Getting Started as a Wedding Photographer

One of the most common questions I get is how do I get started in Wedding Photography, what gear do I need and how to I get clients? As I am wrapping up my wedding season this year I just shot my 300th wedding. It’s pretty crazy thinking back that I have photographed that many weddings. Weddings are an extremely fun and gratifying type of photography and for me a perfect fit with a mix of my 2 loves, journalism and fine art.

Today I just want to share a little about getting started as a wedding photographer. Before jumping into what gear you need to start shooting weddings I think you really need to take a good look at your understanding of lighting and overall photography knowledge. Weddings happen in the blink of an eye, moments that are the most important moments in someones life are flying by you in a second and usually under very trickily lighting situations. You might go from really dark indoor lighting to outdoors in the middle of the day full sun within 1 minute. Start by putting yourself through some of these scenarios and ask yourself if you really know exactly what to set your camera to and what type of lighting would be needed to get the shot you want. As artists we owe it to our clients to make sure that we are 100% ready to take on their job and create something that will be amazing! There is a really great discussion in this older article I wrote, Are you really a pro photographer? , that was really written to say we need to make sure that we know our art before taking on work that is so important and meaningful like a wedding.

So the first question before really getting started shooting weddings is to make sure that you are confident with your camera and can shoot in any type of light while still creating amazing art. If not then don’t rush it, get out and meet with current wedding photographer and assist for some. Watching a current pro work on taking workshops can be a really great way to learn.

Once you are ready to start shooting weddings your gear is important. I usually don’t believe that gear makes the photographer but the creativity does, however with weddings you do have to made sure you have certain things covered. Since weddings can’t be redone you have to make sure that you have backup equipment and lots of batteries and other accessories.

When I shoot a wedding I bring a large Pelican rolling box, mine is usually packed with the following:

Canon EOS 5D
(my camera of choice). This is the first digital camera that I really fell in love with and reminds me of the beauty of film that I used to get. Having at least 2 camera bodies is essential. You might not want to go with the same exact body but should definitely have 2 camera bodies at a minimum before shooting a wedding.

Another amazing camera if your budget is a little less is the Canon EOS 7D The great thing about using a 5d and 7d is that the 7d is a cropped sensor camera so will give your zoom lenses more reach. A 100 mm lens on a 5d is a true 100mm however on a 7d would be equivalent to a 160mm. I use this to my advantage all of the time and will shoot parts of the ceremony with a 7d so I can get a little closer in.
You can read my review of the 7d here: Canon 7d camera review

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L II IS USM
. I think this lens is a must have for a wedding photographer. This lens is perfect for getting in close during the ceremony and the image stabilization really helps out during church weddings. The cost of the IS is worth it in my mid totally! Nothing worse than a blurry wedding photo, so this helps to keep the image sharp.

Canon speed lights – I normally bring at least 2 Canon 580 speed lights along with many other flash units or strobes. During many parts of the wedding you need to supplement the light to add a little fill or to light up the entire reception area so really can’t being enough flash units.

Canon – 24-70 mm – f/2.8 L USM. Another lens that gets a lot of use in my camera bag. This lens is very versatile, you can get great wide shots during the reception as well as a decent portrait lens at 70mm. You have a lot of flexibility with this lens and with the fast pace of a reception it gives you the chance to go from wide to mid range without changing lenses.

Canon EF 50mm f1.4

One of my favorite lenses and the cheapest in my bag. I opted for the 1.4 lens vs. the 1.2 lens after a lot of thought and viewing images from both lenses. I think the 1.4 is an excellent lens and for the price difference vs the 1.2 I think there is a minimal difference in quality (plus I like the much smaller and compact 1.4 to save a little weight). This lens is so crisp and produces amazing colors, when you really compare a nice prime lens like this to a zoom you will see a pretty big difference in quality. For anyone starting out on a small budget I would suggest this as a perfect starting lens.

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS
Another amazing prime lens. The focus is a little slow on this lens when compared to a few others in my bag but the macro is where this really shines. I normally only use this lens for a few images a wedding but its so worth it. To get a really cool looking macro shot of the rings or the flowers can only be done with a true macro lens like this.

Canon EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye Lens
. This is a lens that I think can be overused a lot and while I do like the fisheye look for a few shots I try to keep it to a minimum. With my style of shooting I am trying to tell a story of the day in an artistic way so I might use this lens for a few bride and groom shots or for shots of the church or reception room but thats normally it. Don’t get me wrong I do love the lens just think you need to be careful not to get too carried away with some of these specialty lenses.

A few Vivitar 285HV Flash, some canon speedlights round up the essentials in our bags at a wedding. There are a few other specialty items we bring with us but we will save those for some later articles.

Check out most of these items at amazon here. Amazon gear site.

Also I have a list of our Lighting essentials here: Digital Photo Buzz Lighting Essentials

Other accessories that are really helpful at a wedding:

  • Gaffers tape – you never know when you need to tape something up.
  • Photo umbrella
  • Reflectors
  • Sturdy Tripod
  • Boddy Pins, pins, tape, asprin, bandaids, first aid kid… – These come in handy many times and will make you the hero of the wedding.
  • How to start getting new business?

    Now once you feel you are ready and have the gear needed to shoot weddings how do you start to get business? There are tons of ways to first get out there and I am always a believer of taking your time. Get one client at a time, provide them with the best possible images and service and then get their friends and family to use you. When you are getting started here are a few things you want to make sure to get setup:

    Your Vision – Before creating a website or getting the word out there to new clients you first have to make sure you know what your vision is. What really drew you to wedding photography at the start? What do you want to offer people that is unique to you? Create a vision statement that shows what your vision for photographing weddings is. This should be incorporated into everything you do to market your new business.

    Website – Having a strong website is key. Even if it only has 1 wedding on it that doesn’t matter as much as having great images. Remember to only use your best.

    Traveling Portfolio – A website is great but what happens when you are out at a function and meet a newly engaged couple. Having a great set of work on your iPhone or iPad that you can quickly pull out and WOW them always comes in handy.

    Facebook Fan Page – Almost as important as a website today, remember to create a Facebook fan page and start posting photos and engaging with people.

    Also check out our recent article 5 ways to get new photography business now.

    If you are thinking about getting started in wedding photography and have questions remember to leave them at the bottom of the page in the Facebook comments section!

    If you like our articles remember to share them on Facebook, Twitter or +1 them on Google. I appreciate you spreading the word to your photo friends! Also remember to always start a conversation by leaving a Facebook comment at the bottom of the page. I love to hear from you. Also let me know what your favorite iPad app is for photography in the comments below!

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    Author: Mark

    Mark is a fine art wedding and portrait photographer from Northern California. He has been passionate about photography since childhood and started his studio 12 years ago to bring a fresh style of photography to the wedding and portrait world.

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    1. @IanArthur, @bernie Petterson. Perhaps you haven’t read the article. Why just skip the first bit?

      ” Before jumping into what gear you need to start shooting weddings I think you really need to take a good look at your understanding of lighting and overall photography knowledge”

      Did you miss that part? Why is it that you bash someone while he is trying to share knowledge?
      What is your point? It is obvious that Mark is not saying that having the right gear makes you a pro. If you have nothing positive to contribute it is better to withhold you comments.

      Great post Mark.

    2. I have a brilliant selection of tools bought from the local market and B&Q.. I have a spanner thingy, a wrench thingy, a driver thingy, a nut tightening handle locking clicky thingy…. I understand that engines have nuts and bolts and oil and petrol or deisel is needed to make this work, if someone slips me a fiver to look then …does this mean I am a Professional mechanic??? Should I build a website..After all I do have Gaffer tape..! And Asprins… Are you really proposing that you make available these to clients.. humm?

      I did not see ANY mention of Indemnity & Public liability insurance…? You know.. the stuff that Professional Photographers have to find money to pay for, and the items that more and more Wedding venues insist on these days before allowing you to record images these days…

    3. Thanks Vincent, appreciate it. As I mentioned in the FB comment above

      If you have followed my site for awhile and read other posts where I have addressed this you will know my thoughts. Also the 2nd paragraph and link ( I always firmly believe and give everyone the honest truth that you need to understand the fundamentals before trying to be a pro. You might not need a fine art degree like I have but need to know photography in and out before trying to shoot at a pro level.

    4. Sure..Vince and Mark, I don’t want to enter into a ‘flame’ competition, life is far too short and my work as a Professional is too busy… However I DID read the paragraph, a few times.

      In these days of litigation I wonder what your Insurance company would think with your thoughts on facilitating Asprins and First aid kids (Kit)?…self administered or not…… I’ve read enough!!!!

    5. Haha.
      @Bernie. Apparently you are not “too busy” as a “professional” to view a website that deals primarily with new photographers and people interested in developing there skills. If you were such a mastermind of photography, I would have to wonder why you would bother with coming to site like this, and to top that off, why you would even bother commenting on it. Im glad you have read enough. I think you created the ‘flame’ competition.

      @Ian. Yeah, the market is flooded, I get it. Ever since Digital became affordable, everyone thinks that their capable of charging people and shooting their own photos. You should be embracing this site because it is encouraging and teach some of those people how to actually do a better job. Its the people who don’t learn, who charge and call themselves pros, that flood the market and make everyones job harder. I am no expert, but I do think the author has valid points and provides a great jumping block for people who actually want to do this, want to learn. I never wanted to be a wedding photographer, I came across this site when searching long exposure shots, and I became a follower. Overtime, I have read all the articles and they are great. I shot a wedding for a family friend, who didn’t have enough money to pay somebody, and it was a great time. Will I become a pro and do it for a living? Unlikely, but I happily used things taught here. I think you and Bernie should jump off your high horses, maybe you should team up and write an article and submit it to the site on your point of view of things. Show us what you think young photographers should learn if they have hopes of shooting weddings. If your article is anything beyond a waste of time, I would be surprised.

      @Mark, as usual, great article, keep up the good work, some of us really do appreciate what you share. Like I said above, it teaches some of us skills and ways of shooting that we would not have discovered otherwise, whether or not we end up in weddings, the things you give us are great. Like I said, I dont shoot weddings, but the star trails article drew me in, and I have found myself enjoying your articles ever since. Thanks!

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