As I pack up my camera gear to kick off my FIFTH (yes, fifth) full time wedding season, I am reminded of that very first year as a wedding photography – and the leap of faith to even get me to admit that I wanted to be a wedding photographer. Of course, now I have a system, but back then? I was a nervous Nancy wondering what the heck I needed and how I was about to do make it happen (or at least pull off the “fake it ’til you make it” strategy.)
Oh, if only I would have known then. Last year I hit my 100th wedding, so I feel like now I should have some sort of blue ribbon (or at least a glass of wine to celebrate the milestone!) But since celebrating can’t always look like chilled wine, I wanted to pay it forward a bit and talk about what I wish I would have known when I first started five years ago, so here are five tips to help you if you’re where I once was.
1.) Plan ahead: charge your gear, buy extra batteries, have more memory cards than you think you’ll need, and always, always have back up gear. I have thankfully never had to use my back ups, but you better believe I still (to this day) have nightmares that my camera won’t shoot. Make sure everything is charged, cleaned, packed, and ready to go the week before the wedding!
2.) Be active in planning the schedule: On the wedding day, you are likely the ringleader of sorts. You are generally the only one with a watch and a schedule. If I could go back, I would have been more proactive in helping my brides plan their schedules and choose their locations. Now it is part of my workflow to lead the schedule conversation, offer tips, and help choose locations that will work best!
3.) Master your camera: Sure, you could shoot in Auto, but should you? No! If you can learn how to use and leverage whatever equipment you have, you will be so much more confident. I was so afraid to walk into a dark church or a dimly lit reception room because I didn’t know how to actually masterfully use my camera. Learning manual isn’t as scary or hard as it seems, in fact, I recorded a course teaching beginners how to get out of auto and into manual (and it’s only $39!)
4.) Don’t be afraid to take charge: It’s scary to be in charge and even scarier to have to direct the day but as the photographer, it’s your job to help beautiful moments unfold naturally and trust me, your clients will want and need direction! Keep it light and fun, but don’t be afraid to direct people, pose people, and help your clients loosen up in front of the lens! They would much rather have direction than look/feel awkward in the photos!
5.) Have fun: It’s supposed to be fun! I go into every wedding with three goals: win over the bridesmaids and have them offer me cake or champagne while I’m shooting speeches, have the parents hug me on my way out so I know I touched their lives as well as their kids, and have a guest ask for my business card before they even see a single image because they could tell I was engaged and having a blast doing my job! Have fun, relax, think through things, and just know that you were hired for a reason!
Hindsight is always 20/20 but these are things I wish I would have known when I prepared for my first wedding five years ago and they are things I still need to be reminded of! Being a wedding photographer is a gift and I remind myself of that everyday. To be a part of the beginning of a marriage, to be invited into the most important day of people’s lives, to be welcomed into families and to be able to dance every weekend is such a blessing! Enjoy every moment, have confidence, and do your best! You are a gift to those who hire you!