How to Book Your First Wedding as a New Photographer

March 31, 2022

Starting a business from scratch is seriously no joke. I will never forget that feeling of putting in my two weeks notice at my previous job. I felt scared out of my damn mind but also incredibly free at the same time— you know what I mean?! So let’s talk about how to book your first wedding as a brand new photographer.

If you’re a fellow creative about to drop everything to start a business, this post is for you my friend!

Magnolia Wedding Venue

At the time I had never done a photoshoot for money— much less an actual wedding for money. All I knew was that I wanted this dream, BAD. And I was gonna do whatever I had to to make it happen.

And I did make it happen.

I booked my first wedding AT FULL PRICE not even three months after buying my camera. Words can’t even describe the feeling I had getting that first payment in! 

All this being said— there were still a wholeeee lot of things I could have done differently or should have done all together. I’m no where near perfect and definitely can’t give all the answers. But I’ll save my mistakes for a different post, because this is about WHAT YOU CAN DO!

5 THINGS I DID TO BOOK MY FIRST WEDDING

Magnolia Wedding Photographer

1. Create a Business Website

Contrary to what many photographers tell you, I highly recommend starting your new biz with a website. I see a lot of new photographers who start up thinking Instagram will get them bookings immediately, and while social media can be a very useful tool, it shouldn’t be relied on for booking clients.

Here’s why:

Instagram is a great way to show your face and let your current and future clients get a feel for who you are and the work you create. BUT Instagram is mainly used for social interaction. When you’re looking for the best donut shop in town, do you automatically search on the gram or do you head to Google?

Google is where people go to BUY.

Think about it: what is your ideal client using to search for wedding photographers? I can almost guarantee you they’ve at LEAST checked Google once in the process. This is where your attention should be focused– so let’s get a nice website up and running!

There are so many different site hosting plans out there as well as beautiful themes, but the most important thing to consider when designing your website is that it’s not only user friendly, but also that it represents your brand and who you are marketing to.

I can’t even tell you how many hours I’ve spent working on my website, especially those first few months. But it was ultimately where I got my first wedding inquiry and booking, so well worth it in my opinion!

Knoxville Wedding Photographer

2. Attend Styled Shoots

This one is also highly debatable, however, attending styled shoots helped me tremendously with my editing style in the beginning.

If you aren’t familiar with what a styled shoot is, it’s basically where a bunch of local vendors get together to put on a “fake wedding” setup where photographers pay x amount of money to take photos for their portfolio.

If you get the chance to attend one: DO IT.

Styled shoots can take a lot of pressure off of you because it isn’t an actual wedding, but you still get to practice your skills with a cute couple dressed in wedding attire. Most of the time these days styled shoots will have multiple setups with different couples modeling as well, which gives you even more content and faces to work with!

You can then use these images on your website to help show potential clients your style a little bit better. Because let’s be honest: most brides want to see how you edit on other brides, not toddlers and doggies!

These types of shoots are also a great way to network with other local photographers. Depending on the type of shoot, you can have anywhere from 5 to 20 different photographers there, all with different aesthetics. This gives you a chance to find other creatives you vibe with!

Which brings me to my next tip….

Knoxville Wedding Photographer

3. Second Shoot for Other Wedding Photographers

After attending my first styled shoot as a fresh and new photog, I met some really cool photographers that I knew I wanted to work with. I let them know if they ever needed a second shooter for weddings that I was their gal!

Second shooting was super helpful for me in the beginning.

If the photographer you are shooting with allows you to use everything you take for your own personal use (most of them will let you!), it can be an amazing experience. I mean hey–you get hundreds if not thousands of wedding photos you get to edit!

It works as a great transition period when you go from never shooting weddings to all of a sudden having your first solo wedding ever. Because it can be scary honestly!

I definitely felt the pressure to perform well as a second shooter, not only so my photog friends would want to hire me again (yes, you should get paid to second shoot!), but also because I knew this was the biggest day of this couple’s life and I was playing a role in how smoothly the day would go.

Use second shooting as practice and pay attention to what you do and don’t like about how the photographer you are working for is handling the day. Do you like the way she deals with stress? What about how she poses them? These are things to think about when second shooting! (Side note: these are things you should quietly observe, please don’t go telling the main photographer how to do their job!)

Bottom line: take every chance you can to second shoot!

Magnolia Wedding Photographer

4. Join Local Facebook Groups

Don’t have a business FaceBook page? Make one asap!

When I first started I got most of my non-wedding clients from local photographer FaceBook groups. You can pretty easily search something like “Tennessee Photography Sessions” and have a few in your area pop up that you can join.

These groups give you the opportunity to market your business to thousands of people in the area (yes, thousands).

One thing I did a ton in the beginning was post mini sessions in FaceBook groups. The post would go something like:

“Hey everyone! I’m a new photographer in the Knoxville area wanting to expand my portfolio. I’m currently offering mini 30 minute sessions for $50. These can be for couples, family, seniors, or anything in between. Message me to book!”

Now, you probably won’t get a flood of messages right away, but you will get a few that are interested. $50 in my area is hardly anything for a mini session, so make sure you aren’t charging a crazy amount at first! You need the experience more than the money at this point.

There are also groups specifically for weddings as well, and occasionally brides will post needing a photographer. Now, most of the time, hundreds of photographers will comment, but don’t let this scare you away from commenting your services! Some of my first bookings came from commenting on posts like that. If a bride likes your work, she will reach out!

Knoxville Wedding Photographer

5. Personal Outreach

Last but definitely not least, reach out to people.

I don’t mean siblings and friends (of course, do that too), but actually find people on Instagram or Facebook and message them.

Yes, IT FEELS WEIRD.

But when you need faces in front of your camera its a must. And to clarify– I don’t mean reaching out to random people asking them to buy a session from you–now that WOULD be weird.

You should be reaching out offering a FREE session to them because you are trying to build your portfolio.

No, there’s no money in that, I know. But: new faces and locations will allow you to experiment with different lighting, skin tones, and poses without feeling the pressure to perform a certain way because they are paying you.

I remember finding random couples on instagram that I thought were cute and messaging them. It was definitely wayyy out of my comfort zone but you’d be surprised at how many actually wanted nice photos taken.

And as time went by, those same couples are now coming to me as actual paying clients! You end up building awesome relationships with them, which makes them even more likely to recommend you in the end.

Smoky Mountain Wedding Photographer

Starting a photography business can be super intimidating, especially when it feels like the market is already over-saturated. Everyone takes their own path, however, these are some of the things I believe were crucial to my success.

Some of them (if not all) may feel way out of your comfort zone, but pretty much everything about starting a biz can feel that way! It’s what helps us grow as entrepreneurs.

If this post helped or inspired you make sure to let me know in the comments or shoot me a message on instagram @alliebuoniphoto 🙂

Are you a bride and ready to work with me? Click here to send me an inquiry!

xx Allie

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