Hi! I’m Nathan Walker, a wedding photographer from Nottingham in the UK. I’ve been shooting weddings since 2017.
Being able to join the sometimes wild and fun parties and capturing beautiful story-telling imagery along the way is the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done!
Main Gear Talk
I view the gear I take to each wedding not just as tools but as an extension of my craft and that’s part of the reason why I recently moved from using Nikon DSLRs to Sony. Sony offered so many features that I knew would improve my photography and make shooting even more fun.
I finally kissed the chimping goodbye thanks to the EVF and by using the flexible Sony flip screen I can get compositions that I could only previously imagine, like being able to shoot with the camera above my head.
Sony a9 – the freedom that silent shooting allows is incredible, especially during the ceremony. I love being able to shoot through those intimate moments without drawing any attention away from the couple.
I love that I can customise the function buttons so that I have everything right under my fingertips. I never have to go hunting for anything within the menu.
Oh, and I almost forgot, the autofocus is something else. It basically performs some kind of magic with the way it tracks subjects so accurately and reliably. It blows me away every time!
Sony a7iii – almost everything I love about the a9 is in this camera as well. It’s mainly my backup and I use it for the off-camera flash work as well.
I favour a simple prime lens setup. I’ve found that using primes has helped me to visualise a shot before I take it. They also help me to maintain consistency across the wedding day and by limiting my options they free me up for a more creative approach.
Even though I first started with a zoom lens if you gave me one now I wouldn’t know quite what to do with it!
Sony 35mm f/1.4 G Master – this is the best 35mm lens I have ever used. It’s crazy sharp when wide open and the contrast is outstanding, even in backlit conditions. Plus, the bokeh is really smooth for this type of lens. It stays glued to my camera for ninety percent of the day.
I find the 35mm is in the ‘goldilocks’ range – not too wide and not too tight and it’s suited to most situations that I find myself shooting in. I also carry the Sony 35mm f/1.8 as a backup lens.
Sony 85mm f/1.4 G Master – despite the fact that this lens weighs as much as a small child it is worth lugging around because the image quality is absolutely stunning. It pairs perfectly with the 35mm and I have rarely been in a situation where I wished I had more ‘reach’. I also keep a Sony 85mm f/1.8 handy as a backup.
Godox V860II-C – I always use them for the first dance in optical mode and I operate the off-camera flashes from the master on the camera. The battery life on this equipment is astonishing.
YOUKOYI Q508A Handheld Light RGB
AKA Lightsaber – I take this on to the dance floor to light up the show as I like to shoot close to the action.
Black Rapid Sports Breathe strap is comfortable enough to wear all day and the camera always feels to be anchored solidly.
Think Tank Steroid Speed Belt v2.0 with pouches can save me from being too weighed down. It allows easy access to my gear with two camera bodies and multiple lenses.
Hardware & Software
Photo Mechanic 6 makes culling images really fast. It’s awesome to be able to see a full-screen preview straight from the card before deciding to import a file.
Presets from Tribe Archipelago to make the final touches on most of my edits, all done on an iMac.
Giottos AA1900 Rocket Air Blower- it’s great to have on hand to blow off any bits of dust that might settle on the sensor and lens elements, especially after many lens swaps during a wedding day.
Meike MK-X1EM Hand Grip- just gives my hand a little more purchase on my Sony bodies and gives it more of a balanced feel when the Sony 85mm f/1.4 G Master is mounted.
Alpine MusicSafe Pro – I want to spare my ears a beating week after week so these earplugs are great because they provide protection with clear sound and they have interchangeable filters so I can attenuate the noise to suit the environment.
Just wanted to say a big thanks to my wife Delphine. Without her giving me a nudge I would have never followed my dream of becoming a photographer.
My Journey to Becoming a Photographer
I left my day job at the perfect time. It was late 2019 and just 6 months before shooting weddings became illegal almost everywhere in the world. I’m fortunate enough to have been shooting an average of 30 weddings now for two full seasons (excluding 2020).
How did I get to the stage where I decided to go all in, and how did I establish myself as a successful business during a turbulent and uncertain time in the industry?
Like most of the photographers I know, wedding photography was not my first job. Before I became a wedding photographer, I finished a Ph.D. in stem cell research and worked a couple of science-based jobs.
During this time, my daughter was born in 2015 (me and my wife Delphine now have 4 children, including twins!). I wanted to take photos of family life that I would be happy to give to family members as gifts, I was fed up of seeing ‘throw-away’ snapshot photos on social media feeds and I wanted to take decent photos. That’s what motivated me to become interested in photography.
I spent countless hours on YouTube learning tips and techniques and I spent a lot of time putting them into practice by taking countless photos of my family.
What started as a hobby quickly began to grow into an aspiration of earning a living from photography because I enjoyed taking photos and I thought that if I could monetise my skills, I might be in my dream job.
Weddings seemed like the natural way to do this because the market is there – people get married every day and most couples spend money on photography because they value it. The only thing I didn’t know is 1) would I be any good at it? And 2) would I enjoy it? (after all, this is one of the main reasons for wanting to leave my job).
A couple of years later, my sister-in-law invited me to shoot her wedding on a beach in Cornwall (UK). I took up the offer. It was pretty scary to take on such a big responsibility without ever having shot a wedding before, and there certainly was no coming back if I messed it up!
My sister-in-law loved her photos and that gave me the confidence and the belief that I could do this. But the only problem was, how could I start booking weddings if no one has heard about me?
I built my website in the hope that people searching for a photographer in my area would stumble across me. This did happen, people stumbled across me literally because I was so far down the rankings in Google that it was a miracle that people found me!
To make myself visible, I turned to Google Ads so that my website would appear much more readily. This was costly, but it got me started with a few bookings for 2018.
By the summer of 2019, I had shot a total of 10 weddings. Around this time, I came into possession of some inheritance from my Grandfather after he had passed away. The gift that he gave me was very unexpected and it provided the means for me to have a financial ‘buffer’ that would be large enough for me to consider taking the risk of leaving the security of my day job.
I handed in my notice at my day job towards the end of 2019 and it felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I just felt at peace, like I was making the right decision.
Learn new skills – sometimes it pays off
One lesson I learnt from being in business in my first year was that sometimes things don’t work out the way that you hoped.
Facebook Ads was my starting point and I took a course in it to begin with. The reason for doing this was that I was not visible enough in organic search results to generate a steady stream of enquiries and pay-per-click advertising could help meet this immediate need and help me get things off the ground.
I knew that this was not a long-term plan because as soon as you stop putting money in, you disappear again. But I was attracted to it because it is a scaleable method (once the campaign is optimised and working well, if you put more money into the funnel, more leads will come out).
However, I found that this form of advertising was not yielding the results that I wanted. I think it’s more suited to lower ticket items like building an email list with a lead magnet. Other photographers may have had a better experience.
Have a long-term plan and stick to it – keep working at it little by little because things will come together
Then, along rolled 2020 and while this brought the wedding industry to a halt, it was a blessing in disguise for my business. SEO is a long game and I used this downtime to hammer my SEO.
While no one was shooting weddings, and all my competitors’ websites had years of backlinks with no need to garner any more, it was time for me to play catch up. SEO is not too complicated in my view; however, it is very time intensive and the results are not immediate – it can take months for Google to factor together all your onsite and offsite information when it decides where to rank your website for a keyword.
I spent countless hours pitching content to industry-related blogs in an effort to harness a strong and diverse profile of backlinks in exchange for my content.
Over about 9 months, I saw my ranking in Google for the term ‘Nottingham Wedding Photographer’ rise from somewhere on page three to the top 3 positions on page one.
The hard work paid off. 90% of my bookings now come from enquiries that were made first via my website.
Invest in training and or mentorship
Of course, other important things complemented this success. It wasn’t just because my website was may more visible that people were willing to get in touch; I also needed to work on having a clear website structure with engaging copy that connected with my ideal couple as well as making it easy for them to see my availability and book a call – all online.
During my first year, I invested a lot in sales and marketing training. Sales training has been the single best monetary investment that I’ve made into my business. I was working hard to get people to enquire but then what? How would I make the booking?
Sales are not something that comes naturally to me but it was essential to understand how to make couples feel like I’m right for them and confidently say ‘Yes’ to making a booking – especially during the times when it was not possible to meet in person.
Now I make all my bookings on Zoom. It’s not so much of a time commitment for myself or the couple because no travel is involved, and it also means that on some evenings it’s possible to schedule back-to-back calls, which are way more efficient.
Also, some couples, even though they are getting married in my area, don’t live in my area.
So, one tip that I would definitely give to aspiring photographers is to invest in training.
You can read more of my tips for becoming a wedding photographer soon.