I Shoot Weddings Too – Don’t Tell Anybody!

Let me know if this sounds familiar. 

You’re gearing up for a big wedding session and one of your commercial photographer buddies comes over and notices that you have eighty AA batteries charging.  They ask – “Hey, what’s up with all the batteries – you have a gig with 20 speedlights tomorrow?”  You answer – “Uhhhhhhhh ya, ummmm, well, the kids just got this crazy remote control helicopter and it takes like 40 batteries….so….THOSE AREN’T MINE!

It’s ok.  I shoot weddings too.  Just don’t tell anybody…

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What the What – Weddings?

You can still claim to be a commercial photographer even if you shoot the occasional wedding right? 

The photography police aren’t going to hunt me down and seize my 24-70 f2.8…No I swear officer…it’s not just a wedding lens!

The truth is, like so many other photographers, I started my career photographing weddings and it’s still something I enjoy doing once and a while.

I know, I know – I used the words “photographing weddings” and “enjoy” in the same sentence! 

I’ll admit that it helps if your wife is your assistant (assuming of course that you enjoy spending time with your wife).

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Fortunately, my wife is a really good assistant, and I do enjoy spending time with her…except when we have “creative differences” resulting in spirited arguments about composition and such…and perhaps, the possibility of a little hushed yelling.

But, those instances usually lead to opportunities to crack a few wedding jokes with the newlyweds – like “Bet you’re sorry you went through with it now – cause, this is what you have to look forward to!”  So things work out in the end.

But Weddings Are For Amateurs

If you think that, you’ve never photographed a wedding.

It’s true that a lot of amateurs make their start in professional photography by jumping into the wedding market (and by “professional” I simply mean they get paid money, or free cake or whatever to take pictures).

It is also unfortunate that there is such a huge pool of no talent hacks at the bottom of the wedding photography market.

Bad wedding photography

Oh – hey wait, I didn’t take that photo almost ten years ago when I was a no talent hack at the bottom of the wedding photography market. 

Ok – so what if it is my work?  After ten years that selective color is looking as awesome as ever – and look at those faded washed out blacks – the hipsters will love it!

I like to think of wedding photography as a reality check – because in reality doing a good job (as opposed to a hack job) photographing a wedding is one of the most difficult and strenuous gigs that any professional photographer will ever get themselves into.

Some of My Best Friends Are Wedding Photographers

Well not really.  But they could be.  It’s not like I hate them because they shoot weddings.

However, I do have a lot of wedding photographer acquaintances (real wedding photographer types who have really good cameras).

Whenever I book a wedding, I actually feel kind of guilty about it.  It’s like I’m lying about my age to play in Peewee when I should be in Bantam (those are weird Canadian names for kid’s hockey divisions).

Of course, seasoned wedding photographers are more like ninjas and I am some big, slow sumo wrestler who doesn’t realize that he’s way out of his league until it’s too late – but as a commercial photographer, I still feel weird about booking weddings.

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Do you know what the difference is between this wedding shot and a proper commercial photography image? 

The wedding dress…and a few assistants, a caterer, expensive water bottles, a high strung art director, a fake waterfall and millions of gallons of expensive fake water…and music, everyone knows that you have to have music on a commercial set.

How I Choose Wedding Clients

Just in case you are feeling like this article was a complete waste of time, or if you have an underdeveloped sense of sarcasm (which seems particularly prevelent on the internet), I’ll leave you with a few pointers on how I personally choose wedding clients.

At this point in my career I can afford to be a little more selective than I used to be.  My personal top criteria for accepting a wedding gig are:

Are the bride and groom genuinely fun people who I would choose to hang out with for 10 to 12 hours straight if they weren’t paying me like some kind of weird escort.

I just photographed what was deemed a “ginger union”.  Durning his speech, the ginger groom described it as epic – like witnessing unicorns mate. 

That was a damn fun wedding.

Are the bride and groom photogenic enough that I will get great photos without too much work on my part? 

Ah ah ah – I didn’t say attractive – I said photogenic.  There is a big difference – if you’re not a photographer you wouldn’t understand. 

Seriously, some people just know how to pose and look good in front of a camera.  Alas, some don’t – and it’s never who you think!  I suggest giving potential clients a screen test before you book them.

Does the venue serve really good food?

There is nothing worse than bad wedding food.  The Canon 50mm f1.8 comes close – but bad wedding food just kills your day. 

That cold, leathery roast beef.  Those squishy mini roast potatoes and obligatory mini carrots.  The rock hard buns and half melted ice cream.  And the pièce de résistance – U-Brew wine in those bottles that have crappy iPhone photos of the newlyweds on them. 

I have found that wineries are a great source of great food, with the added bonus that u-brew wine is banned.

Do they serve premium beer at the reception? 

Sigh….no I don’t get hammered at work.  But, I do like beer – a lot – especially after I’ve been working for 12 hours with minimal breaks. 

And for future reference, if you happen to book a religious Dutch wedding that doesn’t serve alcohol – just find a tall blonde guy and ask him to hook you up.  They all have cases of beer in the backs of their pick up trucks.  Of course, its probably Coors Light, but you don’t get to be picky in an emergency.

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Yes my American friends – that is a Corona.  Corona qualifies as premium beer in Canada.

Are You A Commercial Photographer That Dabbles In Weddings?

Come out of the closet – leave a comment below.  You’ll feel better, trust me.

Or, are you a wedding photographer that also books commercial gigs?

Leave a comment below and let us know how you sleep at night after stealing our clients.

About the Author

JP Danko is a commercial photographer based in Toronto, Canada. JP can change a lens mid-rappel, swap a memory card while treading water, or use a camel as a light stand.

To see more of his work please visit his studio website blurMEDIAphotography, or follow him on Twitter, 500px, Google Plus or YouTube.

JP’s photography is available for licensing at Stocksy United.

  • user

    This article is the worst I’ve ever read, especially the part about what you would choose if you were offered…..

  • http://clintonblackburn.com/ Clinton Blackburn

    Yeah…I have never heard of anyone deriding a wedding photographer or calling them amateurs. If anything, I hold wedding photographers in high regard because they have to be prepared for almost anything, and always ready to snap a shot.

    I shoot weddings. I don’t tell anyone because I don’t like the pressure and the possibility of disappointing the couple, not because I am ashamed. Landlords don’t care whether my money came from shooting weddings, headshots, or the latest cover of Vogue. As long as you are you are happy with what you do, neither should you.

  • spongefinger

    Shooing buildings, empty rooms and portraits under controlled conditions is childs play compared to shooting a wedding where you are thinking on your feet all day and having to deal with dozens of guests, reception staff, vicars, the weather, numerous other factors ans still expected to deliver superb photography…I would say good wedding photographers whisper under thier breath they do abit of commercial on the side not the other way round.

  • Ryan

    Cool article! I agree – people have a skewed vision of wedding photographers because their aunt and 3 of their cousins and a couple friends are all “wedding photographers”. Love the beer section too! Just never carry a beer and a camera together!

  • Greg Easton

    I’d rather use bleach as mouthwash than shoot another wedding.

  • Ido

    I like shooting weddings. And I do think that doing it here – in Israel – is not the same as in Canada. But I like it better than commercial photography – simply because of the connection to the couple ot To people in general.

    • Rostislav Alexandrovich

      Hey ido i’m also based in israel, do you have a website?

  • DS Adams

    My hat is off to any and all wedding photographers. With the indecisive couple or the controlling couple, the intruding family or the passive aggressive family, the bad lighting, the drunk guests, the annoying children, the restrictive church, the ugly reception hall, the bad decor, and everything else they have to deal with, I wouldn’t shoot one if they offered me a $10,000 and I was homeless on the streets. There’s something to be said for a nice day, a free meal, and piece of mind.

  • http://www.dimiarachi.com.au/ Samantha

    Wedding Photo is the best memory thing to capture every moment in just one click. i read your article for the wedding photography is the best thing tosay. thanks give for some ideas..

  • Cedric

    The reason why a lot of amateurs jump into weddings is because it it probably one of the most easy business to start with. Let me explain.

    Wedding photography is something very difficult, yes, but only when your customers have high expectations. For some brides photos have just to be OK. There is definitively a demand for low and medium quality wedding pictures and for me it is fine to consider these photographers as professionnals under three conditions:

    – Keep your prices in line with your performance (i.e. low quality means low incomes)
    – Being clear and honest with the customer and make sure they understand that by paying half the price they won’t get the same result
    – Use your brain and constantly learn and improve