Being asked to take digital photography of your friend’s wedding can be a tricky situation. You’re a friend, a guest, and are also expected to provide a service like the caterer and florist. If you’re a professional, with plenty of wedding photography experience, then you probably know how to walk that fine line. If you’re an amateur, then, at first, you may be disappointed that your friend is asking you to work at his or her wedding. A better approach is to consider your friend’s request as an opportunity to practice your general photography skills as well to learn more about shooting weddings specifically.
The professional knows that any wedding may be the source of future jobs. The amateur may discover an aptitude for shooting weddings that becomes the first step toward starting a digital photography business. Whether you’re a professional or amateur, shooting a friend’s wedding can also be your gift to the newlyweds.
Probably the trickiest part of this situation is to find a way to take the pictures the couple expects, as a vendor, and also enjoy the celebration, as a guest. The following tips may help.
Put whatever “arrangement” you have with your friend on paper, and in detail. Even if you’re charging your friend nothing, what you will deliver should still be in writing, just as a professional photographer would have a contract with a wedding client. Meet with your friend and plan the photos for each part of the wedding, so there are no misunderstandings. Those are bad enough between vendor and client, but even worse between friends.
You want to dress as a guest, but you must also be able to take the agreed-upon pictures, and that will require freedom of movement. Choose what you wear carefully, especially women. Tight dresses and/or other restrictive apparel and accessories will make it more difficult for you to position yourself correctly to capture those one-time-only digital photos. Plan to be dressed well in advance of the bride, so you can take pictures of her preparations. If you’re a female friend of the bride, then ask to join her hair and makeup “party.” You can receive the same treatment and take a few photos. Those will be special because you have an insider’s access and such pictures are not typically part of a professional’s package.
As any professional knows, the secret to shooting the best pictures of the wedding ceremony is positioning. Not only do you have to be in the right place at the right time, but also you must be waiting obtrusively nearby, so you can take just a few steps to be in position for those important images: father and bride walking toward the alter, newly-married couple walking down the aisle and others.
During your planning session with your friend, ask for a seat in the first few rows and at the interior end of the row (for two if you’re bring a spouse or date). You can easily step into the aisle for that shot of the bride and father and then slip into various positions around the alter to shoot photos of the ceremony. You’ll have the best seat in the house!
Most of the “required” photos at the reception—cutting the cake, tossing bouquet, etc.—take only a few minutes each, giving you plenty of time to enjoy the party as a guest. It’s best, however, to arrive at the reception early. Now, this may be a bit tricky if you must shoot the couple leaving the church (the “rice” shot) and in their car. They will leave for the reception before you do! Again, when planning the photography with your friend, ask that he or she doesn’t go directly to the reception; take a longer drive, so you have time to arrive ahead of them.
As a guest, you will have a place reserved for you at a table. You’ll be able to enjoy yourself most of the time and occasionally wander about the room for a few minutes with your camera to take photos of the other guests. Capturing pictures of the bride and groom dancing and the bride dancing with her father only takes minutes too.
Many receptions transform into a late-night party for the friends of the same age of the bride and groom. You deserve to be a part of that fun, so while planning the pictures with your friend, make it clear when your job as a photographer will end and your role as a party pal begins. It’s also best to put your camera in a safe place before the revelry starts. Consider using an inexpensive point-and-shoot camera to take a few digital images of the late-night activities. Again, those are photos that most professionals never take.
These tips should help you find that middle ground, so you can deliver the photos the couple can cherish forever as well as being part of those memories, as a guest and friend.