Starting a Wedding Photography Business

Creating a successful wedding photography business can be more of a challenge than one would think. Just because you can take a picture doesn’t mean that starting your own wedding photography business will be smooth sailing. However there are certain building blocks one can take that will assist in creating yourself a successful start to your wedding photography business. First and most important building block is to build an efficient and thorough business/creative plan. This is the foundation and should include your objectives, your mission, and your keys to success.

Your foundation objectives will cover what it takes to produce the same outstanding quality results time after time, and what it will take to become recognized as a top wedding photographer. You mission should describe what you want to achieve and how you are going to do that. Your keys to success should include how you will fulfill your client’s expectations and how you will accomplish this. How will you be competitive with your services offered? What kind of profits do you need to become successful competition?

Before you start you’re first step is to find your identity. Have you figured it out? Be true to yourself and know your strengths and weaknesses as a photographer. Are you ready to start this financially and technically? Do you know your style and identity, and do you do it well? You should know how to describe your photography and vision. Are you more of a photo journalistic photographer who relies on natural available light and candid moments? Do you pre-plan and pose portraits and incorporate technical lighting skills giving a classic look. Or, do you mix it up with both, showing a full range of capabilities that give you your own modern contemporary style?

If you know what you want your photography and identity to look like but haven’t achieved the look yet, maybe you need more work on your photography before you can establish your business.

Take a look at your photography and decide what level of talent you have and what potential you possess. Be critical of your work, but also have others critique your work for you. Learn how to use constructive criticism to improve your photography. If your identity isn’t where you want it, ask yourself, what needs to be improved? Do you know your equipment (camera, lighting, etc) well enough? Do you know how to read and meter your exposures? Do you have the right equipment, i.e.: hi resolution digital camera and Photoshop? You need a digital camera to stay up with your competition. It is also of great importance to be proficient in Photoshop and Lightroom and your digital workflow. It is up to you to overcome any weakness with proper education and practice before you take on photographing a wedding.

Photographing a wedding is a big responsibility. Someone has paid a large amount of money and trust in you to document this special and personal day. This is why it is so important to be confident enough to step into any wedding that comes your way and do a solid job photographing it. Having your skills fine-tuned are just part of what it takes to build that foundation of confidence. The other huge part to building confidence is experience.

We all start out somewhere. So once you have your photography skills and workflow down, it is now time to test yourself and your identity. The first step is to know your value. Do you think you’re up to shooting a wedding solo for $2000.00? Wait, you don’t have any wedding pictures for a portfolio. How are you going to sell yourself as a wedding photographer? Well either you get lucky with someone who trusts and likes your photography regardless that you have never photographed a wedding. Or you decide to build your portfolio through being a second or third shooter for a more established wedding photographer. This is a great way to get exposure and experience in the wedding photography scene. A great way to approach this route is to call all of the local wedding photographers in your area and ask if anyone is in need of a second or third shooter. Once you find some work ask questions and pay close attention to how they run their business and how they photograph weddings. Everyone has a system. How they shoot the wedding ceremony, portraits, reception, etc. Use this position to your advantage and build relationships within the wedding industry. The more you learn, the faster you will be on your way to becoming competition. Remember to save money for when you make your transition out on your own.

Once you have some weddings under your belt your confidence will lead you at the right time to separate and become that competition that you have been working for. When you do choose, it should be all or nothing. Either stay on as a second shooter or take the risk and become competition.

After you have taken the jump into the unknown and exciting world of being your own boss. Your confidence as a photographer has grown and you now possess an identity as a wedding photographer. You can now start your wedding photography business wherever and whenever.

Hopefully you have invested in your own digital camera, backup camera, lenses, computer, Photoshop, etc. Your investment needs to have insurance. You cannot afford to have it stolen or broken; otherwise all your hard work will be for nothing. Also you should have liability insurance to C.Y.A. You can get photographers insurance through PPA.

Before you place yourself as competition in the wedding photography market you should know your competition. They are your best models to help get started. Take notice of what they charge for packages and what they include with their services. Where and how do they advertise? What niche do they fill and where can you fit in as a new business.

To establish your business you need an address. You can choose a PO Box or another mailbox service such as Mail Boxes ETC. I prefer MBE because you can choose a mailbox with a real street address. Not to mention they have many other services. Next get a separate phone number for your business. To legitimately create your business you should either have a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or a sole proprietorship. You can learn about this through an accountant or through websites like legalzoom.

With the rest of the money you saved you will have to determine how much is to be used for marketing and other expenses. Marketing is going to be the most essential thing for your business to get off the ground. Without marketing you don’t have a business. Your marketing essentials are: to have your identity, your portfolio, and your line of communication.

Through the image library that you have created, pick your best images to use for your portfolio, website and all promotional and marketing materials. Your portfolio can be made w/ inkjet prints that you put in an album of choice such as albums provided by Topflight, photoalbumshop, or you can choose to have one printed by Asuka albums, or other online print labs such as Snapfish or Shutterfly. Your image identity is now established, and will grow over time. However you now need your business identity. What will your promotional materials look like? What font will you use? What colors will be incorporated? Will you use a logo? It may be a good idea to find a graphic designer to help you out with this. Once you figure out your business identity and incorporate it with your promotional materials you should create and print them all at once to distribute them all year. Make sure you have the basics like your business cards, postcards, brochure, contract, 8×10’s and any other promotional materials you can think of. These materials can be ordered through gotprint.com and vistaprint.com.

After your promotional materials are finished and the portfolio is printed, you are ready to create your website. View other sites to get an idea of what style of site you want and how it will look. Search for someone else to create a website for you if you aren’t educated in web development but having a professional do this can get a bit pricey. Some great alternatives are to use Craigslist or look into finding a student at a local college to do it. Make sure you work with your web developer in creating your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for the site. This is most important and is the best way to insure that you can create a web presence that is optimized for search engines. The template DIY websites don’t work well for SEO. SEO will concentrate on key wording, alt tags, one-way links, and proper site submissions.

You now have a business ready to start seeing some return. People are ready to see your business and it’s your job to reach out and find them. It is your job to know your market and tap it with your presence. I suggest that it is priority to get a creative ad on Craigslist. Why not it’s free? Now that you have all of your promotional materials printed out, where are you going to distribute them? Research all local, state, or nationwide wedding industry businesses, and create a directory of them for your advertising. Create your promotional packets with cover letter, brochure, postcards, and a mini portfolio or something that shows your style in more depth. This is a lot of work and may take a while. Get help from friends, family or again posting an ad on Craigslist for some temporary help. After you have mailed everything, follow up with phone calls to let them know who you are. This will help provide a personal connection to your materials and help start future relationships. Building relationships is very important and will help bring work your way through word of mouth. Another great way to build relationships and get your work out is to participate in any bridal shows that come to your area.

Knowing your business and what you offer to your clients and the industry is the most important thing. Just as it is important to know your self-identity as a person, so is it important to know your business identity. When the phone starts ringing people want to see confidence in you and your images. Just remember that images speak louder than words and that the cream always rises to the top.

Good Luck!

Wedding Photography – Tips For Choosing a Wedding Photographer

Your wedding album will be the most lasting reminder of your big day.

I know family and friends will be taking plenty of photos, but it’s wise to book a professional photographer, as we are talking about the biggest day of your life!

The first thing to consider is what style of photography appeals to you. Do you want very formal, traditional photos with lots of group photos, or would you prefer natural, un-posed images, capturing the day’s events as they unfold? “Reportage” is a term commonly used to describe this style of photography. You must also decide where and when you want your photos taken. Do you want photos in your home, as you are getting ready? Do you want the speeches to be photographed, and the first dance? A very important decision is whether you want an album, or just the digital files. With the digital files, you can create your own album, prints, DVD slideshows, and most photographers will allow you to use them on social networking sites such as Facebook.

I include the digital files with all my wedding packages, but most of my bride’s and groom’s still have an album, because it would be very difficult for them to match the creativity of the design, and the quality of the printing & albums I produce. If your budget stretches to it, then let your photographer design & print your album for you.

Once you’ve made these decisions, it’s time to find a photographer!

A good way to find a photographer is through personal recommendation, ask friends what they thought of their wedding photographer. Alternatively, you can find your wedding photographer in the bridal press, wedding directories, local newspapers, Yellow Pages, and of course, on the Internet.

Almost all professional photographers have a web site, with a large gallery of photographs. This is an excellent way to study their work, style and creativity. If you like what you see, make an appointment to meet up with the photographer. You will be able to view sample albums, and discuss your individual requirements. It’s important to view albums containing complete weddings, not just a few hand picked images.

Make sure the person you meet is the person who will be taking your photographs, and be sure this person created the albums you view. You must feel relaxed and comfortable with your photographer, and be able to trust them to work well with you on the day. Don’t be shy to tell him or her exactly what you want, what style of photos work for you, and who are the important people on the day! Point out photos you particularly like in their portfolio; this will help your photographer to understand what you are after.

Everyone has a budget, but you get what you pay for ! The cost of the photography usually includes: preparation for the day, visiting the venue, reception and any other locations, prior to the wedding; production of the proofs, and lastly designing and producing your album. All this takes considerable time, and must be charged for. If a photographer is cheap, you must ask yourself why? You don’t want your photographer taking short cuts, and compromising the quality of your wedding photography!

You should, however, check for any hidden charges. Do prices include VAT, are albums included in the price, etc. Some photographers may also charge for travel and accommodation.

OK, so you’ve found the perfect photographer… now book quickly! The best photographers have bookings well in advance. You should book as soon as possible; and it’s never too early to start looking.

So now it’s your wedding day. Here are a few tips to have you looking fantastic in front of the camera.

Enjoy Yourself! You don’t need to be a supermodel to look great in photos. If you are having a good time, relaxed and enjoying yourself, it will show in the pictures, you’ll look happy and radiant.

Don’t worry about the dress, don’t worry about your hair, don’t worry about anything.

Your wedding day passes so quickly, time travels super-fast, so soak up the atmosphere, enjoy the attention, and the smiles will come naturally! If you feel really nervous or self-conscious about photos, then choose a photographer who specialises in natural, un-posed shots, and most of the time you won’t even realise you are having your photo taken!

Give yourself plenty of time. When you plan the day, always factor in enough time for delays, traffic queues or late arrivals. It’s quite easy to get behind schedule, so make sure you have some spare time in your itinerary. There’s nothing worse than rushing on your wedding day, and it won’t be easy smiling for photos when you know the wedding breakfast is going cold!

It’s Your Wedding Day… Not a Photo Shoot . If you find your jaw aching from smiling, or just need a break from the camera, then tell your photographer you need a rest for 5 minutes. Have a drink or a chat with friends, and continue with any photos you need later. This may be difficult to do if you have a tight schedule, or want loads of posed photos, so consider this when you’re planning the day’s events.

Natural Smiles. Your chosen photographer will know how to put you at ease; it’s their job. The most important thing is to relax, pretend the camera is not there, and act naturally. I always find that a relaxed and happy atmosphere, and a glass or two of bucks fizz, put a smile on the face of even the most nervous bride and groom!

Have a wonderful wedding day!

John Haworth L.M.P.A.

Wedding Photography Lenses That Every Photographer Can’t Do Without

There are generally four kinds of photography lenses that every wedding photographer should have in his or her gig bag:

  • Wide-Angle Zoom
  • Wide-to-Telephoto Zoom
  • Image-Stabilized Telephoto Zoom
  • Prime/Portrait Lenses

Wide-Angle Zoom

Wide-angle zoom lenses are one of the most important photography lenses that every wedding photographer should have, typically 17mm to 35mm in length with a fixed aperture of f/2.8. They provide a large depth of field, making it simple to have foreground and background in focus. They are an indispensable wedding photography equipment which allows versatility in confined areas such as a small banquet room or crowded dance floor. While shorter photography lenses allow you to capture more details, wide-angle zoom lenses allow you to capture more reactions and atmosphere to tell a richer story.

To elaborate further, wide-angle zoom photography lenses allow you to shoot a wider perspective of moments happening around the major subject, hence providing a bigger picture of the entire event. For example, wide-angle photos have the capability to tell “stories within a story”, allowing you to reveal more of the story behind the shot. This is essential for a good photojournalistic wedding photography. As events surrounding weddings are so time sensitive, good photography lenses will allow you to capture as many actions or emotions in the quickest time as possible.

When used in a venue such as the church or ballroom, wide-angle zoom photography lenses also magnify the grandeur and spaciousness of the area, which encapsulates the creative feel for a photojournalistic wedding photography.

However, you need to be selective of the scenes or actions using wide-angle photography lenses, as a caveat to shooting wide is that it creates some body distortion, particularly when a subject is photographed close-up. Generally, people tend to look heavier and shorter on the edges, while arms can look huge. The last thing you want is to have the bride cursing you for making her look like she has put on 10 pounds! To get around this problem, you should as far as possible avoid putting the bride and groom at the edges of the wide-angle distortion. In addition, wide-angle photography lenses might also introduce distracting or unwanted elements into the frame, which would otherwise ruin a picture perfect moment.

Wide-to-Telephoto Zoom

Wide-to-telephoto lenses are the single most important photography lenses that a wedding photographer cannot do without. They should ideally be lenses that cover somewhere around the 20-70mm focal length range with an aperture of f/2.8. This ideal range lets you get wide enough to take a group photograph and close enough to capture facial emotions in your candid shots or a three-quarter portrait of a couple without the undesirable effects of wide-angle perspective distortion. They also double as good lenses for portraits. Given just this lens, you would be able to capture most of the shots needed for a wedding decently well.

Image-Stabilized Telephoto Zoom

Image-stabilized telephoto zoom lenses are also essential items in your wedding photography equipment checklist. The 70-200mm focal length is an important range for wedding ceremony photos. It allows you to give your subjects more space in situations where you don’t want to get in the way. As you will often be photographing down the aisle from the back of the church, image-stabilized telephoto zoom lenses will come in very handy. 200mm is long enough to be able to take 3/4 length images of the bride and groom exchanging their vows while staying at a reasonable distance away from the action and 70mm is wide enough to take in the bridesmaids or groomsmen as a group without switching photography lenses.

A good point to note is that when using such photography lenses, nice blurred background can be achieved with maximum wide apertures of f/2.8 and long focal lengths of 200mm or 300mm, whether you are using a full-frame or a small sensor body. This allows you to isolate the subject from its background, and to focus attention on the image as the main subject you want to portray. Such photography lenses are especially useful for shots where you are unable to get in close and for intimate and private moments, where you want to be an unobserved stranger at a distance. Some examples include a stolen glance, a mischievous grin, a kiss – the details that are effectively conveyed by the emotions. Image-stabilized telephoto zoom photography lenses hence play an important role in capturing such moments.

These image-stabilized telephoto zoom photography lenses aren’t only good for blurry backgrounds or shooting events from a distance. They could also be used to photograph stunning facial close-ups from creative angles above or below the subject that don’t exhibit the normal distortions of large chins or shrinking heads that come from wider photography lenses.

Yet another advantage of such photography lenses is that you can use the small-sensor camera’s 1.5x crop factor to your favour. The 200/2.8 long end of the standard zoom effectively becomes 300/2.8, a lens that would cost $4000 for a full-frame camera. The effective 300mm length allows for more creative photo angles than shorter photography lenses, such as tightly cropped images of the groom’s hands lifting the bride’s veil or the bride and groom’s hands while they put rings on each others fingers.

The obvious disadvantage of image-stabilized telephoto zooms is that in many cases, long photography lenses tend to disconnect the subject from the main scene and there might be little to no context as to why the subject may have had expressed how they were feeling, the whereabouts of the subject and who else was there.

When using a small-sensor camera as your primary or backup body, the other disadvantage of image-stabilized telephoto zoom lenses is that neither Nikon, Canon or Sony make an f/2.8 lens that gives you an effective 70-200mm focal length. Hence, you would have to pay the high price and carry the weight of photography lenses designed for a full-frame camera.

Canon’s Image-Stabilization, Nikon’s Vibration-Reduction and Sony’s SteadyShot INSIDE systems are indispensable in allowing you to hand-hold these large and heavy long photography lenses, especially in low light situations. Every wedding photographer should ensure that the image-stablization and vibration-reduction features are available on their long lenses. You might also want to consider using a tripod to ensure continuous, accurate subject placement and sharp photos. Such telephoto zoom photography lenses are huge investments and if you have a budget constraint or an amateur just starting out, you might want to consider rental instead.

Prime Lenses

Prime lenses are essentially photography lenses with fixed focal lengths, as opposed to zoom lenses, which have variable focal lengths of say 24-70mm or 17-55mm. Prime lenses generally have a better optical quality than zoom photography lenses, and usually come with wider maximum apertures such as f/2.8 or f/1.8.

Good prime lenses are must-have photography lenses for any wedding photographer, as they are excellent for taking good portraits. Although you will be adequately equipped for a wedding shoot with the three zoom lenses in your lens kit as discussed above, it is worth including two to three fast prime lenses in your bag as well. These photography lenses are compact, light, and fairly inexpensive and would probably be needed in about 10 to 20% of a wedding shoot.

Faster prime photography lenses are ideal in situations where f/2.8 aperture is not enough to get the motion-stopping shutter speed or shallow depth of field desired, whether for artistic or technical reasons. For example, an image that requires a 1/20th of a second shutter speed at f/2.8 will only require 1/60th of a second at f/1.8, forming a distinction between a sharp image and a blurry one. Many professional wedding photographers actually include prime lenses in their gig bags as an economical backup to their zoom lenses. Not many people could afford to purchase an additional 70-200mm f/2.8 telephoto lens as a backup and you also want to prevent a frantic situation whereby your photography lens fails on you during a crucial moment.

There are many prime lenses available on the market but most photographers would include a 28/1.8, 50/1.8, and 85/1.8 in their prime photography lenses kit to be used on a full-frame body. The 28mm is wide enough to cover most ceremony locations and confined spaces, the 50mm is good for small groups or a priest blessing a couple, and the 85mm is long enough for ceremony vows and exchange of rings. A wedding can be successfully photographed with just these three photography lenses.