When I was attending NAU, we were often asked in my photography classes, "WHAT KIND OF PHOTOGRAPHY CAREER DO YOU WANT?" and, "HOW ARE YOU GOING TO ACHIEVE THIS GOAL?" ...Except maybe it wasn't as dramatic or in all caps, but that's how I interpreted it. I decided early on I wanted to pursue wedding photography, but literally had no idea how accomplish it. I didn't have much of a wedding portfolio, I didn't have a website and my Instagram was all over the place. So, with all those lovely odds in my favor, I had to create a plan to help me accomplish my dream. Altogether, there were three big things I did to break into booking weddings:
1) Second Shooting
Before you can photograph your own wedding, I think it's SO SO SO important to gain experience through second shooting for another professional. Through second shooting, not only did I build a stronger portfolio, but I also learned so much about the process of what exactly being a wedding photographer entailed. If you're just starting out, I would definitely encourage you to find a mentor that wouldn't mind taking you to a wedding of theirs either as a second shooter or as an assistant. (Bonus - finding multiple mentors is even better because you can see different perspectives on conducting a wedding day!!)
Feeling nervous you may not find someone to take you on? Fear not! There are so many ways to find mentors nowadays! Directly emailing a photographer you admire on why you look up to them and asking if they have a second shooting/assisting position available can be a great gateway to finding a mentor. Keep in mind, however, some photographers simply don't have the ability to take someone new to weddings. They may be at a point in their careers where they have a steady flow and don't have the capability to interrupt it. If this falls through, there are multiple local Facebook groups based around photographers that constantly get posts asking about second shooting positions. TuesdaysTogether and Shoot & Share are both amazing resource groups on Facebook that help members gain knowledge and connections within the creative industry. To find your local group, just type in TuesdaysTogether *insert the city you live in here* Same thing with Shoot & Share! If your city doesn't have one, chances you'll have to try a more populated city near you! Creating a post in the group based around having an interest in weddings and wanting to help available photographers second shoot with an example of your work is an effective way to find a great mentor!
I know it seems cliche, but this is seriously SO important and there are so many ways you can practice wedding photography without actually booking a single wedding! One of methods I would recommend most would be attending styled shoots! Styled shoots are gorgeous events put on by coordinators that create a setting from a wedding day! This includes: a venue, a bride & groom, gorgeous dresses and suits, beautiful details (cake, table settings, invitation suites, rings, etc) and everything else you've been dying to photograph! Styled shoots are SO fun because you get to photograph ALL the pretty things and you don't have any pressure from an actual wedding day (plus, they always add SO MUCH to your wedding portfolio)!
"BUT LARAAAAA. I don't have the time/resources to attend styled shoots!" Okay, okay. I feel you. Usually styled shoots take a pretty big chunk of time out of your day, which can be hard when you have time commitments all over the place. Plus, generally, there's a ticket price to help pay for putting the event together and if you're anything like me, I didn't have a ton of extra money when I was starting out.
I GET YOU.
If you can't attend a styled shoot (although I definitely recommend you attend at least one), fear not! There's still a way you can practice! Remember those handy Facebook groups I mentioned earlier? WELL. There are tons of past bride and grooms on there, too. If you post that you would love to practice photographing with a couple that wouldn't mind putting on their wedding attire again, I'm positive you'll get a response. A past bride LOVES finding a reason to put on her beautiful dress again and you're providing her with that opportunity! Just make sure you include in your post that they will receive some of the pictures from your shoot together! Not only will this give YOU practice, but it also may be a marketing opportunity if they decide to share your images on Facebook or Instagram! CHA-CHING!
3) Be THAT Person
You really want to know my secret to booking weddings long before I even had a website? Ready? It's super simple -
I would straight up ask.
I would see people I knew posting on Facebook about getting engaged and I would message them. I was THAT person. I usually messaged the future bride and would usually say something like, "Hi, ____! Congratulations on your engagement! I'm so excited for you and your groom-to-be! I know you may be in the early stages of planning, but I would love to be considered as the photographer for your wedding day coverage! Here are a few images from my portfolio! Let me know what you think and congratulations again! *insert images from practice/styled shoots here*"
Now, it may feel totally uncomfortable putting yourself out there. You don't want to bother people and you don't want to deal with rejection. I absolutely understand. Usually, I was sending these messages to people I hadn't seen since high school (talk about awkward). But hey, more than likely, these couples ARE looking for a photographer and you've presented an option to them that takes away from having to sift through tons and tons of wedding photography portfolios, websites and pricing pages. It's a win for them AND you!
If they decide to book you, then CUE THE CONFETTI. You're officially allowed to eat pizza, dance in your pj's, buy a ton of balloons or do whatever you want to celebrate! However, there's the possibility they may politely tell you, "Thank you, but we're not interested." But guess what? You can still eat all the pizza in the world because DAMN you put yourself out there, which is a HUGE accomplishment on its own. The more you practice this method, the more excited you'll get over the "YES YES YES's" and okay you'll become with the "hell no's." Altogether, simply putting myself out there as an option became the backbone of my business growth!
That's it! These three tips were what helped me the most when I first started booking weddings and I hope they'll be helpful to you, too! Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!