The (Honest) Life of a Wedding Photographer
life of a wedding photographer
life of a wedding photographer
Author: Emily Lowrey (iPhotography Tutor & Pro Wedding Photographer)
“It took me about ten minutes flat to fall in love with photography.”
I remember holding my first camera in my hands and just being wide-eyed amazed that I could capture moments in time and keep them forever. The life of a wedding photographer was on the horizon for me!
It took me about another ten minutes to realise my dream: I wanted to be a professional photographer someday. I wanted to turn my love of photography into a job somehow and make money by doing what I loved.
That was over fifteen years ago, and it hasn’t been a straight, easy line to turn that dream into a reality, but I got there in the end!
So here is the lowdown: what is it like to be a full-time wedding photographer? What is it like to get paid to take photographs? What opportunities might that bring? Let’s dive in!
Life as a Wedding Photographer: A Creative Job
The best thing about being a wedding photographer — at least for me — is that it is a creative job. I consider myself a very creative person, and I really thrive when I’m using that part of my brain. I love that every wedding is different, and an opportunity for me to document a couple’s story in my own unique style.
“Life used to be about trying to fit my creativity around a standard job, and now I get to do that as my job. It’s ideal!”
It isn’t always a fairytale though. I’m sure you might have experienced days where the last thing you want to do is pick up your camera. Some days you’re just not “there” creatively. Some days you come back home to look at your images and feel entirely uninspired.
As a hobbyist, that’s no bother at all. We can just try again another day. But when you’re being paid for your photography, you have to push through those days and still deliver a high standard of work.
Pro Wedding Photography… Am I Living the Dream?
I love my job. I love love LOVE my job. I’m so lucky to have carved a business for myself that I really enjoy. I am — in that sense! — living my dream. I set out to make a living from my beloved camera, and I’m doing that now. Quite well, if I do say so myself.
Does that dream live up to reality?
So much of it is wonderful — I love thinking on my feet and pushing myself creatively. There is nothing quite as good as delivering a gallery to a couple and having them GUSH over how much they love your work!
But running a wedding photography business isn’t all about taking photos. There are a lot of different things you have to learn in order to run a successful business. I had no idea that I’d need to become a social media wizard, or learn how to run targeted ads online, or learn how to write a Google-friendly blog post, for instance.
“I never considered accounting, or website building, or brochure designing. There is a lot more to wedding photography than just photography.”
But on the whole, I wouldn’t change a thing. I love my job, and I’ve really enjoyed the challenge of setting up my own business. I wouldn’t change it for the world!
Does Wedding Photography Differ from the 9-5 Life?
My second favourite thing about running my own business is that I really don’t have much of a routine. Every day — and every week — can be very different. I can be rushed off my feet in August, and relaxing in Italy in November.
My previous job was a brand representative role with Panasonic. It was a very structured, five-day-a-week role, where every moment of my working day was planned and repeated. I loved the role — and having that background in staff training and sales has really helped my own business to thrive — but there’s nothing quite like being able to plan your own schedule.
As my life as a wedding photographer has progressed, I’ve moved away from “fill my diary as much as humanly possible!” to “establish a work-life balance”. My long term goal is to book fewer and fewer weddings per year but to target higher-paying clients. This way I can have more time off for other passion projects and travel, and still, have enough money to live comfortably.
Having a long term business plan is so important, and as a one-woman business it’s up to me to charter that course, and make sure I stick to it. I don’t have a boss to tell me what to do anymore, after all!
How Wedding Photography Changed My Life
Many years down the line, it’s safe to say I’ve learned a lot. I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way. But now I think I’ve really gotten into the swing of things.
Mentally, I feel creatively nourished and I’m always bouncing out of bed to get to my next job. I love the challenge of seeing my photography improve year on year.
And aside from photography, my second love is travel. I can’t get enough of it! For the last few years, myself and my husband have budgeted for at least five international holidays per year. There’s no way that this would be possible with a standard nine-to-five. I also love live music and we regularly trip through Europe (and beyond!) for long weekends to watch some amazing gigs. Basically, any weekend I’m not booked, I’m away.
Life as a wedding photographer means I’ll have some very busy periods, but also a lot of free time during quieter months. It really is a wonderful way to live and has allowed me the flexibility and funds to see the world.
Socially, being a one-woman business can sometimes feel quite isolating, so it’s really important to network with people in the industry. I have meet-ups with my regular wedding fayre crowd, and I make sure to join in online — and in-person — with other wedding photographers as much as possible.
The downside of course is during the summer months I might be rushed off my feet and miss some social gatherings with my friends and family, but I try to make up for that during quieter periods. I recently took my mum on an all-expenses-paid American road trip, where we camped in Monument Valley and saw the stars.
It isn’t all glitz and glamour though. In the first few years of running my own business, there was much less jet-setting and a lot more working into the night! But these things just take time. If you set yourself goals as you go, and work towards them one by one, one day you’ll look back and see how far you’ve come.
What Opportunities has Wedding Photography Given Me?
Travel — travel — lots of travel! Up and down the UK, to Scotland, the Isle of Man, and one or two lovely beach weddings in Italy. I’ve also been to retreats in Switzerland and London.
I was also lucky enough to be chosen as an ambassador for Women Who Film and Photo, for the very prestigious Photography Show. I was taken to London to speak on a panel with a host of incredibly talented fellow ladies. It was such a wonderful experience!
Then there are the everyday adventures of weddings themselves. From racing in golf carts with a couple to casing the city for beautiful graffiti, it’s never a dull job!
There are great moments where I have to pinch myself, and a lot more “everyday” moments in between, but it’s all been a brilliant adventure. I’d advise anyone who is thinking about becoming a wedding photographer to take the leap and give it a go! You don’t have to go full time all at once. It took me a number of years to make the transition. And I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Emily in action: The Video Social – Women who Photo & Film
Watch More: Emily’s Scottish & Swiss Weddings
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