Wedding photographers should gain some experience before photographing a wedding as the lead photographer. The role carries with it considerable responsibility, and clients' expectations may rise in line with the fees charged. If a photographer is charging £1,500 to photograph a wedding, it is not unreasonable for the couple to expect good results. The photographer should also be able to demonstrate his or her ability through relevant qualifications obtained from an appropriate photographic institution.
So how much experience is it necessary to have, how can it be obtained, and what qualifications should a wedding photographer have? Experience is perhaps best obtained by photographing weddings with a seasoned professional. Working as a second photographer provides a sheltered opportunity to take relevant photographs without worrying too much about the consequences of failure. Many professional photographers are willing to give less experienced photographers the chance to accompany them to weddings. The less experienced member of the team is then typically given the task of taking the candid shots and some of the less important or demanding pictures. A dozen weddings covered in this way provide a reasonably clear view of what is expected of a wedding photographer.
Many wedding photographers have no relevant qualifications. This is unfortunate because it is quite reasonable for prospective clients to ask to see certificates of competence. Unqualified photographers may produce excellent results, but many do not. Appropriate qualifications are relatively easy to obtain if the photographer has the required ability, so there is no justification for not obtaining an independent endorsement.
Numerous photographic organizations offer training courses and relevant qualifications, and quite a few are listed elsewhere on this website. A photographer might reasonably opt for a wedding-specific training course, or decide to obtain membership of an institution such as the British Institute of Professional Photographers (BIPP) , the Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers (SWPP), the Master Photographers' Association (MPA) or the Royal Photographic Society (RPS). All these organizations offer programs of training and the opportunity to pursue relevant qualifications or distinctions.
Practicing wedding photographers normally have at least a Licentiateship-level qualification from one of the above organizations. Many have the second Associateship-level certificates or distinctions. A small minority have Fellowship-level distinctions.