Welcome to the wedding industry, friend. It can be an intimidating market to jump into especially when brides are on the hunt for a bargain and always have an "Uncle Bob with a nice camera" in their back pocket. And so I offer you six things, in no particular order, that you can do to set yourself apart as a wedding professional even if it's your first season in the industry :
Second Shoot | Seek out photographers whose work you admire and inquire about second shooting for them. There's no better experience than tagging along with someone who knows what they're doing -- see firsthand how they give direction, anticipate emotion and handle the stress of a fast-paced wedding day. Most established photographers can pay you for your time; confirm that you can use your images to build your portfolio. If a second photographer isn't something they need, offer to lug around their bag or hold a reflector at an engagement session just for the chance to observe.
Get a Real Email Address | Would you be more inclined to invest in email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org? No further explanation needed.
Rent Equipment | Selling yourself as a professional means having professional-grade equipment but rather than using your life-savings to purchase all the newest gear, shop around for the best rental options near you. I use Midwest Photo Exchange for local events and Camera Lens Rentals for out-of-town gigs.
Create a Timeline | As a professional it's your job to work with the couple and/or their wedding planner to establish a day-of schedule that allows ample time for well-lit photographs. I send sample schedules to my clients as soon as they book and then meet with them one month prior to iron out a timeline that includes a fair amount of cushion time in-case any portion of the day runs behind.
Shot List | I get butterflies in my belly just thinking of the nerves I felt when I shot my first solo wedding -- and heavens knows they were there for good reason! It's a priceless day and two very excited people have paid you a lot of money to be 100% alert as you capture every last detail. Be proactive and carry with you a list of detail and group shots, checking it throughout the day to avoid sitting straight up in bed at 2am when you realize you forgot to grab a picture of the rings.
Styled Shoots | This is a wonderful way to connect with other wedding vendors -- contact a florist or a wedding planner and offer to buy them coffee as you discuss a few theme or location ideas. Be careful to pursue vendors with a similar style or the aesthetic you'd like to achieve so your work complements one another. Styled shoots are a labor of love; be sure to make all final images available to each participant for their own promotional use.
and best of luck.