I used to look at wedding photographers and think they had the best, easiest job in the world. They show up, take some photos of some stuff that’s happening, go home, and send the files to their clients ba-da-bing, ba-da-boom – job done, with a couple hundred (or thousand) dollars in the bank!

Then, I photographed my first wedding.

I had no idea what the going rate was for wedding photography, so I charged a few hundred dollars, and when my first couple signed and sent in their contract, I felt great! “Easy money,” I thought to myself. “Now I can just focus on being creative!” I wish that was the only thing I had to think about.

In the few months leading up to my first wedding, I quickly realized that there were so many things I wasn’t prepared for. Did I have the right gear? How was I going to light a dark reception space? How was I going to know what was happening throughout the day and where to be? Was I going to have time to pee?!

I quickly started to realize that I was in way over my head – so I started doing everything I possibly could to prepare myself! I rented gear, contacted the bride for additional information about the day, told myself that I didn’t need to drink water on the wedding day (I’m pretty sure I was dehydrated that day). A few problems arose in my panicked state:

  • I rented some “nice” gear, but I had no idea how to use it
  • I rented a camera that took CF cards instead of SD cards and found myself having to purchase enough memory to hold a wedding from Best Buy the day before the wedding (I didn’t even know CF cards existed before that!)
  • From everything that I had purchased and rented, I found that I actually lost a significant amount of money trying to be prepared

So, for anyone out there who might be interested in getting into wedding photography – I am SO excited for you!! Photographing weddings is so much fun – sometimes stressful – but being able to love on and encourage people through one of the best days of their lives (while photographing emotion and beautiful details) makes my job SO worth it! Here are a few lessons I learned from photographing my first wedding – take from this list what you feel will help YOU!

1.  Know your gear inside and out.

One of the worst things for me about that first wedding was how little I knew about my gear. I was used to shooting on one camera, but switched over to another more intricate camera for the wedding day without having much time to practice with it. What was the result? Me, fumbling around with my gear for the entire day instead of focusing on loving and serving my couple.

2.  Know how much it’s actually going to cost to photograph the wedding.

What are your expenses? Is there an extra piece of gear you need to purchase or rent in order to complete the job? Will you need to pay someone else to second shoot with you, or an assistant to help carry your bags? Will you be taking any toll roads to get to the venue?

3.  Clarify the terms of the agreement beforehand.

A few questions to ask yourself might be: How many hours of coverage will your couple be receiving? How many digital files (or print products) can they expect to receive as a result? Will you be editing the files? How will you be sending the files to your clients?

4.  Get all of the information you need beforehand so you don’t have to bother the bride the day of the wedding.

When you know what’s going on the day of the wedding, you can create a game plan to make sure you have enough time to get all of the important and requested photos. Being prepared is KEY!

5.  Drink some water and eat some food throughout the day – seriously!

This one might be just me, but at that first wedding – I didn’t eat or drink anything all day. In fact, my second shooter (who’s now my husband) literally had to force the camera out of my hand and hide it from me so I would sit down and eat something (because really, no guests want photos taken of them while they’re eating). It’s okay (and necessary) to take a little break when you’ve been shooting for 8 to 10 hours!

And above all – enjoy it, and go with the flow! Know that your job is so important, not only because you’re capturing what moments will be remembered for years and generations to come – you’re also capturing how they will be remembered. And that, my friends, is what makes this job such a special & unique one.

Andddddd in the spirit of transparency, I wanted to share a few images from the first wedding I ever photographed as the primary photographer four years ago (complete with my old crazy watermark and everything!)! I have to give a HUGE shout out to my first couple who trusted me to photograph their day - I can't thank you two enough for trusting me to photograph your day, especially when i was just starting out! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!