How to become a wedding photographer

How to Become a Wedding Photographer

A one-stop resource for individuals looking to launch a career in wedding photography


Why Create This Page?

Once every couple of months, I receive a call or email from a photographer who'd like some advice. In general, the advice is either for someone who is just starting out and needs a few steers on how to make some early progress or for someone who has been shooting weddings for some time and has either grown a little stagnant and needs some inspiration or they want help getting their business back-on-track. As someone who is about to embark on what is only their 5th full wedding season, I'm always surprised that I'm viewed as someone who can potentially help; of course it is hugely flattering to be asked for help and at the same time a little daunting. That said, I have been fortunate to find myself feeling relatively established as a wedding photographer here in Norfolk from quite early on. My aspiration from the outset was to book in the region of 25 weddings per year and I've comfortably achieved that each year in business with 2018 surpassing that goal and 2019 and 2020 already looking very exciting. While I take none of this for granted, I am in a position to hopefully now offer some advice and help others hoping to follow the same career path.

So, with this in mind, I thought that I'd create a short 'how to become a wedding photographer' page on my website where I could share some thoughts and hopefully help others. My intention is to keep the page up-to-date and perhaps share it with those routine enquiries from photographers looking for a little help. I've met dozens over the last 4 or 5 years and answered many, many e-mails on the subjects that I'll talk about below. Hopefully this page will serve as a useful resource for such future enquiries while maybe providing some fresh ideas to fellow wedding photographers who are inquisitive as to how a fellow wedding photographer operates. I absolutely do not profess to know it all and, like all businesses, I continually review my practices and seek ways to improve every aspect of my work. Clearly this page will only scratch the surface of running a successful wedding photography business and I'll happily speak to anyone who wants to take things a step further. I'd also readily offer some one-to-one training or workshops if I was comfortable teaching the areas where help is being sought. So, please do get in touch if that's something that you'd like to explore further.

Getting Started

It's my belief that the starting point for a successful wedding photography business is good photography. That sounds blindingly obvious but the market is saturated with people who call themselves professional photographers long before their work supports that claim. A career as a photographer demands many skills but, fundamentally, a talent for taking good images. We never stop learning and hopefully improving but, before embarking on a career as a photographer, we have to make sure that we have a thorough understanding of photography and the skills to use that knowledge to repeatedly deliver a professional product. As a starting point then, education, training and commitment to being the best photographer you can be, comes first and foremost. If you get this right, you are starting out on the right path from the outset. Assuming that you have the knowledge of photography and the innate skills to utilise that knowledge, you then have to find a way into wedding photography, if that is to be your chosen 'field'.

Moving to Norfolk having left the RAF after a long, non-photography related career, and knowing absolutely no-one in the wedding photography business, I was probably starting from the most difficult position possible; this possibly makes me well-qualified to offer some advice in this area particularly. I needed experience of weddings and a portfolio to sell my skills and build a website and social media presence. At that point I was where maybe 50% of the people who now approach me are at - I needed to reach out and ask for help. While I don't personally shoot with a second photographer, many Norfolk Wedding Photographers do and that has to be the most obvious starting point for newcomers. Offer your services for free, go above and beyond to support the main photographer on the day and work tirelessly to observe and learn. You might need to approach 50 photographers to get even a handful of replies, and maybe even fewer offers of work, but perseverance will pay off in the end.


Andy Davison - Norfolk Wedding Photographer

Once you’ve started to build a portfolio, it’s time to select images that best demonstrate the brand that you’re hoping to build and that represent the style of wedding photography you aspire to.  While this doesn’t necessarily arrive on day one, it’s always important to bear in mind that the work you share will likely attract further work of a similar nature.  Sharing just your best work, shot in a style you like and with couples who share your vision for how a wedding day will be captured will help ensure that, as quickly as possible, your business attracts the right customers to your door.

The next step is possibly one of the hardest and remains a challenge that never goes away – how do we get our work seen by the right people and reach our target audience?  Well here are a few steps to help get things underway – it’s by no means an exhaustive list, but certainly a good starting point:

Start ‘broadcasting’ on social media – an ever-changing playing field but a great, potentially free, way of finding your audience is via social media.  Establishing Instagram, Facebook and Google Business Pages along with a presence on other sites such as Twitter, Pinterest and Linkedin are quick and effective ways of starting to build an online presence and to eventually grow a ‘following’.

Get some branding – there are so many ways to approach this but you’ll need to decide on a business name and logo/look pretty early on.  I’m not a fan of business cards but having a logo to put on your website header and on image watermarks etc will help to start to build your brand locally. There are many ways of getting a logo designed online and that’s probably the cheapest route.  Of course, a local graphic designer may be able to do something more bespoke and comprehensive, but likely at much greater expense.  You have to consider whether that would be money well-spent in the early days of your business.  Something like Etsy might do for now. In terms of a business name, I think your own name works well in most cases – after all, it’s you who you are ‘selling’.

Build a Website – as soon as possible, start work on a website.  It takes a lot of work to create a website and a lot of time to climb the Google search rankings for your chosen keywords.  The earlier you start the better.  Rather than opt for a quick and cheap solution such as a Wix site, consider going straight to a platform that will allow you to grow your business and that will be future-proof.  Starting out with a WordPress or Squarespace website and a nice contemporary clean ‘theme’ will allow you to periodically update your site as styles change and the simplicity of their rear-end will make updating quick and easy without incurring the considerable costs of a web designer.  This website is a WordPress site. There are a plethora of other options available but putting the work in at the outset with the right platform will save considerable time, money and stress down-track.

How to Become a Wedding Photographer

Network, Network, Network Some More – building a network of friends within the wedding industry is important not just for your business but for your sanity.  Particularly in the early days, it can be a daunting and quite lonely existence.  Establishing trust and rapport with other photographers, venues and other wedding suppliers will help in many ways beyond hopefully one day sharing referrals.  Sharing your images for free with venues and suppliers, sharing your time and knoweledge with other photographers helps build trust and community and that is good for business and life in general.  Here in Norfolk we are hugely fortunate to be a part of a very generous and friendly wedding photography community.  Forming groups with like-minded photographers who inspire you and share a similar vision to you will help in many ways beyond merely establishing a successful business.  There are some great Facebook Groups out there – the one below of Norfolk Wedding Photographers at play being a great example – it’s not all work!

Paid Advertising and Wedding Fairs – I’m no expert on either of these as the limit of my paid advertising has been occasional ‘sponsored posts’ on social media.  The subject of paid advertising and wedding fairs is very much the call of individual photographers.  While you work on gaining a high Google position, paying for sponsored links on Page 1 for your chosen search terms can of course be hugely useful.  Similarly, if you’re struggling to reach your audience, wedding fairs can be another useful way of becoming known, and of course networking.  I think choosing the right wedding fair for you and your brand is crucial though.  Of course, you also need to be the right sort of person to work at a wedding fair.  If you are a confident and outgoing person who relishes the idea of selling from your own ‘booth’ it could work very well for you.  If you struggle a little with the idea of ‘selling’ and have a more introvert personality, there may be better ways to spend your money. Finally, I don’t believe that there is much to be gained from paid print advertising today. That’s just a personal view based on my own experiences but, if you use social media and your own website effectively, I don’t think that print advertising is going to be a worthwhile or necessary investment.

SEO – Search Engine Optimisation is black magic to me but I did invest in a couple of days of SEO training when I first started my business.  Unless you want to rely on paid advertising, referrals and wedding fairs, a knowledge of SEO, no matter how deep, is potentially going to be an important skill to develop. If you know enough to gradually move your website up the search rankings for the keywords you consider important in your area, you are potentially opening up a reliable and profitable stream of enquiries.  Without that knowledge you may have to spend your money getting someone else to do that work for you.

‘Jack of All Trades’ – if you look at this list and think “why is so little of this about taking photographs?”, well that is because the reality of running a successful wedding photography business is that you need to be so much more than a photographer.  Whether you’re a sole trader or limited company (both have their merits and this is something you need to research as you start your business), you’re going to find that you need to build skillsets that go way beyond your photography know-how. Similar I’m sure to many other small businesses, you’re likely going to be head of marketing, head of sales, accountant, secretary, web designer, SEO specialist, social media guru, graphic designer and editor to name just a few roles.  For me, this is where community becomes so important – no one can hope to be good at all of these things from day one and discussing how other people cope in similar circumstances in the same industry can be invaluable and help avoid a lot of frustrations and expensive mistakes.

Andy Davison - Norfolk Wedding Photographer


Andy Davison - Norwich Wedding Photographer

Becoming a ‘photographer’ doesn’t cost a great deal; a half-decent camera and lens won’t break the bank and you can then start shooting weddings and claim to be a ‘professional wedding photographer’ from the moment you’re first paid for your work.  However, becoming a good, genuinely professional, photographer with reliable equipment and back-ups, suited to all weather and lighting conditions only comes after fairly significant financial investment.  Again, while the list below is by no means exhaustive, it might help serve as a check-list for where you might consider investing as you start-up or grow your business.

Coffee and Music – I reckon wedding photographers spend 80% of their working lives on editing and admin in front of a computer screen – decent coffee and music are essential and you can’t get much better than the Sony MDR-1000X headphones in the opening image above!  Add a decent espresso to a pair of those and an Apple Music subscription and the pain of screen time will be significantly reduced.

Cameras, lenses and flashes – an obvious starting point, after coffee and music, but of course essential. This could be a lengthy article in itself but my advice is invest in quality over quantity.  If you’re already invested in a main brand, you are probably best sticking with it to start with and building the equipment selection you need.  I shot Canon for 4 years as it was a system that I knew inside out and trusted.  More recently I’ve switched to Sony.  I moved across incrementally to spread the cost and to learn the new system thoroughly without risk on paid shoots.  Remember to invest in back-up equipment though, taking a single camera and lens to a wedding is a recipe for disaster.  Also be prepared to deal with very low light and be capable of creating your own if necessary.

Insurance – don’t start taking paid work without first being insured. I’m insured by a company called Aaduki who specialise in insurance for photographers.

A computer – again obvious but you need a computer capable of editing very large numbers of images.  You also need sufficient hard drive space to store images at least in duplicate and ideally with off-site cloud storage too.  For my off-site storage, I use Backblaze. This is a big investment but rightly expected by paying customers.

Software – there’s a range of software to consider as a photographer. I personally use Lightblue to run my accounts and bookings.  It’s not cheap but it’s a highly effective way of minimising time spent on ‘admin’ and maximising your availability to be out shooting.  My workflow involves culling images using software called Photomechanic – it is essentially a tool for rapidly importing, tagging and sorting vast numbers of images and makes light work of culling the tens of thousands of images I capture each year.  I then edit, like most wedding photographers, using Adobe Lightroom and occasionally Photoshop.  Both of these are industry standard and a working knowledge of both is pretty much essential.  These are now subscription-only programmes if you want the latest versions and hence another on-going expense to consider.  For compressing images for back-up and image delivery I use software called JPEGmini and for my blog I generally use Blogstomp.  For album design, a task often performed manually in Photoshop, I use a wonderful piece of software called SmartAlbums – this software is a bit of a game-changer, turning a laborious task into a quick, fun and painless one.  All of this software comes with it’s own price tag and only you can decide whether the benefits exceed the cost.  For me, these have become essential tools for my business and greatly assist in keeping me efficient.

Editing Hardware – some may have noticed the strange looking item on my desk above labelled Loupedeck.  This, along with my Pusher Labs MiniMal provide a tactile physical manipulation of key Adobe Lightroom adjustments.  Helping to avoid RSI and considerably speeding up workflow, particularly when working on long edits, I regard these as great investments.  Both offer a similar experience and I’m yet to decide which I will keep long-term, having only recently acquired the Loupedeck. In addition to these 2 hardware options, a couple of other solutions to improve your Lightroom interface are VSCO Keys (which is free), Better Touch Tool and MIDI 2 Lightroom.

Album Supplier – if you’re to offer albums, you’ll need to select an album supplier that you like and that matches your own brand.  I currently use Folio but there are many to choose from.  Trade Shows are a great way to get your hands on some samples to help make an informed choice.  Investing in a sample album of your own is important once you have a suitable wedding to showcase.

Slideshows – a lot of photographers deliver preview or highlight slideshows to their couples.  I personally use SmartSlides for it’s simplicity and the ease with which you can deliver a consistently professional product.

USB Sticks – while USBs will no doubt one day become defunct, most wedding photographers still like to deliver a physical product after wedding days, even if an album hasn’t been ordered.  Usually that product is built around delivery of a branded or personalised USB stick.  For weddings, I again use Folio and for engagement and family shoots Photoflashdrive.  If you intend buying some branded USBs, ordering in bulk can yield significant savings.

Client Galleries – as well as USB delivery, most photographers provide couples with an online gallery for viewing and sharing images as well as printed product sales.  I’m currently using Pixieset but may well move to Shootproof later in the year due to its integration with my Flothemes website.  Both options offer beautiful galleries that maximise the potential of your images.

Education, Workshops and Conferences – there are a plethora of workshops for wedding photographers and each comes with its own sense of community.  Each will have its own strengths and it’s really down to the individual to decide which ones will deliver the best value for money for them.  It’s an area that I’ve neglected until recently but, having attended Elevate this year and left feeling inspired, motivated and better connected to the wider wedding photography community, it’s something that I plan to address. It’s really hard to put a price on inspiration and community but in a business that can be quite lonely, competitive and always changing, it’s important to maintain momentum in order to continue to enjoy success.  Conferences and workshops are a great way to help in this area and are of course legitimate business expenses.  A few to look out for and consider are Nine Dots, Way Up North, SNAP, Rock Your Shot and Photography Farm.

Competitions/Awards – I’m not overly qualified to offer advice or opinion in this area, I’m too shy and too bad a loser (and just plain not good enough!) to enter wedding photography competitions.  I’m also always a little cynical (probably my age) because invariably competitions are profit-making enterprises and judging isn’t always as transparent as it should be.  That said, the likes of WedissonWPS,  Fearless, MyWed and ISPWP etc are wonderful sources of inspiration (and depression!) and can help attract real kudos, particularly amongst other wedding photographers, if you start to win and gain recognition.

One ‘competition’ I have entered twice is The Wedding Industry Awards or TWIA. A lot has been written about the pros and cons of this award scheme but what is certain is that it’s a great way to get some honest and comprehensive client feedback which will not only look great on your website and shared on social media but also allow you to fine-tune your business in the event that you receive some criticism.  I ended up as a regional finalist on the occasions that I entered but was happier with the overwhelmingly positive and reassuring feedback that I received from every couple.  Even if you only enter once, it’s certainly worthy of consideration.  If you win the Regional or National award, well that’s of course an amazing achievement and potentially a great platform to take your business to the next level.

Books – I’ve read and continue to read a LOT of books on photography.  While workshops can be expensive, books are a relatively affordable resource to dip in and out of for inspiration and knowledge.  From books on Business Start-Up to Off-camera Lighting and Street Photography, I’ve learned a great deal from simply sitting down with a book and notepad and pen.  For example, even if you intend to be a hardcore documentary wedding photographer, it can be hugely useful (not to mention confidence building) to know how to make a person/couple look great in a still image.  Understanding ‘posing’ is a daunting area for many beginners and there are many superb books that can really help overcome that potential barrier and make portrait sessions on wedding days fun and straight forward.  It took me reading books on this to overcome my personal early fears of this part of the day.

Continuous Improvement – as I mentioned at the outset, good images are the foundation of a successful wedding photography business.  Delivering consistently professional images under the time, lighting and environmental pressures of a wedding day demands a great deal of skill and should be a given for all professional wedding photographers. However, we all have our strengths and weaknesses and it’s important to target our weaker areas as we strive to improve.

For example, a lot of new wedding photographers fear the use of flash, particularly utilising it off-camera, and mask deficiencies in this area through claims of being an ‘available,’ ‘natural’ or ‘ambient light’ photographer.  Even in mid-summer, there are locations on wedding days that will demand a solid understanding of how to create your own light in order to deliver professional images.  All wedding photographers should aspire to possess such skills in my view and there are many ways to gain proficiency in this important area ranging from YouTube to books and workshops and courses. If this particular challenge resonates with you, here’s a fantastic tip – buy the Zack Arias’ One Light videos and study them, they’ll potentially be the best money you spend on learning your trade. For me, this was the ‘lightbulb moment’ with regard to understanding flash.

Investment in such areas of weakness are fundamental to pushing onto the next level as a wedding photographer.  Facing down these areas of fear and tackling them head-on not only demonstrates your commitment to your craft, it enables you to create images that ‘Uncle Bob’ can’t  – and your clients will bloody love you for it.

Andy Davison - Norfolk Wedding Photographer


How to become a wedding photographer

Please excuse the horrid iPhone shot, I only have 2 ‘real’ cameras and they’re both in this image!

I’ve mentioned above that I moved across from Canon to Sony during the 2017 wedding season.  I thought I’d briefly mention why here and share the equipment that I’m set to be using for the 2018 wedding season.  I’ll endeavour to update the list as it inevitably evolves.

Reasons for switching camera brands – for me, really just a lack of innovation by Canon at a time when Sony was pushing the boundaries in many ways that are attractive to a wedding photographer. I also had my confidence in Canon rocked with 2 faulty new Canon EOS 5D MKIV cameras.

At the same time, along came smaller, lighter mirrorless but still full-frame camera bodies with outstanding low-light capability and dynamic range.  In-built image stabilisation, silent shutters, black-out free live-view, auto-focus points across the frame, articulated screens, incredible eye and face-detect/tracking, battery life finally comparable with SLR cameras along with dual-card slots and weather sealing all became hugely attractive to me and how I wanted to shoot. With the release of the Sony A9 and the start of Professional Service Support for working Sony professional photographers, the obstacles for a confident move to Sony were removed.

While there are areas where I believe Canon still holds some advantages (namely flash integration and colour science), I don’t regret the move for a single moment.  No camera is perfect, but the Sony A9 is as good as it gets for me at the moment.

I am however totally agnostic when it comes to camera brands, I don’t get the blinkered ‘fanboy’ rhetoric that I see so often on social media.  I continue to keep my eyes and mind open to what each camera brand is doing and will always try, within financial constraints, to use what I believe to the best tool for the job that I’m doing.  Of course, most modern cameras are capable of taking great images and the person operating the camera will always be more important to the final image than the equipment being used. That said, I know that most photographers are gear-heads with varying degrees of GAS (gear-acquisition syndrome) – hence this short section.

So, my current wedding photography set-up is as follows.  Clearly on top of this are a few toys for reflecting/refracting light, a pile of spare batteries and memory cards and sometimes a small stepladder for large group shots.

Cameras – 2 x Sony A9.

Lenses – Zeiss Batis 18mm F/2.8, Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM, Sony FE 35mm f1.4 Distagon, Sony FE 55mm F1.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Sonnar and Sony FE 85mm F1.4 GM. I have tried the Sigma MC-11 EF mount adaptor with a favourite Canon lens (the 135mm f/2 L) but I was disappointed with the AF performance when compared with Sony native lenses.

Flashes – Godox X1T (S) transmitter, Godox XPro (S) transmitter, 2 x Godox TT350 (S), 3 x Godox V850 II (S) and 1 x Godox AD200.

Flash Modifiers – various grids and gels all by MagMod.

Constant LightingWestcott Icelight 2.

Stands and Tripods – various by Manfrotto.

BagsThinktank International V3 and Peak Design Everyday Messenger 15.

CarriageHoldfast Money Maker, Black Rapid and Spiderholster.

Andy Davison - Norfolk Wedding Photographer


Andy Davison - Norfolk Wedding Photographer

When I set out on my own journey into wedding photography in 2013, I was helped enormously by some very talented, kind and generous local wedding photographers who have gone on to become close friends.  I hope that some of the information here will help others embarking on the same journey.  If that is you, and you want to leave feedback, ask questions beyond what is covered above or to enquire about some one-to-one training, I’d love to hear from you.

To conclude, I would like to round up with a few key things that I believe have been central to building my own small but relatively successful business in a field that I’m passionate about:

Surround yourself with inspiration – follow, support and ideally socialise with those whose work you admire and who individually inspire you to be a better photographer.

Andy Davison - Norfolk Wedding Photographer


Don’t try to copy other photographer’s work though, shoot your own way in your own style and don’t steal ideas, particularly from your ‘neighbours’. I do see this periodically and find it disappointing in such a huge world of wedding photography inspiration, photographers looking so close to home for ideas.  In the words of Nine Dots, “create your OWN awesome.”

Also, try to cut out negative influences on how you might feel about yourself creatively – becoming an established wedding photographer, and remaining one, is very hard work and is a career like most with many ups and downs; we all suffer ‘imposter syndrome‘ occasionally and it’s important to remember that the perfectly manicured world seen on social media is not real.

Shoot Primes – I’ve shot prime lenses (35mm and 85mm on 2 bodies) from day one.  24mm and 50mm is also a great combination favoured by many wedding photographers.  Not only do they make you work at your composition but they’re great for low-light work (which you’ll routinely encounter on wedding days), they’ll usually deliver slightly higher image quality than zoom lenses and will offer opportunities for greater subject isolation when working in often cluttered wedding day surroundings.

Shoot RAW – wedding days so often involve changing and difficult, often mixed lighting – the flexibility afforded by RAW files can make all the difference when it comes to editing.  Shoot RAW and allow yourself greater exposure and White Balance latitude.

Learn and use Lightroom – while it can be a little slow and ‘laggy’ if you’re working on an older computer, Lightroom remains the industry standard for wedding photographers looking to edit vast numbers of images each year.  Don’t bother shopping around, head straight to Lightroom and learn it inside out.  You’ll be spending a lot of your life looking at it.  YouTube is a great resource for learning Lightroom if you’re finding the thought of learning new editing software daunting.

Just Be Relentless – realising a full-time career as a wedding photographer demands a huge amount of hard work; way more than I imagined and way more than those who have come and shot with me anticipated.  The business environment is constantly changing and fresh talent always emerging.  Don’t see others as competition though, just focus on what you are doing and work your arse off to be the very best you can be.  While becoming a full-time wedding photographer here in Norfolk, or indeed anywhere, demands long days and many hours of work when others have switched off from their day jobs, a hugely rewarding career awaits those who persevere and find their feet.

I hope this page of information was of some use to you and, if you are reading this as you embark on the path into wedding photography, buy the most comfortable shoes you can find and finally…….


Good Luck!

Enjoy the journey!

And don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions or need further assistance

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