Ever wondered what life as a Photographer is really like? What exactly does a Photographer do aside from take photographs and what does it take to become one? Whilst every photographer is different, let me share with you my thoughts on life as a Wedding Photographer:
What do you do on a wedding day?
Spend the day with my couples, unobtrusively shooting all the key moments of their wedding day. I stick to an agreed schedule and will photograph the initial getting ready stages, right through to the action later in the evening. I coordinate with venue staff to keep everything running on time and have to be organised and in control to ensure my couples are where they need to be. You have to be confident in this job, for example when you are organising large numbers of people to get them in place, all looking at your camera for a large, group shot. I spend a lot of the day running around but then also spend periods very still, anticipating a moment that is about to happen and being poised, ready with my camera to photograph it.
1.Variety, you get to meet so many different people and see in to their life on such an emotionally charged day. Each couple is different, they have their own careers, interesting backgrounds, different stories, small families / big families, close knit relationships or strained situations. Each wedding and each couple are so different so I’m always prepared for the unexpected. I’m lucky in that I tend to attract laid back couples who are easy to work with and welcome me into their lives. You become part of this world for a short period and are exposed to their life in a very personal way. It’s a real privilege, hence why some of my past clients are now good friends.
2. You are your own boss. I have the freedom to choose when and where I work. I could be shooting a city wedding in London one weekend to a barn wedding in the Cotswolds the next. I run my business by my rules. This week I’ve been up to my waist in a rapeseed field for a lovely engagement shoot!
3. I’ve seen hundreds of people exchange their vows and marry each other. Seeing someone nervous, excited and emotional walk down an aisle to marry the person who means everything to them never gets boring. The jokes the registrars make can make your toes curl however (sorry)! Photographing the tears, the nervous gulps for air, the exchanging of rings (where one ring always seems too small for its intended finger) and that first kiss – how cool is it to be paid to witness and photograph this moment!
What do you do the night before a wedding? And the day after?
Clean my lenses, charge camera and flash batteries, empty memory cards, check the schedule so I know start time and postcode of first shooting location. Pack snacks / water and get a good nights sleep if possible. I am also fastidious about never having a takeaway the night before a wedding – better to be safe than sorry!
The day after? I always wish I could have a lie in (but my kids think differently) as my back and shoulders usually really ache and my hands will be sore and physically you can’t help but feel tired as you’ve been on the go, alert for 10 hours, it does feel a little like a hangover. When I get in from a wedding I’ll download and back up all my RAW wedding files, I will share a preview image on social media but then won’t look at them again for approx. 48 hours. If it’s a Sunday then this is typically a family day and we try to get out in the fresh air, heading to the park and then usually out for lunch – wine is also part of my Sunday!
What are the 5 things no one told you when starting your photography business which you know now but wish you knew then?
1.Comparison is the thief of joy. You can kill your self-esteem by looking at the beautiful work of your peers and competitors. Your daily Facebook feed and Instagram becomes full of stunning, creative and emotive images. You’ll beat yourself up that you’re not good enough or that your editing is rubbish. You’ll slobber over blogs featuring beautiful couples, in beautiful locations, photographed beautifully. After some time, often years, you’ll unsubscribe and stop following many of these Facebook feeds having learnt that comparison serves no purpose other than to scratch your ‘my work isn’t good enough’ button. Instead you’ll develop your own style naturally, you’ll work out how you shoot, what your strength and natural style is and will find your own way. I think most Creatives are pretty sensitive souls, it’s our DNA. I care and focus on my photographs and it’s important that my couples love their images – when you send someone their wedding photos for the first time and then don’t hear anything back for ages that can feel like torture – but that’s the emotional side of me speaking, I’ve realised with experience that sometimes your clients are just busy and just haven’t looked at them straight away. Needing to know your work is loved lessens as your confidence grows in time because you start to value other things about your work – the hidden impact that your photographs have for your couples becomes far more important. One client lost her mother very soon after her wedding and I know my photographs became even more important to her without her telling me so.
2.That you need to be really savvy and disciplined with your working time to ensure you schedule time for yourself and your family / friends. You can spend the day working at home on your business, editing a wedding (with Netflix on in the background for company), then you catch yourself wolfing down your evening meal as ‘I just need to send a couple of emails’. It takes discipline to focus during the day and there are some great apps you can install to help keep you focused and off social media when you should be working, however you also have to try hard to stop yourself turning your Mac back on and doing a quick bit of editing in the evenings in your supposed family time. Wedding season takes up you so much of your summer and then once the season is over and you’ve caught up on all the editing and album design work all you feel like doing is sleeping! So maintaining a work life balance and remaining focused during your working day are really important to keeping sane!
3. There is nothing like taking your shoes off at the end of a 10 hour wedding, sinking in to the sofa and cracking open the alcohol. At the same time as massaging your ‘claw hand’ and trying to unfurl your fingers from their curled up, rigid position caused by cradling your heavy camera body for such a long time. I wish I’d found my Physio sooner! I now have regular massages and look after my physical self. I also recommend looking at how your carry your kit around on a wedding day to minimise unnecessary strain on your body. I currently shoot wearing a back harness that holds two cameras but am about to move to a different harness that I can wear around my waist in order to reduce the strain across my shoulders.
4. That you’ll receive an email or phone call daily telling you that your SEO is shocking, you aren’t on page one of Google but X company will have the magic key to help you reach page one of Google yesterday. Ignore it – they found you in the first place didn’t you? Don’t waste money on SEO agencies, many will use quick tricks and dodgy backlinks which’ll ultimately harm your website more than benefit it. There are simple things that you can do to improve your SEO and help you to be found by couples and Google isn’t the only way to find clients – many photographers develop their networks by building relationship with local industry suppliers, venues / hair stylists / wedding planners and getting referrals this way, or through positive word of mouth from past wedding clients. Don’t invest all your eggs in the Google basket.
5. Probably the biggie for me would be to consider investing in business training, alongside the creative workshops that are hugely appealing and motivating (and usually really sociable). Running a photography business is about 20% photography for a lot of the time, the rest of the time you are a marketer, accountant, graphic designer, salesman and administrator all in one. Finding an amazing business coach or mentor to guide you through the early years can save you a lot of money – someone who’ll help you determine where your energy and money should be invested.
What does it take to become a successful wedding photographer?
Firstly, this very much depends upon how you measure success. To some people success could mean being recognised and regarded in the wedding industry by fellow photographers, to others it’s about having 40+ weddings in the diary a year and for other wedding photographers it’s about having continual happy couples loving their work and for others it’s a combination of all or none of these points.
For me, in some ways success is something I don’t feel I’ve fully achieved as yet purely because every year things change and I change and grow and want to keep developing. I love my clients and am motivated by their feedback and hearing what my images mean to them, I get a massive buzz when I see my work framed in someone’s home or hear how a wedding album I’ve produced is being treasured by a couple. Photography for me is a journey and I still feel I can learn and soak up so much more, develop and evolve my business, a business which I genuinely love. So success for me will be referrals from past clients leading to bookings, happy feedback from couples and a full diary of wedding bookings, all the while keeping time free to spend with my precious family.
Picture credits to the hugely talented Alexa Loy and Michelle Vrnak. Thanks ladies xxx