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Those who agree soon discover that wedding photography is a specialized field of work requiring talent, experience, people skills, training and decent photographic equipment - perhaps in that order! The ability to relate to people, organize the photography and adopt the mood of the occasion are clearly important. However, it is the need to capture good images in limited time as the ceremony progresses, and without the opportunity to repeat any shots that fail, that subjects wedding photographers to significant pressure. It must be learned that the job is not over when the reception has finished. Selection, processing, printing and archiving must be done, and albums may be required. Indeed, most of the work may lie beyond the wedding day.

The ability to produce good images of people is obviously vital for success but cannot be learned exclusively in a classroom or from a book. There is no substitute for working with people in real situations to gain experience, viewing the results with a critical and honest eye, and planning constructively for improvement. Few people acquire all the necessary understanding, skills and techniques without a good deal of work and effort. In most cases, better images are acquired gradually as a consequence of making and acknowledging mistakes, and taking good advice on how to do better. Independent assessment of images is an essential part of achieving high-quality results. It is all too easy to convince oneself that one's own images are good, or to accept praise from well-meaning but unqualified family and friends.

Public domain image by Elias Eliasfalla

Another key skill is the ability to organize and communicate with people - particularly strangers. As a wedding photographer it is necessary to approach and gain the co-operation of individuals and groups with complete confidence. Weddings are generally happy, good-humoured events and people may pull the photographers leg or throw jokes and comments in his or her direction. It is essential to be able to handle such situations with grace and good humour, and yet remain sensitive to the underlying stresses and strains that may exist at almost any family gathering. Good pictures of people are not often obtained from a distance with a telephoto lens. It is essential to get close up with a wide-angle lens and get involved with the subjects. Anyone who has difficulty with an approach of this type might have real difficulties as a wedding photographer. Adopt the mood of the occasion, get involved and keep your opinions to yourself.

A good start in acquiring competence in the highly-competitive wedding photography market can be made by attending one of the many specialized training courses available. These are run by countless companies in numerous different ways, and typically provide between two and seven days' tuition. They are all designed to prepare a photographer as quickly as possible to begin earning an income from wedding work. They incorporate training to improve interpersonal and wedding photography technique to a point where images acquire a high commercial value, and may also include an introduction to the organizational and management skills necessary to create a successful and profitable business.

Qualifications relevant to wedding photography are available from particular companies at several levels, but can also be obtained in the UK from British Institute of Professional Photographers (BIPP), the Master Photographers Association (MPA), the Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers (SWPP) and other similar organizations. Photographers from outside the UK can also gain qualifications from these and many other organizations that may be found by searching the web. Courses obtainable from companies such as Barret and Coe can lead to a photographer being accepted as a franchisee working locally in conjunction with the company. This arrangement has several advantages including the provision of legal protection and the facility to pass all the post-wedding processing and printing work on to the company.

Finally, it should be said that qualifications are only a part of the story. Suitable training helps but does not automatically turn those who qualify in to good wedding photographers. Experience is also needed. Some well qualified photographers produce generally poor images, and some photographers who have never been trained in any way produce excellent results. In the end it is all about talent, experience and people skills. There is no substitute for experience, so any newcomer is well advised to work with a professional wedding photographer for an extended period, unpaid if necessary, before striking out on their own. Wedding photographs are important to brides and grooms - don't spoil their special day!

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