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Lessons from my years as a wedding photographer

March 22, 2021

Did you know I started my photography career in the wedding industry? Photography was a career choice I dreamed about for a long time before deciding to give it a go, and after taking out my first ever loan ($6000 which at the time which felt like $60,000) I enrolled in a two-year part-time course […]

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Did you know I started my photography career in the wedding industry? Photography was a career choice I dreamed about for a long time before deciding to give it a go, and after taking out my first ever loan ($6000 which at the time which felt like $60,000) I enrolled in a two-year part-time course in Melbourne.

After completing the first year I got itchy feet – I couldn’t wait to get out and start shooting in the real world! So when one of my tutors who had a successful wedding business in Melbourne offered me a part-time job, I decided not to complete the second year (to be honest the idea of a second loan wasn’t that appealing either) and jumped at the opportunity.

Earning a living as a wedding photographer 

There is no doubt that real life experience beats the classroom any day, and it wasn’t long before I started booking my own weddings and going out alone. The rest, as they say, is history…

These days when I tell people I began as a wedding photographer I often get a reply along the lines of “gee that must’ve been tough/nerve-wracking/scary” or “how many terrible brides did you have to work with?”

But you know what…

I loved photographing weddings. The couples I booked were always lovely (okay maybe just one or two bridezillas slipped through the cracks!) and capturing one of the best days of their lives brought me so much joy. I had always wanted a job that I loved, that was creative, and that brought joy to others in one way or another, so it was a perfect fit.

These days not much has changed other than the genre of photography I work in – I still love what I do and I get to work with amazing individuals! The work is creative and my clients love what I create for them. It’s a massive win-win, if you ask me. I don’t miss those long days working weddings but I do think of those years fondly, and there’s no doubt that working as a wedding photographer was also a great training ground for working with people.

Capturing hundreds of weddings taught me many lessons that have stayed with me since. Here are a few:

Working hard and fast

Even though they usually start early in the morning and finish late in the evenings, wedding days have some magical quality that makes time disappear quickly and before you know it, they’re over! As a wedding photographer you have to be organised and work to a strict running order, or your risk messing up the entire day and leaving the guests waiting.

I learnt the importance of time. And I learnt to work fast – there was no mucking around.  And that still applies to my personal branding shoots today – my clients’ time is important (as is mine), so I don’t muck around. I walk into shoots with a schedule and know what I need to capture.  I work hard and fast to get it done – whilst having fun at the same time.

The perfect shot waits for no-one

Yep, the sub-heading says it all.

The groom’s face when he sees his bride for the first time, the kiss, the wedding dance … photography is all about capturing emotions and moments, and those we experience on our wedding day are some of the most important ones in our lives.

When it comes to my personal branding sessions, I work just as hard to capture the moments that show my clients not only at their best, but the moments where they are letting their true personality – their essence – shine through.

How to direct people to get the right angle

My clients often mention how much they appreciate the way I direct them in front of the camera. It’s one thing to say you want to look natural in photos, but there’s still a science and art behind how to actually create that look. Part of it comes from the connection between the photographer and the subject, but understanding how to work with different body shapes and angles that’s flattering comes with experience. Years of weddings was a wonderful opportunity to learn those rules, as the work always involved posing both men and women and learning what rules worked for each of them.

How and when to be inconspicuous

I remember back to my first weddings and how I quickly learnt how to be observant and present – without taking over the limelight. As a wedding photographer, it’s important to take charge when required but to also hang back and blend in often too, and the same can be said when capturing my business photography subjects in different situations. Whether working with clients, speaking on stage or presenting a workshop – the best shots are usually the photos that they didn’t see get taken!

How to work on any location, and in all types of weather

Anyone living in Melbourne like me will know that the weather here is impossible to predict – when you live in a city that’s known for having 4 seasons in one day, you have to expect anything, lol! And a wedding date is one thing you can’t move, so you get experienced at working in all kinds of weather and locations very quickly.  Let’s just say it’s good to have a personality that loves a challenge 🙂

So working as a wedding photographer, I became very adept at working with different types of light both outdoors and in.  And sizing up a location quickly to work out where I capture the best photos.  And again, this skill has paid off in dividends today.  Knowing I have the experience and right type of equipment to work in different situations on any day allows me to walk into my shoots with the confidence that I can still nail great images for my client – rain, hail or shine!

How to relax my subjects

Lastly, as always, one of the most important tips is to make the wedding party feel as relaxed as possible, so the photos will reflect the joy and emotion they felt on the day.  Likewise, relaxing my clients in front of the camera today is my most important job, as I know without that they won’t be able to ‘show up’ as their true selves.

So, there you have it, lessons I’ve learnt from my years as a wedding photographer that I still apply to my personal branding photography today. And I’m sure there are plenty more too. It’s certainly been a journey, and one that I’ve loved every step of.

How about you? What have you learnt from previous jobs that you apply to your work today? How have they helped you get to where you are? I’d love to hear all about it!

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I acknowledge the Wurundjeri people, the traditional owners of the lands on which I live, work and play. I acknowledge their connection to the land, water and communities of my country, and I pay my respect to their Elders, past, present and emerging.