To be a successful wedding photographer requires the careful combination of four key elements: photography skills, equipment, business skills and people skills. Having sufficient photography skills and the right equipment are critical, but are not the focus of this article. Success, as a wedding photographer, will have as much to do with your business and people skills as your ability to deliver high quality images to your clients; sometimes more so.
1. The first important business skill is realizing you are operating a business; and like any business, you should have a legal, financial and management structure in place before you accept the first job. Read these and other PhotographyTalk.com articles for more detailed information.
2. The next important step to operate a wedding photography business is to create an identity for yourself: name, logo, business card and Web site. Of these, a Web site is absolutely crucial, as it will be your primary marketing tool and where most of your prospective clients will learn about you and view samples of your work. A wedding photography business Web site doesn’t require many bells and whistles. Your home page should display a few samples of your best work, maybe in a rotating series to give the page some movement, and then complemented with a short, but compelling message that answers the common question in every prospect’s mind, “Why should I hire this person to photograph my wedding?” The answer should be in the form of benefit statements, such as your reliability, delivering on time, excellent customer service, etc. You also want to include one or two testimonials on your home page from previous clients.
3. Find photographers you like. Study the photos that you have a personal interest in. There will be websites and galleries for you to explore. But don’t just look at them, study them. Look at the composition and the lighting, trying to figure out what it is about the picture that makes it special for you. You then try to emulate the qualities that make it special in your own photography. Be patient with yourself, since this may not happen right away. Practice and patience will pay off.
4. Wedding photographers are clearly in the people business. It’s the personal connection you make with your clients that may be more important to whether you are successful than the quality of photos you shoot. If your clients don’t recognize quality and professionalism in your character and they don’t see the value of having you so intimately involved with their wedding and families, then they simply won’t hire you.
5. Recognize the Moment. Henri Cartier Bresson said the most important thing about his photography was recognizing the exact right moment to take a picture. Every subject, even a landscape, has the one right moment for the image exposure. In a landscape it could be a certain time of the day. While this image was created in the darkroom, both of the blended images were taken at exactly the right time, which is what makes the composite an award-winning photograph.
Improving your photography skills can come in many different “colors.” Your first step should be to determine what your goal is. If you just want to get better at photography as a hobby, you can spend some time at the camera forums and practicing around the home. If, on the other hand, your goal is to become a professional, an art school will get you there much faster than any of the other suggestions. Most folks fall somewhere in the middle of these two extremes.