If you’re here to read the short answer, here’s the takeaway on how to prepare yourself for a wedding:
- Second shoot second shoot second shoot. I can’t stress this enough. The reason I knew what I was doing moving into my first full wedding season was because I had observed amazing photographers the year before. I learned from the best of the best!
- Be confident. Here’s the thing… you might be nervous and on the brink of pooping your pants but NO ONE NEEDS TO KNOW THAT! Carry yourself with confidence and act like it’s your 20th rodeo. No one will doubt you if you act like you know what’s up! :)
- Study and master your gear/settings in different lighting situations! That way, on the wedding day, you’ll know how to navigate different lighting scenarios.
- Review the wedding day timeline and if you’re nervous leading up to it, go scout the venue and see what you’re going to be working with!
- Ask other photographers what tips they have! :) Asking for advice is such a powerful and helpful thing!!
Here’s MY first wedding experience and how I went from never shooting a wedding (and being SO scared of the idea of it) to booking 14 my first year!
Let me share with you my “first first” experience shooting a wedding. (I’ll explain why I call it my “first first” a little later, lol)
I shot my first first wedding when I was 17. To be honest, I barely knew how to work manual mode and I had only been to two weddings prior to that. My knowledge in how a wedding day was even structured was quite low. I wanted to book a wedding because I thought if I were to be a wedding photographer, I had basically reached elite photographer status.
I went into this wedding as prepared as I possibly could. I saved 2485723 posing ideas off Pinterest, I bought a new lens just for the occasion, and I scouted the entire location prior to the wedding. It was a mid-July wedding and any Minnesotan knows darn well how unpredictable weather in mid-July can be. Leading up to the date, it said it was going to rain that day. My mindset: death is upon me. I’ve never shot a wedding… and now I’m about to shoot a wedding… IN THE RAIN? Oh HELLLLLL NAW. I Googled the heck out of “what to do on a rainy wedding day.” Needless to say, I learned some pretty nifty hacks.
Back to the story: It ended up being a beautiful wedding day—it didn’t rain at all (it was just miserably humid). The couple and their friends were SO easygoing and fun. Minus falling behind a little on the timeline, the day went well. But, at the end of the day, I felt so defeated. I was exhausted, nervous about how the photos turned out, and worse of all… I felt kinda stupid throughout the day for not knowing how to do a lot of things. I remember trying to re-create a Pinterest shot and I got so frustrated because my pic didn’t look remotely as elegant as the one I was trying to replicate. I could tell the bridesmaids and groomsmen were getting antsy too because it would take me 10 minutes to set everyone up for a group shot JUST BECAUSE I was fixated on trying to replicate another stupid Pinterest photo. Point in case… I felt like I failed. I felt like I sucked as a photographer. I delivered the final gallery and the couple was super happy. *huuuuge sigh of relief*!! I told myself “you are never going to do a wedding ever again.”
That was 2015. Let’s fast forward to 2017. Between 2015-2017, all I shot were senior photos and some family photos. One day, I got a last-minute inquiry to photograph a proposal because their original photographer fell through. I said yes and I took their photos and also created a little video of the proposal. A few months later, that bride (shout out Kenzie Babcock!! Love u girl) reached out to me and asked if I would be their wedding videographer. I literally remember sitting at Perkins with two of my friends when I received that text and I was like “OH GOD… guys…. someone just asked me to do their wedding video. I don’t even know how that works…..” (Bear in mind, I was still overwhelmed by my first first wedding experience). I thought it through and realized that as a videographer, I’m not doing much of the directing or anything… I’m basically shooting all the candid moments. I also chatted with the bride and told her look, I have NOOOO clue what I can guarantee you but I’ll do my best, lol. I accepted. Come their July 2018 wedding, I had done SO much research on wedding videos that I felt like I was ready to conquer this! Kenzie and Corey’s wedding photographer was Trish Burtzel (this woman is PHENOMENAL). That entire day, while I was filming, I was also observing Trish in how she directed and communicated with everyone. I was BLOWN AWAY; this woman made it look like she could do it in her sleep. She carried herself so professionally the entire day and her organization skills were through the roof. She taught me how to really handle a wedding day with ease all while keeping the bride and groom happy and stress free! After that wedding and after posting Kenzie and Corey’s video, I booked 4 other weddings (all videography) in the same calendar year! At all those weddings, I did the same thing: *film* *observe photographer* *film* *take notes on how photographer directs and communicates* *film* *repeat*.
All this sparked my interest in wedding photography but I was still too intimidated to do anything about it. I reached out to a local photographer and told her I’d love to second shoot for her! She accepted (wahoo!!!) While I was doing my second shooter duties, I was observing and learning from the main shooter. I was taking notes on what lenses this photographer was using and at what times. During our down time, I asked her some logistical questions and again, took soooooo many mental notes. A month later, her friend asked me to second shoot for her. Another opportunity to observe, learn, and add to my portfolio without the responsibility of a main shooter? SIGN ME UP! That fall, I decided to put together a stylized shoot. I linked up some vendors and models and we brought my vision to life. YAY! More images to add to my portfolio.
That year, I had 8 weddings worth of knowledge and experience under my belt. I observed 8 amazing photographers in how they run the day, direct, shoot, communicate, everything. With what I learned from 8 weddings and only 3 weddings worth of images to promote on social media to showcase my “potential,” I was able to book 14 weddings (a mix of photo and video) for that next year. Can you believe that?
That brings me to May 2019, my “first” wedding photography gig. This was my first wedding (for photography) since my “first first” 2015 wedding. I was SO nervous but I didn’t show it. I went into this wedding thinking “YA I GOT THIS” and I told myself I am not going to act like this is my first rodeo; I’m going to act like this is my 20throdeo and I know exactly what’s up. Again, I did everything I could to prepare for this day. Unfortunately, a lot was out of my control. Lone behold, a photographer’s worst fear: bad weather. Let me tell ya, it wasn’t just raining. It was raining, sleeting, snowing, AND insanely windy… on a supposed “spring day”. So even the cute clear umbrellas we ordered last minute weren’t of help to us with the strong winds. But, I was somehow calm. I did the best that I could and even if my work wasn’t the best, the terrible circumstances helped justify it ;) lol jk … but seriously hahah. Moral of the story: I made it through that day, I delivered a gallery of memories, and my cute couple got hitched!
I used to thing that it would be the end of the world if it rained on a wedding day. Now I go into a wedding and think to myself: hey, you made it through a May wedding with rain, sleet, snow, and wind… you can make it through ANYTHING.
Here are pics from my “first first” and first wedding :)