Adventurous photographer Sharyn Hodges says she fell in love with being outdoors before she fell in love with image-making, and that foundational passion is clearly reflected in her unique perspective on wedding photography. Drawing from her first love of photographing landscapes, Sharyn’s compositions are majestic and expansive, placing her intrepid couples into a breathtaking broader scene that inspires a sense of exploration, courage, and grandeur.

We connected with Sharyn to dig into her journey to becoming a professional wedding photographer and learn from her insights into everything that newbie photographers should know before they start shooting weddings.

Want to book Sharyn to capture your special day in the way that only she can? Find out everything you need to know on her website. You can also view more of her work on her wedding photography Instagram account, or keep up with her adventures through her lens on her personal profile.

Interview: Sharyn Hodges

Tell us a bit about your background and how you got into wedding photography in the first place.

I got into wedding photography by luck, to be honest. It all started when I was about 8 or 9 and I got my first camera from my gran. It was ridiculously expensive to develop film (for an 8- or 9-year-old) so the photos had to be great.

As time went on I saved enough for my Sony Cybershot camera, my first digital. Boy, did that change my game! Everything got photographed. That camera went everywhere from Robberg to Mexico and everything in-between.

After my short stint working on the cruise liners, I found myself on my favourite beach for sunrises and sunsets and quickly started learning about that “M” button. It doesn’t stand for “Magic”! But magic can happen if you understand it.

I joined Instagram at the right time: when the platform was for photographers. I met some amazing photographers that I learned from “stealing with my eyes”. Every time we met up for an Insta Walk I felt like I added a few more bows to my string.

Even though at that stage, I wasn’t really good at wedding photography. I was really okay with landscape photography. But a friend asked me to photograph her wedding and I said, “Not a chance dude.” I did it. And I vowed NEVER TO DO ANOTHER! People move. And I wasn’t sure how to put people in landscapes.

I wasn’t particularly happy at my then-current job and it was on one of those “I had enough of this days” that I resigned, not knowing what, if, or how I was going to be a “professional photographer”. But with luck, determination, and wanting to photograph people in landscapes, here we are. Nearly seven amazing years down the line, I LOVE what I do.

What are the 5 most important things newbie wedding photographers need to know about this genre of photography before they get into it?

  • You are more than a wedding photographer. You will be a wedding planner, cheerleader, shoulder to cry on, tequila drinker, wedding day best friend, and wedding photographer. 
  • Get in touch with some local photographers and offer your services as an assistant or second shooter. This is a great way to see if you would like to become a wedding photographer. You get to see all the insight, the stress, the fun, the laughing, the tears without freaking out on the inside. Leave that to the main photographer!
  • You need to be passionate not only about photography but about the people you are privileged to photograph. Have the best attitude from the first email right through to delivering all the deliverables. Remember this day is so special to your bridal couples and out of all the photographers in South Africa, they have chosen YOU! It’s such an honour. 
  • Be flexible. No wedding ever goes to plan. Sometimes you’re running 20 minutes late, other days it’s pouring with the rain. Or it’s so cloudy that you need to move the couple shoot up by 45 minutes so you don’t lose light. Throw in COVID and curfew these days. So many weddings had perfect timelines for a 23h00 curfew cut off and the next day we have a 21h00 curfew. Or worse, no weddings and you need to postpone sometimes even 3 or 4 times. Have patience and understanding with your bridal couples. It’s tough on them too.
  • Be different. Be original. There are a lot of wedding photographers out there. I firmly believe there is enough work for all of us. Your clients will find you. They will read your bio on your website and be like, “this is my person!”

Please share your top 5 pieces of practical advice for newbie wedding photographers. How can they make their first few wedding shoots run as smoothly as possible, and produce the most rewarding results for their clients?

  • Know your camera equipment. You will constantly find yourself in widely varying lighting conditions. Moments happen so quickly at a wedding. You need to know which dial to turn and which button to push to get the perfect exposures.
  • If you haven’t been to the venue before, go and scout for epic spots and ideas. If possible, I like to go to the venue at the time I’ll be doing the couple session for sunset. I’ll arrive a little early to walk around and look where the ceremony will take place, the reception (if close by), and then walk around to find those little spots someone might not have seen. Also knowing where you want to be on the day will streamline your photoshoot timeline. Also remember, the sun sets in different spots depending on the time of year. Get to know where it sets.
  • Understand your clients. Every bridal couple is different and no two weddings are the same. I have shot countless times at certain venues and never have I felt like I have shot them before. Also, know who is important to the couple to make sure you get some awesome photos of them (a gran or granddad or special family and friends from overseas). One of my favourite questions to ask is, “What are you not willing to do in your wedding dress?” I will try my luck to get them to stand on a cliff or get in a canoe (in their wedding dress) or walk through fields with a stunning mountain backdrop. When people ask me, “What is your favourite type of bride?” my answer is “a dirty one”, because then I know we have had an adventure together!
  • BACK UP YOUR PHOTOS! I know it can be costly with hard drives, but rather have a backup than a reputation of a wedding photographer that loses wedding photographs. Remember this special day only comes around once.
  • Be honest. I can’t stress this enough. Right through the process, be honest if you think something is going to work or not. Rather fix things right there than in post or tell them later on during the wedding. I have often stopped shooting and said, “Sorry we need to move, either it’s the light or the background.” I always want epic photos and if it’s not happening, change. Also, be honest if you have made a mistake or you will be late to deliver a preview or the deliverables. People have understanding and life does happen. Remember we are all human, so mistakes happen. Accept that these will happen from time to time but the goal is to minimise their impact.
  • Make sure that you charge for your first few weddings. You asked for five, but this is something I have found very important from day one. Know your worth! I am not saying charge extortionate prices but your time is valuable, and it will help catapult you in your career and can be spent on additional equipment, or a website to showcase your growing portfolio.

What gear is essential for wedding photography? What items should every wedding photographer have in their kit bag?

Wow, as a newbie, I shot my first wedding on Nikon D3200 with a kit lens and a 50mm 1.4. I thought I was the BOMB! Little did I know that I needed more glass. Every photographer has their own preferences of lenses. But a full-frame is gold and if you are lucky enough, have two of the same bodies (helps with editing) and some prime lenses.

I currently shoot with two Sony AR7 IVs. My lenses are a 24 -70mm, 85mm f/1.4 (my baby), and a macro 50mm f/2.8 lens. You will need a flash for the reception. This can be tricky and will require a lot of home practice.

wedding photography with Sharyn hodges
wedding photography with Sharyn hodges
wedding photography with Sharyn hodges
wedding photography with Sharyn hodges
wedding photography with Sharyn hodges
wedding photography with Sharyn hodges