I'm often asked by aspiring photographers how they can break into the industry, how they can become better at shooting, how to avoid so-and-so situation, etc. I figure I'd answer some of the most common questions I receive for all to see. To preface, I am not saying I know all the answers and that my way is better than another but it's simply my opinion on what has and hasn't worked! In addition, keep in mind that I'm speaking about wedding photography. Hope this helps!
How do I break into the wedding photography scene?
Find a local photographer who's work you admire and ask if they need help with anything business related. It most likely won't be shooting (that seems to shock aspiring photographers) but assisting at shoots/weddings (holding reflectors, carrying gear, moving cars, etc.) or even helping with day-to-day upkeep such as packaging, organizing, etc. You'd be surprised how simply being around a professional can spark conversation and you'll learn the small things that you didn't even think you needed or wanted to know. In addition, ask if you can take photographers out to lunch or coffee. No guarantee that they'll take you up on it, or have the time but you won't get anywhere unless you ask. You'd be surprised how far taking a genuine interest in someone will go--not trying to figure out all their business secrets but genuinely wanting to know more about them, their passions and how they got started. (Make sure you offer to pay for them because it's their time and energy being sacrificed.)
Someone asked me to shoot their wedding. I really want to do it but how do I know if I'm ready?
Regardless if a bride has a $10,000 or $500 budget for her wedding photography, the weight of photographing someone’s wedding day is just as heavy. These moments won't happen again and can’t be redone so make sure you’re confident and ready that you can handle the job. Some photographers feel comfortable after being a second shooter for two years and others, two weddings-it's different for everyone. Take into consideration not only your experience in weddings-knowing the typical flow of a wedding day, flattering/unflattering poses for your subjects, mastering all your technical skills-but all the preventative measures too. Make sure you have backup gear and have contracted your client (even if you’re shooting for free). In summation: make sure you’re technically prepared and confident that you can photograph your bride and groom as best as can be. Would you hire you? If the answer is no, you may want to keep practicing.
What if I don't have the best gear?
The gear doesn’t make the photographer! Of course, having a faster camera body and nicer glass surely makes a difference, but don’t ever believe the lie that you have to spend thousands of dollars to create great photos. When I’m not ready to make a big purchase on a new piece of gear, or aren't sure if it would be a good piece for my business and style, I always rent it for a wedding or shoot for a few days. Most larger cities have local places to rent gear but there are also companies that have larger inventories and ship from California. I’ve rented through Borrow Lenses and Lens Rentals and haven’t been let down yet. Whatever you do, don’t go into debt to finance your equipment. It’s not worth it!
Regardless of what gear you do have, MASTER it! Make sure you know everything there is to know about aperture, shutter speed, ISO, external flash and more. If you know how to handle any lighting situation, when those lighting surprises come up (and they will) you'll know how to tackle them.
What is the best way to bring in clients?
Prioritize having a killer website/blogsite/blog (let's face it, nothing speaks to professionalism like an awesome website) but while you're building that up, utilize social media! Of course, once you have a site up, keeping up with your social media presence as it's one of the easiest-and free-tools to take advantage of. Regularly update your page with new photos, resources and ideas for brides and even short and sweet statuses about your personal life. Make sure to not post too much as you don't want to become the page that gets blocked by those who at once were interested but now are annoyed. Also, take advantage of knowing the best times to post; learning your audience (are they east coast or west coast, do they work 9-5 jobs, are they night owls) will help you learn the best times to post. Check out this article about the best times to post.
I don't seem to be attracting the clients I want-how do I fix that?
Show what you want to shoot. Don't show that you don't want to shoot. If you want to attract southern brides with a love for backyard weddings, show that on your site. If you show only what you want to shoot, you'll begin to pull in those same kind of clients. Even though it may seem like a win at the time to book a handful of family sessions, if they're all on the beach wearing jeans and white polos and you don't want to shoot those kind of sessions, you're not doing yourself any favors. If you shoot the kind of client you want, you'll bring in referrals from those similar to them. Not saying this process is easy-I'm still getting there myself-but you're only hurting yourself if you show the kind of client you don't want.
Essentially: do something. Don't sit around Pinning wedding images and gawking over Jose Villa's images with the dream to become a photographer unless you plan on doing something about it. Jeremy Cowart-one of my favorite celebrity and philanthropic photographers-said at one of his workshops that you have to keep up with the hustle. So if you're not hustling and doing everything you can to fight for this dream of yours (whether it be photography or not) then you're going to get left behind, plain and simple.