My firsts words to you as you consider the world of wedding photography is, "Are you stark staring crazy?". Why would anyone want to enter this world? There are just so many things that can go wrong and this is one area of photography that cannot be reshot without redoing the whole event which is impossible. You need nerves of steel and the patience of Job.
Now if you have considered all the pitfalls and weighed the pros and cons and have decided that you are one of the chosen few and can stand the pressure, here are some pointers that will get you to the top of your game.
1. Learn digital photography
This may sound simple and quite broad. If you aren't an accomplished photographer then learn photography and acquire the skills that you need to shoot great photos. If you are an accomplished film photographer learn all you can about digital photography. You need to function as a digital photographer knowing each of the skills necessary to make you successful. For example, know the limitations and benefits of shooting with digital and what can be improved or rescued in the digital darkroom. You will make mistakes and there will be unforseen problems and you need to know what can be done before you have a heart attack and call the bride with bad news. At my own wedding half the photos were lost because of film problems. A fair amount would've been rescued if it had been digital.
2. Learn the basics of wedding photogrpahy
There are two routes to go with this point. Firstly, the self taught route. Buy wedding magazines and books on wedding photography and study them religiously. Get to know the types of shot people like and the scenes they prefer. Great ideas come from wedding magazines. If you want to cheat a little go to a wedding photographer and ask to see their work or look at it on the walls of their studio or shop. The second route is more difficult. Offer your services to a wedding photographer as an assistant. Once you are a wedding photographer you'll realise how invaluable and assistant can be. Here you'll learn many tricks and techniques and will pick up tips that you won't read about in books. The key here again is to learn wedding photography on the job.
3. Plan and practise
More preparation than any other area of photography needs to go into a wedding shoot and planning is essential. Your biggest hurdle is the transition from other genres of photography to wedding photography. When you actually do the shoot you should know every scene, lighting condition, location and sequence of shots. Some photographers go as far as preparing a shot sheet, a sketch of every shot at every location, so that they know one shot after the other and what is coming up next. Each camera setting is noted next to the shot. Maybe a bit overkill to some but the risk of failure is greatly reduced.
4. Dive into the deep end
Offer your services free to friends and family for all kinds of occasions as an unofficial photographer. If you're brave enough offer to do a wedding or ask permission to take photos in addition to the photographer they have engaged. Get the main photographer's permission and don't get in the way. What the experience will do is allow you to learn the best exposures, lighting conditions and using a flash on a regular basis. Nothing helps better than experience and this helps you with the transition to bigger things.
Wedding photography can be a really profitable business if your nerves can take the pressure. It is a very competitive form of photography and many offer cut throat prices. Don't aim at just average but rather work at acquiring unique skills that will set you apart from the others. The final product should be the deciding factor and not the person's wallet.
The bottom line with any type of photography is learning the skills and developing your abilities as a photographer. Learn more about photography and continue adding to your skills basket in becoming an accomplished wedding photographer.