Almost 10 years ago, I photographed my first wedding. It was a small affair and the snow came down during the outdoor photos. I had only been to one wedding before in my life and had only picked up a camera a few months beforehand. Needless to say I was not charging! However, after that first wedding I was off and running. I only ever assisted at one wedding and then just learned as much as I could from online tutorials, etc. Believe me, I could have done with all the wedding photography tips I could get.
It all went a bit crazy and I was shooting 50 plus weddings a year both in the UK and internationally. I was featured on the BBC on their prime time, magazine show and won a few awards. As I write this, I have just shot wedding number 289! Weddings are amazing, crazy days and nothing is ever the same. However there are some things that are constant. I could have written the 99 steps but thought that 12 was a good number. In this article, there are some tips that I don’t think are often mentioned. I hope this helps.
1 – Never put your camera down, switch it off or even put your lens caps back on. Things change so fast and you never know when something is going to happen and you need to be ready to capture the action. That amazing award-winning shot could happen any second! I keep my bag close to hand with both bodies switched on and with 2 different focal length lenses. I also have my other lenses in the bag with the caps off and ready to be changed. Of course put the caps back on later and clean your lenses.
2 – Dress like you are attending a wedding. This is not only good manners for the bride and groom but will help you to blend in and get a great range of natural images. If you dress like the staff at the venue, you will be treated as such. By dressing like a guest, I feel much more accepted into the day.
3 – Shoot in Raw or at least RAW plus JPEG. I know there are endless arguments about RAW and JPEG but at a wedding, it just makes sense to me. The environments at a wedding change so quickly that its sometime hard to keep up. I often find myself changing from a super dark church into the bright outdoors (while walking backwards). If I forget to change my settings as I walk through the doorway, I have at least more chance to recover anything later.
4 – To capture natural moments in a photo-journalistic style, shoot in Aperture Priority when outdoors and use Manual indoors. Changing conditions outdoors make it very tricky to adjust manually as well as capturing those magic moments.
5 – Look after yourself! Make sure you get plenty of sleep and drink loads of water. The night before, have a meal that includes complex carbohydrates such as rice or pasta. Try and drink water during the wedding (my biggest failing at a wedding) and have snack bars on hand. You never know when you will get chance to eat.
6 – Have a detailed plan of your day. Speak with your bride and groom beforehand and make sure you know all the timings of the key elements of the day. Ensure that you have full addresses if there are different locations and put them into your SatNav before the wedding for quick selection throughout the day.
7 – Don’t get wrapped up in the moment, record it. It’s very easy to laugh at the speeches or enjoy the magician. But make sure you record the reactions of the guests. These are the images your couple will love. I have worked with assistants who I have seen enjoying the entertainment and missing so many great reactions.
8 – Ensure you know what formal group images your bride and groom want in advance. This will not only prevent any upset following the wedding but help to forecast how much time you need to allow for them.
9 – Remember you can’t come back tomorrow! We simply can’t have a “bad day at the office”. It can be exhausting photographing a wedding but you have to push through and photograph everything you see and what happens. You can always cull the images but you cannot return to get the shots you missed!
10 – photograph the details. This is the area that I personally have to push myself to do. I find it hard to tear myself away from the hugs, kisses and interaction of guests to go and shoot the table settings, the room and any other items. These are however very important as the bride and groom will have spent a long time deciding on the style of their wedding and the elements contribute to the overall look. This includes the food by the way! The food is super expensive and I always photograph every course. If I am not having the same, I steal the best man’s for 2 minutes.
11 – Plan your couple shots! Even if I know the venue, I will arrive early and walk through where I will photograph the couple later in the day. I do this on the day as things have a habit of changing from the previous time I was there. I typically choose up to 5 different locations with different backgrounds, light, etc. Timing often means I only get to use only 3 but at least I have enough. This means the couple of shots are smooth and you are not looking for locations while with the bride and groom.
12 – GET THE KISS!!!! Assuming there is one (Roman Catholic weddings don’t for instance) Watch and wait and you can normally tell when its going to happen. They can often be very quick as the couple can be a bit nervous. For many, this is when they feel this is the moment they are actually married. Switch to continuous and shoot as many as you can. They often kiss twice so you may have a second chance.
13 – Don’t forget the boys! It’s very easy to photograph a stunning bride in a stunning dress in a stunning location but all too often, the groom is left with a stiff image of him shaking the best man’s hand! Personally, I wait until after the first dance when all the stressful parts of the day are done and take the groom and the men of the bridal party and do a ‘cool’ or ‘GQ’ shot. I try and find somewhere that suits their style. I look for a library or something that looks great. I get the boys a whiskey or similar and try to make them look cool. This is not always easy at the end of the day but the guys really appreciate it!
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