Becoming a wedding photographer

From Mel at PPA

“So you want to be a professional portrait or wedding photographer?

The questions is, where do you start? Am I right? Based on our own experience and a little help from our industry friends, I’ve compiled this list to get you started on your journey. It’s not comprehensive by any means, but it will help you begin.

If I were starting out today, I would…Practice, practice, practice.

I would argue that the business side of things is equally, if not more, important to your eventual success, but honing your craft and learning to create better images is still very valuable. Practice taking photos as much as you can, with as many different subjects as you can. Look for people of different ages, different skin tones, different shapes, varying group sizes and especially — different personalities. It’s easy to photograph your photogenic friend who loves to take pictures, but a self-conscience introvert will stretch you and help you grow.

Study Posing  Subscribe to Vanity Fair; go through your favorite photographer’s galleries. Notice how they have people move, what they do with their hands, the way they have people pose together… Take notes.

Get Involved with a Local Photography Group

Join JPPG and local groups to find photographers in your area who are getting together. Look for Opportunities to Learn  Join forums. Participate. Attend conferences and workshops. Ask questions. Approach photographers you admire about workshopsThere are also tons of online courses and programs available. Classes like the ones offered on Creative Live, and podcasts like The Photobiz Xposed are available at any time and have a wealth of knowledge to offer.

Learn all aspects of the trade, not just the photography side.

I can’t stress this enough. As you seek out learning opportunities, don’t just look at the things that will make you a better photographer. Look for great teachings on sales, marketing, accounting,administration, SEO, social media, etc. You might find these inside the photography industry, or from a different source entirely. Be open to the possibilities. You can be a great photographer and still fail if you don’t pay attention to the business side of things.

Get to know your Industry

For wedding photographers, look for where other industry pros (Planners, florists, Dj’s, etc.) are hanging out and go there. Invest in them. Show genuine interest. Look for ways to be helpful to them. If you’re wanting to get into portrait photography, look for businesses that also cater to your market, like independent clothing and toy stores.

Have Solid Contracts in Place  This is pretty self-explanatory. If you need help with this, join PPA (Professional Photographers of America). They have many contract templates available for free for their members. Their lawyers will also look over your contracts and give you advice as needed.

Have the Appropriate Gear and Backup Gear

This is so important. Don’t land yourself in a situation where you can’t deliver because you don’t have what you need, or your equipment broke. If you can’t afford to buy everything right off the bat, you can rent. I’ve never rented so I can’t recommend a specific place, but googling camera rentals pulls up plenty of options.

Recognize the difference between a Business Purchase and a Personal Purchase.

As you gather your gear/software/workshops/etc., make sure you recognize the difference between a business decision and a personal one.

Having a backup camera = business decision. You need this to run your business properly.  Buying the latest, greatest camera available instead of the previous model that’s half the price = potential personal decision. Unless that latest, greatest camera will somehow make it possible for you to make more money than the previous model, choosing that one is a personal decision. Be smart with your purchases and put your money where it will really count to advance your business.

Put a solid organization/backup system in place for all files

For more info on how we organize and back up our files, check out How to Organize Your Wedding Photography Photos and Client Files.

Have a Professional Looking Website

If you want people to take you seriously, you need to have a nice, clean, up to date website. You don’t have to have a ton of portfolio on there yet. That will come with time. Just have something in place to send others to when you meet. Your website is a valuable place for you to invest.”

I have been a wedding photographer for over 14 years and thought this was good advice.

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