I've spent years picking up odd tips, completing online courses, researching techniques, and now, I'm confident in sharing some of that knowledge with the world. Of course, I'm still learning and will continue to pick up tips for the rest of my career. For now, though, I'll share some I wish I had known sooner.
These tips are more personal than technical. Other articles out there will give you advice about off-camera flash exposure or some marketing hints. But, my three are things that I've learned on my personal journey in wedding photography, which could have saved me money or time over my career.
1. Don't Get Bogged Down With Gear
I'm heading straight into this with the gear misconception. A common thought among people new to weddings is that professionals carry lots of gear.
I regularly have emails or messages from new or aspiring wedding photographers asking if they can come along to a wedding and gain some experience. They almost always say: "I can help you carry your bags." It's lovely to be offered something in return for knowledge or experience, but the truth is this: I have no bags to carry on a wedding day.
I've certainly been the guy with the gear. I've owned and sold more lenses and lighting paraphernalia than I remember. But these days, I'm a total minimalist. Two Fujifilm X-T5 bodies, a Fujifilm 18mm f/1.8 and a Fujifilm 33mm f/1.8. With these, I can shoot the entire day. I usually take them inside the venue, leaving my bag in the car.
The photo below shows a rare image of me, photographing a wedding, taken by my second photographer Max Sarasini. No bags, no crazy pouches or cables. Two cameras, two primes, and look at how happy I am!
I keep two more lenses and some video lights in the car. It all packs neatly into one bag, a Billingham Hadley One. I'll collect this bag during the meal, where it will sit in the corner of the room.
My point is that I avoid getting bogged down with heavy or complicated gear. I wish, when I was starting, I knew that I could shoot weddings with far less equipment than I dragged around in a roller bag at the time.
You may learn that you need more gear than me for your style of wedding photography. I'm a candid, documentary-style photographer, so the story I'm shooting is far more important than thinking about gear or changing lenses. But chances are, you will eventually learn to survive with far less than you think.
2. Show What You Want to Shoot
When I started on my journey into wedding photography, I knew I loved storytelling photography. I loved documentary work even away from weddings, that of street photographers and people documenting real life. I found, however, that I took a few years to start booking clients who appreciated this side of my work.
They would say how much they would love to shoot a long list of group photographs in a particular location or would devise a Pinterest board of wacky portrait ideas. All I wanted to do was candid work. I knew the clients were out there who would appreciate this because the photographers I looked up to worked purely in this way.
One of these photographers pointed out my issues, which should have been obvious. My portfolio showed these images, the groups and the occasional Pinterest pose. My website was full of photographs that I didn't enjoy making. So, why did I have staged pictures on my home page if I wanted to shoot purely unstaged photos? It was because I thought this was what people wanted to see, and of course, some people do. These people, however, are not the clients I want to attract.
More difficult than I thought it would be, I set about only showing photographs that I enjoyed making. However, it can bring us out of our comfort zone to remove a technically excellent picture or one which has received positive criticism. For you, that could be a mixture of high-end portraits, documentary work, or whatever you want.
I now only show candid work on my website, and I shout from the rooftops that this is what my couples are booking me to create. It's become a niche, so my clients now respect me for my style, and I attract the people who want these images.
3. It's Hard Work
Ok, I know you don't all think that our job is easy. But many, many aspiring photographers see weddings as easy money. They imagine a world where they work their day job during the week and earn thousands of pounds (or dollars) at the weekend shooting the odd wedding. They see people doing well, making lots and think that just came to them easily.
If you want to excel in wedding photography, you really need to work hard and put in the hours and effort. Shooting cheaper weddings as a part-time job will have some perks, but eventually, most photographers will want to take it further and may be apprehensive about making the jump to full-time. If weddings are where you decide to spend your time, this job has some fantastic benefits, just don't be entitled. You need to work for them.
Both primes are F1.4...
You’re right, that appears to be a silly mistake on my part!
Great article Paul. Totally agree that less is more. Rather than use prime I’m using 16-35, 70 to 200 and a 24 - 70. I do have primes but I use them less for weddings.
the painter, not the brush.... thanks for reinforcing that concept.
What are the other two lenses in the car? Is there a long one for when you can't get close?
A slightly wider 14mm f2.8 and a slightly longer 56mm f1.2.
I like your article. It's short and pointed. ... and I agree wholeheartedly with all you say. You're spot on.
I too am very much a candid street photographer and have incorporated this into the few weddings I have had the privilege to do. My first wedding I hired a 70-200 but didn't use it much.
I'm happy using my 28mm and either the 50mm or 85mm on the other body.
I would imagine most photographers coming from different genre's will approach their first weddings differently.
For example, a studio portrait photographer will probably be comfortable shooting elaborate posed flash portraits, a street photographer will be more comfortable documenting on their wider lens and somebody coming from sports or wildlife will probably enjoy sitting on a long lens and 'picking out' the action.
I stll carry a lot of gear because I'm paranoid and want to be prepared for anything that might come up. The thing is, my last 3 wedding i winded up using just one lens. That was my canon 24-105mm f4. That's all I needed really. As far as low-light photography i just bumped up the ISO. My Canon 6D can easily handle up to 3200 with no problems. I tried using my fish-eye lens, but after i saw the results, it was a complete waste of time.