It has been more than 2 years since I started wedding photography professionally. I had been doing photography for past 8 years before I finally decided to make it as a career. The reason I chose weddings is because I enjoy meeting new people and photograph their peculiarities and nuances, something which I have enjoyed ever since I had got involved in photography. So whether it was clicking rural village folks near the college in the wee hours of the morning or capturing performances on stage to shooting girls in college, who were often more than happy to have a great profile picture for their Facebook. My stint at Better Photography magazine and later working on my own calendar for the college gave me more confidence in my photography.
So, in this span of 2 years I have learned a lot and I wish I would have known a lot of these things before I started. This is going to be a comprehensive post.
1: Never rush to be a professional: Before you get into photography and risk taking photos something as important as people’s wedding. It is a good idea that you practice your skill enough – 2 years is minimum and then also learn under a professional if you get the opportunity. A lot of photographers keep looking for assistants in their shoots to lift their bags, editing and even second or third shooters at times. It is a good idea to get associated to a photographer. You can learn a lot about handling customers, managing expectations and learn a lot by editing a good photographers photographs.
2: Observe a lot of good work: Make a list of best wedding photographers and study their work. Try to imagine how they would have clicked it – lens, focal length, vantage point, angle, composition and lighting. At the same time try recreating them on your own and you would know it is not as easy as it seems 🙂
3: Get the right gear: Wedding photography is the most demanding form of photography if you really want to shine and be among the top photographers in the country. Carefully look up the ratings on DXO mark. Understand terms like Dynamic Range, color depth, ISO performance and Auto-Focus. It is very important that you get a good camera before you start to make money out of shooting people’s wedding. Other approach is try to shoot low budget weddings with crop sensor entry level DSLR where the expectation is minimum and then save for the right gear. You can also rent the equipment and at least charge your client for all your equipment rental, travel, editing efforts and don’t forget profit so that you can keep upgrading your gear.
4: Don’t be the only photographer in a friend’s wedding/ Discuss what you will provide clearly: It is important to discuss what you can deliver. Don’t overstretch yourself with timelines. Clearly communicate that it will take 20 days at least to process the images. You are new to lightroom and trust me you are not a master when it comes to batch editing unless you have edited 5-7 weddings assignments where the number of photographs to be delivered are huge – 1000 to 2000! People don’t understand your work and they are likely to compare with the other studio wallahs who will churn images more quickly than you. The reason I say to avoid friend’s weddings in the beginning is because you don’t know yourself how long you will take to edit so many images because you never have edited 1000 images in one go. Also it can get more tricky if you are only shooting in ‘natural and ambient light’. Friends can be very demanding and you may not be able to satisfy them. This may sour your friendship.
5: Get the contract signed: Always get the contract signed. The contract will be a written document on the deliverables promised and later on the client or you can’t budge from what has been promised. Newly weds can be quite demanding in their demands.
6: Know important people: Be careful to ask who are important people in the wedding. Some people are very reserved and they may not interact much on the wedding scene and while being important may get left out. Whereas a beautiful girl or a boisterous aunty ji may seem to be important but might just turn out to be a neighbour in the building 😛 To be safe just click atleast one photo of most people you come across. Don’t forget to click bride’s and groom parents. My advice click their solos, them together and with bride and groom. It always makes the client happy.
7: Variety : Don’t restrict yourself to just close up shots from a distance. Be bold and take wider shots too which tell stories. Wedding photography is not just about portraits after all. If you fail to capture the essence of the wedding, the bigger picture, the underlying story, the details, the cake, the jewellery, attire etc, then you have failed in your job. Wedding photography is not an easy job and hell not easy to satisfy your demanding clients.
8: Don’t get tired: The weddings are very hectic and intense environment to work. You may end up being on your feet for 15 -16 hours! So it is better you take good care of your health and drink a lot of water!
9: Carry the earplugs: Yes this is very important because during DJ playing or Baraat your eardrums will thank you if you don’t forget the ear plugs.
10: Always carry two cameras at least – While it is good practice to carry two and shoot with two at the same time if you work with prime lenses. There are times when one of your camera can go wrong for any damn reason and it can get quite scary if you came to the wedding scene carrying just one camera!
11: Use Bounce flash: First thing a wedding photographer needs to get is a flash. Lot of you still may not use a flash, but bounce flash saves you from getting noisy and dark images and most photos just need contrast and white balance correction if you have exposed your image properly.
12: Two lenses to rule them all: I will let you a small secret which most photographers may not tell you. If you are beginning your career, then just get 35mm 1.4 and 85 1.8 lens. I shoot 90-95% times with these two lenses despite having 7 lenses in my bag.
13: Don’t get bored: While it is easier said than done, there are some functions which are downright boring. Endless exchange of gifts, Tikas time and again on the forehead may bog you down and tempt you to find a corner with a sofa and doze off. But for a thorough professional this is the time to get a little experimental to find a different angle and if you are still learning experiment with your compositions.
14: Don’t be afraid: There are times when some guest or relative might get rude to you for no apparent real fault of yours for eg. blocking their view from their comfortable seats. Don’t get the scolding stop you from running around and working hard to get the perfect shot just be careful you don’t hurt anyone.
15: Not everything can be Candid: Candid photography doesn’t mean that you have to take natural expressions only. It is alright if you give a call to the bride or groom to look towards you. This is especially helpful when the pandit is chanting mantras to which no one is paying attention and groom and bride might just be sulking and lost in their thoughts of how their life will now change. Mostly they will be happy they their photographer is asking them to strike a smile. Ever seen a celebrity walking the red carpet posing happily for the shutterbugs? Your clients are the celebrity running down the gauntlets of a cherished dream!
16: Dealing with over-enthusiastic brides: These are the brides which will keep you on your toes and test your stamina but they are also the best clients to work with. The key is to be more enthusiastic than them. They are full of ideas, work along with it and also try different things which you may have been planning for your shots but may have not got the opportunity to implement earlier. Make them jump, twirl, sit on bed, lie on sofa, stand by window, run down the alley with their groom close-behind. If you are beginning to get tired, don’t worry…the groom will get tired before you do 😛
17: Communicate well: Good communication is the key to success to any profession and in a people’s profession it is paramount you have good communication skills. In fact if you don’t have that, don’t dream to be a wedding photographer at all. It is like being a soldier who doesn’t have limbs. There is a solution to this problem though. Have enough money to hire a girl to do the talking for you or even better marry a girl who would be ready be a photographer alongside you.
To be continued…
The next post will be about the back-end monster and about the business of wedding photography.