Before you can really understand how our tips will help your wedding photography, you have to understand what makes photographing a wedding ceremony and wedding reception challenges.
Wedding photography is different from other genres of photography because you only have one chance to get the images right. Weddings typically only last one day — the wedding day! That means there’s very little room for error on the part of the photographer. You have to make sure that you’re ready to shoot at a moment’s notice.
The bride, groom, their families and friends may be stressed, so it’s also key that you maintain a positive, easy-going attitude.
Like many other event photographers, you’ll want to make sure you prepare a wedding photography contract in advance for the wedding party to sign. Having an established agreement upfront eliminates the possibility for disagreements down the line. This agreement should include the total number of deliverables your clients will receive after the shoot is over.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to shoot wedding photography? That is exactly what this photography for beginners post is all about! I’m super excited to share this with you, a full overview, behind the scenes, what goes on, the fun stuff, the stressful stuff, what needs to be prepared and basically just a really awesome summary of the whole day, start to end.
Wedding is a serious matter, the real deal and you don’t get any second chances. That’s why you need to be prepared, organised and know your stuff!
So, let’s set the scene: you booked the wedding a year ago, regularly communicated with the couple throughout the year, had a pre-wedding meeting to go through the timeline of the day and all other details (I’ll go through this in detail in another post), and now the time has come, tomorrow is the wedding day!
People often ask me if I ‘do weddings’. That’s a funny question for a photographer. Perhaps like asking a chef if he ‘does chicken’. I’m a photographer, and I have the ability to photograph anything. Do I base my business solely around weddings? No. Can I do them? Certainly! And I love it.
I’ve never taken a class on how to photograph weddings or read a book on the topic. I have my own way, my own style and my own rules and my clients are happy with me so I must be doing something right!
As a woman, I really feel at an advantage in the world of wedding photography. Firstly, I can capture the excitement of the bride getting ready in a way a man can’t because, let’s face it, most brides don’t want a man hanging around while they’re getting dressed.
I have also been a bride, and I see things in a vastly different way than a man ever could. Having started as a makeup artist, I’ve been involved in many weddings and have watched many-a-photographer sit and drink or flirt with the bridesmaids while precious moments are slipping by un-photographed (like the mom fitting her daughter’s veil).
Here are some of the best wedding photography tips to help you succeed in taking the best wedding ceremony and family photos at your next event.
Assist a Professional
You should know the dos and don’ts of wedding photography before shooting any weddings. Learning the basics from a veteran photographer will help you avoid common mistakes.
Try reaching out to a professional wedding photographer before you start your own wedding photography business. They may allow you to shadow them at weddings they’ve booked, or pick their brain for advice.
You can gain hands-on experience while working alongside a seasoned professional that you can apply to other, later shoots. Some of the tips you learn may not be new to you, depending on your photography skills. But, it’s always helpful to see how other professionals in your fieldwork to achieve the best results.
Test Your Camera in Advance
You should check all your gadgets to make sure they’re working properly before you leave to take great wedding photos.
You’ll likely want to bring a tripod with you to use at the wedding ceremony, in addition to several camera lenses and external flashes. If the wedding you’re photographing takes place indoors, you may also need other lighting equipment. For outdoor ceremonies, you can likely get by with a bounce rather than cumbersome lights.
It’s a good idea to err on the side of caution and bring more equipment than you think you’ll need. Pack several spare batteries and memory cards, so you don’t miss anything from drinks at cocktail hour to fun-filled dancing on the dance floor.
When the bride is preparing in the morning, don’t get in the way and ask for smiles or stage the dressing. Just be on your toes and try to anticipate what’s next.
Are her hair and makeup finished? She will probably be getting into her dress next. Is she in her dress? Get yourself to the bottom of the stairs to shoot her coming down. There is no time to relax if you’re the photographer!
If allowed, wander around the house or hotel room and snap photos which can be used to fill in spaces in the album to create a sense of ambience and location. I always snap the makeup brushes, dresses hanging up, important things around the home.
If you’re at the bride’s family home, there will be loads of memorable things around the house to photograph—family photos around the home, her childhood bedroom.
Spend a couple of minutes alone with the dress, the shoes, the flowers, etc. to take meaningful photographs without anxious people rushing you. There should be plenty of time while you’re there.
But when you’ve got what you need, remember to leave in time to photograph guests arriving at the ceremony and the groom as he waits for his bride.
Don’t be shy in front of the audience. Obviously, use a zoom lens, so you’re not hip-to-hip with the priest but be strong and bold and remember that you have a license to be there! You were hired, and everyone knows that so don’t worry about moving around and shooting from behind the priest if it’s appropriate.
Pack Sufficient Accessories
As a professional photographer, making excuses for your failures doesn’t look good. So bring all of your accessories you’ll need to take great wedding photos. If you can, bring a laptop to manage the backup of your photos in real-time. This will help you avoid potential significant technological mishaps down the road, including losing photo data.
Photograph with a Partner
You can’t carry all your photography accessories alone. You’ll likely need a helping hand to take the best wedding photography images you can. You may also need another professional photographer to assist in managing lights, taking test shots and capturing scenes you’d otherwise miss. You can’t be everywhere at once!
Ask a wedding photographer to become your assistant in exchange for being their second in command at their next event. This trade is a smart way to stay on budget and get help from an experienced wedding photographer.
Remember the Others
When I first started weddings, my clients were friends, so I generally knew one side of the family better than the other. It was entirely subconscious, but I realised that in the ceremony, I was gravitating to the people I knew and leaving the others out.
Find out who is family and make sure to get some images of them as well.
This part is (still) the hardest for me. There are two times I have to throw my weight around: after the ceremony and during the family set. I usually take the bride and groom away to a location for 30 minutes of shooting privately, and this can be difficult as the guests often form a spontaneous receiving line and kidnap the couple.
Know who is driving you there and make it happen. The bride and groom have told you what they want, and although they are often distracted away from their plan on the day, they will thank you after you make their original plan happen.
For the formal portraits, it can take a precise military operation to execute such an endeavour, and this bit still makes my palms sweat! People are anxious to get to the food and dancing, and I’m the only thing stopping them! Have a list arranged ahead of time of the specific groups the couple wants other than the usual his-family-her-family, him-and-his-guys, her-and-her-girls, etc.
The most important part in making this happen is to have your bossy go-to person who knows everyone (perhaps one of his groomsmen?) to announce all of the family and bridal party to step outside and then have him announce the groups you are needing. You can literally take each shot within 30 seconds if you can gather them and get them to engage with you all at once. Not as simple as it sounds, but it can be done. I just ask everyone to look at me and smile and then take about ten shots at once. You can use the PhotoShop group merge function to grab all the smiling faces and put them into one photo if necessary.
Pre-Plan the Shoot
Planning your shoot is just as important as the shoot itself. Make some extra time for this part of your wedding photography preparations.
You’ll want to schedule a time to take multiple photos of the bride and groom in different locations. The couple will follow your instructions and defer to your professional judgment, but they may also have their own ideas for photo ops.
How you decide to pose the couple in the photos is up to you. We recommend showing your clients a manual of poses as you plan the shoot together. Let them choose the poses they want for their wedding photos, and then add them into the contract you both sign.
Depending on how comfortable your clients are in front of the camera, you may have to provide extra instruction to capture the best shot. That’s why it’s so important to be patient with the newlyweds. The more you can help them feel comfortable, the more they’ll enjoy the experience.
And remember, word of mouth advertising is essential for growing a photography business. A patient photographer is one of your clients will recommend!
Capture the Firsts
Couples want to remember every minute of their big day, especially the milestone first moments. These monumental firsts include the couple’s first kiss, first dance and first look. Your clients may even be planning their own, nontraditional “first moments,” so it’s important to ask them about any special moments they want to be photographed.
Plan time for these first moments, and make sure that you’ve set up in advance to capture the best shot. These milestones are quick, so you have to be prepared ahead of time.
The best strategy for ensuring that your first-moment images come out well is to set your camera with a high shutter speed so you can take multiple, quick photos without delay. That way, in post-processing, you’ll have a series of images from which you can choose the best one.
Try to get different angles of these first moments, too! For example, if the couple plans a grand entrance, try setting up multiple cameras with a remote shutter to capture the entrance from multiple points of view.
True story: I once saw a big, sweaty, poorly dressed wedding photographer hawk back a loogie and SPIT on the ground during formal portraits. Absolutely disgraceful!
It can be easy to fall into the fun of a wedding, and obviously, you won’t be any good if you’re uptight and not having fun. Still, if you get too lax and begin socialising, you will miss important moments, and you’re basically at work so remember to be professional.
I would even bring my own snack to eat on the sly when you get a chance – I would never accept an invitation to take part in the buffet. Remember that people are watching you and a huge percentage of them are either looking for a wedding photographer or know someone who is so professional at all times.
That’s a lot of advice for beginners! Hopefully, this article has helped you think about or plan your next wedding photography shoot. Are you a seasoned wedding photographer? Share in the comments what advice you have for newcomers looking to make a name for themselves in the wedding photography industry. Your experiences can help others along the way!
We hope you find this little background to give you some useful insight into who we are so you can feel more confident that we will be teaching you great things as you read on to find out our wedding photography tips for beginners!