Since the summer of 2005 when I got my first DSLR my skill and passion for photography have flourished (the passion anyway). I’ve gradually built up a collection of nice lenses and accessories such as tripods and flashguns but up to now it has strictly been an amateur affair and just a hobby. Particularly since the birth of my daughter money has naturally been tight and so shiny new stuff has kind of been out of reach. Any new purchases from now on will have to pay for themselves.
I’ve been thinking for while about trying to make a little bit of cash from my pictures, but mostly that thought has been around the idea of stock photography. I’ve put a few of my landscape and wildlife shots on iStockphoto but have only had one download which has earnt me 22p. Wedding photography seems lucrative but how do you break into it without having shot a wedding first. I mean, who in their right mind trusts the recording of the happiest day of their life to someone who’s never done it before?
The answer appears to be someone who wasn’t even going to have a photographer at all, but as I seemed cheap, what was there to lose?
Remembering how important the choice of photographer was for my own wedding and how much responsibility there it is precipitated a few nerves. There is little room for error, few chances to get key shots and most importantly – no re-shoots. I felt I needed some advice. Luckily I know a few semi-pro’s who’ve shot weddings and they were able to give me some good advice, plus I just tried to emulate the photographer at my own wedding who was excellent. The top tips I gleaned were:
- Try to get a written schedule of the day in advance, that way you can keep track of where you need to be and when.
- Have a shot list from the bride of both the formal and informal shots that you MUST get.
- Factor in 3 min per formal shot. Doesn’t sound long, but 20 will take an hour.
- Have a great usher/best person who can organise and cajole people (bride and groom included).
- Check with priest/registrar beforehand what photography they are happy with during the ceremony.
- Have a spare camera, batteries (for everything including flash), lots of memory cards, lens wipes.
- Get to the venue early, scope out the best places for photos with nice backdrops and have a plan B. Plan out where your position yourself.
- During speeches, don’t forget to photograph people’s reactions, laughing, clapping etc.
- If you have a chance, get pictures of the small things – bouquets, champagne glasses, reception tables and settings, flowers, favours etc.
I felt quite calm before I left, I’d prepared all my gear, the bride had given me a clear brief and I felt ok. My main worry, if I had one, was getting to the venue – it was a two hour drive into deepest Kent. I gave myself plenty of ‘getting lost’ time and ended up arriving very early indeed, which perhaps is not such a bad thing.
I took the time to scope out the various locations that I would be covering during the day. Luckily for me, the ceremony and reception were going to be held at the same place and included a beautiful garden and big, light marquee. I got some shots of the empty venue, the tables and the cake and then kind of hung around for a bit with not much to do.
After a bit of a wait, the guests started arriving so I got some snaps of them before everyone was seated for the big ceremony.
It was a wonderful setting in a beautiful garden with an attractive flower entwined pagoda where the ceremony would take place. The bride made a graceful entrance with her father and so the real work started. I soon found that whilst the pagoda looked great it made for really awkward photography as the pillars blocked one or more of the wedding party and I found it tough to get nice shots.
I was also quite conscious that my darting about might be annoying for the guests although I tried to push this out of my mind and concentrate on the job in hand.
It all went swimmingly well and I think I did as well as I could have done given the tricky circumstances. I was certainly helped out by a very photogenic couple and reasonable weather.
I did find the formal shots hard, partly as it was quite difficult work just getting people in place but mostly because there was so much to think about. For instance I failed to spot that one key person was hiding in one of the family shots. I’ll know better next time.
Things were a bit easier once we were in the marquee for speeches and dinner although there was still little chance to relax. I was keen not to have to stay till the end and felt I may have slightly badgered the bride into cutting the cake and having a first dance. I got the shots though and my day was done. I then just had a long drive home.
Of course that’s not the end of the work, it’s then about downloading and sorting through 625 photos to find and post process the good ones. After my initial scan through I realised that I pretty much nailed the important shots and there were only a few that were iffy. Not too bad for a first time anyway.
I did find the day quite exhausting, mainly through having to concentrate for 7 hours, but I didn’t find it too bad and not really that stressful.
I’d definitely do it again, although my fee will be going up now that I know how much work it all is!