In many cases, a wedding day is a practice in chaos. In some cases, it can take the form of organized chaos, while with others, well, not so much. However, there is no denying the symbolic beauty of this ceremonial event. Two people exchange vows to spend their lives together and, at that moment, begin an entirely new family. And there to chronicle all those moments—both the grand and the minute—is the wedding photographer.
These days there are a multitude of factors that hopeful budding photographers need to consider when deciding on wedding photography as their profession. The importance of identifying your style—as a photographer and business owner—will greatly determine how successful you may become. To get a deeper understanding of why someone would choose to enter the field of professional photography, we spoke with Washington, D.C., wedding photographer Sam Hurd. His focus is on photographic techniques that are deceptively simple but have the potential to transform difficult or uninspiring shooting environments into one-of-a-kind opportunities, as his work demonstrates.
Digital Photo Pro: Let’s start with your story. How did you become a professional photographer?
Sam Hurd: I started with photographing political events, press events, news conferences, stuff like that, in downtown D.C., working full time for the National Press Club. I was there full time for six, maybe seven, years.
Digital Photo Pro: How did you make the transition from National Press Club photographer to working for yourself as a wedding photographer?
Hurd: Back in 2010, I started by shooting a coworker’s wedding and then some friends of theirs. I pivoted into weddings full time about four years ago. I’ve been doing them for almost seven years total, because both the news stuff and wedding stuff overlapped for a while.
Digital Photo Pro: As a full-time wedding photographer, what does your year look like in terms of the number of events you photograph?
Hurd: In terms of my full-time bread and butter, I do about 40 to 50 a year, and I’m plenty busy with that. I still shoot press events on the side as they pop up, which tends to be a few days to a week before.
Digital Photo Pro: Given your lengthy background in this industry, at what point did you truly feel comfortable to consider yourself a full-time, professional photographer who makes a living off his work?
Hurd: It was right around year three, and it wasn’t any one specific revelation other than I’d noticed that, financially, I was able to live completely off the revenue I was making from weddings, and all my salaried money I was making from shooting political events was going directly into savings. That was a big part, mentally, for me to feel like, “Okay, this is what I do. This is my main thing.”
Digital Photo Pro: For others who may share a common interest in pursuing wedding photography professionally, it would help to know how you chose to transition from political events. Did you start as an assistant for another established wedding photographer?
Hurd: I was drawn to weddings immediately, from the very first one. I never studied under another photographer. I’d never second shot under anybody. At my first wedding, I was the primary shooter, and I had a friend who was good at photography but never did a wedding shoot with me just to have someone with me as backup.
That first wedding was just amazing because I realized how much variety occurred at weddings compared to these press conferences where I was generally stuck in a box with a podium and one or two people standing there.