We asked a group of highly regarded wedding photographers for thoughtful tips on how to expand, sharpen, and maintain their creative approach to wedding photography. After getting a lot of great insight, we narrowed the pile down to six tips to pass along to you.
No matter what you do for a living, there is often a tendency to think that you have reached the peak of your game and that your skills can no longer be sharpened. Experts will always disagree with that notion, and so do the wedding photographers with whom we spoke. Many of them said that one way they keep the creative edge was to attend photography workshops. Westchester, New York’s Jesse Rinka says, “No matter what level you may be at in your career, there is always room to grow. It’s important to have an open mind at all times. Attending a workshop can instill within you new ideas and new ways of thinking. Be willing to learn and accept that there are more ways than just your own to achieve stunning results.” Also, look for one-on-one mentoring sessions with workshop instructors—sometimes offered as an add-on bonus to a workshop.
Additionally, many schools offer classes in new software and tools for photographers to discover online.
2. Experiment: Gear
Let us be clear about one thing: a live wedding is NOT the time for you to try out some new lighting gear, lens, or remote trigger. You need to practice with the new stuff in the comfort of your own home or studio before using it, when you are getting paid to get good results.
However, many wedding pros recommend changing lenses or acquiring new gear to improve the final results. The experiment might be to just swap your wide-angle shot for a telephoto and see how that changes your perspective. Wedding shooter Lori Waltenbury, from Ontario, Canada, says, “Experiment on your own time, go out for a walk with your camera, try new angles, try new techniques. My favorite new thing is shooting with textured glass covering a portion of my lens!”
3. Experiment: Shooting
Changing up your gear may inspire a different approach to your photography, but you can always make creative strides with the gear you already have. San Diego Photographer Sarah Williams suggests setting your camera’s LCD to review your images in monochrome while you shoot color RAW files to allow you to see light and contrast differently in the image. Of course, verify your settings at home to make sure you are saving color images. She also recommends changing your physical perspective at the venue by not standing where everyone else is standing while using your surroundings to shoot through or incorporate inanimate objects in the scene. Short in stature? Warren, Ohio wedding pro Nicki Hufford brings a stool to her shoots to change her perspective.
Eric McCallister, based in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, suggests that you can, “Challenge yourself to shoot something just for yourself on the wedding day. If there's a specific style of portrait you admire—maybe a classic shot of George Clooney adjusting his bow tie, for example—take five minutes with your groom and make it happen. Try to shoot one or two images that push you to try something outside of your repertoire.”
Andre Reichmann, from New York City, says, “Be bold. Don’t be afraid to ask to borrow an ice cream truck for a great photo op.”
4. Second Shooter
Do you have a free weekend? Many wedding photographers suggest that you should take a break from being the primary shooter at a venue and join another photographer to work an event as the second shooter. They emphasize that other wedding shooters are NOT the enemy and that everyone can learn from others. Rinka says, “Some of my favorite images have come from working as a second photographer. This will also give you a chance to network with another photographer in the industry and by doing so, you may end up making connections that not only may lead to more work/referrals but also, by combining the minds of two creatives, you may end up learning some new techniques that you can put to use to enhance your own business. “
McCallister adds that you should work with other photographers whose work you admire. “I find it invaluable to observe how others work, bounce ideas off of them, and at the end of the day, look through their files. It's always eye-opening to "look through" someone else's lens who was watching the same scene unfold.”
5. Other Sources of Inspiration
All artists, not just wedding photographers, can fill their creative wells with inspiration from other sources of art and photography. San Diego wedding photographer Alex Oat says that she often scans non-wedding periodicals like “Interview Magazine, Vogue, W, etc.” New York City wedding photographer Ryan Brenizer states, “You are what you eat—look at a LOT of good photography. Not just current wedding photographers but also old masters. Pinterest is a surprisingly good place to find work of popular photographers from any era and just obsessing over news-feed photos can teach a lot about the grammar of photojournalism.”
6. Side Projects / Contests
Shooting similar subject matter repetitively can leave an artist a bit burned out and their work stale. How do you avoid this? Jesse Rinka suggests tackling a 365-day or 52-week Project where you create one unique and creative image every day, or every week, for a year. “Forcing yourself to come up with a unique and creative idea each day is a great exercise and although each day’s photo might not be something you are totally satisfied with, you will not believe how much you are actually learning just through trial and error,” he says.