- Step 1: Get Educated
- Step 2: Make It Legal
- Step 3: Get Geared Up
- Step 4: Get Insured
- Step 5: Start Marketing and Never Stop
- A backup camera body (just in case your primary goes kaput)
- A telephoto lens (i.e., a 70-200mm for capturing up-close action from a distance)
- Several speedlites for illuminating dark venues and flash diffusers to soften the light from your flashes
- A solid tripod and light stands
Photo by Todd Ruth on Unsplash
Starting a wedding photography business is no small task, that’s for sure.
However, there are some basic steps you can take that will help you build a solid foundation upon which a successful wedding photography business can grow.
Below, I’ve outlined some of the initial steps you need to take to get started. Though this isn’t a comprehensive list of everything you need to accomplish, the items listed here are certainly critical to get started in wedding photography.
Table of Contents
Step 1: Get Educated
photo by zeljkosantrac via iStock
First and foremost, you need to learn the art of wedding photography.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need a formal education in photography from the local university, though that’s certainly an option.
Many wedding photographers learn on their own, reading articles like this, watching YouTube videos, and developing the necessary technical and artistic skills to be successful behind the lens.
Getting experience in which you can put your learning to the test is crucial as well.
And since not many people are willing to hire a wedding photographer with zero experience, you’ll need to find other avenues of breaking into the wedding photography scene.
A perfect solution for this is to work as a second shooter.
photo by meatbull via iStock
Second shooters are tasked with helping the primary photographer capture the day’s events. Second shooters are seldom asked to be responsible for the “big” shots, like the portraits of the wedding party or capturing the moment the couple says “I do.” Instead, second shooters typically roam the venue, taking candid photos of the wedding party and other guests.
The best part of being a second shooter is that you get to see a seasoned wedding photographer in action. You can learn the ropes and pick their brain for advice, all the while gaining valuable on-the-job experience.
Quick Tip: Another option for getting wedding photography experience is to offer to take photos of a friend or family member’s engagement or wedding. Even if it’s just in an informal capacity, every little bit helps. What’s more, it’s another avenue by which you can develop your portfolio of images that you can then use to show off your skills to future clients.
Step 2: Make It Legal
photo by skynesher via iStock
Once you start to gain some traction with your photography skills, you need to register your business and get the necessary permits and licenses.
This process is different from one state to the next, and from one city to the next as well. For example, in some cities, a business permit is required if you work inside the city limits. In other cities, no such permit is required.
You’ll need to do some investigating with regard to what the state and local regulations are for photographers, but you can expect in most locations to need a business permit and a tax license at the very least. Learn more about this process in our comprehensive guide on how to start a photography business.
photo by marchmeena29 via iStock
Another component of making your business legal is coming up with a business name.
There are different schools of thought on a business name. On the one hand, many photographers use their names as the business name. This often makes things simple since it’s much easier to associate you with your business.
On the other hand, some photographers choose to name their business instead. This is advantageous if you have designs on expanding your services or perhaps employing other photographers.
Whatever the case, the most important part of naming your wedding photography business is ensuring that the name is short and easy to remember. For example, if you have a rather long name or one that’s hard to spell like Frances Saltalamacchia, you might consider shortening it somehow - “Photos by Frances,” for example.
Quick Tip: Avoid strange spellings that might confuse clients and make it more difficult to remember you or find your business. “Fun Photoz” might seem like a whimsical and unique name, but misspellings (even purposeful ones) don’t age well! Learn more about building your photography brand.
Step 3: Get Geared Up
photo by simonkr via iStock
When you’re just starting out, there’s no need to go out and buy thousands of dollars worth of photography gear.
After all, it’s not the camera or the lens that makes the photo great - it’s what you do with the camera and the lens that makes the photo great!
Save money where you can by using your existing camera. If anything, put your money towards better lenses, because good glass will aid you in making better photos more than a new camera will.
photo by Volodymyr Shtun via iStock
When looking at lenses, there are some top choices for wedding photographers. A good prime lens for portraits is a must, like an 85mm f/1.4.
You’ll also want a good zoom lens for making quick adjustments to the angle of view. Many wedding photographers swear by their 24-70mm f/2.8 lenses for that purpose.
Other items that you should have in your camera bag include:
Again, this isn’t a complete list of absolutely everything you might need, but these are certainly essentials.
Quick Tip: Since weddings are an all-day affair, you’ll want a camera bag that’s comfortable to carry around, and perhaps even a camera harness so you can carry your gear on your body and having quick access to it. Also invest in comfortable shoes, as you’ll be on your feet for hours and hours at a time!
Another gear consideration you need to make is the kind of backup you'll use to protect your images.
For me, Synology is the cream of the crop when it comes to backup systems for photographers.
Not only are their products well-built and reliable, but they're also incredibly easy to use. What's not to like about that?!
I've been rocking the Synology DiskStation DS1019+ on the top of my desk for quite a while now, and to say that I have ultimate peace of mind that my images and other files are safe is a huge understatement.
Not only did I get it set up in a manner of minutes, but the DS1019+ has given me reliable and dependable service from the moment I first fired it up.
What you'll appreciate about this unit is that it is easy to use, even if you're not the most technologically advanced person out there.
Synology's DSM operating system is highly intuitive, so even if you're new to network attached storage devices, you'll find that you can navigate through the operating system with ease.
Likewise, installing the hard drives is a quick and simple task - just add 2.5 or 3.5-inch drives to the hot-swappable bays and you're ready to rock.
In the case of the 2.5-inch drives, you simply attach it to the sled using four bottom-mounted screws. If you use 3.5-inch drives, you don't need any tools at all - just insert the drive and the built-in tension brackets will hold the drives in place.
With the combination of an Intel Celeron 1.5GHz processor (with burst speed up to 2.3GHz) and 8GB of RAM, the DS1019+ delivers read/write speeds of up to 225MB per second.
When you have tons of photos or videos to transfer, you'll certainly appreciate that kind of speed!
You'll also appreciate the fact that this unit is so small - just a few inches across and deep, so it can easily fit on top of your desk.
You can check out all the specs and details on this rig in my Synology DiskStation DS1019+ review.
Something else you might not think of that's required "gear" is a solid hosting service.
Take it from me - if you have a website and you have terrible hosting, making a buck is going to prove difficult.
I searched for years to find a web host that actually delivered on their promises, and after working with some really terrible hosts, I finally found my saving grace - OVH.
Since switching to OVH, PhotographyTalk has actually had the 99.99 percent uptime that OVH said we'd have. That's worth its weight in gold!
Beyond that, OVH has impressed me with their excellent customer service.
While some large companies make you talk to automated bots or wait on hold forever to talk to a real, live person, OVH delivers top-quality customer service that makes you feel like they care about you and your business.
Their customer service representatives are attentive and knowledgeable, and if they can't immediately answer your question or solve your problem, they find someone that can.
Of course, I've had precious few reasons to call OVH customer service over the years, so you might not ever need to make use of it. But, still, it's nice to know that they have superb customer service backing up their excellent hosting!
Step 4: Get Insured
photo by Kameleon007 via iStock
The next step to becoming a wedding photographer is to protect your investment.
A camera equipment insurance policy is a must. The last thing you need is to be unable to work because of a damaged camera and having no means to replace your gear.
Fortunately, you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for equipment insurance. Companies like Full Frame Insurance have scalable policy options that can be customized to fit your specific needs.
For example, if you’re just starting out, a budget option with $1,000 per item and $5,000 aggregate coverage might be your best bet. That coverage is just $55 when added to a general liability policy.
But there are other options too — up to $15,000 per item and $75,000 aggregate for $349 in their annual insurance policy.
Whatever option you choose, the peace of mind knowing that your gear is covered in the event that it’s damaged or stolen is certainly worth the annual expense of the policy.
Of course, it’s not just your photography gear that needs to be covered with insurance.
Instead, to get started in wedding photography, you must have a general liability policy.
When you’re just starting out, short-term insurance might be the way to go, it’ll assure you you’re covered for gigs that might be few and far between. Once you get your feet under you, an annual policy can be advantageous as it protects you from exposures as you move from one wedding to the next and one location to the other.
Again, Full Frame Insurance offers all these great coverage options.
You get protection against third-party claims that range from property damage to bodily injury.
What’s more, there’s no quote process and you can purchase your policy online. You get 24/7 access to policy documents and there is no deductible on liability claims, either.
In other words, since you have enough to worry about as it is, Full Frame Insurance makes it as easy and as affordable as possible to get the all-important coverages you need to operate your business. They even offer wedding photographer insurance!
Quick Tip: Having a reliable insurance company on your side isn’t the only type of professional relationship you need to build. Work with an attorney to draft up business documents and hire an experienced accountant to handle your books. Though these expenditures might seem expensive, they are worth their weight in gold in the time it will save you and the peace of mind you’ll have knowing those tasks are being handled by the pros.
Step 5: Start Marketing and Never Stop
photo by zeljkosantrac via iStock
To get started in wedding photography, you obviously need to have the skills and talent to take great photos.
However, you can be the most talented wedding photographer in the world, but if people don’t know about you, your business won’t last long.
In addition to having a killer portfolio that highlights your best work and a website that’s easy to find and navigate, you need to spend time each day reaching out to potential clients.
photo by marchmeena29 via iStock
Social media is clearly an excellent avenue for doing this. Whether it’s making YouTube videos to demonstrate your expertise, creating targeted Facebook ads to promote your services in your area, or simply engaging with people on Twitter or Instagram, the more you put yourself out there, the more likely people will be to call you to inquire about working for them.
Your engagement with potential clients can’t end with social media, though.
Word of mouth marketing is essential for building your business, so take time to invest in fostering relationships that can lead to additional work.
photo by stanciuc via iStock
For example, when your work for a client is done, offer them a small gift (i.e., a $10 gift card) for referring a friend to you. Likewise, chat with other professionals in the industry (like the local bakery and a flower store) and see if you can work out an arrangement for throwing business one another’s way.
Though marketing might not come to you naturally, it’s a skill that must be developed, and your approach must be multi-modal.
It might sound scary to tackle all of these tasks as you build your business, but as noted earlier, these photography business tips will put you on the path to success!