I love being a wedding photographer. I work my own hours, have no commute and get to party with new friends every weekend. But what’s it really like? What do I get up to day to day? How do I stay stress-free? What systems do I use to ensure nothing can go wrong?How do I make sure I stay happy?
Here’s my life as a wedding photographer laid bare…
Most days I’m at home in my pyjamas. My colleagues are my two cats Loki and Kirby who do a great job of telling me when lunchtime is. I eat cereal for lunch and drink many cups of tea. I tend to get dressed when Thomas messages me to say he’s on his way home.
My desk! And Kirby
The most boring part of the week is the day before a wedding when I make sure all my batteries are charged and do my most hated task – formatting memory cards. I have 30 memory cards and most are 64gb, which stores around 2500 photos, but I burn through those babies like wildfire, so every week I find myself having to format cards. I hate doing this partly because it’s scary deleting photos and partly because I go through every single image against the ones on my screen to check they’re all there and it takes ages! I also print out all the info I need for the wedding, such as group photos, timings, phone numbers and addresses.
I then pack my bag (I own every camera bag going, but since moving to Fuji I’ve found the fjallraven Kanken bag to be the winner. It’s a normal backpack but you can buy an insert to protect all your camera gear, and I can even fit an Amazon tripod in there. (I realised only recently that I only use a tripod as a more steady light stand so don’t need a bells and whistles tripod – the one I use is £13 and weighs basically nothing!)
Photo by Holly Rose Stones
I pack my bag the night before – here’s a rundown of the kit I take to every wedding, which is all so small and light and makes life SO much easier:
- 2x Fuji XPro2 cameras
- 18mm f2 lens (I use this 90% of the day – it’s tiny and light so I can be super sneaky!)
- 23mm 1.4 lens
- 56mm 1.2 lens (perfect for portraits)
- 2x Nissin i40 flashguns (also tiny)
- 2x Cactus triggers (so I can trigger the flash off the camera during the first dance or rain photos)
- Amazon tripod
- Think Tank pouch I wear on a belt to carry lenses/snacks (which I always forget – being sugar-free almost vegan makes it hard to find portable snacks!)/phone/list of group photos and timings
- Spider holster belt to hang my cameras from – no straps for me!
- I also have a Think Tank memory card wallet hanging off the belt where I store all my used and unused memory cards – used go face in, unused face out!
The morning of the wedding I have my usual bowl of overnight oats (yum), then I leave with an hour to spare in case of traffic and I always tell myself my start time is an hour earlier than it is, just in case. Only one time have I ever actually been “on time”, and that was because Brighton was gridlocked with the London to Brighton Beetle thing (ironically the bridal car was their own vintage Beetle, totally by chance!) So yes I’m always super early! It stresses me out to think of being late, and since I started leaving so early the wedding nightmares have stopped.
I usually wear a maxi or midi dress with sandals or flip flops in summer and trousers, top and Etnies skate shoes in winter (they’re sooo comfy).
This is a typical “dress hanging” photo for me! I like people and action and real stuff
By this time I’m usually starving and have probably forgotten to bring any food. I’ve just bought Huel, so I reckon that’ll be good for this point in the day!
By the end of the day I’m dead on my feet but super exhilarated (the dancing is the best bit, the most fun photos!) – I either drive home or stay in an Airbnb if it’s late. For 2017 I’ve taken the option off my pricing brochure to have anything other than all day and evening coverage, because I love it so much and love to tell the whole story. So I’ll pretty much always be staying over somewhere!
Here I am being licked by wedding guests
When I get home I pop the memory cards in a safe and export them to two hard drives the next morning (I’m usually too tired to do it the night before and I know I’ll make a mistake). I shoot RAW to one card and JPEG to the second card in each camera. The JPEG card is 128gb so I can fit loads of weddings on one – an extra backup! The Fuji XPro2 is so damn awesome that the JPEGs are just as good as the RAWs and edit pretty much the same, so if it did all go wrong with the RAW files, my backup option is just as excellent. Why not just shoot JPEG all the time? I’m scared! I know RAW, I trust it, I have presets for it. Maybe one day, but for now I’m going to stick with what I’m comfortable with. I upload the JPEGs to Dropbox so they’re also on the cloud.
I save all photos into a RAW folder within a folder named with the number it is in the queue, the wedding date and the couple’s names. The file names are named after my cats!
There is so much that can go wrong with files, so I do what I can to make sure nothing gets lost.
My filing system
Over the next few days I pick out a selection for a blog post/preview using Photomechanic and Lightroom. I don’t blog all weddings, but either way my couples get a preview. I’ll be honest, I just choose my personal favourites for this preview, but my couples can rest assured that there are plenty of pretty, calm, non-gurning photos too! It’s just that I like the silly, gurning ones, so they go on the blog 😉 These are the photos that attract my future couples – and I love having couples who love fun photos! This is something I talk about in depth at the Kick Ass Workshop, getting your ideal clients.
I love silly fun photos so much. These photos are what make a wedding day!
I upload the chosen and edited photos to my blog/facebook/Zenfolio where my couples can download them, I then send an email to the couple to let them know, then sit on the edge of my chair for their reply (even though I have confidence in what I do and am always super happy with the work I produce, there’s always The Fear). I then pop a few pics on Instagram – I’ve been doing 1 or 2 a day since they changed the algorithm. This is all part of my marketing – my kinda couples tend to use Instagram – photo-loving people! It’s also so my couples can easily share their photos.
I totally intend to cull all the images in the first few days after the wedding (by cull I mean choose the ones to keep) but sometimes I just choose the preview pics as it’s loads quicker and I can get the preview out faster. I use Photomechanic to cull, which is super fast, although I take like 6,000 photos, so not so fast. It takes a couple of hours to cull a whole wedding if I’m totally head-down on it, but I never am, so it takes a couple of days of stop-starting. I think once I did it in one go. Once. I try not to feel bad about it though, as long as it gets done before four weeks is up I’m cool.
I usually cull down to about 800 images, which means I throw out any blinkers, blurries (unless they’re “artsy”), and any that are basically duplicates. I take so many photos because I “shoot the moment” as they say. I really go for it. I want to capture an awesome photo, not just an ok one. I want the head back, mouth open, tears of laughter photo that takes time and patience to capture, not the smile-at-the-beginning-of-a-funny-story-another-guest-is-telling-photo-and-then-miss-the-big-laugh-cos-I-walked-away photo, which is easy to do. I don’t mind if I’m not shooting 100% of the time and that people think I’m slacking off (I don’t think they do think that, it’s just my paranoia!). I’m watching, listening, waiting. Then shooting like crazy when the moment happens! So I have to go through a lot of similar photos picking out the absolute best ones. I never throw away an image just because I’ve reached a quota – all the ones I deem worthy of inclusion go in. This is more work for me (or Rachel more precisely) but it’s worth it. Another topic I talk about at the workshop – getting the fun photos!
I probably took a hundred photos to nail this corker
Over the next few weeks I spend my days culling weddings and exporting the Lightroom (like Photoshop but better) catalogs to send to Rachel my editor (her existence means I can have a life and sit in the garden and swim in the sea!). I highly recommend outsourcing anything you don’t enjoy or aren’t good at, from admin to blogging to editing to setting up light stands at a wedding. You’ll be so much happier!
My Zenfolio couples galleries
I used to send weddings on USBs in a wooden box but I had to be honest with myself and stop doing the things I wasn’t enjoying. I partly stopped doing USBs because they’ll soon become obsolete, plus a lot of my couples don’t have USB holes, but mainly because it took up aaaaaall my time. I’d spend entire days just wrapping up boxes and trudging to the Post Office. I do make sure my couples get something tangible though 😉
In between culling and checking edits I chat to my virtual colleagues on Facebook – these are 3 fellow wedding photographers who are all based on the outskirts of London, so not close enough to work together in person. We do meet up every few weeks though, like a school trip. Most recently we all went to Milan on a little street photography excursion! It’s usually hanging out for lunch at one of our houses though, not always Milan!
Here we are in Milan being silly? Who took the photo you ask? Nicola, then photoshopped herself in! Can you tell which one she is?
I also sometimes take a rare day off to hang out with a bigger gang of wedding photographers; this summer I went to a picnic in Kent and this week to the beach in my hometown of Broadstairs. We went swimming in the sea, it was wonderful and much needed.
Here we are being silly. Photo by Julian Nicholas
I also do Borrow My Doggy, where I literally borrow a dog. I walk Dorothy and Winston the sausages once a week and Pav the wolfhound every now and then. I love it – it gets me out the house!
On Sundays, if I’m not shooting a wedding, I tend to lounge about in the garden – all good intentions of Doing Stuff goes out the window. Sometimes I’ll visit my family in Surrey/Sussex, but mostly I plough through books in the garden. I love a good crime thriller and books about psychology. I’m reading The Psychopath Test at the moment, it’s terrifying to think they’re everywhere. I think it’s important not to feel guilty about having time off and not doing Stuff. Not doing anything at all is rejuvenating.
If I have a whole weekend off I usually get straight onto Easyjet to see where I can go, as I love travelling! Last weekend was Isle of Man, the next one I’m hoping is my home country of Lithuania – I’ve never actually been there before!
A year ago I decided to block out a weekend every month to have off (unless I got a killer enquiry!) I don’t regret it at all and it’s helping me stay sane this summer. Time off is underrated and most wedding photographers don’t have enough – or any!
We ate fish and chips on top of a big hill
Most days I sit here with a cat on my lap being as annoying as he can be, answering emails, culling and checking photos, writing blogs, planning my workshop, constantly re-designing my pricing booklet, doing instagram, doing banking and tax things, procrastinating on Facebook, doing the supermarket shop (although I’ve recently decided to buy all food possible from the farm shop), chasing the cats around the garden, going to the chiropractor (she’s a wonder worker) and eating Shredded Wheat.
So there you have it, how to be a happy wedding photographer!
To learn more about loving your job as a wedding photographer, join me in France this October for my Kick Ass Workshop!