As a young photographer these words no doubt left your lips numerous times when asked what kind of photographer you would like to be. Wedding photography has gotten a bad rep over the years but there are thousands of wedding photographers making a very good living and making it fashionable and edgy at the same time.
Gone are the days of the stiff poses and old style wedding albums. With some practice and a bit of imagination weddings can be the best way to learn some of the your most valuable skills as a photographer.
I began my career as an assistant and second shooter to a wedding photographer and this very quickly gave me a new found respect for this profession because as any photographer who has shot a wedding will know it aint easy.
Weddings by their very nature throw a lot of different challenges the photographer’s way and because of this wedding photographers need to be able to get the shot in any situation. There is no time for mistakes and a missed moment is gone forever. You have to be able to get the shot no matter what the situation and make no mistake you will be faced with many challenges be they lighting or dealing with irate brides (or their mothers) and it is, hopefully, a once in a lifetime event for the bride and groom so you have to be at the top of your game at all times.
Even if you don’t pursue wedding photography as your speciality it will teach you to shoot well under pressure, to think on your feet and above all to keep calm in the most trying of circumstances, all skills that will serve you well in other facets of your photographic career.
1.Get organised – I am not organised by nature but while working for a photographer that took organisation to a whole new level I reluctantly conceded that lists are my friends. There are so many things that you will need throughout the day and forgetting just one could throw the entire day off as time is not on your side as a wedding. So remember lists, lists, lists.
Here are the lists that I work with:
List of equipment needed for the day
A schedule for the wedding day so that you know when everything is happening
List of family photograph combinations so that no family member gets left out
List of names of the important people on the day
List of shots. Many photographers advise against this but if you are new to wedding photography it will keep you from forgetting important shots the bride and groom want. You don’t have to stick to it but it’s useful to have on hand as a guide since there is a lot to remember on the day.
2. Know your Equipment – If you are a beginner you will need to get to know your equipment inside and out before you attempt a wedding. The day the bride has been dreaming about since she was a little girl is no time to be winging it. You will need to shoot in lots of different types of light on a very tight schedule so make sure you are comfortable with your camera and getting the right exposure is already second nature.
3.Check your equipment and have a backup system – technology will fail you at some point and you don’t want to be a cameraless photographer on the day of the wedding. Having an assistant or second shooter will also help.
4.Get a helping hand – while it possible to shoot a wedding on your own it is not advisable (or pleasurable). Find a student photographer looking for experience to help carry equipment and hold reflectors etc. Even if they do not shoot for you just having a caddy will take a lot of pressure off you.
5.Ask the bride and groom what type of photography they are looking for – Every bride and groom have their own idea of what they want their wedding pictures to look like so I have found that by asking whether they would prefer journalistic style or posed photographs I get a better understanding of what they want even though I will give them a combination of both in the end. I also find that asking them to send me some reference shots helps in terms of style and posing. They also help if you have a bit of creative block on the day and can’t think of any ideas, you can always refer to them for inspiration.
6.Do a recce – If it’s possible always go to the venue with the bride and groom. This will allow you time with them to find spots at the venue where they would like photos taken and you can have a clear plan of where you will shoot on the day. If you can’t get to the venue then go to the venues website and look at where other photographers have taken their photographs. Also take not of the lighting at the times of day you will be shooting.
7.Set up a contract – It is very important that a thorough contract is signed for every wedding that you do to ensure the bride and groom understand exactly what they are getting. This may save you a lot of grief later on. This goes for favours you are doing for family and friends as well. Treat every wedding with professionalism and as if they are paying clients. Here are some sample wedding contracts that you can personalise.
8.Find good suppliers – you will have hopefully added some extras to your wedding package like coffee table books etc. Make sure that you have researched the cost of these thoroughly and learned the layout programmes as design errors can be costly mistakes and will eat into your profit.
9.Free add ons – Find ways to add value to your wedding packages that won’t cost you too much money and eat into your profit. Offering a photobooth is a great way to make the reception more fun while giving the client extra images that won’t cost you money. You could also use chalk boards for the guests to write special messages to the bride and groom. Here are some links to free photobooth props that you can download for free and your boost your level of service.
10.Back it up – I cannot stress this enough. Any photographer that has been working for a while has a horror story about losing files so BACK UP, BACK UP, BACK UP. Take a laptop with you to the wedding as well as an external hard drive and make sure that your assistant is downloading those memory cards to both your computer and to the external. Nothing will be worse for business than being the photographer who ruined the wedding day.
11.The devil in in the details – don’t forget to take photographs of all the little details that make that wedding unique. Bride’s (and maybe grooms) spend months planning their wedding and making it unforgettable so every detail that makes that wedding special will make for great images and the client will love that you captured all their hard work for them to enjoy afterwards. They also make for nice background and filler shots when laying out a coffee table book.
12.Making memories – if you are going to be designing a coffee table book for your client it’s always nice to ask them to keep small details from when they were planning the day, like sketches and hand written vows etc, as these make for great details to scan and add to the layout of the book. You can also add bible verses that are important to them and special messages written to them on the day.
13.Checking emotions – while you may be a bundle of nerves on the day you need to be the picture of calm as far as your clients are concerned. You will be spending the entire day with the bride and groom so you need to remember that even though you have a job to do you will need to also make sure they enjoy the day as well. Other than the final product you present them, how you got along with the clients on the day will be the thing they remember the most about you so make sure you are friendly and fun.
14.Finding emotion – even though you need to be feigning calm it is an emotional day for everyone else involved and showing this in your photographs is what will separate your images from the rest. When you are not dealing directly with the bride and groom step back and use a long lens. This will allow you to blend into the background so that the guests forget you are there. You can now capture natural moments while no-body is looking at you.
15.Streamline your workflow – Once you have successfully finished the shoot and finally get to sorting through the photographs, and there will no doubt be thousands of them, plan your workflow so that you don’t waste any unnecessary time on things and there is uniformity in style throughout all the images. Here is a useful link.
16.Deliver on time – processing wedding images does take time so ensure that the client is aware of when they will receive their images. Give yourself a little extra time as you never know what may happen but always make sure that you deliver within the time frame you have given. Brides will always be eager to see their pictures so don’t make them wait longer than they have to.