple/engagement shoots helps you to create content that is more of what you want to continue to show. This is such a great way to educate your clients as to what your style is that you are wanting to create more of.
When blogging or sharing a styled shoot we recommend you be honest that the work is created as a styled shoot. This means the clients understand that what they are seeing isn't shot on a wedding day because there are some things we can do at a styled shoot that on a wedding day, we might not have the time to create.
Marketing & Networking
Put yourself out there. Once you have some content to share, make sure your website shows that you want to shoot weddings. While you build up a brand and your SEO rating you might find that you need to be more present on social media or even pay for a google advert to get your brand in front of people who have never heard of you before.
Go and network, go to wedding expos and introduce yourself to the other vendors in your industry. Put yourself in the rooms and circles of the people you want to be working with. Join online groups. Not just photography groups, but business, groups, Parent's groups, any groups that might allow you to find your ideal client. Meet with others for coffee. Even go and get your makeup or hair done by the people you want to work with. Follow and engage with vendors you want to work with on their social media accounts. Create those friendships.
Do you have another tip that helped you? Share it with us at firstname.lastname@example.org