Life is full of firsts. First job, first love, first home, first (and I hope last) marriage. This past year, as I’ve worked at building my photography portfolio, I’ve had many photography firsts: first headshot session, first portrait session, first children’s portrait session. And coming up this May is possibly the biggest photography first of them all: my first wedding.
I’m nervous, of course, and excited. And since this is a first that many aspiring photographers encounter, I thought I’d share my journey and provide a window into the emotional, educational and practical lessons I’m learning along the way. In the interest of keeping the posts fairly short, I’m planning a series of them. This post covers my first steps.
How did I get recommended for this gig?
The short answer here is my food blog. I started my food blog, Buried Carrots, just over a year ago. I’ve worked diligently and researched regularly to improve my photography over the year. The blog still doesn’t have a ton of followers, but it gets more than 100 hits a day and tops 2,000 on a good day. It is steadily building. My biggest fans, of course, are folks who know me, and friend of mine who loves my blog has a friend who is getting married. She needed a photographer who wouldn’t charge a fortune, and I was recommended.
How did I nail down the gig?
I was completely honest with the bride. I told her I’ve never shot a wedding before, I am self-taught and learning as I go, and that she would need to feel comfortable with that. But I also told her that I felt really confident with natural light photography. I told her I had photographed kids and families and individuals, and that everyone I’ve worked with so far has been happy with my work. I also assured her that when you work in digital and take 1,000+ photos, you’re bound to get some good ones. She agreed to have me photograph her wedding.
How did I decide on a price?
Carla keeps saying that at some point, I’m going to have to start charging people for my work. So far, everything I’ve done has been for trade or “whatever the client wants to give me.” I know there are a lot of strong opinions out there on this subject. This is mine: I’m building a portfolio, and until I have one in place, I don’t feel comfortable charging people. The experience is so incredibly valuable to me, from the challenges of each unique shoot to the challenges of post processing. And anyway, how can I ever shoot weddings if I’ve never shot a wedding? I need a wedding to shoot as much as the bride needs a photographer.
The bride’s budget was $500. I agreed to take $250 for the shoot and a specific amount of post-processing work. Any additional post-processing will be negotiated, and any equipment I need to rent will be paid for by the bride.
How do I keep myself from freaking out?
Research, research, research and research. Practice, practice and practice.
I’ve read everything I can get my hands on about wedding photography and the technical skills that I still lack in. And I keep picking up my camera every week and taking photos. You’re not going to take amazing photos if you never use your camera.
Also, I’m staying organized.
After my first conversation with the bride, I immediately created an Evernote document. I can access it from my laptop or from my phone, meaning that whenever I think of or see something that might help me do a better job at the wedding shoot (an idea, an existing photo, an article, a website, etc.), I save it into the Evernote document. I have all my notes from my first conversation with the bride there. And I have a wealth of helpful information in the form of links to everything from wedding photography tips, to lighting tutorials, to what shots to take.
All of this preparation helps calm my anxieties about my first wedding shoot. But it doesn’t erase them. This is someone’s special day, and I get one single chance to capture the beauty, emotion, delight and joy of it all. I can’t screw up.
But I trust myself. I’ll prepare as much as I possibly can, and that means I’ll be less likely to make simple mistakes- like not having enough memory or battery power. And when the wedding day arrives, I’ll do what I do: I’ll take photos. After all, it’s MY photographic eye that got me here in the first place. So I have to trust my abilities to capture light and laughter and tears and memories, photos that will forever mark this beautiful milestone in the Bride and Groom’s lives. And forever mark a pretty significant milestone in my life too.