How Did I Start As A Wedding Photographer?
People often ask me how did I start doing what I do and how did I decide to leave my day job to pursue a career in wedding photography. I tried to be as thorough as I can be on my about page, but I decided to add a bit more details and a bit of gear talk…
Why Am I Using Canon Gear?
I’m using Canon branded cameras and lenses mostly because my first “good” camera was a Canon and it was awesome for me to figure out how is everything working and what do all those magical words “Aperture”, “Shutter Speed” and “ISO” mean. Yes, the holy triplet of photography, or so I call it.
Back in 2007 I picked a used Canon Digital Rebel XT, or Canon 350D in Europe, off Craigslist in South Carolina and had no idea what is what. It even came with the 18-55 kit lens. I immediately switched it to Auto, the dreaded green rectangle among pros, and started photographing any random object that I see around the house. Imagine the joy.
Soon after I started chasing birds in the park, any random cat that I see, bugs, flowers… Started waking up early to catch a gorgeous sunrise, with some success, managed to snap some awesome shots of my girlfriend at the time. Soon I believed to be a pro until a read the book that made me yell “a-ha” about most ways my camera sees the world. It thoroughly explained what aperture, shutter speed, and ISO was, the relation between them and how to get half-decent exposure most of the time. In case you’re wondering – the book is Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson.
I quickly realized that the 18-55 were not an ideal lens, especially in the dark, and I purchased the famous nifty-fifty 50mm 1.8 lens. I was so happy with it for a while, getting the consistently creamy background, sharp portraits, defocus, bokeh… Then a friend of mine asked me to help them photograph their wedding.
My First Wedding
They hired a photographer, who backed up at the last moment and they had no one to photograph their wedding. It was a small church wedding and I figured I can’t be any worse than a no-show photographer, right? Well, I managed somehow, with about 20% success ratio for photos, which is terrible, but I had no idea what I was doing. Constantly changing light, shadow, sun, shadow, sun… People blurry in a dim church, out of focus portraits… I was mortified when I got home and started reviewing the photos. That was in 2008. Not an epic fail, but pretty darn close. Thank God it was a friend’s wedding and they knew exactly what they’re getting into…
I decided to postpone wedding photography for a while and focus on portraits, aspiring models, collaboration with other photographers – beginners like me or semi-pro, and learning the basics of photography. I’ve done a tonne of model shoots, portraits, beach portraits when I was living in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It was time to upgrade cameras as well, so I jumped on a used 40D right before 50D was on the market, 70-200 f/4 L lens and finally upgraded the nifty-fifty to a proper 50mm – the 50mm f/1.4 lens. The 70-200 L was amazing, there was something different in it from any other cheap lens that I have used so far. Can’t really explain it – just better contrast, sharper, colour rendition. Didn’t need much editing either, as I was mostly shooting in RAW by then.
The Day I Discovered CreativeLive Workshops
Then in 2010 CreativeLive was founded. Imagine the joy of free education from the biggest names in the industry. Jasmine Star, Chase Jarvis, Joey L, Zack Arias…. The wedding photography workshop by Jasmine Star made me want to try wedding photography again. It was so inspirational, I even teared up a few times. Yes, not afraid to admit it
Soon after I invested in my first Full-Frame camera – the Canon 5D. Oh-Em-Gee! That thing was light years ahead of my 40D in terms of picture quality. Great colors, sharpness, more Depth-Of-Field, it gave my pictures a bit of volume and dimension. I purchased my second good lens soon after – the wide angle Canon 17-40mm f.4 Lens. It was amazing on the 5D. Colour, contrast, sharpness, everything. It was time to jump back into the wedding photography bandwagon. Had plenty of gear already – the 5D, a backup in case it fails – the 40D, three good lens – the 17-40mm, the 50mm 1.4 and the 70-200mm, and a flash.
I’ve never been so nervous in my life. I was actually shaking in the beginning and managed to scare the bride a bit. Of course, my pleasant personality quickly emerged and I handled the situation in a professional manner, as I always try to do. They were an African American couple who had a gorgeous wedding planned at a local sports club. It was an outside ceremony, violins playing, inside a rustic white gazebo. There were chairs for the guests on the grass around the gazebo and beautiful decorations along the aisle and the chairs. The reception was inside the building, white tablecloth all around, yummy cake in the middle and a huge dance floor that was heavily utilized during the late hours of the wedding.
The pics were amazing. Finally, all this hard work and learning was paying off. The bride LOVED the photos, shared them all on Facebook, tagged my Facebook page in each one of them and I actually had four referrals from that one single wedding. It was amazing! That was pretty much the turning moment in my career – I was hooked!
I Quit My Job And Became Full-Time Photographer
I waited until Christmas to end my previous job and with the tax return money I have received in January I invested in a bit more gear – a backup flash, some light stands for off-camera flash use, extra batteries and memory card and one of my favourite lenses up to date – the gorgeous, creamy, buttery, beautiful Canon 50mm f/1.2 L lens. Yes, it costs a bit of money, but in my opinion is worth every bit of your hard-earned money. The images that it creates, with the right light and exposure, of course, are outstanding. Blacks are blacks, greens are greens, blue is blue. Images look alive taken with this lens. Don’t even get me started on the creamy bokeh wide open!
I soon realised that I need to start learning the business. Quick. Marketing, promotion, pricing, sales, SEO, Google, web… Overwhelming is an understatement. I tried to create a website by myself numerous times with various platforms and web-builders, but it just wasn’t working. I’m not an internet developer, I’m a photographer. I saved a bit of money and found an aspiring web designer on Etsy who was right within my budget and created this beautiful website for me. CreativeLive helped out a lot again. There were tonnes of marketing classes for every level out there by one of the best marketers in the industry. It was great to watch Sal Cincotta, Joe Buissink and again, Jasmine Star.
After that, it wasn’t easy, but with perseverance, hard work and lot of reading and taking notes, I’m here today. I’ve photographed over 120 wedding in the last 4 years, made many friends, from brides to different vendors and many other photographers. I have recently moved to Liverpool from London, and then the USA before that. A new beginning, so all that hard work and dedication has to be repeated, but now I’m confident in my photography skills and not afraid to take on any challenge that wedding photography can throw at me.