How to Become a Wedding Photographer
Getting Started as a Wedding Photographer
Couples in the US spend an average of $30,000 on their special day – the wedding. This is a whole industry of specialized designs, venues, event planning, catering and all around memory-making. That’s where the wedding photographers come in. They are there to accompany couples on the day of their wedding but often also before the special day, during staged shoots, engagements and portraiture sessions.
There are two main types of wedding photographers, ones who take premeditated photos that include portraits and staged activities, and those who work more as photojournalists and create a photo story of the engagement and wedding days. Many also combine these two techniques. Whichever style a wedding photographer chooses to pursue, the job is not easy. It involves a lot of long days, many weekends and evenings, as well as time investment into the business side of photography. This includes marketing, communications, client search, digital presence, finance and accounting, among other things, especially since a large portion of wedding photographers are freelancers.
So what are the benefits of this career? For those who love photography, this could be a great choice, since you will have the opportunity to be part of the special moments in people’s lives. Not only might you photograph their engagement and wedding, but also their children, family portraits and events.
As any other type of photography, there is no real requirement for you to get a college degree in order to get into the industry. You can just self-teach through online courses and tutorials, as well as extensive practice. What really matters is your portfolio and ability to engage new clients. This will come with effort and practice, but also with honing your business skills, part of which should be being professional, always on time and committed to your craft.
This does not, however, mean that you should not get a college education. While it is not a requirement, it could be a great tool to learn both photography and business aspects of the job. It is also great for networking and meeting people. You may want to study a fine arts degree in photography, but you can also pursue business and marketing as an alternate route. Another option is to study whatever else you might enjoy doing, since as a photographer, being well-rounded and understanding the world will be essential to your photography skills.
WHAT IF I DO WANT A DEGREE TO BECOME A PHOTOGRAPHER?
- University of New Mexico
Located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, UNM allows students to pursue a BFA in Photography. The school makes a strong focus on an inter-disciplinary approach, whether it is in terms of learning complementary technical skills or gaining a better understanding of the social sciences. Residents pay an estimated tuition of $2,503 per semester, while non-residents pay $9,732.
- School of the Art Institute of Chicago
SAIC is a well-renown school of arts and offers BFA and MFA level studies in Photography. BFA students learn basic and advanced techniques in their first 3 years of study, and move on to independent projects in the last year. Undergraduate tuition is an average of $43,140 per year.
- California College of the Arts
The CCA has campuses in Oakland and San Francisco, and allows students to pursue a BFA in Photography. The curriculum is highly focused on hands-on learning, while also allowing for a combination with a minor from a different discipline. Estimated tuition cost at CCA is $43,248 per year.
- Arizona State University
The Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at ASU is located in Tempe, Arizona and offers a bachelor level degree in Photography. It is one of the top 10 photography programs in the US. Students have access to exhibiting their work and are able to pursue alternative photographic methods within the program. Undergraduate tuition for residents is $9,484 per year, while non-residents pay $23,830.
- Maryland Institute College of Art
Established almost 100 years ago, the MICA photography program is offered with two possible concentrations. One is Photography in Studio, and the other is combined with Humanistic Studies, to provide a more inter-disciplinary approach. Students here pay $20,425 per semester.
GETTING MY FOOT IN THE DOOR
This is always the toughest part with any industry, and creative fields are often a little bit more challenging. You need to build a name for yourself, get referrals and be the go-to person for wedding photography in your area. How do you do this?
You can start by assisting other, more established photographers, or if you have friends and family who are getting married, then do the work for them for free or a minimal fee. This will both help you build a portfolio and get referrals for people they might know who would like to hire a wedding photographer.
At the same time, don’t forget to build your business presence. There are many free tools out there for you to use. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and free blogging platforms are awesome options to display your portfolio digitally. Learn a little bit about search engine optimization and direct online searches in your area to your website. Make sure you feature your best work and are ready to respond to any inquiries in a professional and timely manner.