When we first started out in commercial and corporate photography and videography, 'they' told us very strongly to keep our wedding photography experience a secret from all of our commercial clients. I'm not 100% sure why this is, but this was the message: have two separate websites, hide the fact that we do weddings as well as commercial and corporate work. One of the people telling me this was a wedding videographer, who had successfully transitioned to commercial work. I asked him how did he find all of his first commercial clients, and his answer: from his wedding clients! We've also had an agency hire us in part because of our wedding photography experience.
In my mind, the things that we learned from photographing weddings are directly applicable to our commercial work, and actually make us better commercial photographers. Here are the reasons why.
1. Experience photographing non-models
Working in weddings, you deal with people not used to being in front of the camera on every single job. To make great portraits, you need to know how to pose them, and work with them so that they feel like themselves, feel good about themselves, and are having a great time. That way their images will look great to them, and to you. Non-models are nervous in front of the camera, they don't know what to do with their hands, how to turn their heads, what light looks best on them, what their best angle is, etc., and when you photograph those people every weekend for enough years, you come to know what works and what doesn't!
Similarly, our subjects in commercial and corporate work are most often not models, and also don't get their photographs taken too often. They have all of the same issues as brides and grooms, which makes our experience photographing wedding clients invaluable.
2. Working Fast
Weddings are fast paced events. People are constantly moving, lighting conditions change by the second, locations are varied and complex, and the number of images we take is enormous. A good wedding photographer can manage all those things in the blink of an eye. We need to evaluate the light, place our subjects in a scene that works, pose them, and choose our composition, all extremely quickly, because there is a ceremony or a reception to get to in a very short amount of time. Within that we have to decide what the purpose of each shot is, so we know what camera settings to use, and how to set the camera up to achieve the effect we want without even having to think about it.
Then after the wedding is done, we have to sort through thousands of images, and know very quickly what shots to eliminate and what to keep, based on the story of the day, and what clients like or don't like. For more in-depth post-production, we know what to do to an image to make it amazing for a client, and how to do that quickly and efficiently.
All of those things are useful on a commercial shoot. Clients don't have hours to spend with us, sometimes as short as 5 minutes. The ability to improvise on the fly, evaluate the light, the scene, and the composition, and then move quickly once a decision is made, is highly appreciated, and adds a lot of value to our work. Commercial clients want to look great, and our experience in all aspects from the shoot to the post-production helps tremendously.
3. Interpersonal Skills
One of the great things about our job is that we get to spend our time hanging out with great people, and provide them with something valuable through our skills and experience as photographers and videographers. I am always thankful for this. But that comes with a lot of time spent with people we barely know, and that means we have to be able to make people feel comfortable around us, extremely quickly. Most of the time I have never met the mother of the bride before the wedding day, and if I can get her on my side within 20 minutes of the beginning of the shoot, that's amazing! Everything goes well, and people have a nice time, when their photographer is fun to be around, makes people feel calm and at ease, and inspires confidence - while at the same time not distracting from the event, or getting in the way.
All of these things I think can be appreciated by a CEO who is having his or her portrait taken, or employees nervous to have their photo taken for their company's website.
As wedding and commercial photographers, we are basically consultants, and that means working with people who have no idea what it takes to do what we do. As such, we need to communicate things to people in a way that is diplomatic, friendly, and makes for a good experience. It is also a consultant's job to help clients feel good about themselves, as well as make them look good to others, which applies quite literally to photography and videography. Working with hundreds of wedding clients has helped us learn these things.
Consultants also need to be able to figure s**t out! Very often you run into situations that you've never been in, or which pop up unexpectedly from time to time on a shoot. We need to problem solve, fast, so that our clients don't have to, and on a wedding day that happens all the time.
Commercially the first points translate directly, with a few more twists from the educational point of view, and the second happens almost on every shoot, that is, figuring out and improvising things, preferably in a way that the client doesn't even know it's happening, so that the shoot turns out amazingly well!
So, I know I'm 150% biased here, but if someone ever tells you that your commercial photographer shouldn't be a wedding photographer, I would tell them the opposite: you would rather they had been or are one thank you very much!