Capturing your love story with intention and authenticity

My Best Advice for New Wedding Photographers

Whether you’ve just gotten your first camera or have been photographing for years, wedding photography is an enticing and profitable niche that can seem like an impossible market to break into. In the spirit of community over competition, I’m here to share a little bit about how I became a full-time wedding photographer, offer some tried-and-true methods and advice, and bust some industry myths that circulate the internet too often.

So grab a drink, get comfy, and put on your dreamer’s hat. We’re setting goals and making moves around here.

Where Do I Start?

The hardest part of a journey is the first step. Knowing where to start is one of the hardest parts of breaking into any professional photography niche. While it may be tempting to just grab your camera and go, offering free services while you build your portfolio, there are much more efficient, valuable, and profitable ways to gain experience.


Despite the opinions of naysayers, professional photography, especially wedding photography, is about so much more than having a nice camera and snapping a photo. You are a defacto wedding planner (even when a wedding planner is present, you still need to be in the know), day of coordinator (again, you need to have those skills even when a DOC is present), child, grandparent, and dog wrangler, problem solver, scout level prepper, boutonniere pinner, dress buttoner and bustler, and so much more.

Don’t let the mound of responsibilities scare you away. With a little time and willingness to be teachable, you can build these skills quickly and have your own profitable business. There are 4 things you can start doing right now that will lay the groundwork for success (and none of them are spending a lot of money on presets).

Second Shooting

The best way for you to learn about the wedding industry is to gain experience in the wedding industry. When I was first starting, I spent a year second and lead shooting for another photographer. I gained so much experience in understanding what happened behind the scenes of a wedding day and what skills were necessary. That photographer doesn’t necessarily need to teach you anything, but stay curious and observant and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Many photographers will hire second photographers that are still learning. Some will let you use your photos in your portfolio and others will have you sign a non-compete clause (they usually compensate a bit better). Even if you aren’t allowed to keep the photos you take for your portfolio, you will still gain valuable experience. Don’t forget to ask for feedback from the photographers that you work with to help you grow. Second shooting is a great way to gain experience, build your portfolio, and make good side hustle money without the pressure and risks of shooting a wedding solo.

Myth: The wedding market in *insert your location here* is oversaturated.

Truth: According to BusinessWire, there were over 2 million weddings in the US in 2023. There is room for you at the table. I’m rooting for you!

Styled Shoots and Content Retreats

A great way to build your portfolio and network with other photographers (remember, you’re trying to find photographers to second shoot for!) is to attend styled shoots and content retreats. The cost of these can vary widely, but you can even set them up yourself. They range from very elaborate, including professional models, wedding venues, florists, gown shops and more, to very simple with a couple you know and some wedding style attire. There are so many options to choose from. Instagram and Facebook Groups are a great way to find styled shoots.

Online Education

The best photographers are constantly learning, no matter their niche or target market. Every year I invest in a new education program, whether it is focused on the creative aspect of photography, editing, or the logistic side of running a photography business. A lot of photographers also offer one-on-one mentorships (Shoot Me an Email to Ask About Mine). Education can be costly, but it is always worth the investment. Two of my favorite online educators are Adventure Instead Academy (for the creative aspect of photography and the logistics of running a business) and White Pine Photography (for editing).

Get Out and Shoot!

Wedding photographers have a range of skills that come in handy in any situation. Rain? Make it a Notebook moment. Low light? You’re not afraid. Harsh light? You know how to expose for that. Blown out and overly bright backgrounds? You know which angles to shoot at to avoid a hazy photo.

Those skills are best developed by trial and error. Of course you can look up what settings are best in those situations, but they become time-saving muscle memory when you get out in those conditions and practice. If you are new to photography, it’s also a great way to learn the ins and outs of your camera gear.

Wherever you are at in your photography journey, I hope you found these tips helpful. I’m so excited for you as you start building your portfolio. If you need a photography big sister and cheerleader, shoot me an email at ashleydeansphotography@gmail.com or a dm on Instgram (@ashdeans.photo) and let’s chat!

You’ve got this!
xx Ash

The Journal

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