7 Tips For Beginner Freelance Malay Wedding Photographers


There are tons of opportunities to make a living as a photographer in the Malay wedding photography market because luckily the Malay community have no shortage of people getting married each year.

A few days ago an old friend of mine contacted me, expressing his interest in becoming a freelance Malay wedding photographer. We discussed quite a number of things and I think why not just share some tips with you guys as well.

This is what I call ''Racun in progress".

Let me share with you 7 tips for anyone out there who are interested in becoming a freelance Malay wedding photographer! (This is a long but super informative post so read until the end if you dare!)

1. Buy a new camera if you can, but it's ok to buy used too!

Buying a brand new camera has it's perks, like having that 'store smell' and since it is purely new it is less likely to break. If it does break, it is usually covered by the manufacturers warranty so you can quickly get it repaired or replaced 1 to 1 without much hassle.

Since you are going to use your camera extensively, you really need a reliable workhorse and peace of mind, I would recommend getting a brand new camera if you can. But this comes at the cost of the full retail price of the brand new camera.

Buying a used camera is a cheaper route, because you have the previous owner to bear the full cost of buying the camera, and then they sell it to you with some depreciation.

Depending on the camera model and condition of the item, you can potentially save a lot of money buying a used camera.

But when buying a used camera, make sure to check the condition first. Make sure everything is still in working order before buying a used camera. And don't be afraid to ask for help from a more experienced friend to find one for you. Just like my friend who asked for my help. A good friend will try to help you.

One of the cameras that I use.

Good starter cameras like the Nikon D3400, Canon 1300D and Sony A6000 can be found around RM2,000 brand new and it comes together with a zoom lens. These cameras are already quite capable to shoot the most basic wedding events when paired with an external flashgun (For example, an affordable Yongnuo YN560 IV can be found around RM300).

But if you are looking for something used, do look out for older full frame cameras. For example a Nikon D700, Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 6D or a Sony A7. They can be found in the used market from RM2,500 body only, these are the cameras that even seasoned Malay wedding photographers usually use. These cameras are certainly 'aged' but when paired with an affordable 50mm f/1.8 lens (priced from RM400-900 depending on brand) they are already very capable to take beautiful photos.

2. You must own a computer.

A computer is a must in today's digital photography world. The computer will come in handy for you to edit your photos using (the correct word is 'post process' but let's just use 'edit' to keep it simple) and another important thing, file storage and management.

For editing software, many photographers love to use Adobe Lightroom to edit their photos. But this is a paid software. If you really want something free, look out for free software offered by your camera manufacturer in their website. Since I am a Canon and Sony user, I found that Canon's DPP and Sony's Capture One Express (both are free from their respective websites) are quite usable for most tasks.

For example, a good laptop with good mid range specs such as an Intel Core i5 processor, and a full HD IPS display for good colour reproduction - starts at around RM2,500.

As for file storage, you can always get an internal or external hard drive to store your client's photos.

I built my own PC!

3. Assisting a more experienced photographer is a good way to start.

Many wedding photographers prefer to have a second shooter to cover the same event from a different angle. Ask your experienced photographer friend if they need a helping hand to shoot a wedding.

As a secondary shooter, you get paid less - maybe even not getting paid at all. But this is a great opportunity to learn from a more experienced photographer. To learn how they work, which moments requires you to shoot photos and the workflow of different shoots.

But make sure to find someone that teaches you well and respectfully. There is no point following an abusive 'sifu' that treats you badly. This field of work can be challenging and stressful at times but it does not mean you have to be someone's punching bag.

Sometimes the best teacher is practice. Shoot. A lot.

4. Master your basic photography skills before shooting on a paid job.

You can't expect to buy a piano today and be automatically skilled at playing the piano and perform in a concert the next day. You need time to practice on your own before you can charge people to buy tickets to your concert.

First you need to study the basic camera controls - ISO, Aperture, and Shutter speed and many more. Study. Then practice regularly. Go out, take photos of your family and friends. Ask a friend to model for you to shoot. Join photography classes and outings.

Quick tip; check out your camera manufacturer website in their events section, they provide a lot of free classes and outings. I repeat, most of them are free, so go join them! That is where you practice your skills and network with other photographers!

Join outings to practice shooting.

5. Get it right in camera. Do not think "I will fix this in post."

You should get everything right while shooting. Don't shoot with the wrong framing thinking "I can crop this later." If the shot it out of focus. Delete it and shoot a new one. Don't think that you can fix it later. Even if you can, you shouldn't. Your time off is for you to spend for yourself and your family, not be stuck in front of the computer fixing your mistakes that you should have rectified during the shoot.

Plus, if you have a 32GB or bigger SD card, shoot JPEG+RAW. Even if your deliverables are going to be the JPEGs most of the time, having those RAW files would come in handy in emergencies like an insurance policy.

RAW files have bigger editing possibilities than JPEGs. Those RAW files can save you when suddenly your shot is underexposed because your speedlight suddenly died or when you don't have time to set the correct white balance for a shot of an important moment. You can easily take the RAW files, fix those stuff and go back to your JPEGs. You should always strive for perfection, but this is just a form of backup plan in case of any mistakes.

Those RAW files are also useful for your own usage to learn more advanced editing skills in the future. Trust me you'll want to keep them.

Memory cards are cheap nowadays. Don't be stingy to have backups.

6. Know your worth.

In order to find customers you need to do sales. In any field that involve sales, your customer will always haggle and try to stretch their Ringgit as far as it goes.

For example, you stated that your rates starts at RM500 per session. But your customer tries their luck to ask the same package for RM300 because they are a friend of a friend of yours.

In your mind you are planning your speech, to give them a long lecture about the photography business. How dare they ask for such a low price? Don't they know how hard it is to learn photography? Don't they know cameras costs a lot to buy too?
Relax. Breathe. Take it easy. Know your own worth.

Laugh. Type your reply;
"Miss, what is the theme and colour of your wedding gown?"

The client replies, "We will be wearing turquoise coloured traditional clothing."

And then you reply, "Wow that's nice. I know this one secret location, there is a traditional house just a short drive away. I will take a photo of the both of you in the traditional attire at that house. Then we can shoot the whole thing like a story how you guys meet up in the old days. My previous client ordered a higher tier package that includes two photobooks so the whole photoshoot storyline is better presented that way. They loved it. You can see my previous work on my instagram page. I love to do something like that for you, but first you need to say the magic words for me..."

Sometimes the client might fall in love with you and opts for a higher tier package with an even higher payment rate. Sometimes they are really in a tight budget so they will decline. Sometimes they would initially decline to look out for cheaper options, but they come back after realising cheap does not always mean good. In all situations, you should accept it with an open heart and do not burn bridges with your potential customers. You'll never know they might come back to you even after a few years.

The situation and wordings above are just an example situation. You go do you.

Know when to fight and know when you should walk away.

7. Don't look at what other photographers are doing.

I notice that a lot of Malay photographers like to befriend every other Malay photographers on Facebook. Maybe they have good intentions of befriending people with similar interests but in my personal opinion, don't do this.

When you see all of them using expensive Sigma Art lenses, you feel like you should buy one too although financially you shouldn't. When you see their amazing artwork, especially the more experienced ones, then you'll feel inadequate and demotivated. And then there's a lot of unnecessary politics and petty isssues between them that you should not waste time entertaining.

Let me remind you again, they are your competitors. Don't waste your energy worrying about what other photographers are doing. Focus on creating and improving your own craft.

WOW THAT'S A LONG ONE!

Do you agree with the tips above? Share it to your friends so that more people can benefit from this!



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