Wedding photography can be lucrative, fun, and a great way to show off your photography skills. Although the industry is filled with professional wedding photographers, you don’t need to be a pro to document the special occasion. This tutorial offers ten important steps that help ensure you’ll end the day with a great set of photographs – whether or not you’re a professional.
Get in touch with the happy couple to make sure you know exactly what they want from the day. They may want you to be around all day taking candid shots at the service and reception, or they may just require the formal family portraits. Try and agree on how formal they want the photos to be, whether it involves the whole party lining up outside the church or whether they’d prefer some more informal shots of just themselves at a chosen location.
If you are allowed, try to be there at every stage of the wedding, the bride getting ready and when the car arrives right up until they drive off into the distance. This will give you comprehensive coverage of all the events and a great selection of shots to choose from!
Make sure you know your boundaries. It can be the case that the vicar or registrar would prefer certain parts of the service not to be photographed as it can be distracting and you have to ensure that you know when you are and aren’t allowed to shoot. Also, ensure that your camera won’t be making any bleeping noises during the service!
It’s also good to know whether anyone else will be taking photographs or filming on the day, remember, it’s not a competition, try and work together and you’ll all get great results.
It is important to ensure that you get the shots that you’ve been asked to capture before you start getting too inventive. The role of the photographer is to preserve the essence of the day and to ensure that memories can be relived for years to come. They’ll want beautiful clear shots, not creative blurs. So make sure you are in the right place at the right time to capture all those perfect moments. Once you’ve got what you want from a certain setting (e.g. cutting of the cake) you are free to start being creative!
At a wedding, you are often surrounded by amazing architecture, decorated buildings and a church full of people looking their best. It would a shame not to make the most of this, so keep moving around each setting trying to find the best angles and viewpoints to capture the people and the structures around them.
Shoot in RAW. As there are a variety of venues, indoors and outdoors, you’ll need as much versatility in the shots as possible and with RAW, you’ll be able to ensure that the light is always right. It is important to make sure you have enough memory for all the photographs you want to take. If you feel your memory card isn’t big enough you can either get a second card, or take along a laptop to back up the photos as you go. You don’t want to be fiddling around with unwanted shots and missing ideal photographic opportunities.
I always find it easier to judge a shot on a computer screen, so don’t be too ruthless with deleting shots on the day. Often a shot which can look like a mistake may have captured something interesting.
The formal shots are likely be the most important photographs of the day, so it is great to ensure you get it right. Try to decide on two locations, your first choice being somewhere outdoors if it’s dry and a back up indoor option that preferably has a lot of natural light in case of rain. Make sure you’ve got your tripod and a list of the shots that are required, preferably detailing who is to be featured in each.
Employ a bridesmaid or best man to be in charge of ensuring that each shot has it’s full compliment of members and then it is up to you to ensure that you have everyone’s attention and that they are smiling! Don’t be afraid to tell people what to do, obviously it’s impossible to know everyone’s name, but they’ll soon get the idea when you start arranging them in the shot and getting them to look your way.
There is always the possibility that you’ll need to shoot indoors, either through preference of the couple or because of the weather. It’s important to be prepared for this. If you have any lighting equipment, take it along with you, even if it’s just a single light or reflective disc, it might make all the difference.
There may also be the requirement to use flash for the formal shots and it’s essential to get this right. We all know that too much flash can really spoil a shot, so get your hands on a flash diffuser and don’t over do it. If you have one, take a light meter, and always try a couple of test shots before you start racing through the formal photographs.
I find it best to take the formal shots of the couple first, they are likely to be in every formal shot and if you leave them until the end they’ll be tired of posing and it’ll feel far less natural.
For me, a wedding is all about the people. It is a special day for everyone involved and there will be a lot of laughing, smiling and relaxed, happy people. Try to mingle with the guests to look for good reportage shots; the best times for this are when people are waiting around or during the speeches. If possible, try to go unnoticed. People tend to react and pose when a camera is pointed at them, but if you keep your distance you’ll get some great natural shots. Have fun; you’ll get the better results if you and your subjects are relaxed!
Try not to switch off. It can be very tempting to make the most of the frivolities of the day, but don’t get carried away with free drinks and an abundance of people to chat to – you have a job to do! There are constantly great opportunities for informal shots, particularly in between the major parts of the day when people are more relaxed. Particularly good moments can be captured as the bride and groom are travelling between venues.
If you get the chance, offer the newly wedded bride and groom the chance to take 10 minutes away from the reception. This will be one of the first times that they’ll be alone together (albeit with you there) and can be a very special time. If possible, get them to walk hand in hand, giving you the chance to capture them whilst they’re not posing. Try a continuous shooting mode to capture every movement and shape they create whilst walking. There are also plenty of details such as the bouquet, rings and facial expressions to be focusing on.
From past experience, you shouldn’t need to do a huge amount of post-processing. The shots should be clean and colourful, and there’s no need to be playing around too much. Some may need small tweaks of colour and contrast, but remember, these aren’t art shots and if you’ve done your job on the day you won’t need to be making drastic edits.
If possible, it’s great to display some or all of your photographs at the reception, the simplest way being on a laptop or computer screen. If you’re really organised, it’s a great time to take orders for prints, but if not it’s just great for the wedding party and guests to have a quick look through.
It’s good etiquette to get the shots back to the couple or family as soon as you can. Agree on a format, either on a disc, upload to a photo hosting website or just the traditional prints in an album. They’ll be wanting to relive the day as soon as possible, so don’t keep them waiting!