6 Ways to Book Your First Wedding and 2 Ways NOT to 
So you want to start a wedding photography business but you just don’t know how to get your first client?  It can be a catch 22.  You need to have wedding images to show a potential client but you can’t get wedding images because you haven’t shot any weddings?  Sound familiar?  Here are few tips on how to book that first wedding client and build your portfolio.

1.  Run an essay contest for a couple in need.  Yes! Give away free coverage for a wedding. You are helping all parties by offering this.  As a one time promotion, this doesn’t set you up as “the cheap photographer” later on down the road.  It’s easy to set up and you can promote it on any social media platform.  Just make sure your rules and guidelines are laid out correctly so the couple knows exactly what they are getting in return.

2.  Second shoot for a photographer that will let you use the images you captured from their event as self-promotion on your own website. (Always ask about their policies before hand and never assume that you can use images without asking permission first!).  The experience of working with an experienced professional also builds great understanding of how they navigate and manage a wedding.  Try to shoot with a few different photographers to get an idea of how each individual works.  Take the best of their work advice and use that approach in your own wedding shoots.

3.  Network with other wedding vendors, not just photographers. This is a great way to get your foot in the door in the wedding industry and contributes greatly to the future growth of your business. There are plenty of online and offline wedding communities designed for industry networking.  Facebook is a great place to start your search but I prefer reaching out directly to local vendors and making personal connections.

4.  Compete on price, but let the client know they are getting a huge deal because you are new to the field.  Let’s face it, people love knowing that they are getting a deal.  I don’t suggest doing this more than once but in the beginning letting the couple know this information might help persuade the couple to book.  The issue with this approach is that you may feel obligated to give any couple that was a referral from the “deal client” the same deal.  Avoid that situation by explaining the original deal to the new client.

5.  Advertise on Craigslist or some other discount site. When people are shopping on these types of sites they tend to be bargain shoppers.  Generally speaking, their expectations of the final product maybe to be a bit lower than your average customer. Some online bargain shoppers may be looking specifically for someone who is just starting out because they don’t have a budget to hire a seasoned professional.  Again, be open and honest to these customers. Just because they are buying on a budget doesn’t mean they should be discounted on quality.  

6.  Set up a styled wedding shoot with a friend.  This is a great way to build a quick portfolio of images.  Ask a friend to put on their wedding dress again, pay for their hair and makeup as a gift for helping out, and perhaps make it part of a free family shoot.  They can add their spouse if they still have their wedding attire.  Set up a vignette scene of a table and chairs that you can style with place settings, linens, and flowers.  Capture details and portraits to share with potential clients  

What Not to Do
1.  Steal another photographers work.  This is a huge NO, NO.  It is a very small community and word gets around quick if you go this route.  There are websites dedicated to finding and outing any photographer who uses other photographers work as their own.   If you choose to do this and get caught, they will destroy your business in a heartbeat.  This is unethical and not the way to go when starting out in the photography industry.

2.  Shoot a wedding without permission from the lead photographer.  This is when a guest at a wedding takes photographs over the shoulder of the paid professional and then use those images to promote themselves as a photographer.  I see this a lot, they are known as “Uncle Bobs”, and it can be a big issue depending on the photographer shooting the wedding.  I personally have language in my contract that forbids this type of thing from happening and I advise you to include the same.

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