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I heard some good advice not long ago from one person to another who was thinking about doing some wedding pics for a friend… “In a word, keep away from Weddings unless you are a fully competent Professional Wedding Photographer.”
You normally only get one chance to do the photographs, and if you don’t mind the pressure of actually taking charge of the shoot and the wrath of the Bride if things go wrong or you produce a pile of rubbish, (as you really cant go far wrong with digital) you will get some pictures. Whether the pictures are any good remains to be seen (composition, artistic, wow factor, etc)
However, if you’re a reasonably competent photographer, one day one of your friends will want you to take photo’s at their wedding. So you’re going into the deep end. When you do the wedding, make sure you have fun yourself too, it will reflect in your photos. Here’s a quick 18 points to think about.
1. Create a ‘Shot List’
One of the most helpful tips I’ve been given about Wedding Photography is to get the couple to think ahead about the shots that they’d like you to capture on the day and compile a list so that you can check them off. This is particularly helpful in the family shots. There’s nothing worse than getting the photos back and realizing you didn’t photograph the happy couple with grandma!
Get a copy of the wedding list, make the shot list and get the bride to go over it. I would recommend doing further research on the shot list.
2. The Coordinator
You DO NOT want the bride trying to get everyone ready to take photo’s. You’ll need someone to do the organizing, maybe two people who can gather people. You’ll need to work with the shot list here. . Get the couple to nominate a family member (or one for each side of the family) who can be the ‘director’ of the shoot. They can round everyone up, help get them in the shot and keep things moving so that the couple can get back to the party.
3. Scout the Location
Visit the locations of the different places that you’ll be shooting before the big day. While I’m sure most Pros don’t do this – I find it really helpful to know where we’re going, have an idea of a few positions for shots and to know how the light might come into play. On one or two weddings I even visited locations with the couples and took a few test shots (these made nice ‘engagement photos’).
4. In Wedding Photography Preparation is Key
So much can go wrong on the day – so you need to be well prepared. Have a backup plan (in case of bad weather), have batteries charged, memory cards blank, think about routes and time to get to places and get an itinerary of the full day so you know what’s happening next. If you can, attend the rehearsal of the ceremony where you’ll gather a lot of great information about possible positions to shoot from, the lighting, the order of the ceremony etc
5. Set expectations with the Couple
Show them your work/style. Find out what they are wanting to achieve, how many shots they want, what key things they want to be recorded, how the shots will be used (print etc). If you’re charging them for the event, make sure you have the agreement of price in place up front.
6. Shoot the small details
Photograph rings, backs of dresses, shoes, flowers, table settings, menus etc – these help give the end album an extra dimension. Flick through a wedding magazine in a news stand for a little inspiration.
7. Consider Your Backgrounds
One of the challenges of weddings is that there are often people going everywhere – including the backgrounds of your shots. Particularly with the formal shots scope out the area where they’ll be taken ahead of time looking for good backgrounds. Ideally you’ll be wanting uncluttered areas and shaded spots out of direct sunlight where there’s unlikely to be a wandering great aunt wander into the back of the shot. Read more on getting backgrounds right.
8. Change Your Perspective
Get a little creative with your shots. While the majority of the images in the end album will probably be fairly ‘normal’ or formal poses – make sure you mix things up a little by taking shots from down low, up high, at wide angles etc.
9. Fill Flash
When shooting outside after a ceremony or during the posed shots you’ll probably want to keep your flash attached to give a little fill in flash. I tend to dial it back a little (a stop or two) so that shots are not blown out – but particularly in backlit or midday shooting conditions where there can be a lot of shadow, fill in flash is a must.
10. Use Two Cameras
Beg, borrow, hire or steal an extra camera for the day – set it up with a different lens. I try to shoot with one wide angle lens (great for candid shots and in tight spaces (particularly before the ceremony in the preparation stage of the day) and one longer lens (it can be handy to have something as large as 200mm if you can get your hands on one – I use a 70-200mm).
12. Consider a Second Wedding Photographer
Having a second backup photographer can be a great strategy. It means less moving around during ceremony and speeches, allows for one to capture the formal shots and the other to get candid shots. It also takes a little pressure off you being ‘the one’ to have to get every shot!
13. Be Bold but Not Obtrusive
Timidity won’t get you ‘the shot’ – sometimes you need to be bold to capture a moment. However timing is everything and thinking ahead to get in the right position for key moments are important so as not to disrupt the event. In a ceremony I try to move around at least 4-5 times but try to time this to coincide with songs, sermons or longer readings. During the formal shots be bold, know what you want and ask for it from the couple and their party. You’re driving the show at this point of the day and need to keep things moving.
14. Learn how to Use Diffused Light
The ability to bounce a flash or to diffuse it is key. You’ll find that in many churches that light is very low. If you’re allowed to use a flash (and some churches don’t allow it) think about whether bouncing the flash will work (remember if you bounce off a colored surface it will add a colored cast to the picture) or whether you might want to buy a flash diffuser to soften the light. If you can’t use a flash you’ll need to either use a fast lens at wide apertures and/or bump up the ISO. A lens with image stabilization might also help.
15. Shoot in RAW (RAW + Jpeg if possible)
shooting in RAW mode will give you much more flexibility to manipulate shots after taking them. Weddings can present photographers with tricky lighting which result in the need to manipulate exposure and white balance after the fact – RAW will help with this considerably.
If you’re not shooting in RAW mode, or don’t soot RAW because you don’t know how to manipulate the files, then learn or don’t do the wedding.
If you have the option to shoot in RAW + Jpeg, then do so. The reason is that you have the option to put up a few photos on a monitor for showing the guests. Don’t display too much at the wedding though and don’t display any bad photos such as those that aren’t focused properly.
16. Don’t Delete Photo’s At the Wedding
The temptation with digital is to check images as you go and to delete those that don’t work immediately. The problem with this is that you might just be getting rid of some of the more interesting and useable images. Keep in mind that images can be cropped or manipulated later to give you some more arty/abstract looking shots that can add real interest to the end album.
17. Wedding Group Shots
One thing that I’ve done at every wedding that I’ve photographed is attempt to photograph everyone who is in attendance in the one shot. The way I’ve done this is to arrange for a place that I can get up high above everyone straight after the ceremony. This might mean getting tall ladder, using a balcony or even climbing on a roof. The beauty of getting up high is that you get everyone’s face in it and can fit a lot of people in the one shot. The key is to be able to get everyone to the place you want them to stand quickly and to be ready to get the shot without having everyone stand around for too long. I found the best way to get everyone to the spot is to get the bride and groom there and to have a couple of helpers to herd everyone in that direction.
18. Just Be Ready
It may seem obvious, but the amount of times I’ve seen photographers not ready to take a shot is mind blowing. When they think nothings happening, and indeed probably isn’t, they will put the camera away. The potential to miss a photo now will be very high. A particular look from the bride or fleeting moment lost. Have the camera ready, know how much battery is in your camera and know how many shots are let on the card.
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