It’s an interesting fact that quite a few photographers (or most of my peers in the industry) found their first paid gig through someone they knew well. And most of the time its a wedding or party. Though the former is much more of a big deal as a first time wedding photographer.
When there is a photographer who is not yet a professional but has a talent for photography, someone is at some point bound to ask them for a favor to photography a special event for them.
This is usually how many photographers begin their journey in this industry.
Your First Client
It’s usually a friend or a family member who asks. And there are two reasons why they have asked you, firstly, that they recognise that you are a talented photographer (which is great to know!) and secondly, they already ‘know you’.
Perhaps they have trust in you, which is something you cannot replicate with a brand new client. It takes a few jobs to build rapport and trust in the industry.
All a new client would know at first is that you are a good photographer and highly recommended. They need to have worked with you before they can trust in you. A friend or family member know you well enough that this is a foregone conclusion.
What Next as a First Time Wedding Photographer
It might be your cousin or best friend who has asked you and between you, you both have never photographed a wedding.
It’s a little negative to say, but I need to ask: …Have you thought hard about whether you are suitable for the job? You more than likely are! But you will always have small doubts.
Knowing when you are taking on more than you can chew is a good ability to have. A small wedding in the local church and then a pub reception is a much different kettle of fish to a lavish 500 person wedding where they expect photoshoot back-drops and photo booths.
Know your limits
Not knowing your strengths and limits will lead to clients expecting more than you are able to deliver.
But if you do know them and it’s not a job too big, then congratulations on the first job! I can remember my first ever wedding nearly a decade ago. It thankfully all went well, but it was not without its hiccups.
These tips are a few of the things that would have helped me way back then.
Tip 1: Set Clear Expectations
If you’re getting paid (we’ll get to this), then you’re now a Pro. But this is your first job. No matter how good you are at photography, you will still be learning on the job.
Make sure to make the couple clear that you won’t be able to deliver the equivalent quality of work as a first time wedding photographer that an experienced wedding photographer would.
That’s not to say the photos will be substandard, but to understand you will still be doing the best you can with the experience you have as a first time wedding photographer.
Once everyone is on the same level of expectation, there shouldn’t be any disappointment.
One of my personal policies is to undersell and over deliver. Which is infinitely better than overselling and under delivering, which I think many people are prone to do.
Tip 2: Confirm a Price
This is probably the most common mistake a first time wedding photographer, heck, any first time photographer makes.
An extra reason a friend or family might ask you to photograph their wedding is reducing costs.
Wedding photography can be one of the biggest costs and many couples go into planning unaware of this. Not everyone realises the cost of getting great photos. Some even think it’s a simple job so won’t cost much.
You as a first time wedding photographer will be cheap. You may decide to do it for free or as a favor. So make sure you are clear what payment you are expecting beforehand.
The price should be the first thing you and the couple decide on.
I have seen too many first time photographers who go into the job, only to decide or negotiate a price after. This is an unnecessary mistake many first time photographers make. And it will almost always end in disagreement.
Additionally, if you seek monetary compensation for your efforts, know your value. A wedding is the better part of a day in working hours and you’ll need the equivalent amount of hours to edit. Multiply this by the hourly rate you think you are worth and that’s your value.
Tip 3: Location Scouting
Now you have the first two tips resolved and are taking on the job. You need to know every facet of the battlefield to win the war!
Getting to know the location will reveal any obstacles or hazards, and any issues that you may encounter.
Every wedding event can be different, so you need to be prepared ahead of the wedding to know where the best places are to get the right shot. Where the light falls for the best shot.
Knowing this information beforehand means you spend less time figuring things out, and more time taking more shots.
Standing in the wrong position, figuring out the right settings while you have seconds to get the bride and groom walking up the aisle is not a situation you want to find yourself in.
Tip 4: Duplicate Everything
This should go without saying. If you have a camera with two memory card slots, have it write to both cards. One with .RAW and the other .JPEG.
If you have the funds or access, backup your equipment. Having a backup camera is better than having nothing if your camera fails. Same thing goes for memory cards. Have as many as financially feasible.
Tip 4: Know the Plan
Make sure you are kept in the loop, the couple can send you an itinerary for what the schedule of events are, so you know when all the important moments will take place: when the bride walks down the aisle, when the confetti is thrown, to later in the evening, when the cake is cut.
You also need to know where the important people will be. Obviously the bride and groom, but the vicar, the best man, the maid of honor. All of you will be working together during the wedding, especially when the itinerary changes.
Tip 5: Take Charge
One interesting thing that I realised on my first job was you need to take charge of situations.
Mostly a wedding photographer is out of sight capturing the moments, but when it comes to couple and group shots, you need to find your voice to command the situation.
Most people don’t know how to pose, or how to stand; you need to be able to tell them, direct them, and show them what you need to get the best shot.
Don’t forget to listen. The couple and their guests may suggest poses or backgrounds to shoot, this should be encouraged.
And don’t be afraid to boss people about. Children and the older guests will have little patience during group shots. Keeping your composure is key. Speak up and strongly assert your authority.
It’s a big event for the couple, the best day of their lives, and your monumental task is to capture that, especially as a first time photographer.
So remember to take a moment to breathe and compose yourself. You have the skills and tools to do the best job, and you can do it!
During my first wedding, as the wedding unfolded I realised it wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be.
There were a few hiccups that challenged me, but I was in my element. There was a moment I realised I knew I could do this, and once I had that realisation I could enjoy the rest of the wedding day with the wedding couple and their guests.
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