I'd decided around summer time of 2015 I would officially add engagement and wedding photography to my repertoire. I started with researching the job. I had done enough research to begin writing a scholarly journal on the subject. I gazed upon thousands of photographs online and in magazines to predetermine the style in which I would shoot and edit. Countless hours where consumed with watching Youtube videos on how to shoot the perfect wedding. Articles and blog posts became my life line. It's safe to say I was an internet certified pro and I was ready.
Time passed and I got zero inquiries. My website was new and looked great, adds were posted, I gained more followers. So what bites? How was I not receiving the business I thought I deserved? The answer is actually really easy.
No one in their right mind is going to hire someone to document one of the biggest days of their live if that person has no experience in doing so.
I understood this, but how was I ever supposed to get started? All of my online adds for wedding services had pictures of portraits I'd taken. I would get a few inquires each week. I kept thinking, "Hailey, it's going to happen!!" Each inquiry began and ended the same way. They would say how much they loved my work. Then they would ask if I could send them examples from my past weddings. I would then have to respond saying I'd actually never done a wedding.
It became a heartbreaking and daunting task. My hours of research and photography skill level essentially didn't matter here.
On December 31st, 2015 at 2 in the afternoon, I had my first wedding. It was a trial for everyone involved. The officiant couldn't get the brides name right. The bride didn't wear her white dress because it was raining. The raining pushed the outside ceremony to an indoor ceremony. Indoors was the officiants wedding storage shack (which was nicely painted inside) where there was hardly any light and I didn't have an external flash at the time.
My expectations were SO high going in. Even though I was able to deliver photos of their special moment, I left feeling like a disappointment. Then I came to grips- almost all of these things were out of my control. I later determined that I still really enjoyed being part of their memory. I wanted to try again.
Fast forward to seven months. I had still been branding myself as a wedding photographer. I added a few mock wedding photos to my site too. Whether you saw my lack of wedding photos or not, people knew I was a wedding photographer. I presented myself with confidence and authority. In August 2016, a photographer hired me to be his second shooter. I felt good.
On the wedding day, I was shooting with a Canon Rebel t4i, a cheap 50mm f/1.8 lens, a 70-300mm f/4-5.6 zoom lens, an external flash I think I got from Target the night before, and one battery. If you have no photography experience this information doesn't mean much. But if you do, you know I was in way over my head. Don't get me wrong, that gear is great, especially if you're outside. But it is not the ideal gear if you're looking to shoot a wedding.
Once again, I knew I wasn't going to produce the pictures I thought I would in my head. I got home from that wedding feeling guilty and exhausted. I felt overpaid and underwhelmed by the pictures I took. But again, I did feel happy to have been apart of their special day. The couple loved their wedding album just in case you were wondering.
Not having more experience under my belt, I knew the only thing I could've done better was to have a stronger camera. Although my bank account only cared about reality. Reality being there was no possible way I could get a new camera anytime soon. From the moment after the wedding, I put every single dollar I made from photography into a savings account.
About four months had gone by when I purchased a new camera. There were a few ups and a few downs in order to get there though. Ups being I was able to save a lot more money than I expected, meaning I was booking more shoots. I also booked two weddings and two engagements by that time. The downer was that my Canon t4i was stolen from my car, along with other possessions. Oh yeah, and one of those weddings was happening that weekend! I rented some gear to cover me. I also started a Go Fund Me campaign where I raised the money in just four days! I couldn't believe any of it!
The campaign goal was set to cover the costs of everything stolen. Merging that with what I had already saved from photography gigs, I was then able to buy a nicer camera and a replacement lens.
I tell ya. Some of of the things life makes you go through.
Things I Took Away:
The entire camera-stolen-ordeal resulted in an outpour of support. It cemented that this is what I'm supposed to be doing.
I now know shooting a wedding in the beginning stages is not a walk in the park. If you have friends or family who shoot weddings, I would strongly recommend volunteering as their second shooter. Not being paid and not being the main camera will take off a lot of pressure and allow room for you to make mistakes.
Having big expectations is not a bad thing. They will help you reach your goals. However, you cannot expect your first couple of weddings to end up on the cover of a bridal magazine.
Give yourself constructive criticism, but don't beat yourself down after a shoot. Perfecting your craft takes years to do. Believe in what you do. Learn from your mistakes. Try and try again.