You have a camera. You have enthusiasm. Someone has asked you to photograph their wedding.
Do you say yes?
This question is one I get asked a lot, since I'm very good friends with a lot of photographers. It's one I pondered carefully before I tried it, and yet I'd still do things differently now if I'd known then what I know now.
Here are five questions to ask yourself:
1) Should I start by second shooting for someone else? Yes. The answer to this is ALWAYS yes in my book. How will you know the key shots? How will you pose family groups? How will you manage a tight timeline? Where do you stand for the best angles? Oh, do you even like photographing weddings? Second shooting is a fantastic way to get started, and will give you an unbelievable leg up.
2) What are the expectations? Careful here. There's nothing worse than ruining a friendship over miscommunication, and your friendship is way more valuable than the opportunity to photograph a wedding (I promise). If you take the project on, sit down with your couple and ask what they are expecting--in detail. How many hours will you be there? Does your style match what they want? Do they understand your experience level? Will you give them the images? Will you edit them? How long will it be until they can expect to see them? Are you the only photographer? Do you have a delivery method? Oh, and WRITE IT ALL DOWN. Sign it. Have them sign it too. I'm a huge fan of a good contract, so consider at least a basic one just to keep things on the up-and-up.
3) Do I have the right gear? Remember, you can always rent stuff--just make sure you know how to use it. Sometimes receptions are very dark, so make sure you have some lighting options. Fast lenses (1.4-2.8) will help you catch the action during the day. Don't be afraid of a flash, either! It can save your bacon. There are a billion online flash tutorials that will help you get started.
4) Do I have a backup? Backup gear (one camera can fail), backup cards (you need lots of storage), and what happens if you get sick? P.S., once you're done shooting that wedding, BACK IT UP. In three places. You are now custodian of irreplaceable memories. Take it seriously.
5) What do I charge? I have two methods to approach this. I believe you should either do it completely for free, or you should charge a solid price for the work you are doing. If you're doing it for free, you should be very happy doing it for free: you're building your portfolio, and you want to do it your way. If you charge, consider all the things that you need to charge for: your time planning the event with them, the engagement session if you shoot it, editing for the engagement session, wedding day shooting time, travel/gas, wedding editing time (which will take you awhile on your first few goes), hard drives, delivery media or hosting... Be very deliberate in what you charge, and be careful to think through the workflow. Don't be tempted to sell yourself short because you're just starting out, either. Your time is valuable, as is your artistic eye!
5b) Taxes? Whether you're second shooting or shooting your own weddings, make sure you talk to your accountant about the extra income. Declare it? Yes. Save your peace of mind.
I hope this helps you. If you're ready, good luck on that first wedding! Always feel free to drop me a message if you have any questions about getting your start in wedding photography--it's a big deal!