Capturing life-changing moments is something very few people are lucky enough to do on a regular basis. However, wedding photographer Laura Barker has made a living out of this, turning a dream into a reality through hard work and perseverance. We sat down with Laura to talk about her wedding photography career so far and find out what advice she’d give to others in the industry.
Why did you get into wedding photography in the first place?
It was an accident! A friend of a friend asked me to photograph their wedding, and from working on this wedding I then got asked by the bride’s bridesmaid and the bride’s brother to do their weddings. When an acquaintance in New Zealand asked me to do their wedding, I felt it was time to go into wedding photography full-time.
I first got into photography in 2010 when I bought a DSLR for my travels around the world. I enjoyed photographing people the most when in Peru and Bolivia and my passion continued from there.
Did you have any formal training such as a college course?
I don’t have any formal training. However, I did make sure I did a few workshops at the start to gain confidence in my abilities.
What was it like being a photographer in the early days? Were there any obstacles you faced?
As with most things, the biggest obstacle is confidence. Once you’ve gained a little confidence and start to believe in yourself and your level of skill, everything begins to fall into place.
For me, I still need that level of reassurance as I have imposter syndrome. Being self-taught has also given me moments of doubt, but I’m always working to improve on my weaknesses so I can develop and train myself to be better.
What costs did you have to factor in to becoming a full-time photographer?
I moved home to live with my dad to help with the money side of the business when I went full-time. It can be quite difficult without savings to leap into full-time photography. Therefore, I started part time, alongside my full-time job, and used holiday time to shoot weddings when things became quite full on.
Living in London also limited how much spare cash I had. I moved home two years ago, and have had support from my family who, in tough times of need, have really helped me. I was fortunate (in a way) that some family left me a small amount of money, which covered the initial camera and equipment I needed, plus the ‘must-haves’ like specialist photography insurance.
Insurance is a minefield when you’re new to the business. Therefore, having a super simple explanation as to what you’re buying and not buying is so important, as it’s only when you claim that you discover what you’re not covered for!
For example, you’re insured for your car being broken into on the job and the equipment being stolen – however, you may not be covered if you were doing a freestyle photoshoot and left the camera in the car whilst grabbing dinner on the way home.
How did you begin to market yourself & what techniques/channels did you use?
Most weddings, no matter how experienced you are, come from referrals. Word of mouth will always be the best way to get weddings.
My first job (the friend’s friend) came about because she had liked my images on Facebook from a fashion shoot I did. Since then, I have received most of my business from either Instagram or through a referral. I am finding more people are using Instagram to find photographers, as its super easy to search hashtag terms for venues and themes.
What advice would you give to other photographers who are learning the tricks of the trade?
When first starting out in the wedding business, the important thing to remember is, you’re not going to make lots of money!
It’s becoming quite a saturated industry and you have to become a photographer because you love it, otherwise you’ll not enjoy a fruitful career. People who are just starting out and haven’t shot a wedding yet will need to be prepared for a few years of super hard work at a low income.
In the beginning, things like second shooting, being an assistant and doing unpaid work are essential. However, after year one, you can choose whether to jump in head first with competitive low prices for portfolio building, or you can set a value which you think reflects your skillset and experience.
It’s not set in stone that you need a huge portfolio to prove yourself. I gave it two years, and even now I work as a second shooter at weddings to plug gaps.
What are some of the most memorable projects you’ve worked on?
I love working in new (not visited before) venues, and last year I loved shooting Trinity Buoy Wharf. It has the rustic brick and wooden aspects, however it’s a warehouse in London. So, it offers both types of weddings I love.
What’s the best thing about being a photographer?
Creating something beautiful. Beauty for me is, moments in time that I capture in a way that is different, emotional and makes me stop. Creating one of these images fills me with respect for what I do. When asked ‘what you would take if your house is burning’, I’d always say ‘my photos’ because they’re very special memories. My grandma looks through her wedding album 70 years later (She’s 90 in April) because she misses my grandad, but also her best friends who passed in 2017. I want to create these memories for people.
Check out Laura’s website for more examples of her work and to read more about her journey to becoming a wedding photographer.