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Should You Be a Wedding Photographer?

I just realized how little I have been blogging in the past three months. This tends to happen every year. It gets to be my busy season (13 weddings in 3 months so far), and I just get so busy doing other things that I forget to blog. Then, I remember and I get really motivated and blog a lot. Well, my goal is to blog 5 days a week for the next two weeks. We will see if it happens.

During the next two weeks, I thought I’d do something a little different. There are a lot of people out there that want to be a wedding photographer and there are plenty of new wedding photographers. I thought I’d help out both groups and create a guide for wedding photographers through those 10 blog posts. Today, we start off with probably the most important topic: Should You Be a Wedding Photographer? 

Should You Be a Wedding Photographer?

As I mentioned earlier, there are plenty of people wanting to become wedding photographers, but not everyone should wedding photographer. I don’t say this to be mean. I say this more to protect couples and protect the photographers. I’ve seen and heard of too many situations where a person jumped into wedding photography, wasn’t prepared, and then screwed up. So if some of the following things I say upset you, that’s not my goal. Also, I’m not saying you can’t become one in the future. I’m just saying you shouldn’t be photographing weddings right now.

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Why do you want to be a wedding photographer?

This is the most important question, so if you don’t pass this one, I really don’t think you need to read anything else. Weddings are fun, special, lovely events and if you want to be a wedding photographer, you have to love weddings and love people. If you don’t love weddings, it will show and why would you want to do something you don’t like?

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I’ve heard it several times: weddings are where the money is. This is true. Wedding photographers can make a lot of money per wedding, but that can be deceiving. If I shoot 30 weddings at $3,000 a piece, that’s $60,000 a year. $60,000 for 30 days of work! Yeah, except it’s not 30 days of work. Each wedding is really about 5 days of work, and that $60,000 drops pretty quickly with all of the expenses.

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With all of that said, if money is your main reason to be a wedding photographer, you really need to do something else. Yes, I want to make money and I try to make money, but it’s not my main goal. My main goal is to help people have a wonderful wedding and have wonderful memories.

How much photography experience do you have?

Weddings are a beast. You have to be good at so many different things. You have to shoot in bright light and dark rooms. You have to be good at portraits, details (like product photography), groups, and candids. You have to be able to talk to people and deal with posing large families. Weddings aren’t something you can just walk into and be great at without experience. Trust me, my first weddings were nothing compared to what I do now.

To be a wedding photographer, you either need a ton of experience in all of those things separately, or you need to have some experience second shooting or assisting before you take one on by yourself. For most people, the second option is the best. This way you can work with a professional and see how things work best without the pressure of being the lead photographer.

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Once you have gained a decent amount of experience, then you can probably be a wedding photographer. Let’s look at the next area where people fall short.

How much equipment do you have?

Ok, you don’t have to have $10,000 worth of gear to be a wedding photographer, but there still are some pieces of equipment you will need.  I’m only going to go into the basics. There are plenty of other things that make life easier and allow you to do more things, but that’s for another time.

You will need a decent camera body. Again, this doesn’t have to be the most expensive camera, but you don’t want to go in there with the cheapest camera available. There is definitely a difference between the best cameras and the worst and it can affect your performance.

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You will need a few lenses. You will need something that can get wide and something that can get close. What you decide to go with as far as focal length and zoom vs. prime are up to you. The big thing is that these lenses need to have a lower f-stop, like f2.8 or f1.8. The good news is that there are cheap 50mm f1.8 lenses out there and also some cheap 85mm f1.8 lenses. If you go for the zoom lenses, though, it’s going to be more expensive. If you’re not sure about what to get, you can read my article on zoom vs. prime lenses.

You will also need a speedlight. Lots of you will say, though, “I’m a natural light photographer.” Well good for you, but honestly, it’s very difficult to do a bunch of weddings and never use a flash. I bring about 4 with me to every wedding, but the bare minimum would be one for the top of your camera.

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Last, you’ll need some accessories. You’ll need a battery for your camera and a memory card. You camera should come with a battery, but you will have to buy a memory card. One important thing about the memory card is the write speed. If you buy a slow memory card, your camera can actually stop taking photos while it tries to write the previous images to the card. I usually aim for 95 megabytes per second.

Ok, so that’s all the things required, but here’s where the fun comes in. You need backups for all of them. That means you need two bodies, maybe an extra lens or two, another speedlight, and plenty of batteries and memory cards. Weddings are chaos, and things do happen. Cameras break, flashes stop working, memory cards fill up. If any of these things happen to you and you don’t have a backup, you’re done! Get backups.

Should You Be a Wedding Photographer

Conclusion

I know this was a long blog post, but I really do think people should think about those three things before agreeing to photograph someone’s wedding. Weddings are so important, so you must be prepared and take them seriously. If you went through my whole list of things for should you be a wedding photographer and were able to answer positively, congrats! Weddings are awesome, and I’m sure you will be an amazing wedding photographer!

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