How I Became a Celebrity Wedding Photographer
I was 13 years old when I was first bitten by the photography bug, merely as a matter of happenstance. Though I wasn’t completely isolated from photography, as my father was already shooting weddings at the time, he happened to need an assistant one particular day so I tagged along.
After seeing what his work entailed up close, I found myself picking up a camera and shooting whatever I could from that day on. By 14, I was shooting weddings on my own.
My journey from a 14-year-old wedding photographer to now running a celebrity wedding photography and cinematography business with my father 10 years later has yielded plenty of knowledge (and fun!) along the way, but it hasn’t been quite as linear as one might expect. Yes, it’s true my father had been shooting weddings for some time. But once I jumped in and became a regular fixture on jobs, we began actively pursuing the enticing world of celebrity weddings.
Start from the bottom
Dedication is paramount for anyone trying to get into this industry—most days, I’d go directly to a shoot straight from school. Dedicating myself early on gave me exposure to working with models and allowed me to learn the fundamentals of posing, not to mention being comfortable working with talent.
I also took advantage of every opportunity that came my way: assisted anyone, carried bags, did whatever was asked of me. Not only did it give me the right connections, but the knowledge I needed, like understanding lighting and the right equipment to use to beautifully light a shoot.
My close proximity to Miami gave me the right opportunities to begin carving my path beyond photographing models and towards celebrity photography. Of course, it’s virtually impossible to suddenly raise your hand and proclaim: “I’m a celebrity wedding photographer now, hire me!” so I got my start doing paparazzi work at age 15.
I began shooting on the red carpet and worked my way in to photographing the main event inside. Even though I wasn’t even technically old enough to enter some of these venues that I was working at (I was often the youngest paparazzo there), my drive and dedication got me inside no matter what. As a result, I was able to build my portfolio—and network—capturing diverse and high quality shots of celebrities at these events.
It’s not always WHAT you know, but WHO you know
Booking your first job as a celebrity wedding photographer is always the biggest hurdle to clear. As is expected for a celebrity wedding, the planner will book the best of the best: from caterers, to florists, to music, and particularly the photographer, since we produce the one thing that will truly live on for years to come (and the images that will end up online, in print, and on TV).
In order to book a celebrity wedding, you have to build relationships with the planners themselves.
This is crucial because wedding planners of this caliber have their own photographers that they’ve likely been working with for years. You need to prove yourself to them; you have to offer something that they don’t already have and can’t get anywhere else, and really work to foster this relationship. It’s probably more important than simply delivering superior quality work.
As with any relationship, this is an investment—on both ends. Don’t be afraid to work for free. It’s a risk-free trial for the planner and a great way for you to establish a rapport. More importantly, it shows them that you’re not afraid to work hard, and hard work is the only thing that can outshine comparable talent.
When you’re surrounded by the best of the best, you need to be able to justify why you should be the photographer the planner/couple chooses.
Find the chemistry behind the image
I think that sometimes people get too hung up on the “celebrity” aspect of a celebrity wedding. Naturally, there is a certain WOW factor when you photograph people like Kevin Hart and Eniko Parrish, but the principle remains the same: I am creating a moment frozen in time with my images.
Capturing the couple in their natural, loving state is of the utmost importance, and that requires developing a certain rapport with them. It might go without saying, but having that chemistry with the couple is absolutely crucial to capturing those moments. Know when the chemistry isn’t there. We don’t book every job that comes our way, no matter how high-profile—if we don’t connect, it’s just not going to make for good pictures.
And once you do connect, let the relationship flow naturally. When I feel the love from these couples, I feel happy. One of the best pieces of advice my dad bestowed upon me was: the look you have on your face is the look they’ll have on their face. If you’re happy, they’re happy. No amount of incredible lighting or scenic backdrops will fix a photograph if the subjects are unhappy.
Photographing picture-perfect people
Photographing celebrities on their wedding day presents its own set of challenges and advantages.
On one hand, these people are photographed nearly every day as part of their job; which is especially advantageous because they’re comfortable in front of a camera and are used to being posed (although it’s important to let them be themselves too, as with any other client). On the other hand, I’m not just creating these moments for the couple and their family, I’m fighting for the attention of the world—I have to create something that appeals to their fans as well.
In some ways, my clients are all about public image, and I’m helping to embody a very personal day to the public.
As with any job, but particularly as a wedding photographer when the stakes are higher than ever, I always have to keep my eyes open and be ready for anything that comes my way. You’ll have to change on a dime to capture the best possible shot. One of the best shots of Kevin and Eniko’s wedding was totally unplanned. I caught it just before it happened, and fortunately was able to capture a beautiful moment as she laid back on a bench.
The opportunity to create a perfect moment can happen at any time, and the only way to ensure you’re ready to capture it is to always have your eyes open and camera in hand.
Want to know more about how I shot Kevin Hart and Eniko Parrish’s wedding? Check out my video on AdoramaTV (below), and be sure to check back for more to come from me on the Adorama Learning Center!
About the author: Suzanne Delawar is 24-year-old Miami-based celebrity wedding photographer. You can find more of her work on her website, or by following her studio on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.