I follow a lot of wedding photographers but I don’t really know how they got where they are now, they don’t seem to talk about how they got from A to B, so I thought people may be interested to hear my story.
It seems as though I am having more and more photographers come to me about becoming my assistant or second shooter, (especially since I graduated with many other photographers!). Mostly e-mails stating, ‘I’d love to be your second shooter to learn from you’- but I need a second shooter that already knows what I need. Ben is the best second shooter I know because we communicate so well, he reads my mind (I don’t know how he does it!) but as we both continue to get busier, he won’t always be around to assist me- so yes I will eventually have to get some help. One tip in this area, also a tip a great Austin portrait photographer that I worked for told me, don’t talk about what you want to learn, talk about what you can do for me, how can you help my business. Always send an e-mail with a link to a portfolio, even if you’re there to assist/carry around bags I want to see how into photography you really are and what your work is like- I want to see if our styles mesh.
Ok, I know- it’s hard to show a portfolio when you don’t have much of one. I’ve been there, trust me! I got my first job from DearCharli Photography, she was a friend of a friend of a friend, we met, I showed her my fine art portfolio from school then I worked a wedding in Houston for free. I was young, didn’t have much of a camera, and had no experience with weddings- except for a couple snap shots from my brother’s wedding. I did a lot of research, I searched all over flickr to see what people were taking pictures of at weddings, the ‘must have’ shots. I ended up with some good stuff from that wedding (a couple shots you can still find in my portfolio). I shot a couple more with Dear Charli but she didn’t always need me, so I went to craigslist. Yes, the dreaded craigslist. I searched for anyone needing a cheap wedding photographer and e-mailed all of them. I got a few more gigs from this, another fellow wedding photographer that hired me as a second found me there. Try to work for a photog that will let you use a couple photos for your portfolio, if they’re nice they will, but you will need to give credit ;)
Wedding photography companies are a good place to start as well, some will even provide equipment for you, they don’t pay well but you can experience a lot of weddings this way and eventually feel confident enough shooting your own. Another plus for the company route is that you can actually be a main shooter, which you usually can’t do unless it’s for your own company. Con is, you can’t use the work in an online portfolio.
After I worked for a company as a main shooter and second shot many weddings with at least 5 other wedding photogs, I had a portfolio. Now what… I got a good flash website and started advertising on Facebook. I got a couple gigs from this, but not as many as I would have liked. After doing some research, HUGE props to the Flickr Group- SWPB, a blog seemed absolutely essential. If you are a photographer and don’t have a blog, get one, like right now. WordPress is a good place to go for this by the way, don’t bother with that blogspot nonsense. Because who doesn’t love a good blog?! I did a lot of work to my website to make it exactly what I wanted (and am still working on it), picked up a logo from the awesome Claude Ramey on the way… and now I’m advertising on The Knot. Who woulda thought…. I still have a lot to learn but that’s the awesome thing about this business, there’s always something new to learn.
1. SHOOT, SHOOT, SHOOT- anyone you know, weddings or not- good portraiture is always needed at weddings.
2. Website/blog- both are essential, don’t forget to use good keywords that you want to market yourself for like ‘Hi I am Sweet Caroline, a fine art Austin wedding photographer’, etc… and when you get this site out, let everyone in the world know you have it. Srsly. Everyone. (get business cards, they help!).
3. Network- Get to know your fellow wedding vendors, photographers or not, they are always good people to know. Talk to them, meet for coffee, take pictures for them, link to them, they’ll like that.
4. Get Legit- I didn’t mention this before, but it is important, get your Tax ID# and your DBA (doing business as). You can get the Tax ID online and the DBA at the county clerks office in your city, super easy.
5. Build a good online personality- One thing I feel like really helped me is having a good descriptive about me, I also have many client friends on Facebook.
I’m sure there are more I could put on the list but these are the main ones I could think of so enjoy.
Also, I thought I’d end with a picture. The clouds were really awesome yesterday after the bridal shoot, so Ben & I decided to go across the street to the top of an empty parking garage and take a couple pictures of each other- plus I think this one makes me look like a badass. ;D