Wedding Photography - guidance

First, an apology  

I get an awful lot of messages and emails each week from people starting out or looking to improve their wedding work asking for guidance, tips, insight, technical answers, ways of working, workshops, mentoring etc... it’s rather lovely that so many people love my work, and for that I’d like to say thank you (even though I don’t work to get my back slapped and head patted it’s still nice when people take the time to get in touch). 

So, my apologies to anyone I don’t respond to, I’m not an ignorant arse but I am incredibly busy, I travel a lot and my focus is wholly on wedding people (people getting married) and my family.

Some generalisations  

While I’m not able to help the world I do think it’s important (hugely important) to encourage new blood into the industry and not dampen that spark in people who do care enough to make an effort.  So here’s a random brain dump that hopefully has something useful for someone, somewhere. 

I’ll start by saying I’m not the Dalai Lama or any sort of wise sage who has any kind of answer to anything specific for your photographic journey  - sorry !  Without getting all hippyish we’re all on a journey of self discovery and constant learning...mannnnn 🤘

The single, most important piece of advice I could offer is this:

You’ve got to be you - never ever try and emulate someone else either photographically or their persona.  Doesn’t matter how successful, cool or on trend they appear to be, if you’re not being yourself you’ll never be the best you can be.

Ok other bits: 

Graft, graft and graft some more during the early stages, then keep grafting.  If you’ve got a raw talent bully for you - it won’t mean shit unless you work your ass off to make something of it, while you’re just using your camera at weddings there’s a hundred other people (including me) who always have a camera in their hand, working, refining, practicing, evolving every single day.  Shooting, editing, shooting, editing constantly.  It’s called being a photographer...

Don’t bullshit - desperate for a booking? To snag a venue you’ve always wanted to photograph? Really excited to get that deposit even though a couple may be asking for something you’ve not done before or aren’t comfortable doing? So you’re tempted to say ‘yes certainly, I can do that type of picture I’ve done loads’ - well, don’t.  Don’t book someone on a promise you’re not 100% certain you can deliver on.  It’s not fair on them, it’s not fair on you.  You’ll shit yourself, go on every photographer group and forum there is asking people how to do it, there’ll be a half-assed attempt on the day, under pressure - it’ll look pretty crap.  Maybe you’ll get lucky and the couple won’t complain, maybe they will and you’ll shit yourself again, go on every photographer group or forum to ask how you deal with a hacked off couple.

 Shop front - been on a workshop that’s said it’s ok to use the pictures for your portfolio? Set up a styled shoot with people who know what they’re doing & you’ve all the time in the world?  Well that’s just swell, can you absolutely guarantee you can reproduce the exact same thing at a wedding? No? Then why are you giving people the impression you can do thnot we things by advertising with those pictures? Just having them up gives the illusion that’s the work you can churn out every single day... Set your shop out honestly, yes you’re gagging for paid work, yes you think getting the odd booking is the be all and end all - it isn’t.  Go look on the internet about photographers being complained about - don’t be one of those people, you’ll shaft yourself before you’ve even started.  Think long game, not short term gain.

Strengths  - play to your strengths.  Naturally good at portraits, like doing them? work on them, work hard to make them better, study everything you can about portraits, become the best damn portrait photographer there is and sell yourself as a predominately portrait oriented photographer. 

Consistency - the absolute biggest downfall of most people who don’t last is a lack of consistency.  All of the pictures in a delivered gallery should be of equal quality.  Any idiot can get a couple of good pictures from a full day shooting.  You need to be aiming for every picture to be of excellent quality, not just a handful.  

Equipment #1 - learn your equipment inside out, knowing how far you can push it is vital, same for quick changes during the day.  It isn’t about having the best stuff, it’s about knowing how to get the best out of the stuff you have.  

Equipment #2 -  have backup gear but seriously don’t become a gear bore, a camera is a tool, nothing more nothing less.  A good photographer can shoot a wedding with just about anything.  Better cameras, better lenses, more cameras, more lenses don’t make you better - in fact, I think they make you worse, lazy and reliant on technology rather than your ability 

Learning  - Think you’ll learn everything you need to know from wedding photographers?  nah, you won’t.  If you limit your learning to people who shoot weddings you’ll severely limit your learning potential - your potential.  Go find a kickass portrait photographer, learn from them.  Study social documentary photographers’ work, street photographers, landscape, painters, dancers whatever..art is art you’ll be surprised what you can pick up from different sources 

Stigma - you’ll possibly encounter at some point some rather guarded wedding photographers, perhaps references to being a ‘weekend warrior’ and a lot of closed doors (not everyone’s like this luckily).  Ignore them, it’s all on you to succeed, no-one else.  Derisive comments when you’re starting out mean absolutely nothing, constructive criticism can be important but photography is a very subjective topic.  There’s no absolute right or wrong, there’s basics to get right but don’t be bound by them.

 Tag  alongs - first up, nobody owes you anything, certainly not any established photographers.  I’m not being an arse but I am constantly surprised when some people ask for an opportunity like they’re doing me a favour - you’re not, not in the slightest.  It’s a big gamble for any established photographer shooting a wedding to have an unknown entity around on the day, remember this is someone’s big day, they’ve chosen their photographer already, it’s a one shot deal, no retakes and reputations are at stake.  Not many people do it for that very reason.  Do not expect payment, do not expect to have a photographers full attention, established photographers get paid for second shooting not people who are still learning - fact.  If you’re lucky enough to tag along don’t take the piss, you’re representing the paid photographer - if you don’t do that properly you’ll burn your bridges very quickly.  Treat it as a learning experience, don’t expect to use any pictures you take for a portfolio, it’s not a portfolio shoot it’s an opportunity to learn the ropes, learn the flow of a wedding and see how someone else shoots.

 Editing - learn to edit properly, despite what anyone tells you pictures can be made or lost with good / bad editing.  It’s not about a flippant ‘I’ll fix it in post’ attitude but understand that people have been editing pictures since photography was invented, darkroom techniques were the ‘olden days’ equivalent of photoshop.  Learn to edit but remember you can’t polish a turd - a bad picture is a bad picture 

ok I’ll expand this when I have some more time, that’s all for now but hopefully some will find it useful!