A wedding is one of the biggest and most important days in the lives of many people. It is both an end and a beginning, a transformative stage, and as such this day is filled with emotions and great expressions of them. It is little wonder, then, that the people who are getting married would want good, high-quality pictures of this day to capture all these moments. A professional wedding photographer must not only be able to take great pictures, but he must also be able to spot the opportunities for them as well.
The first, and most obvious, need for someone who wants to become a professional wedding photographer is a quality camera. Whether you are shooting in film or in digital media, the camera and associated equipment will provide the upper limits for the quality of the pictures you can take. Most wedding photographers will, in fact, carry two (or more) cameras, each with a different lens to capture different shots.
Whether you carry one camera or more, however, you need to know the camera and its functions like the back of your hand. Remember that many moments in a wedding will happen quickly and you will have only one shot to capture them. Fiddling with a button or toggle or hesitating as you consider which settings work best can mean you miss the shot. If that shot is the father giving his daughter a quick kiss on the cheek as he hands her to the groom, the bride and groom’s first kiss, or the cutting of the cake, then there will be a huge hole missing in the wedding album.
One of the best ways to ensure that you do not miss those moments is to understand the flow of weddings. You need to know both weddings in general and the particular wedding you are going to shoot. Before you start shooting weddings professionally, it is a good idea to attend as many weddings as possible and to pay attention to when those important moments happen. Where would the best place to shoot the bride’s entrance or the first kiss be? How can you move about various venues without disrupting the ceremony or annoying the guests? These are questions to consider well before you have to actually shoot a wedding. As a professional wedding photographer, you should be prepared to visit the specific venue and get the ceremony details for any wedding you will photograph so you can apply these general thoughts to the situation and be sure to get these shots.
After you have a feel for how weddings flow and how your equipment works, it is time to consider shooting a wedding. However, you are likely not ready to hire yourself out as a professional wedding photographer yet. There are two good ways to gain necessary experience. The first way is to offer your services for free or a steeply reduced price in exchange for a release to use the photographs in your portfolio. You can do this for a friend of family member, or you can advertise your services on websites like Craigslist. By offering free or severely reduced prices, you are letting the couple know that they are getting an aspiring photographer and their expectations will be more commensurate with your abilities. The second way to gain experience is to start as an assistant and second photographer for an established professional wedding photographer in your area. This will help relieve the pressure on you to capture every perfect shot, but will give you wider exposure to a variety of wedding styles.
As you are gaining photographic experience, you will want to consider other aspects of being a professional wedding photographer. Learning image processing, whether this is developing your own film or retouching a digital file, will help you take your pictures from good to great. At the same time, you will want to learn the business aspects of being a professional photographer as well. Advertising, pricing, contracts, taxes, and insurance are just a few of the business and legal aspects you will need to consider as you set off on your own.
Being a professional wedding photographer can be a fun and rewarding career. It is not, however, a career to take up on a whim. Neglecting important areas of the business is a recipe for disaster, but by learning basic photography, your personal equipment, wedding basics, and business skills, you can launch your own career as a wedding photographer. The moments you will capture as a professional wedding photographer will create memories that last a lifetime, so it is well worth the time to learn the skills now, before you begin.