Job as a wedding photographer

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Jennifer Butler is a professional portrait and wedding photographer. But, she says, it's not just being able to use a camera that counts – you need good people skills as well.

How would you outline your role?

I spend a lot of time talking to people about what they want from their wedding photos, and planning what I'm going to do on the day. I probably do about 30 weddings a year, as well as family portraits in a studio at my home.

Do you have a set routine?

Monday to Thursday is spent on admin jobs such as making up the finished albums and putting together 'proof books' which are copies of wedding photographs that the bride and groom can choose from.

What does photographing a wedding involve?

I usually arrive early in the morning and start taking pictures at the bride's house while she's getting ready. In the church it often depends on the vicar and whether or not I'm allowed to take pictures.

I take most of the photos at the reception but I think it's important to keep the number of formal group pictures to a minimum because otherwise people get bored. Sometimes, I'll photograph the speeches in the evening too.

What hours do you work?

During the week I work from about 10am to 6pm, depending on how busy I am. It's Saturdays that can get really hectic and you are often out all day. The summer is the busiest time of year because that's when most people get married.

What is your working environment like?

Most freelance photographers work from home unless they specialise in something like food photography and need a purpose-built studio.

Who do you work with?

It's really hard doing a wedding on your own so I have got an assistant who carries the kit, looks after all the film, and watches to make sure the flash gun goes off. I work on my own during the rest of the week.

What skills or qualities do you need to be a wedding photographer?

You can be the best photographer in the world but if you can't communicate with people you're not going to get anything out of them. You've got to be friendly but firm because organising people you've never met takes some getting used to.

You need creativity as well – anyone can learn to use a camera, it's what you do with it that counts.

Why did you choose this type of work?

I wanted to do food photography and worked as an assistant, but I was too impatient to do my own thing. Then someone asked me to do a wedding as a favour and I ended up setting up as a wedding photograph!

What training have you done?

As well as my photography college courses, I've done a weekend course with a wedding photographer that taught me so much about what's really involved in getting good pictures on the day.

What tools and equipment do you use?

You need a good camera, lights and a tripod. Computers and specific graphics programs are also important.

What are the particular challenges in your work?

There are lots! I suppose the main one is making sure the pictures come out. But no matter how careful you are, you never know what they are going to be like until you've got them in your hand.

Jennifer's route to her career as a wedding photographer

  • National Diploma and HND in Photography.
  • Jobs as an assistant photographer and visual merchandiser (window dresser).
  • Set up own business.
  • Passed exams with the Master Photographers Association and the British Institute of Professional Photography.

Jennifer's photography tips

  • You've got to be hardworking and you need plenty of common sense.
  • The best way to find out about the career is by talking to other photographers and visiting wedding fairs.

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Salary of a photographer

  • The starting salary for a full-time assistant is between £8,000 and £13,000.
  • Freelance photographers can earn from £16,000 to £50,000 or more depending on experience and the size of their business.
  • Wedding photographers charge anything from £850 to £3,000 for a wedding.

Getting in

  • Apprenticeships (Skillseekers in Scotland) may be available.
  • Most photographers have a qualification in the subject. These can range from City & Guilds to a degree.
  • Working as an assistant photographer is a good way to learn the skills you need.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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