If you have been following all my other blogs, which have been well received, this one is done with amateurs in mind, helping them develop their skills, either to carry on as an amateur, hobbyist or turning professional.
Shooting a wedding for the first time, is well to say a little daunting well this is an understatement. Whatever shots you take are going to be kept for years by the happy couple and seen by hundreds so you need to get them right. Every wedding you will shoot will differ from the last. So you need to be prepared for changing light conditions, people, background and the good old weather, to name a few. Hopefully this guide will give you a little insight to shooting a wedding. Including gear to use, settings, shots to take, what settings to use, and what situations to expect.
Well the first thing, and most obvious thing is a decent camera. It doesn’t have to be all singing all dancing but it does need to be a decent one, preferably a DSLR with interchangeable lenses. It needs to look the part. Ideally if you can also a second ‘back up’ camera. The last thing you need is to shoot a couple’s big day and your camera decides it’s had enough and won’t take anymore and you can’t fix it. A camera that will take two memory cards is ideal as it backs ups all the images at the same time as you take them. This saves times when creating a backup back at the studio, but also acts as a safety backup in case you have a corrupt file or image during the shoot, it will allow you to carry on shooting with no harm done.
The lenses you use or require will largely depend on what cameras and gear you have invested in. If you are using a 2 camera set up then ideally I would use would be a 18-70mm f2.8 on one and a 70-200mm f2.8 on the other. This should give you the range of shooting you will should need.
You could also use a tripod for the potential low light movement situations of the Bride walking in and down the aisle. Personally I don’t anymore but this is advice to others. Another vital piece of equipment is a speed light flash. This will allow you to take pictures at darker times like at the reception or as a fill in flash outside perhaps when slightly in the shade. Also maybe a diffuser for when you are shooting in sunlight. This will help with reducing overblown images from shooting your subjects in direct sunlight.
Of course to carry all this around you are going to need a bag. Only you can decide on what bag is best for you, but remember you will potentially be carrying it for 12 hours so it needs to be comfortable.
If you have not shot a wedding before, this will seem insignificant to you. However, shooting the Bride and Groom getting into the wedding attire along with their bridesmaids, groomsman and ushers to me as a professional helps make the day. Photos that aren’t normally seen by others. Quite often it creates and produces some good and funny times. Moments with the Bride being helped in her dress by her bridesmaids, a quiet moment shared with a Bride and her Mother. Truly special times the couple will look back on and thank you for. The happy couple are at their best, calming and relaxed before the occasion and hopefully themselves.
When you first arrive and before you start photographing the couple, grab photos of the room if your able were they are eating, it its dressed. It all adds to the day. Phots of the cake if its set up. Important shots are the rings in their box or on a cushion or even an arrangement on a reflective table, be creative. Take pictures of anything they have customised such as wine glasses, hangers with people’s names. As well as the normal things shoes, dress, bridesmaids dress all bouquets any jewellery and include the garter. Remember the small details matter it’s normally the things brides remember but others forget.
As the morning progresses once you have finished with the detail photos, make sure you capture the people. The Bride with her Bridesmaids having a laugh and giggle, maybe opening a bottle of fizz. Candid photos are normally great and quite often some of the best photos you take are candid, people being themselves and completely unaware. Makeup and hair photos are a must it all adds to their day. After the candid shots capture a few posed ones Bride with Bridesmaids, Groom with Groomsmen and mix it up with a few different families and family members. A few very important photos to take is the Bride being zipped or buttoned in her dress, If the Brides’ Father is giving her away, be prepared for when he enters the room and sees his Daughter standing there the look on his face is a must. Sometimes at this point is can be useful to have a second photographer. As Bride and Groom may want photos leaving two different address or use your assistant to get to the Registry office or church to capture their arrival.
The most important part here IS ARRIVING BEFORE THEM. Groom ideally arrives first. Great pics here are him and his Groomsman chatting and having a laugh. Remember the atmosphere of the day, the enjoyment. Grab a quick few posed shots with them.
When the Bride arrives you need to be ready for that moment again this is important things that are forgotten in the moment but will be looked upon after. The Groom should be inside at this point awaiting the arrival. Now is the point to catch her smiles, the jokes and laughter and the tears and the emotion she will have with whoever gives her away, her Bridesmaids and her Mum. Grab them for a few posed ones with the car, you won’t get another chance. These photos are what the clients will look for when they receive their beautiful images, stay vigilant do not put your camera down. Exchanging the rings, the vows and the first kiss all a priority so don’t miss it. Waiting patiently for these moments is key you need to be ready. Ready to focus your mind and camera YOU DO NOT GET ANOTHER CHANCE. After the kiss you have the signing of the register so be ready. You now need to catch the happy couple leave down the aisle. Fill the frame with the couple use their guests either side as a frame. Once outside the family shots can commence. If you’ve done your homework you will already have looked around for some nice gardens or an area for some lovely photos of the newlyweds. Remember when the couple photos are done to include members of the family, mix it up a little plenty of choices and options for producing great photos. Maybe changing the lens to a wide angle at the end for a large group photo.
Reception shots are very much like the preparation shots at the start. Photograph everything from the cake, flowers on the top table, bows on the back of the chairs, table decorations and favours, It all goes to add to the story of the day.
Personally for me I like to walk around the room as the guests enter picking of tables as they fill and taking the table shots then, but this is all down to you and how you feel and approach it, but be aware that some people do not like having their photos taken so don’t intrude on their personal space. Use a zoom or telephoto lens and you can do it from a distance without upsetting too many people.
It’s at this point that you will probably have to use you trusty speed light that you’ve bought with you..most reception halls are just too dark to rely on natural light alone. The most important shots to concentrate on at this stage will be the Bride and Groom entering the room, concentrate if possible a bit on the looks of their facial expressions. The cake cutting, Bride and Grooms first Dance and Bride and Fathers dance. Personally I also go round the tables again after getting photos of families together. Always a good idea and money spinner as you can upsell images to families who don’t normally have a photo together when out.
In conclusion then, remember always meet with the clients beforehand take notes on the photos they want and ensure you take them. Carry two cameras preferably with two cards in each and definitely spare cards and batteries. One with a small telephoto and one with zoom lens and not forgetting a speed light very important.