Tips for aspiring wedding photographers
I get a lot of emails from people wanting to assist or intern with me, so I thought I would write a little something about how to photograph a wedding. I also have another guide on how to become a photographer here
A wedding is often the biggest single event in many people’s lives, so the job of the wedding photographer is a huge responsibility. Long after the flowers have died and people’s memories have faded, your photographs will remain. They will be passed down through families and cherished. It is a huge privilege and I feel honoured to be chosen to capture such a big day in people’s lives. It is with this in mind that I try to make every wedding I photograph better than the last.
Here are some tips, in no particular order:
1. Be prepared. Make sure you have as many details as you can about what the couple want. Always have a shotlist and itinerary printed. As well as maps of how to get to all the locations. Give one of the ushers a copy of the formals list, so they can help round up all the people who you don’t know. Try and reccy your locations first, if possible, so you can find all the best spots and have a plan in your head of where you will be posing people.
2. Put the shooting mode to continuous and just keep your finger on the trigger. This may sound a bit reckless, but if you are photographing a group shot with 10 family members it is quite normal for some of them to be either blinking or just pulling strange faces.
3. In dark churches use a high ISO, instead of on-camera flash. If the pictures are noisy, just convert them to Black and White. Grainy black and white shots are a lot more romantic than harsh flash.
4. Try and allocate 20-40 minutes alone with the couple in a nice location, preferably outside. For me these shots are the most important of the day. I wouldn’t spend longer than 40 minutes on them, as you don’t want to be hogging the couple on their big day.
5. Try using off camera flash as much as you can. Lighting from behind is really interesting and bold. You will need a light stand with a clamp to do this.
6. Always give yourself much more time than you think to get to the wedding. I imagine being late for a wedding to be the most stressful thing ever!
7. Use a long lens to get lots of candid shots, showing people laughing, crying, etc, especially during the speeches.
8. Always try and capture the personality of your subject, rather than getting them to do cliched poses. I often say to couples to just be themselves, or “do what you feel” when posing for shots, this often results in the most interesting and sincere expressions.
9. Try and get your angles right. For example, when shooting a bald guy, try not to shoot from above. When shooting a larger sized person, try to shoot from above. Try not to shoot up at women.
10. Wedding Photographers should always have 2 cameras. This has 2 advantages. Firstly, you don’t have time to change lenses, so with 2 cameras you can have a wide lens on one and a long lens on the other. Secondly, the fact that this could be the biggest day of someone’s life means that you need to have a plan B, should the worst happen. My second shooters camera broke at a wedding, so I gave her my spare. Without that we would have been in trouble!
11. Network with other wedding photographers. If you get an enquiry that you cannot do then send it to a colleague and one day they will return the favour. Also, this allows you to have people on standby, should the worst happen and you have to cancel a job, due to illness, etc.
12. It’s quite unfortunate for your light meter that of the 2 main people at a wedding, one is usually wearing black and the other bright white. But try not to burn out the highlight’s on the bride’s dress.
13. Try and get good shots of children. It is rare that they are dressed smartly and their parents will love getting nice shots of them.
14. Make sure you have spare batteries for your cameras and flashes and more memory cards than you think you will need.
15. Keep yourself well nourished. Photographing a wedding is both physically and mentally demanding. Drink lots of water and have snacks. Wear good shoes.
16. Have fun. Weddings are happy occasions and most people are up for being photographed. Try and make people laugh and introduce an easygoing attitude, then people will photograph much better.