12 Lessons I Learned From Shooting My First Wedding
So, this weekend I had the pleasure of shooting my very first wedding! It was absolutely beautiful and absolutely nerve-racking.
At the beginning of the shoot I was nervous and spinning and by the end I was happy and comfortable snapping away candids of friends laughing and joking, toasting and dancing. I even got a few words of wisdom from the bride, herself on how to be a better business woman (Thanks to Nicole). So I decided to share a few lessons I learned along the way at my first wedding shoot.
Before I arrived at the venue, my heart felt like it was going to explode. I thought of everything that could possibly go wrong, checked and re-checked my camera bag, and asked my fiancee over and over again if he thought that I would do okay that day. Of course he told me “yes”.
Then we set off to Richmond, which was a two hour drive from Washington D.C. and I told myself that I would spend that time reading a book about how to take better pictures. As it turns out, I get motion sickness when I ride and read, so that was a fail. Instead, I got to spend some quality time with the Beau and a couple of great friends, eat Dunkin’ Donuts and listen to music.
My plans for over preparation didn’t go as planned, but it worked to my advantage. Yes I was nervous when I got to the venue, but I would have been a wreck had I continued to put the pressure on myself to be great. I needed that 2 hour car ride to be my best.
2. Be prepared.
We arrived at the venue and as I was setting up to shoot, I went to the bathroom to realize that I was starting my period. I was so upset. I was also pressed for time, and luckily my fiance didn’t mind running to the store to pick me up some lady products, but it would have been a disaster (maybe not so much a “disaster”, as an added stress) if I was alone on the assignment and had to leave and take care of my personal issues. I would want nothing to get in the way of capturing the couple’s special day, even personal issues.
3. Test your equipment well in advance.
I know this may sound like a “no-brainer”, but seriously. It can be so tempting to just grab your things and head out the door, because we put so much trust in the fact that our equipment will work…
Before I left for the shoot, I realized that my flash was not working. I tried different batteries and it still would not work. I knew the wedding was indoors, so a flash was absolutely critical, and so I panicked. Turns out there was a minor issue with the battery terminal that was easily fixable, but if the issue were worse, it would have been best to know a week or even a few days in advance so that I could get the necessary fixes or new equipment before the day of the wedding.
4. It’s okay to “reset” in between portraits.
I was worried that resetting my camera in between different posed shots somehow made me look like an unprofessional. I found that the exact opposite was true. I was honest with the party and wanted them to know exactly what I was doing. I let them know that I was testing the lighting to make sure it wasn’t too bright, or adjusting the ISO to make sure the quality of the photos were on point. By communicating what I was doing, people were not only understanding, but appreciative that I was actually taking the time out to make sure that the finished product would come out the best that I could possibly do it.
5. Carry Back Up!
Extra batteries, extra SD Cards, extra lenses and extra bodies (camera bodies, that is [HUGE thank you to my good friend Chris for this tip])!
You never know what could die, malfunction and what could be lost in the course of the an event, so be sure to bring back ups. You never want to have to say to a couple, “Sorry… but… yeah..”
Make sure you bring back ups!
6. Charge for Mileage (Thank you, Nicole!)
The bride and one of my good friends pulled me aside and basically told me all about myself, though I definitely appreciated it. She told me, one, that my prices were way too low and that I need to charge people mileage if I have to do a lot of traveling.
I believe the rule was .45 cents a mile (I’ll come back and correct it if I am mistaken). I had driven two hours, totaling about 120 miles. I was selling myself short, and I wasn’t even aware that people do this because gas (as we all know) is a real thing.
7. Charge what you are worth (Thank You to MANY of my friends).
Charging people has always been difficult for me. At first I was doing shoots for the hell of it, to gain experience, and ultimately build my resume. there was no problem with it, except I think I was doing it for a little too long. It wasn’t until I took photos of my Line Sister, Charnelle, and frat brother, Sean for their graduation photos, that I realized that I should be charging for my work. I didn’t even ask. It didn’t even occur to me to ask. They literally told me that I would be taking their money whether I wanted to or not.
I started charging people 75 dollars a pop and felt bad about it. Why do I feel like a villain taking other people’s money for the work I do? And ladies and gentlemen, it is work. Not only do we have to pay for our equipment and the upkeep thereof, we also have to travel, sometimes take days off, prepare, stand, bend, lean, lay, and sweat (I sweat like a pig EVERY photo shoot) for hours upon hours and then have to spend hours upon hours editing photos.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love it. But my love for my craft doesn’t mean I shouldn’t charge for it. It has literally taken everything in me not to flinch or back down when I offer someone my price, especially since I have raised my prices. It’s tempting when people back out because of how much I charge to lower my prices, but I have way too many people holding me accountable.
I often ask myself if I’m even good enough to charge people. And the answer is yes. and when I question that, I have a slew of people who will tell me to get myself together.
“You are a professional.”
8. Don’t you DARE edit every single photo (Thank you Jamiel [the Beau]).
By the end of the photo shoot I had over 3 thousand photos.
My game plan was to edit all of them and then go back to choose which ones I loved.
Do. Not. Do. This.
Mid-edit I had to figure I’d need a a new game plan because it had been three days, I felt crazy and I only edited like… 150 photos (I’m probably exaggerating, but you get my point).
So, my fiance suggested that I do something different; pick the photos that I think are best and then begin to edit. That means not editing the same picture that varies ever so slightly because the bride is smiling slightly less wide than the last.
Trying to save a photo that just won’t work? Let it go. I know it’s easier said than done. But guess what. You have 2,999 other photos you can choose from.
And that takes a lot of discipline. The perfectionist in me wanted to include every single photo in the editing process, but my time and my sanity would not allow me. And you know what? The couple loved the photos that I did choose.
Trust your judgement.
9. Don’t be afraid to try out a few posed photos.
Thinking of a possible pose or different angle? Try it! They may turn out to be amazing… And if they aren’t you can scrap them anyway. But at least you got the opportunity to use your imagination and you got to say you tried.
10. Have fun!
I’m trying to tell you that when you loosen up a bit, use your creativity and speak positively to yourself (along with using hard work and intention) your photos tend to look a little better. When I’m hyper critical of myself, I’m stressed out and photos don’t come out as naturally as I had imagined. Plus, if you’re having a fun time and feeling confident and free, you’ll put the couple at ease.
Yes you are capturing the wedding day of a couple and they will probably use these photos forever, and yes that is important. But, take some of the pressure off of yourself.
11. Give yourself enough edit time.
I edited the wedding photos in about two weeks, when I told her a later date (maybe a month later…?). So essentially I was a couple of weeks early with the delivery of the photos. I honestly wished I had taken my time, because all I saw everyday for two weeks were wedding photos. I went to work (sometimes editing at work) and come home and edited some more. That’s not the best system if you want all of your hair and a good night’s rest.
Take the time you need to edit the photos and be ion good spirits by the time it;s time to deliver. Be honest with your clients. If it’s going to take you a month and a half to get all of the photos back to them, take a month and a half. It’s okay. Editing is a lot of work, especially for a single person operation, and I’m certain they will understand (plus they’ll appreciate the fact that you took careful time to make their photos look excellent).
12. Always have a contract.
I always chewed on the idea of making a contract, but I never really came through with it until the wedding. The bride actually wanted a contract from me, and I appreciated that. Even though up to that point I had dealt mostly with people who I knew and trusted, it was still wise for me to have a contract for me and for them. By having a contract, there will be no discrepancies about when I start and finish, how much I charge, what was included… it’s something to cover both parties’ backs and to look back and reference.
Plus it makes you look like you know what you’re doing (even if you truly don’t).
So those are my experiences. I had to fumble through a few of these, but I want to share so other photographers wouldn’t have the same experiences as me. We’re all improving and trying and that means something.