Wedding photography is much like photojournalism, in that you are recording an event that will not take place again. You must be prepared and focused on capturing the images the couple and their families expect.
Many experienced wedding photographers will tell you that communication skills are nearly as important as photography skills if you expect to succeed as a wedding photographer. Make sure you schedule plenty of time to talk with the couple (and even family members), so there is no misunderstanding about what pictures they want and the process you use to provide them.
One of the most helpful tips for the wedding photographer is to be totally familiar with the location of the ceremony and the reception. Be sure to visit these locations during the same time periods that you will be shooting your client’s wedding, so you know exactly how the ambient light illuminates the space. You may also want to take a few test photos to determine the best positions for you and your camera. If possible, visit these locations during another wedding, especially if the photographer is experienced. You’ll gain a greater understanding of how and from where to shoot your client’s wedding. You’ll also know of any problems or obstacles in advance and have the opportunity to discuss alternatives with your clients.
Don’t rely on the couple to provide you with any photography restrictions of a church or reception venue. Contact the church; talk with the clergy that will perform the wedding. Know in advance whether you can use your flash during the ceremony and/or if you can stand behind the clergy to capture a close-up of the ring exchange or kiss. When you visit the location for the reception, discuss any rules with the venue manager. For total clarity, ask the church and reception hall to provide any rules/restrictions in writing.
A critical part of your communication with the couple is to create a shot list. Some wedding photographers will shoot only the photos on the list, while others will make sure they record the most important images the couple wants as well as shooting other photos that may increase the orders from the couple, family members and friends. Confirm the schedule for your shot list too. If the bride wants pictures of the final stages of her preparation, then be sure you know when and where this will occur, so you arrive early enough to include these shots. You’ll want to know when they plan to cut the cake, throw the garter, etc. Try to schedule some time during the reception when you and the couple can retreat to outdoor or other location to photograph just the two of them together, without being interrupting by family members and guests.
Because weddings are one-time events, you want double or triple equipment redundancy. Cameras, lens, flash units, etc. fail when they fail, but you don’t want your only flash unit failing at a critical moment. Pack at least two camera bodies, plenty of memory cards and batteries and extra cables.
A very helpful addition to any wedding shoot is an assistant. He or she could serve as an equipment carrier, gathering and organizing family members for group pictures or a second photographer. While you’re with the couple outside capturing romantic images, the assistant can continue capture images of family members and guests enjoying themselves at the reception.
Another important part of your pre-discussion with the couple is to establish some rules for family members and guests who may also want to take pictures. It’s not unusual for a crowd to gather prior to the cake cutting, for example, with everyone eager to shoot a photo. Ask the couple to help you inform everyone that the couple (or their families) is paying you to photograph the wedding. Make sure they understand that you will give them ample time to take pictures too, but only after you’ve captured the shots the couple expect.
One of the reasons to have plenty of memory cards is that it’s best to shoot in RAW mode, so you have complete control and options for editing the images.
Finally, if you are new to wedding photography, then be absolutely sure you are fully knowledgeable of all the camera, lens and lighting techniques. Every paying job IS a learning experience, but not of basic skills. Nothing will ruin your reputation and future success as a wedding photographer than showing everyone you are unprepared.
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This how to photography article presents some ideas and tips to make wedding photography less of a hassle for the photographer (especially beginners), the couple and their guests, and a memorable and enjoyable event for everyone.
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Photograph by: Sidney Araujo's