Originally I had no interest in being a wedding photographer. I was mainly a sports photographer, and I was a full-time teacher, so I never planned on getting into weddings. Well, a teacher talked me into photographing her wedding, and I got obsessed from there. This might be how most photographers get his or her first wedding, but for many, it’s more of a struggle. They might be desperately trying to find someone, but they just can’t.
How to Get Your First Wedding as a Wedding Photographer
Once you’ve figured out that you are ready to be a wedding photographer, you need to actually find some clients. This is a lot harder than it sounds. It’s not like other forms of photography where you can always find people to work with. Weddings are extremely important, so people aren’t as willing to risk it with a new photographer. If it was just a portrait session, they could always redo that, but you can’t redo a wedding. Most people don’t want your first wedding to be their wedding. So how do you get your first wedding as a wedding photographer then? Here are some tips to try out.
Friends and Family
Ok, so this can be a dangerous area, so I want to make sure I’m clear on this point. DON’T LET YOUR FIRST WEDDING BE FRIENDS AND FAMILY. I know, all caps, I must be serious. You love these people, so you don’t want to take a risk with them and ruin a relationship.
You can use your friends and family for other things. If you have an engaged friend or family member, offer to do their engagements or bridals. These shoots are important, but if something happens, they can always be redone. A wedding can’t. These shoots will help you build your portfolio, which is the next step.
Build Your Portfolio
No bride (at least I hope not) is going to hire you without looking at your work. The problem, as we’ve already mentioned, is that if you’re looking for your first wedding, you have no real work. That’s ok. You can build your portfolio without having shot a real wedding.
The easiest way to build your portfolio is to offer free photo sessions. Make sure they are all wedding-focused, though. This could be to those family and friends or anyone. It’s good practice for you, and brides will feel more confident when they see multiple couples in your portfolio instead of just one.
Another great way to build your portfolio is to do a styled shoot. Basically, you get with a bunch of other wedding vendors and you create some fake scenes from a wedding. This helps you get wedding-like photos without the pressure and stress of a real wedding. It also helps you meet other vendors, which can help you in the future.
If this still isn’t enough, you can get some real wedding photos and experience by second shooting. The big thing with this is you need to be upfront with the lead photographer beforehand and tell him or her that you want to use the photos for your own portfolio. Some will tell you no and some will tell you yes. You might have to work for free to get them, but that could be worth it.
Now that you’ve got a portfolio full of engagements, bridals, and styled shoots, brides will take you seriously. You still might have trouble being found by brides or getting them to say yes.
If you are really struggling to get your first wedding as a wedding photographer, I’d try out Craigslist. You can either do it for free or extremely cheap. This is not going to be the best place to find brides, but this could be the place to find your first wedding. Once you do one or two of these Craiglist weddings, stop doing them.
Craiglist might not be for everyone. There are some photographers that are very confident in their skills, so they want to jump straight into a real deal, paying wedding gig. Those people might try out a Facebook ad. Facebook ads are cheap, you can target whomever you want, and Facebook doesn’t care if you’ve never photographed a wedding before. This can get you in front of some brides, but then you’d still have to close the deal.
Being a wedding photographer really has a lot to do with momentum. Those first few weddings are hard to get and might not be the most glamorous, but then things will start to pick up. People will start seeing your work, you’ll make connections in the wedding world, and brides and other people from the weddings will send you referrals. If you’re struggling right now with how to get your first wedding as a wedding photographer, be patient and keep trying. Go through all the things I mentioned above and I bet that first wedding will be coming soon! Good luck!