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Capturing the special moments between a couple and their friends and family as a wedding photographer is no easy job. When you look at the stunning photographs on a wedding online portfolio website, you can’t help but immerse yourself in the emotions and joy through the images.
However, wedding photography, like other niches of photography, takes skills. Every wedding photographer knows what the couple comes to appreciate after the fact: the polished selects you may see in a wedding album are just the tip of the iceberg. They are the result of meticulous planning, editing, and capture of a staggering number of photographs.
Wedding photography may be a highly competitive, high-stakes specialty, but that is also what makes it highly rewarding. This article will answer some of the top questions about becoming a wedding photographer and building your online portfolio.
Wedding photographers have a special place in the world of photography because they get to capture one of the most important days in couples’ lives. They are documenting all kinds of people, catching the excitement, romance and fun of the wedding day and they get the satisfaction of knowing the photos they’ve taken will have a cherished place in photo albums for years to come.
If you’ve thought about becoming a wedding photographer yourself, this guide will give you tons of ideas for how to get started and what kind of career you can work towards.
Wedding photography can be defined as part portrait photography, part documentary photography, part fine art photography. There can even be elements of still life photography involved, depending on your style and the requests of the client.
This variety is what makes wedding photography both exciting and challenging. Although the subjects are almost always people, it can’t be defined as mere portrait photography, because portraits are typically shot in a staged and controlled environment. Wedding photography also encomposses telling a story of the wedding day, or the time leading up to the wedding, through what the photographer chooses to capture. This storytelling component is more in line with documentary photography than portrait photography.
Finally, like all professional photography fields, the activities that are captured by the term “wedding photographer” extend beyond the taking of photos. To work as a wedding photographer, you also need to handle the sales and marketing, client relations, production, post-production, and possibly team management aspects of the job.
The sales and marketing portion involves selling yourself and your business to potential clients. It also involves putting together different pricing packages that will be suitable for a variety of clients, building a website and creating opportunities for revenue after the wedding itself by offering different albums and print packages.
Client relations are an essential part of the job since wedding photographers are involved in one of the most meaningful times in a couples’ life, and they may be working together over the course of many months. Since a significant portion of most wedding photographers’ jobs comes from referrals, maintaining positive client relations should be considered a key part of the job.
Many wedding photographers also hire second photographers in order to be able to shoot different aspects of the wedding at the same time. This adds a hiring and management aspect to the job of wedding photographer.
On paper, the wedding photographer’s responsibilities involve accurately capturing photos from the big day. The exact subject matter can cover anything from photos of friends and family, the wedding party, the flower girl walking down the aisle, the bride's first look at the wedding gown, or the meaningful glances at each other exchanged between the bride and groom as they are holding hands.
However, every wedding photographer will tell you that being a wedding photographer involves wearing many hats. The wedding photographer has an anecdote or two about unexpected parts of the wedding they have gotten involved in.
For example, the bride and groom may look to the photographer for their artistic expertise and seek second opinion decisions like the decor and flower arrangements or even event planning. Or you may even get tasked with the important task of Ring Keeper and be asked to keep this important wedding artifact safe and sound until the wedding ceremony.
As these responsibilities show, being in this position means people trust you to capture their memories and display them in the best light possible.
Your style doesn’t have to fit neatly into one of these categories, and many of them can be combined and work together. It’s a good idea, however, to develop a signature look. Put yourself in the position of a couple browsing for a photographer: they’re more likely to feel comfortable hiring the photographer that has a defined style and consistently produces a look that they love, than one who has a portfolio that shows a bunch of disparate styles.
Traditional wedding photography will always be in demand, so if this is a style you’re drawn to as a photographer, it’s a great one to focus in on to develop your skills. Wedding photography portfolios featuring classic wedding photography will have photos that are a little bit more formal, emphasizing the importance of the day. They have a timeless quality that will still look beautiful to future generations.
Editorial wedding photography can also feature many posed shots, but it has a different overall look than traditional wedding photography. Taking inspiration from fashion shoots, this type of wedding photography is created with a more artistic approach.
Candid photos can also be taken in an editorial style: think of creating the look of celebrity event photos.
Also referred to as documentary style wedding photography, this approach is all about making viewers feel like they were there, in the moment. If you wanted to give someone a strong sense of what it felt like to be at the wedding, what would you photograph? That’s a good question to ask yourself as you’re shooting photojournalistic wedding images. The guests mingling, the decor, and the location are all important aspects of telling the story (although the couple is, of course, the most important part).
Commercial wedding photography has the look and feel of a magazine ad. A key part of achieving the commercial look is lighting. It’s difficult to make an image look commercial without professionally lighting the scene. If your clients are after this look, make sure they understand that extra lighting may be required.
Candid wedding photography is all about capturing the little moments that make up the big event. The best candid photos are usually taken when the subject isn’t aware that a camera is pointed at them, so mastering this style involves developing the ability to shoot quickly and quietly, blending into the crowd.
Dark, dramatic images can be very emotional, which makes this style well suited for wedding photography. The images are characterized by rich shadows and dark tones, directional light, and a deep emotive feel. It may not appeal to every couple, but those who like it will be delighted to find a photographer specializing in this style.
If you love the beauty of the locations and garments that come with shooting weddings but are more comfortable in a studio setting, fashion wedding photography offers an alternative to the usual unpredictability of real weddings. There will always be magazines and publications creating content for brides to be, and they’re constantly producing wedding images.
Although its not a specific type of wedding photography weddings bring a whole set of unique challenges, including needing to shoot late into the night. Night photography can be challenging to master, but it also makes for beautiful photos. Particularly if you shoot weddings in beautiful outdoor locations, being able to take night wedding portraits can really set your portfolio apart.
The past will always have a certain charm, and there’s always a ton of inspiration to be found when looking at wedding photos from days past. Many couples try to incorporate a nostalgic, vintage feel into their special day, and some photographers really excel at creating images that have the magic of a vintage look.
Aerial wedding photography may have been the exclusive domain of the rich and famous until relatively recently, but as drone photography has become so much more affordable, anyone can have aerial shots of their special day. There’s nothing quite like a drone shot to capture the full scope of the event, whether it’s the crowd that’s gathered for the wedding or the beautiful location. Changing your vantage point so dramatically can have striking and unexpected results.
No matter how many filters and how much grain we add to our digital photos, nothing has come along yet that can reproduce that authentic film look. It has a certain warmth that can’t be replicated similar to listening to an album on vinyl compared to an mp3. Sure, shooting film is a little more complicated and risky than shooting digital, but incorporating film photography into your wedding photography portfolio will be a big plus for people who love that look. Keep in mind that film will add additional material and service costs as you need to account for the film, developing, and high resolution scanning.
Destination weddings happen every year because they can be so much easier to plan. They also enable people to get married somewhere sunny in the middle of winter, if that’s what they’re after. Specializing in destination weddings will not only take you to beautiful locations for your job, it’s also a great way to be able to keep working in what is typically the off-season. Wedding photographers are often swamped in the summer and have a wide open schedule in the winter, and destination weddings can fill that gap.
Fine art wedding photography takes more of an artistic than a documentary approach to capturing the big day. While clients will still want the usual shots of their big moments and of their friends and family having fun, fine art wedding photographers will also find the beautiful details to capture for the sake of their beauty. They might capture shots like the wedding garments hanging before everyone gets dressed up, the floral arrangements, or other decorative features of the location. Although not exclusively, fine art wedding photography is typically characterized by a light and airy aesthetic, with shallow depth of field, and soft, bright highlights.
Black and white instantly imbues an image with a certain timelessness, so there will never be a shortage of couples who want black and white images of their moment. While you can shoot in black and white, particularly if you’re shooting film, you can also create very strong black and white images in Photoshop after the fact. This flexibility means it’s not too hard to add some classic black and white to your portfolio.
While previously mentioned photography styles aim to capture the events of the day, fine art wedding photography is more focused on getting a single perfect shot of the couple. The name of this style really says it all: fine art photography seeks to produce types of shots that can serve as stand-alone art.
The types of techniques used to achieve these dramatic shots are meticulously applied and flawlessly executed to produce a timeless piece of art that captures the couple’s union. The photographer may take a creative angle by climbing a ladder or even brave the ride to capture the tide at just the right moment with the couple in profile over a shot of the sunset. For this style, clients are looking for a coveted once-in-a-lifetime shot that encapsulates the intensity of feelings they have for one another.
Selecting the right lens for the couples’ big day depends on a variety of factors, from wedding size to setting (indoor, outdoor, or both). While longer shoots may call for a bigger range of lenses to choose from. On the other hand, a half-day of work composed of primarily portrait shots may not require a full set of lenses.
Photographers have three types of lenses to choose from:
Prime Lenses - Prime lenses have a fixed focal lens and are the most frequently used due to their lightweight and speed of use. Its fixed focal lens allows for sharp image rendering.
Zoom Lenses - These lenses allow for different focal lengths to be utilized, which helps you be part of the action without needing to be right in the middle of it. In addition, zoom lenses give you access to perspectives and vantage points you may otherwise not see, which comes in handy for intimate moments like the bride or groom getting ready.
Macro Lenses - A macro lens is capable of shooting very detailed shots. If you ever thought the wedding was about people, imagine telling the bride you didn’t capture a close-up photo of the ring as the newlyweds hold hands on their special day. When trying to capture something as detailed as the lace on the wedding dress or the dewy droplets on the wedding bouquet, a macro lens is essential.
To tackle the shot list for the day, being armed with a prime lens to best capture the day is considered an industry standard, but being able to adapt to what the day calls for can go a long way. For longer shoot days with less predictable elements, having multiple lenses onhand can help. Having access to multiple lenses can help deliver a wider range of shots, which can lead to being able to charge more per shoot. That’s why many professional wedding photographers bring prime, zoom, and macro lenses to the big day.
If you’re just starting out, keep in mind that you can rent additional lenses at a camera store instead of having to invest in buying one upfront.
When it comes to specific lens products, Canon, Nikon, Sony, and Sigma have some strong contenders. Each brand offers a variety of great lenses for wedding photography.
In addition to having one or more lenses, one of the secrets wedding photography tips is bringing multiple memory cards is essential to your success. You never want to be caught short-handed and miss capturing the perfect image of the bride and groom, or the first look as the bride and her father walk down the aisle. In addition, high-resolution photos tend to be large in size and if captured in raw format, take up a lot of room on a memory card. Raw image format files are best suited for heavy post-editing.
While no one can give you an exact number you should use, keep in mind that your price should cover not only the time spent shooting the wedding, but also meetings you have with the couple in advance, time you spend planning and preparing for the shoot, equipment rental fees, time spent editing the photos, and a markup for any prints you provide when you deliver the gallery.
Because of the high degree of planning and editing involved in a typical wedding shoot, the day rate is often higher than other types of photography, such as regular portrait photography.
To determine your pricing, go through the following questions:
What do wedding photographers in the market you are targeting charge? Like all photography, wedding photography prices can vary substantially from one part of the world to the next. You want to be in a competitive range, aligned with other photographers in your area.
Do you specialize in a style that is perceived as more upscale and expensive? If you love shooting casual backyard weddings, your potential clients are probably a little more budget conscious than if you have a portfolio full of editorial or commercial looking wedding images. The latter will likely appeal to a customer base that is willing to spend more money, so the client base you are targeting with your style may also impact your pricing strategy.
How much demand is there for your service? Once you’re a little more established in your career, you may find that there is a lot of demand, particularly during the summer wedding season. Most people want to get married on a summer or early fall weekend, so there are only really 10-14 weekends that make up the bulk of the wedding season. This is when wedding photographers earn most of their income, so if the demand justifies higher prices, you should factor this into your pricing strategy.
Can you offer pricing packages? Not every couple’s demands are the same, and offering a few different packages can help your clients feel that they’re getting a fair deal. Your packages can be based on number of hours, location, whether or not they want you to have an assistant, and final number of images delivered. You can also consider offering slightly reduced rates in the off-season.
Whatever prices you settle on, it’s normal in the industry to leave a little wiggle room based on the specific requirements of each client. Some may want to meet several times in advance of the shoot, while others may be more casual. Your pricing page doesn’t have to have your absolute final numbers, but it should have some “starting at” pricing that gives clients a ballpark idea of what they should expect if they choose to work with you.
Wedding photography is a profession that lets you behind the scenes of one of the most important days in people’s lives. It’s an honor to be responsible for someone’s wedding photos, and those images are likely to be looked at and treasured not just by your clients but by future generations. Make sure you’re showcasing your wedding portfolio in the best way possible with a Format photography portfolio.
There are many different ways to become a wedding photographer. Although not considered mandatory, a degree or diploma in photography can be a great resource to gain technical experience. In the absence of higher education, a digital presence such as a wedding portfolio or wedding blog can be used as tools for photographers to exhibit or display their talents to prospective customers.
As mentioned previously, a career in wedding photography can be obtained in multiple ways. A person going into wedding photography could attain an education in photography to gain the crucial skills and knowledge they will need to be successful. Meanwhile, those people with more experience in the industry may look to build their wedding body of work and gain more traction that way.
Whether it’s through a bachelor’s degree, a diploma, or individual photography courses and workshops, structured education in photography can be offered in different ways from many different institutions. As with any approach, there are pros and cons:
Provides comprehensive training about different aspects of running a photography business and dealing with clients
Allows for professional guidance and feedback while also connecting you to professional networks and job resources.
Couples looking for an eye for style in wedding photographers, which is a soft skill that cannot be taught as part of a curriculum
Due to the fact that there are other viable ways to break into the industry, this route can be considered overly expensive and time-consuming.
As with most fields of photography, you don’t need formal training to attract clients. If you have a strong portfolio that includes events and portraiture photography, you may have enough leverage to secure some starter clients and build a name for yourself that way.
Skills from other specialized types of photography are highly transferable when it comes to weddings
Couples with smaller budgets may be willing to take a risk with less experienced photographers, allowing you to build up your credibility
Lack of a proven track record in wedding photography may make it difficult to sell clients in capturing their important day, limiting your number of clients
As many jobs happen by referrals in the wedding industry, you may need to put in extra effort to build brand rapport with other related businesses, such as wedding planners
No matter what path you choose to take, it’s important to remember that the right one is the path that is the best fit for you. In addition, you can try to make a transition into wedding photography without formal schooling first, and seek additional courses if you find you hit hurdles delivering the type of product customers are looking for, or if you find most clients in your area desire some formal schooling for peace of mind before committing. And who can blame them? After all, they are likely approaching their wedding day as a once-in-a-lifetime occasion.
Before getting into the different types of wedding photography you can pursue, it may be helpful to see some real life examples of wedding photography portfolios to get a sense of the different approaches that can be taken within the same profession.
The most successful wedding photographers have a distinct look or style that clients can reliably expect and that draws them to hire that particular photographer. When looking at online wedding portfolios for inspiration, keep this in mind and take note of what aspects of the photographer’s style resonate with you.
San Francisco based Inez Joewono’s wedding photography portfolio perfectly evokes the colors and mood of sunny California. Her style is natural and organic, joyful, and not too stuffy or formal. The selection of images she has curated on her site speak directly to the type of client who may want to take a more bohemian approach to their wedding.
London-based Cassiel has a professional background in portrait, fashion, and editorial photography, and you can feel this influence throughout his wedding photography portfolio. Looking through his images evokes the feeling of flipping through the society pages of a fashion magazine, demonstrating Cassiel’s knack for making everyone look elegant and contemporary in front of his lens. His images also lean more towards candids, with fewer of the more staged poses that people are used to seeing in wedding albums. This shows you don’t have to follow the rules to be an excellent, stand-out wedding photographer.
Format theme used: Foreground
Ariadna Romo’s wedding photography portfolio has an elegant fine art documentary aesthetic that is timeless without being too formal. Her images are delicate and emotive, a testament to how powerful the use of both color and black and white can be in wedding photos.
Format theme used: Mica
A portfolio is a branded online collection of work that showcases your skills and experience in a specific area of photography. An online portfolio is crucial to a wedding photographer because it helps to establish your brand identity and draws potential customers to your business. This is important because weddings at their core are a celebration, and the bride wants to know that their wedding photographer is qualified to beautifully capture their day.
A wedding photography portfolio does not drastically differ much from the portfolio used by those in other areas of photography. One thing photographers should aim to include are wedding photos that exemplify the style and technique. The work should focus primarily on portraiture meets event/people photography, as this is what clients are looking to hire you to capture. Considering including wedding photos that showcase a variety of settings, mix of indoor and outdoor, time of day photography, a mix of posed and candid photography.
The job of your portfolio is to grab the attention of potential customers looking to document their special day. A good portfolio should:
Be organized and easy to navigate. Chances are, you're not the only photographer being considered for the job. As a result, having a portfolio that’s easy to navigate and organized allows couples to evaluate whether you have experience creating the type of aesthetic they’re going for is table stakes.
Be socially integrated. These days, couples are increasingly finding inspiration for their wedding days on social media platforms. This is why having a professional presence on visual platforms like Instagram and Pinterest is important, as those who discover you on a social platform and arrive at your portfolio through that route. In addition, some couples like to do a background check on the photographer by reading client comments on the photos posted on their social accounts for evidence of customer satisfaction.
Be professionally branded. Couples are after a specific look and feel when it comes to wedding day photography, so it’s important that your professional brand reflects the creative space you want to play in.
Extend an invitation to start a conversation. Now that your clients have fallen in love with your style, you can sell them on the details by including a CTA (Call to Action) that encourages them to reach out and learn more about your offerings. Including an easy point of contact like a Contact Me page on your portfolio is important for your portfolio to make it easy for the prospective couple to reach out. Finding a photographer is just one item on the wedding to-do list, so the easier you can make the process for them, the better.
While every photography portfolio features unique content, every portfolio that considers these four aspects has a good chance of being persuasive. As a result, those who are looking to hire a photographer with your style won’t be dissuaded by technical or content gaps. By approaching creating your portfolio with intent, you are setting yourself up for success.
One challenge of this profession is that wedding seasons tend to peak in the summer months, leaving income lulls for wedding photographers in the Spring and Fall. For example, sixty-seven percent of weddings in Canada occur between the months of June and September. That means that wedding photographers can expect to work overtime in the warm months while also finding an additional photography revenue stream in the off-season.
As a wedding photographer, you get to take part in one of the most grandiose and emotion-packed days of peoples’ lives—and get paid for it. If you’re someone with a passion for photography, start with an online portfolio website to build your in a career where you're never bored.
The same is true for all types of photography: you can learn the craft in a classroom, but you certainly don’t have to. It may be more true of wedding photography than many other types of photography, because so much of what you need to be able to do as a wedding photographer can only be properly learned on the job by assisting, and second shooting with more seasoned professionals.
However, that doesn’t mean that some formal education can’t make you an even better wedding photographer. Depending on where you are in your career and in terms of your skillset, you may find that the school route makes sense for you. Let’s explore both options for getting started in wedding photography.
While there may not be much in the way of photography programs geared specifically towards wedding photography, you may find programs that do include some wedding-specific courses. Regardless, to be a successful wedding photographer, it is important to really know your way around a camera and to understand how different lighting scenarios will impact your images.
When working professionally as a photographer, you’re likely to find yourself in some less-than-ideal lighting situations, and your job is to still make everyone look amazing. Studying photography can give you the strong foundation you need to feel confident you can create high quality shots regardless of the circumstances.
Going to photography school also gives you an opportunity to work on a wide range of projects and cultivate a personal style. Having the luxury of time dedicated to just learning and refining your craft can pay off when you come out of the other end with a strong sense of who you are as a photographer.
It’s also an opportunity to build up a portfolio. You won’t necessarily have a lot of wedding photos in there initially, but having a strong portfolio can help you land those crucial first few gigs.
Of course, there is a downside to this option too. Some art schools offering photography courses can be prohibitively expensive, so you’ll have to weigh if the price is worth it for you. If not, you can always look for lower-cost single courses that will strengthen your skills in particular areas that you feel you need to work on.
If the school thing isn’t for you, you can absolutely still become a professional wedding photographer the old fashioned way: by using free resources to learn and getting experience on the job. If you already have a strong foundation in photography, pursuing a further formal education may not be the best use of your time.
There are plenty of high quality resources online where you can learn everything from technical skills to how to use equipment to post-production without needing to pay any tuition. Besides, as any photographer will tell you, you’re never really done learning. There are always new techniques being developed, new styles emerging, new pieces of equipment to get excited by, and new software programs to learn. Part of being a professional photographer is staying on top of these and learning what you can about them as you go along.
If you can get some gigs shadowing or assisting a wedding photographer, that is the best way to learn what wedding photography is really like. The pressure of a real wedding is different than many other environments, and the clients understandably tend to take their wedding photos very seriously. By second shooting with other wedding photographers you’ll gett a sense of that environment without the real pressure of being the lead photographer. You’ll not only get a bunch of real wedding photos for your portfolio, but you’ll also learn to manage the pace and pressure of wedding photography for when it’s your turn to be in charge.
In fact, even if you go to school to sharpen your photography skills, assisting and second shooting on real weddings is still a must. No matter which route you choose, you should make a point of reaching out to wedding photographers in your network to see if there are any upcoming opportunities for you to assist.
Whichever way you decide to go about getting your start as a wedding photographer, the next step is building your own reputation as a wedding photographer. Here are some ways to get on the right path
Make an online portfolio. This step is absolutely essential, since no one will hire a photographer without being able to take a look at their work first. If you don’t have a ton of actual wedding photos yet, you can build up your portfolio through assisting. You may also want to include portraits that are evocative of wedding photos, such as images you may have from other more formal events. People won’t necessarily know they’re not from a wedding, and they’ll get a sense of the types of images you can produce.
Get on your local wedding vendor listings. Find out what databases there are for your region where people getting married can search for venues, photographers, hair stylists, and other vendors or services related to weddings.
Create a pricing page. Clients are far more likely to click away from your portfolio website if they have no sense of how much you will charge. Most people don’t feel comfortable asking for prices, especially if they suspect they will be very expensive, so giving them even a rough idea of your starting rates will help put them at ease.
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