A few years ago, we got an email from a 15-year-old girl who was hired to shoot her very first wedding. She asked, “What advice would you give to someone about shooting their first wedding?” Here’s what we told her…
Wow! Congratulations! What a BIG honor. We still remember shooting our first wedding solo. The butterflies in our stomach had their own butterflies — and we were NOT fifteen! You go, girl. We admire you for taking on the incredible challenge of shooting a wedding and starting a photography business at such a young age. You’re making us feel like grandparents of photography 🙂
Every wedding day is such an adrenaline rush. There are so many things happening. So fast. All at the same time. It feels like a whirlwind. There are SO many elements to think about all. the. time. It would take weeks or months for us to tell you everything. So, instead, we’ll tell you three things. The first three that came to mind, because we think they’re some of the most important to remember as you embark on your first wedding.
1. Be More Than a Photographer
Be more than a photographer. Be a coach, an encourager, an advocate, and a friend. Let your first instinct always be to love and serve. Love and serve. Marinate in that. Let it invade every area of your heart and become woven into the fabric of your very being, because the way we treat people matters as much as the photos we give them — so love and serve people all day in every way you can. Walk onto that wedding day with a servant’s heart and go out of your way to make people feel cared for and special. Also, smile. A lot. Be an ambassador of joy. That’s what the day’s all about (joy) and it’s what we should be all about, too. As a new photographer (especially at weddings) you’ll make mistakes. We still do. There’s no such thing a shooting a perfect wedding day. That’s what makes it a rush every single time.
Just do the very best you can with the equipment and experience you have right now. But, do you know what you can be excellent at from the very beginning? Exactly what we’re talking about here. Loving and serving everyone around you with a smile on your face, and a joyful, hard-working, servant’s heart. Remember, people won’t get to see your photos until weeks after the wedding. Let who you you are, and how you act, be an impression that’s so strong that your clients love the photos before they even see them. And if… for some reason… something goes wrong… and you miss a shot you should’ve gotten — because sometimes that happens and none of us are perfect — work so tirelessly every second of the wedding day that no one can ever blame your effort, or say you were lazy, or didn’t care.
2. Dress for the Job
Dressing for the job is always important, but especially when you’re young. You’ll be making a lot of first impressions on that wedding day, so choose something that reflects what you want to project. Wear something well-put-together — cute, classy and professional — like a pencil skirt with a nice blouse and some accent pieces, for example. Even though you’re young, people will take you seriously if you dress yourself professionally and interact with others confidently. On that note, wear comfortable shoes! Your feet will thank us later! Here’s a link to a post with everything we wear on wedding days!
3. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
Every chance you get between now and the wedding day, practice. Offer to second shoot or even third shoot/assist/carry bags/get water for as many wedding photographers in your area as you can between now and your wedding, so you can see what photographing a wedding is like before diving in. Here’s a blog post that will help you get started with that. It’s called How to Start Shooting Weddings. Weddings are so different than portraits sessions for so many reasons, and you’re going to feel so much more confident if you can walk onto your first wedding day with as much on-the-job wedding day experience as possible. The more wedding-specific education you can absorb between now and then, too, the better.
But, at a minimum, make sure you’re as confident as you possibly can be with your camera. If you have time between now and the wedding day, we’d highly encourage you to join our Shooting & Editing Course. It’ll walk you through the shooting and editing system the we (and now thousands of photographers around the world) use to nail their shots in camera, no matter the natural lighting scenario, and edit them faster than ever before. That’s something a lot of photographers don’t think about when they move from portraits to weddings: just how many images they’re going to have to edit. If you don’t nail your shots correctly in camera, it could take months to be finally be able to deliver your product to your client — and that’s just too long. You got into photography because you love taking pictures, not to spend your life trapped behind a computer screen trying to do surgery on images and fix them.
Lastly, spend some time writing out a timeline and make sure you know exactly what you want to accomplish during each portion of the day. The law of time says that everything will take longer than you think. Plus, people are almost always running late on weddings days. So give yourself plenty of cushion so you don’t feel rushed. That could lead to you feeling frantic and panicked… and freezing up. If you just show up without a detailed plan, you’ll easily feel paralyzed because there’s so much going on. If you have a plan and know what shots you need, you’ll feel a lot more comfortable and serve your clients the way they deserve to be served.
Best of luck, friend! We’re cheering for you!
Absolutely love this!!!
Well we love YOU, Anna!!
This was very helpful!! I’m shooting my first wedding next month and I’m so nervous! I love getting advice from photographers who have been there and tell it like it is. Thanks!!
Of course, friend! So glad it helped! Just remember, if you do nothing else, love and serve 🙂 It’s the winning formula.
Thanks for the tips! I’m 15 also and have just been asked to shoot a wedding in November. So nervous!
Do you have any advice for how to initiate with photographers in the area to be a second or third shooter? I have asked my mentor (who is taking a break from weddings for a while because of the ages of her kids) and she is looking into it. What else can I do to be proactive? I have been asked to shoot a wedding next summer, and as helpful as it is to read about shooting a wedding, I need the experience! Thanks!! P.S. I’ve absolutely loved reading your blog posts. Thanks for being so generous with your knowledge.
Great advice! These people are SUCH GREAT TEACHERS and ENCOURAGERS!!! I remember the first time I shot a wedding I was 14.
Fourteen?!?! Wowza!!! That’s incredible. You have us beat by about ten years 🙂
Thank you so much for the tips, it really helps me a lot! ☺
We’re so glad! Thanks for reading!
Already shot several weddings, but still have much to learn and find all of your articles helpful! Thank you for serving, loving, and investing in people!
Awesome, Elizabeth!! Thank you so much for sharing that with us! Thank you for your super sweet words! We’re cheering for you! <3
Where are the best places to stand as the photographer during the ceremony in a church? I’m the only photographer so want to make sure to get the shots without being in the way.
Hi Karen! Great question! Our lead shooter usually kneels at the front of the church (and stands when the processional starts) OR sits on the inside of the second or third row, like a guest, and shoots from there. So, if we were shooting alone, that’s what we’d do! Hope that helps!
This was very helpful!! I love getting advice from photographers who have been there and tell it like it is.
I am also a Wedding Photographer. Check my website
So glad this post was helpful, Daniela 🙂