For any art form, you only improve with practise. Looking back at my photographs from 14 years ago, they were definitely beginner but I still love them so much, because all of those portraits are of my best friend who was in the same college program with me.
We practised in the studio together, testing lighting and shadows cast by various positions of the lighting equipment. I've learned so much from college, and especially from that time in the studio. Shadows are beautiful and manual focus can give you some amazing results, also exposing those prints in the dark room, to as light or as dark as you wish, it's an experience every photographer should be exposed to. Pardon the pun.
The weddings I shot 14 years ago, I was only 18. I was hesitant, unsure of my abilities as a photographer, but truly, I just needed more experience and to actually know my camera.
Diving into wedding photography, that's one ambitious goal. One I stumbled upon by sheer dumb luck as I was at a fashion show and a photographer decided to just hire me, without even seeing my portfolio. I didn't really have one yet anyway.
Here I was downtown Toronto shooting a Chinese wedding, not tiny by any measure. I was using his equipment I knew nothing about, just being thrown into it, sink or swim. And I didn't feel like I was swimming. After each wedding, he sat with me and we went over the photos together, he gave me a lot of valuable advice as to how to improve. Though, the equipment was still his, something I couldn't bring home and practise with.
Each time, I felt like a third wheel on a date, not knowing where to stand or what to do, and at the end of the night, my body was just aches and pains, and my belly was in need of twenty cheeseburgers. One giant lesson I walked away with from all this was to feed and take care of my wedding photographers when I was tying the knot. I treated those people like welcomed guests. But I had never shot another wedding since that very long and nerve-wracking wedding season.
Confidence comes with knowledge and experience, and for any photographer, it is important to just simply take pictures every day, of anything. Play with props, play with low light and adjust your ISO manually, turn your autofocus off, and focus manually. Have fun! Never stop learning. Also, don't take the job if you know deep within, you are not ready. That's what I would have said to my 18 year old self, but she was eager, curious, and perhaps too over ambitious, so would she have listened to me anyway?
It truly is best to start small, to make small goals, because they are way more fulfilling when you achieve them. And who knows? Maybe some day I may do a wedding again, but for now, I'll focus manually, pacing myself and enjoying the small achievements... :)