With our second wedding season approaching, it seems appropriate to reflect on our premier wedding season and outline what we have learned so far. In 2016, we photographed 8 weddings and had several engagement sessions, a couple maternity shoots, 4 family portrait sessions, and 3 high school seniors. We also did quite a bit of unpaid work, including various events at the school where Carly teaches and Rockford’s annual Festa Italiana. Here are some things that we learned from those experiences.
Gear isn’t everything.
When we started planning for our first wedding, there were so many techniques that I wanted to try to show off my skills that would make me stand apart from other photographers. I was carrying around excessive amounts of accessories and used them only once or twice. I decided that I needed to stick to the basics: one camera, lens, off-camera Speedlight, and maybe a modifier. I found that gear has nothing to do with being a professional; anyone can go out and purchase all the equipment. What is important is to be able to capture a great image with the simplest tools.
Great wedding photography isn’t about the perfect pose.
Many times, I have found myself trying so hard to create a perfect picture that I forget about the context of the image. Many will only get married once and the events that will transpire are once in a lifetime. Wedding photography is truly a one-shot deal, and I try to keep that in mind, especially during moments like the first dance and speeches. During times like these, we watch the moments unfold and anticipate photo opportunities; as you can imagine, it is beneficial for there to be two of us shooting to ensure that we capture as many of these moments as possible. In fact, the photos that couples like best of themselves are usually ones that capture intimate moments when they didn’t even realize the camera was there.
It can be necessary to get outside of our comfort zones.
At first, I felt uneasy thinking that all the wedding guests were watching me as I took pictures. Then I realized that no one is watching me; they’re all watching the couple getting married. Keeping this in mind makes me feel somewhat invisible—even at 6’4”—and helps me step outside of my comfort zone. If I need to get up close to a lively group to get a photo, I’ll go in for the kill—I’ve even laid down on the dance floor to get the picture of the bridal party that I wanted. One of the fun things about being a photographer is the ability to capture what’s happening from different perspectives. Oftentimes that means getting close to where the action is.
The photographer sometimes becomes the wedding day coordinator.
Several weeks before a wedding, I normally call or email the coordinator at the venue where we’ll be working. This breaks the ice and clears the air if there are any photography restrictions I should know about. When the day comes and we meet the coordinator in person, we’ve already been somewhat acquainted.
While we have worked with many spectacular coordinators, we also discovered that some are not as involved as others. In this case, the bridal party, parents, and guests look to the photographers to guide the progression of the day. There have been times when we have been ended up planning the logistics of the first look, exchanging of gifts, cake cutting, and the signing of the marriage license. After our first year of weddings, we know to be prepared for this responsibility.
We are just as much businessmen as we are photographers.
Being a wedding or portrait photographer is just as much—if not more—about business than it is about the photography. This is not to say that the art of photography is not important, but the commercial side of things is what keeps our business afloat. A lot of time goes into maintaining our website and social media pages, communicating with clients and vendors, and educating ourselves on gear and techniques. All of these things help the productivity of the business.
These are just a few of the things that we learned from our first wedding season. Although it sounds cliché, we can’t wait to see what the next year will bring when we kick off wedding season 2017 on May 20th at Over the Vines Vineyard and Wine Bar in Edgerton, Wisconsin.