LET’S FACE IT, economically the world is in a bit of a mess right now, thanks to the ongoing impact of Covid-19. Many of us are currently fearing for our jobs and livelihoods, photographers and creatives in particular have taken a massive hit over the past few months and it would appear to be just about the worst time imaginable to consider starting up a new business.
While it might appear to be a terrible time to stick your neck out, the fact is that there will always be good reasons why the time might not be right to jump in. It’s why some of those who have long harboured ambitions of pursuing a career in the creative industries ultimately end up sticking with a safer option and can be left feeling unfulfilled down the line.
It’s also a case in point that many people might sadly now have lost jobs and be looking for a fresh start in a market where finding a traditional salaried position has never been more challenging, while in acknowledgement of that situation there is now unprecedented support from central government in the form of business loans and grants to help you get started on your self-employed career, which we’ll be taking a closer look at as this series progresses.
Also consider that you don’t actually need to go jumping off a cliff in career terms in order to get your photographic business off the ground. Portrait photographer Rachel Thornhill’s journey into the business was perhaps typical in that it was carefully managed, step by step, and she didn’t go full time until she was completely sure that she was ready and prepared for the challenges ahead.
“I got the taste for being a photographer by shooting pictures of friends and family at get-togethers and family events like birthdays and christenings,” she says, “and this was low pressure work that helped me get some images together for my website. Although the part time job I had at that point involved working with children, which was obviously useful, I realised from the outset that I was a novice in terms of being able to run a business and so I looked around for photographers I thought I could learn from.
ABOVE: With her background in working with children, Rachel had the skills she needed to move into the field of family portraiture.
“I was recommended a couple of photographers to check out and one of them was Paul Wilkinson, who runs a successful portrait business, alongside the Mastering Portrait Photography brand. I ordered the book and found that I couldn’t put it down: it was so informative and inspirational. After I had met him and his lovely wife Sarah a couple of times over the course of the next six months, I decided to ask if I could do work experience with them (at the age of 37!). I offered to make tea, hold a reflector and help in their fabulous studio in exchange for the opportunity to learn. I had two small children at the time and it was a big commitment making a threehour round trip on those days, but it was the best thing I’ve ever done for my business.
“I learned so much from watching Paul and the way he managed his sessions and it also showed it was important to have two or three strands to the business so that all your eggs aren’t in one basket. This has really helped over the last few months as I’ve been shooting headshots and business portraits rather than the weddings that have been moved to next year.”
Now fully established, Rachel couldn’t envisage ever doing anything else and her example should inspire others who have similar dreams. Follow our series and learn from those who have been there and done it, and you could be joining their ranks one day soon!
More information: www.rachelthornhill.co.uk
THERE’S NO SUCH THING as a typical day really, since every wedding tends to be different, but here’s an overview of how things might pan out for me.
Arrival Time: Usually three hours before the ceremony time. As pre-arranged, I’ll turn up at the bride’s preparation location to start documenting the day. Some will be comfortable with photos before make-up, but most aren’t and, in that case, I’d think about less invasive work, for example silhouetted shots and perhaps close-ups of the shoes and dress.
10.30am: It’s time for groom prep. Give two or more boys a free morning and a high percentage will magically navigate towards a pub or a TV screen. The act of getting into a suit is usually no more than a two-minute affair and most men are very uneasy with someone photographing the process. Instead, what I’ve found to be most rewarding over the years is to document the boys doing whatever they choose to do, whether that be go-karting, playing golf or watching a game of football. This is their groom preparation, however maverick, and I join them!
12.30pm: I always arrange my time so that I’m with the bride just after she’s got into her dress, with maybe a shot of mum doing it up at the back. This is followed by whoever is giving her away seeing her for the first time. I always ensure that I’m in the right place for this as this moment is normally one of the most emotional of the day. I then leave the bride to get to the church/ceremony location as I like to get images of the guests arriving and also a nervous looking groom. I also like to get images of the bride arriving, so timing is key here.
1pm: Shooting the actual wedding ceremony very much has to be played by ear. Churches tend to be stricter than registrars and licensed venues, but so long as you speak to the vicar beforehand and confirm that you won’t be using flash or be constantly moving around you should be fine – most of the time! I like to position myself at the front, looking back over the groom’s shoulder for the bridal entrance; I want to show what he saw. The moment they lock eyes and see each other for the first time is precious and is one of the things I’m most proud of delivering. I’ll be shooting on a 70-200mm f/2.8, normally wide open with ISO at a minimum of 3200. I never take it above ISO 6400 if I can help it and usually this is enough and lets me keep shutter speeds over 1/200sec.
2pm: I find that if you dress as a guest, rather than wear something like a branded polo/shirt, you’ll be more able to disappear into the wedding party. I usually shoot candid moments with a combination of 35mm, 85mm and 70-200mm, depending on the situation. There are obviously times during the day – such as the confetti line after the ceremony and the formal group shots – where I need to take control of things, but I’ll have agreed a list of who needs to be photographed beforehand with the couple. As with every wedding, time is precious and the longer we spend doing group shots, the less time I have to do the candid, documentary work which is the real reason I’ve been chosen ahead of other photographers. Lenses used for the group shots depend on location, space and the number of people in the shot. I like using my 70-200mm at around 115-135mm at f/3.5 and pinning focus on the bride’s eyes. As long as the group is standing in a straight line focus will be sharp throughout, with a lovely bokeh drop off.
3pm: At this point I take the bride and groom away for a short period of time – 15-20mins – to do some couple shots before the wedding breakfast. This is long enough to get some nice images but not so long that people notice they’re gone and start to miss them. I want this time for a couple of reasons. Firstly, to ensure I get a set of couple images in the bag. Secondly, I find the couple needs some time away from everything as this is normally the first time they’ve been alone since the ceremony. I advise them to have
a drink and five minutes together before we go back to the wedding. I tend to use my 85mm and 70-200mm for these images as I like to give them space.
5pm: Speeches are often the most emotional part of the day. Again, I like to give the speakers plenty of space if I can. I don’t want to be noticed by them as it’s a hard enough job in any case and the last thing they need is to see is me a few feet away recording everything. I like to find angles that show the speaker and who they’re talking to at the same time. The reaction shot is often the winner.
7pm-7.45pm: I always ensure I have sunset timings with me. Prep is key in wedding photography: I like to know everything about each wedding, the weather, when the golden hours starts, last light etc. During this time, I take the couple out again for another 15-20min spell of photos. They now trust me and know the process isn’t awkward. They’ve also normally had a couple of drinks so that helps!
More information: www.mattwing.co.uk
MPB Used Kit List
If you’re looking to move into wedding photography, here’s an outfit suggested by used kit specialist MPB’s resident pricing expert Marc Read that could get you started on a budget.
Sony Alpha a7 II – £694,
+ Sony Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA – £449, Good Condition + Sony Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS – £539, Excellent Condition. The well-built older brother of the a7 III combines a full frame sensor with a compact body. You’ll also have plenty of cash left over for a couple of snazzy high quality Sony Carl Zeiss lenses too.
Nikon D800 – £664,
+ Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G – £279, Good Condition + Nikon AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G IF-ED – £819, Good Condition You won’t go wrong with the outstanding quality and monster file sizes of the D800 and you can also go hybrid by shooting 1080p video too. This reliable workhorse won’t let you down on the job.
Canon EOS 6D – £559,
+ Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM – £199, Good Condition + Canon EF 24-70mm f/4 L IS USM – £345, Well used Condition The lightweight and compact Canon EOS 6D has fantastic, full frame image quality. With advanced features like Wi-Fi and full HD, it’s the perfect wedding companion for the professional photographer.
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