All photographers tell stories through their images—but professional wedding photographers have the unique opportunity to tell couples’ love stories and capture the memories they will cherish forever. Interested in pursuing a career in professional wedding photography, whether locally or as a travel destination wedding photographer? We provide everything you need to know in the following guide.
How to Become a Wedding Photographer
Becoming a wedding photographer requires shooting and editing skills, of course—but there’s more to it than that. Wedding photographers must also have the following capabilities:
- Interpersonal skills to communicate with current and potential clients
- Friendly, warm demeanor that can make couples comfortable in front of the camera
- Ability to handle pressure, including tight timelines
- Creativity to bring a unique point of view and vision to your photographs
- Assertiveness to direct and pose couples (and their families and friends) throughout the day
- Stamina to shoot a full wedding day, which can last 10 hours (or more)
- Networking skills to meet others in the industry, form relationships, and gain new clients
As far as the route to becoming a wedding photographer, however, there’s no one set course. Many professional wedding photographers develop their businesses slowly and organically. For example, you might first offer to shoot a friend’s wedding for free or at a reduced cost. Then, you can create an online portfolio and begin showcasing those photos on your social media. From there, you might gain a few more clients—and so on.
Or, you may choose to work as an assistant wedding photographer to build your portfolio. Wedding photographers often use assistants or second shooters during a wedding to ensure they capture every special moment. Eventually, with enough experience under your belt, you can venture out on your own.
Still others might study photography in college and build their portfolio through class assignments—even if those photos focus on other types of subjects, like still life photos or portraits. You can still use that portfolio to attract potential clients and eventually segue into professional wedding photography.
How Much Do Wedding Photographers Charge?
The price of wedding photography can vary widely—from $300 on the low end up to more than $4,500. According to WeddingWire, most couples spend $1,500 to $3,000 on wedding photography.
What you charge will depend on your level of experience, as well as the exact services you offer. For example, some creative wedding photographers only offer full-day packages, which could include 10-12 hours of photography coverage on the day of the wedding, an additional engagement photoshoot, photo editing, and a printed photo album. Other photographers may opt for a more à la carte style of pricing, charging for each individual service.
Types of Wedding Photographer Jobs
Most wedding photographers are also wedding engagement photographers. In fact, many wedding photographers will offer their couples a free engagement shoot prior to the wedding. This gives them the opportunity to get to know the couple and determine their most flattering poses and angles.
Freelance Wedding Photographers
Many wedding photographers work on a freelance basis (or form their own business), rather than work as employees for a larger company. There are many ways to find freelance wedding photographer jobs, including:
- Word of mouth: Tell everyone you know that you want to photograph weddings. Once you get your first client, ask them to recommend you to others.
- Showcase wedding photos on social media: Couples often go to Pinterest and Instagram for wedding inspiration. If they find your photos, they may pursue your photography services.
- Network with other wedding photographers: Get to know other local photographers. In the event that they aren’t able to work with a client (e.g., they’re already booked on the wedding date), they may refer the client to you.
Assistant Wedding Photographers
Wedding days are long and require lots of coordination. Assistant wedding photographers or second shooters can help main photographers with all the details that go into beautiful wedding photography. For example, they may help with lighting, adjusting additional cameras, arranging details for a flat lay, or positioning the bride’s veil.
To find assistant wedding photographer jobs, start with networking. Get to know local photographers and let them know you are interested in working as an assistant or second shooter. If they’re happy with your work, ask them to recommend you to other photographers.
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Is Destination Wedding Photography Right For You?
If you like to travel, you may want to incorporate destination wedding photography into your business. This will enable potential clients to hire you for destination weddings—from Hawaii to Thailand and everywhere in between.
How to Decide If You Will Travel
Deciding whether you will offer destination wedding photography services isn’t just about a love of travel. There are many factors that go into the decision to travel for your photography business. For example:
- Are you able and willing to spend days or weeks away from your family?
- How will you scout the venue/photo locations prior to the wedding?
- How will you communicate and build trust with your couples if they hire you from out of state or out of the country?
- Will you charge travel fees?
- How will you transport your equipment?
How to Find Destination Wedding Photographer Jobs
Of course, deciding you want to be a destination wedding photographer doesn’t guarantee that someone will hire you to do it. To successfully market yourself as a destination wedding photographer, you should start by pursuing travel experience. Photographing new locations can build your portfolio and show potential clients that you have an eye for creativity, no matter where you are.
Then, it’s all about networking. Spread the word among other photographers that you are looking to photograph destination weddings. Target a few ideal locations and connect with local vendors and wedding planning professionals at that destination. Eventually, they may be willing to refer you to potential clients.
Is Travel Tax Deductible?
Some travel expenses are tax-deductible for wedding photographers. However, rather than writing off travel expenses, many wedding photographers build in travel fees to their contracts, so their clients end up paying for airfare, lodging, and meals. Generally, if you are compensated for your travel fees, they are not tax-deductible. However, it’s best to verify your tax strategy and deductions with your accountant.
A Wedding Photographer’s Guide to Engagement Photos
Besides an initial phone call or meeting, engagement photos are often a couple’s first meaningful interaction with their wedding photographer. This can be an invaluable opportunity for wedding photographers to connect with the couple, gain their trust, and prepare for the wedding day. Here are a few tips for using that engagement shoot to your advantage.
Get to Know Your Clients
Establishing a real relationship with the couple will help them be more relaxed, and ultimately, produce better wedding photos. During the shoot, ask them questions about their relationship: Where did you meet? What attracted you to each other? How did you propose?
Get a Sense of What Poses Work for the Couple
Every couple is different and will have a different level of comfort in front of the camera. During the engagement shoot, try different poses and directives. This won’t only help the couple get used to posing; it will help you determine the most flattering poses that you can recreate on the wedding day.
Understand What’s Important to the Couple
Meeting for an engagement shoot prior to the big day can give you the opportunity to understand what the couple really wants out of their wedding photography. Do they have a vision in mind for specific poses? Are there particular shots they just have to get? These questions will help you get on the same page well before the wedding.
If you’re passionate about photography and helping couples capture their love stories, pursuing a career as a professional wedding photographer could be an ideal path for you.
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