A wedding photographer’s career is centered on capturing one of the happiest occasions of a lifetime. Wedding photography requires technical mastery of photography as well as a unique set of skills such as interpersonal, communication, and leadership skills. The wedding photographer must balance directing and staging the photos with being unobtrusive. Because of the “once in a lifetime” nature of weddings, becoming a wedding photographer requires extensive training and dedication to the craft of capturing memories.
Earning a photography degree is an excellent way to master the technical side of the wedding photographer’s skill set. After all, you must fully understand camera equipment, lenses, lighting, special effects, composition and image editing before you can even think about becoming a wedding photographer.
Photography degrees are usually required for photojournalism and scientific photography positions. Becoming a wedding photographer generally involves becoming self-employed, so obtaining a degree isn’t necessarily a job requirement. However, the skills learned through a college photography degree program are essential to your success. In addition to taking photography classes, coursework in entrepreneurship, communications, public relations, sales and running a small business can further prepare you for a successful career as a wedding photographer.
A wedding photographer is usually self-employed and often doubles as a portrait photographer who shoots portraits of individuals and families in a studio or on location. The photographer meets with brides and grooms long before the wedding date, coordinating the photography as well as shooting engagement photos or creating a slideshow of the couple’s love story for showing at the reception.
Because most weddings take place on Saturdays, wedding photographers must be willing to work weekends. In addition, the work is seasonal with spring and summer being the peak seasons. It’s not unusual for wedding photographers to shoot several weddings in a single weekend during the wedding season.
The wedding photographer works with church officials and wedding planners to ensure the event is adequately photographed without interfering with church rules. For example, if the church prohibits flash photography during the ceremony, the photographer may reenact exchanging vows afterward. In addition, the wedding photographer is often called on to act as an informal activities director during the reception such as directing the couple to “cut the cake” or “toss the bouquet.”
In addition to shooting the wedding photos, the wedding photographer helps the couple select the best the images and compiles them into beautiful albums. Since many wedding photographers charge a base fee and then make additional money on print and album purchases, this part of the job involves sales skills.
Wedding photographers are usually self-employed. As such, salary figures vary based on how much work the photographer obtains. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, photographers as a whole earned a median annual wage of $35,640 in 2008