I get asked this question a lot by other photographers as well as couples, so thought I'd write a blog about the journey I've taken to become a full time wedding photographer.
I was working as an Insights Analyst, within an agency environment across a large portfolio of retail brands and my career was going from strength to strength, progressing through the corporate ranks. It was when my children first started to arrive back in 2009 that my outlook on life took a significant shift from being someone extremely career driven to someone more family orientated and my career became something to earn an income from. At the time, I was also a keen musician, who played gigs with local bands and was also season ticket holder at my local league football club. It was during this time, with my new found family commitments, that I decided to spend more time at home and put on hold my own personal interests.
It became apparent over the next year or so, that I needed something for myself. Something that I could have that was mine and that I could get my teeth into, so I decided that I would start to learn photography. Photography felt like something I could learn and practice around my family. I bought my first camera and went straight into taking photos of my children, before deciding that this passion was something I'd love to earn a living from. I mean...Who wouldn't want to be doing a job and earning a living from something they genuinely enjoyed, rather than spending the rest of their life in the corporate rat race.
I approached a number of established wedding photographers within the area, offering out my services for free, just to get some experience, but it became apparent that this industry was extremely competitive and other photographers were just not interested in helping out someone, who at some stage could possibly end up competing with them. I went through the same approach, instead, contacting people outside of the county I was living in at the time. At this point, it wasn't about building a portfolio, it was more about learning how a wedding day runs, where to stand, what shots to get and how to get those shots. These things were going to be vital for me to understand and being able to witness a seasoned professional in action was imperative to my journey. Of course, coming out with some portfolio worthy images was important, but it wasn't my sole focus. By placing less emphasis on my own personal portfolio, I feel I was able to learn way more in the early stages than someone more portfolio hungry. Being a wedding photographer is so much more than taking great images. It's about knowing when and how to take those great images. I also wanted to have the confidence of using images in my portfolio that I could re-create myself, as it's very easy to over sell yourself in the early stages with images you have taken, but not necessarily set up yourself.
I continued along this path for the next couple of years, before finally deciding that I was going to go it alone. I got my website, social media and packages setup and then waited for the bookings to come in, which didn't happen overnight and that was mainly down to the fact I hadn't appreciated the importance of SEO within a website, so this was my next task. I did all the SEO myself, but really struggle to explain how I achieved this, as it was a mixture of trial and error, by deciding my key words and then incorporating them into my content, whilst also keeping the content relevant to the user experience, as it's very easy to just spam your pages with keywords that have absolutely no context when the end user is reading through it.
If I could give new wedding photographers any advice it would the following:
Understand how a wedding day runs from start to finish
Come up with your own style of wedding photography
Learn to use natural light and off camera flash to create a little drama to your images
Enjoy yourself, keep calm and have fun, this will rub off on your couples and reflect the end product
Make sure that your website fully reflects you and your brand
Put yourself out there, so that people can easily find you.
Remember.....The average wedding takes between 12-18 months to plan, so people book in advance. There will be a lag between taking your first bookings and shooting your first wedding, but give it time. Setting up a wedding photography business is a slow burner that requires exceptional patience.