How to be a better wedding photographer and stand out in the crowd

Indian Wedding photographers

You and I want the same thing. We want to be great at what we do. We also want people to know it so that they come to us and pay us lots of money. However, most people are swimming in the shallow waters of mediocrity. They have no idea what to do next in order to climb the next step on the ladder to success.

Do you want to be a great wedding photographer?

Photography is now a democracy and everyone can own a great camera. Millions of pictures are taken, shared and forgotten everyday. Photography has become a continuous steam of little fractions of life that are created to be shared on social networks, not to be kept for posterity. People take pictures because they can, not because they should. If you want to be a successful wedding photographer and stand out in this stream of images you have to become a good photographer.

So here is what I strongly believe you should be focusing on.

1. Start creating value

Start by creating something that people value. Something they want to buy. Be the person that solves the problem or satisfies the desire. Get your clients to know you, like you and trust you enough to give you the honor of photographing the most important day of their life.

2. Stop thinking about money

Some people live to take pictures while others take pictures for a living. Develop a discipline to learn about the deep history of photography instead of an ambition to see how quickly you can get a profitable business off the ground. There is a huge difference between the two. Not to say that the business side is not important, but if you focus on the money you might learn how to be a good business person but it will not help you to become a photographer.

3. Start thinking about people

The most important thing at a wedding are the people not the decor. Many wedding photographers promote the other vendors better than anything else. Wedding photography is not about who’s cool or smart, how much money went into the decor or the wedding invitations. the most important thing for a wedding photographer, the most important thing in life, is people. Be sensitive. Get involved. Remember that the only images that will be remembered are the ones that show the real emotion.

 4. Don’t limit yourself to wedding photography

Stop following the work of other wedding photographers. It’s OK to be inspired, and there is some great work out there these days, but don’t limit yourself to a tight box. Take a break. Looking at the same stuff over and over again is like smelling too many bottles of perfume at the duty free shop. At one point you can’t remember anything anyway. Experiment in other genres of photography as it will expand your vision and enhance your abilities. Engage in a long term personal project.

 5. Shoot for yourself

A photographer should have something to say. Your pictures should attempt to explain more than who was there at the time they were taken. The camera is your tool of expression. Make it personal. At the wedding, shoot what you find interesting and not only what you think the bride would like to see. If you only do what everyone expects you to do you will never create anything new. Remember that progress has been made by those who dared to break the rules.

 

Now it’s your turn …

Here’s what to do next: Let me know in the comments what you thought of this post and if you found it helpful. If you are a wedding photographer please share your own tips and things you feel can be implemented into a productive workflow. Try to also give a reason why.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the comments!

 

Please also have a look at part 1 of this post: 10 tips for an Indian wedding photographer
And part 3 here: 10 Mistakes Wedding Photographers Make (coming soon)

40 replies
    • Varun Suresh
      Varun Suresh says:

      A very interesting observation by a client. She said, off late the pictures by these new age wedding photographers are predominantly “well posed, edited ( sometimes not even well edited ” pictures, and very little of the spontaneous emotions that occur during the day. Which dangerously leads to a situation where this new breed of photographers are in essence becoming the very breed they were trying to erase. Her observation might be because predominantly that is what most photographers seem to showcase on the internet. The money shot.

      Reply
      • Sephi Bergerson
        Sephi Bergerson says:

        I agree. This is one of the reasons why wedding photographers should stop following the work of other wedding photographers. All the work (in India) starts to look like it was shot by one photographer. There is a lot of talent here but people focus on the wrong things. Perhaps this will be a start :-)

        Reply
        • Aditya Mendiratta
          Aditya Mendiratta says:

          Yes & a lot of new photographer i have seen are very restricted. 85% of them only use 50mm lenses. There is absolutely nothing wrong in using that lens but they mainly concentrate on close up portrait shots.

          I always prefer to stay wide because like you said wedding is about people and its no point if those people are not in the frames. Offcourse i would like close up shots too in between to keep a good balance but do i wanna shoot the whole wedding with that lens? No & definitely not an indian wedding.

          The results are client sees their pics. Gets excited , loves it, changes FB profile picture and a month later when they look back all they have is close up shots

          Reply
          • Sephi Bergerson
            Sephi Bergerson says:

            Aditya, I’m afraid I do not agree with you here. I know some great photographers who only use 50mm throughout the wedding and produce stunning work. See Dror Eyal form south Africa for example. Google him. Even I never work wider than 35mm and I know that many other photographers think the same way. Other photographers use 70-200mm lens as their main lens. Each with his own style of work. If you know what you do than the lens in not a limitation. Even with a 50mm you can move back and not only do close-ups.

          • Varun Suresh
            Varun Suresh says:

            I agree with Sephi. I guess the point being irrespective of the lenses one must first learn to feel and see.

  1. Mehul Chimthankar
    Mehul Chimthankar says:

    I wish every wedding photographer gets to read this, I would say pictures are to express and not much to impress, same as words as Mahatma Gandhi said.

    Agree with Sephi 100% , money should not be the first priority, it’s always a bi-product when the real product is ones creation, capturing happiness is what I believe ones goal should be…

    Reply
  2. Pulkesin K Tiiwary
    Pulkesin K Tiiwary says:

    Absolutely Sephi, just so much to learn, so much to grasp, and dad says – kid you got some passion in you to keep reading. ( I used to not read in my younger days) but if you love something, you will really take all that effort in becoming better at it.

    So to learn about the deep history of photography – Worth it…..Knowledge is Power. Power is the ability to create stunning shots, shots that emotions flow when someone looks at your images.

    Reply
  3. Aditya Mendiratta
    Aditya Mendiratta says:

    Agreed but i do feel about the second point. The business part is equally important. Most photographers leave the industry within 2-3 years because they are not able to cover up financially. We both know that there are costs of equipment to be covered, more advertising for a new comer to let people know of their existence. I myself know photographers who got in, were good in terms if knowledge, ran out of finances and ended up leaving it.

    Yes, you cant sell a bad product with good marketing but you may fail with a good product due to bad marketing. Both need to go hand in hand. To build the knowledge base is important first and then build the business base too. If one of then fails its hard.

    Reply
    • Sephi Bergerson
      Sephi Bergerson says:

      Dear Aditya, we are saying the same thing. It is just that if you only have the business in mind, and many do come into wedding photography for the money, you will never become a good photographer. We all need to make money but it needs to go hand in hand with the creative growth.

      Reply
  4. Lawrence de Souza
    Lawrence de Souza says:

    Absolutely agree with Sephi. Very well said ..
    Charge on the basis of the quality of images you produce, rather than the camera you use.

    Reply
    • Sephi Bergerson
      Sephi Bergerson says:

      Oh well. Some will not agree with you here. There is alway the business argument that if you manage to charge then why not. If people are willing to pay you for bad work than it is their problem. There is a justification for many different business models. What I’m saying is that there is something else to photography. I like to think that people hire me because they like my work not because I managed to outsmart them with marketing tricks and a cool website.

      Reply
    • Sephi Bergerson
      Sephi Bergerson says:

      Hi Manoj, this is not what I meant. Be inspired by photography outside the genre of wedding photography. Don’t always look only at the work of other wedding photographers as this is a limited box. It is after all about telling a story, visual narrative. Get inspiration from a wider range of creative artists. Looking at other people’s work is like fresh air so don’t breath the air of the people that are in the same room all the time ;-) Cheers

      Reply
      • Manoj Sarang
        Manoj Sarang says:

        I agree and I was responding to your lines “Looking at the same stuff over and over again is like smelling too many bottles of perfume at the duty free shop. At one point you can’t remember anything anyway”. My point was, because little is good doesn’t mean more must be better.

        Reply
        • Sephi Bergerson
          Sephi Bergerson says:

          Just like having a little alcohol and not over do it :-) Sure, we need to leave time to actually shoot but I think the intoxication from inspiration is not as bad ;-) Anyway, I think we are on the same page. Cheers

          Reply
  5. thecontrarian
    thecontrarian says:

    Sorry Sephi… I hate this article. It leaves me with nothing more to add. Please write something I can disagree with.

    Reply
  6. Andrew Adams
    Andrew Adams says:

    THANK YOU SEPHI!
    This is a great post, especially for new photographers entering the crowded wedding photography market. I can’t tell you how tired I get of all the questions I get about my equipment. FORGET about your equipment! Focus on inspiration. I started shooting weddings way back, I had one completely manual film camera, Canon AE-1, one lens, 35MM. Some of the shots I took back then are still among my all time favorite! I miss those simple days, and feel a pull back to this simplicity.

    Inspiration, SO important! Be inspired by photographers in other genres, not only photographers, artists, painters, designers, Look to all the creative arts to get inspired, and motivated to create something unique yourself. Be driven to create not make a fast buck! Such good points you have raised Sephi! You are such an inspiration to so many photographers, You continue to inspire and motivate me with your posts, and your passion, and your generosity in sharing! I’m so proud to call you my friend!

    Keep it up Sephi!

    Reply
    • Sephi Bergerson
      Sephi Bergerson says:

      Thank you Andrew. It always feels good to see a comment from a friend and fellow photographer who’s work I respect. I absolutely agree that inspiration should not be limited to knowing other photographers but artists in general, painters, writers and all the creative arts. Cheers

      Reply
    • Sephi Bergerson
      Sephi Bergerson says:

      Dear Anthony. Thanks for this comment. Post processing in the digital age is a part of image making, the same as printing in a darkroom was in the age of film. The same way that a writer will not send his first draft to a publication without editing, a photographer will not send his camera file for print without processing it. Post processing forms an inseparable part of a photographer’s signature style and along with everything else that a photographer does, helps him either stand out in the crowd or be lost in it. I hope this answers your question. Cheers

      Reply
  7. Pushpendra
    Pushpendra says:

    Very nicely written Sephi sir. I loved the article and especially the two points of engaging in long term personal project & ” If you only do what everyone expects you to do then you will never create anything new” :)

    Reply
  8. Karthik Rajagopal
    Karthik Rajagopal says:

    I have been doing wedding photography for the last 4 months. Otherwise, I have been doing photography as a passion for the last 8 years. I agree with the pint that a photographer has to develop his own style rather than copying images made by other successful photographers.

    Most new photographers today compromise their charges. If you really feel that you are worth it, then you have to charge for it. Today is a time when we are facing the highest technology risk in photography. With advent of mirror less cameras and fast lenses coming up you need to earn to have good gears.

    Yes, you have to take up personal projects which actually mean a lot to you. This will improve your art.

    cheers!!!

    Reply
  9. Suman Bhattacharjee
    Suman Bhattacharjee says:

    Frame, adjust zoom, pause 2 to 3 sec before releasing shutter. On the view finder imagine that you are looking at the final print out picture. Readjust frame if required.
    Try to visualize a picture then frame it & shoot. Don’t take pictures for the sake of taking it.
    Observe various photographs, take notes, photography is an art, explore it. Explore, think & click different subjects. Passion is everything.
    Positioning & timing are important aspects of photography.
    Always try to take natural shots, speak with your subjects if possible and assure your subjects to be comfortable.
    In case of framing friends, known people, set the positions as per your need. Try to have control of the subjects in your frame.
    In case of group photo instead of making people stand in the same line, break it into 2 or more rows. Try different combinations.
    Take multiple shots at least 3 to 4 snaps to be sure that no eyes are shut.
    Avoid taking same shots of the same subject in same position over & over again. Try to capture different moments & different positions.
    Every face is photogenic, find the best possible angle.
    In case of framing a subject in motion either leave some space in front or backwards to the direction of the subject motion.
    Try to picture a crowd from top view, it gives an impression of extended viewing effect.
    Background of the subject is very important.
    Avoid unnecessary & undesirable foreground, try to frame a subject relatively closer, use zoom.
    Picture must carry a message or exhibit expression. A picture which doesn’t evoke any emotion is a wasted shot.

    Reply
    • Sephi Bergerson
      Sephi Bergerson says:

      Thank you for this list Suman. As much as I agree with most of the tips and suggestions you made I must say that I was trying to stay away from the technicalities and ‘how to do’ ideas of talking pictures and remain in the conceptual theory of being a photographer. The thing about technical tip is that they are easy to learn and implement. With a little practice you can become very fluent. However, the idea behind photography is a little more illusive and we should try to go beyond the technicalities if we really wish to be good at what we do. Thanks again for taking the time to write. Sephi

      Reply

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