Can you tell our readers a little about yourselves and how you decided to become professional wedding photographers.
We are Nate & Amanda Driver of Driver Photo, a husband and wife wedding photo team serving awesome couples all over California. Apart from shooting, we love spending time outside, walking and playing with our two goofy dogs, and working on home projects.
In his spare time, Nate enjoys playing guitar and recording music (sometimes with Amanda), and Amanda enjoys drinking 6 cups of tea a day, reading and writing. And lastly but most importantly, we are both Woody Allen nerds.
In college, I (Amanda) studied English and Art and picked up photography along the way. I started shooting portraits on the side, but it wasn’t until we started planning our own wedding that I started putting together a website/portfolio of my work.
Our good friend and wedding photographer was in need of a new intern/second-shooter, and she asked if I had any interest in filling the spot. I wasn’t sure but I took the plunge, and I completely fell in love shooting my very first wedding.
At the end of the night, I was sore, exhausted, and I’m pretty sure my feet were fairly blistered, but I was totally exhilarated! I loved not only being a part of such a joyous occasion, but getting to be creative simultaneously. On the spot I decided I wanted to be a wedding photographer and started shooting as many weddings as I could and building my portfolio.
The neat thing was that I knew I was going to need a great second shooter, someone I could trust completely. Who better than Nate to do it? He was already a competent shooter, my best friend & biggest supporter. We work really well together as a team. I taught him everything I learned about shooting weddings, and we never looked back.
How many wedding photo shoots do you do a year? Do either of you have a favorite location / shoot?
We average 20-25 weddings per year (22 seems to be our sweet spot) and do engagement sessions for nearly all of our couples, so about 22 engagement sessions per year as well. Amanda also takes on some additional portrait work (maternity/family) when our schedule allows, and she also photographs boudoir.
Honestly, while we’ve shot at some incredible locations and at some really rad venues, we try not to have any “go-to” photo locations. We encourage our couples to choose their own location for their engagement sessions, perhaps a place that might hold meaning for them (maybe their favorite hiking trail or where they had their first date). In doing this, we have found that the photos we capture then become more personal to our clients, and we feel more creative and inspired by fresh locations we haven’t shot at before. It’s a win-win.
How do you interact with your clients to get the best photos?
We love for our photos to be authentic and joyful, and we want them to feel natural. In order to do this, our clients need to feel comfortable with us. Therefore our approach is very low-key. At the engagement session for example, we like to walk and chat with our couples, learn more about them and their relationship, and get them into poses that feel natural.
As the first shooter, I (Amanda) generally suggest the poses and Nate will shoot a different angle and perspective. We usually like to get our couples moving—walking, putting their arms around each other, rubbing their noses together, etc. It might sound a bit silly but getting them in action and interacting with one another is key for us to be able to capture photos that look natural and not forced, overly posed or staged.
How do you handle clients that don’t like being photographed?
We have had many, many grooms (and every now and then, a bride) who have been really apprehensive about being photographed. This is where explaining the importance of the engagement session is key. The engagement session is our chance to warm our clients up in front of the camera, and to show them that our approach is pretty laid back and relaxed—we won’t be forcing stiff, awkward poses on them. Usually by the end of the session the groom will say something to the effect of, “That was so much easier than I thought it was going to be!” We chat and laugh with them the entire time and the sessions fly by.
What have been some of your most difficult shooting situations, and how did you overcome them?
Truthfully in the years we’ve been shooting weddings, we haven’t had too many insane situations (although weddings in general can be a little crazy)! We always work with our couples and/or their coordinators to hammer out the photo aspect of the timeline in advance, and we send out a questionnaire to our clients several weeks before the wedding to get all the nitty-gritty details about the day so we are fully prepared. We take great care of our equipment and get it serviced regularly, and we always carry back-up gear.
Preparation is huge! Probably the craziest things that have happened to us on wedding days is the schedule has been totally thrown off for one reason or another (hair & makeup runs way behind or the limo doesn’t show up) and we end up having to rearrange the schedule and shoot fast. It happens every now and then, and while it can be stressful, it’s also sometimes just the way it goes. We tend to be fast shooters to begin with, so this plays to our advantage when we’re pinched for time.
What gear do you find essential for being successful at wedding photography? Do you have a favorite brand of camera / lenses?
We love fixed lenses for the aesthetic they provide when shooting at wide apertures. The Canon 35 mm 1.4L and Canon 50 mm are our go-to lenses. We also love the 100mm f2.8L Macro lens for ring & up close detail shots, and the 70-200 mm f2.8L is great for those super long church aisles.
We absolutely adore the Canon 5D Mark III—it is amazing in so many ways, but one feature I (Amanda) particularly love is the dual card slots. I am OCD when it comes to backing up images, and I love that I am able to write images to two cards (a CF and an SD) on the spot while shooting.
Our main tips for a new photographer would be to shoot a ton. Practice, practice, practice. Research when you can’t figure something out, and then practice it until you have it down pat. While you’re at it, get really comfortable shooting in manual mode and start shooting everything manually.
Last but perhaps most important, learn what good lighting looks like. That should be your main concern in any shooting scenario—finding the good light. Learn to look for good light before you look for anything else.
How long do you spend editing the average wedding shoot? How many shots do you have to work through per shoot? What software do you use to edit photos?
We spend approximately 25 hours culling and editing every wedding, however we recently started outsourcing some of our weddings to The Album Design. They are amazing and really help us out during busy season. They get the details on your entire editing process so they can edit as closely as possible to your style.
We end up with about 100 finished photos per hour of shooting (so an 8 hour wedding=800 final, edited images.) We primarily use Adobe Lightroom for editing and every great once in a while we use Adobe Photoshop for fine detail work.
Do you have any words of wisdom for those who aspire to become professional wedding photographers?
Before getting into it, know that maybe 10% of running your own wedding photography business is actual shooting, the other 90% is everything that goes along with running a business—email, editing, blogging, networking, financial tracking, website updates, meetings, etc. It can be fun and rewarding, but be willing to work your butt off.
With that being said, if you want to be a wedding photographer I would recommend finding wedding photographers who could use another shooter or assistant. When you’re starting out, you have to be willing to work very hard for cheap or even free. Shoot as many weddings as you can, learn from other photographers, and build your portfolio. Share your work online. Shoot, shoot, shoot.
For clients that are considering working with you, what’s the best way for them to start? How far in advance should a client try to book you?
For anyone looking for a wedding photographer, look for someone whose work moves you and that you really connect with. And then make sure you really like that person(s) because you’ll spend a ton of time with them on your wedding day! We typically book weddings 8-12 months in advance, give or take, and that is usually a nice window of time for planning and for scheduling your engagement session.