Mummy says….So, you’re pretty handy with a camera. You wouldn’t dream of using it on Auto, and you know your way around Lightroom, or whichever editing software you prefer. Unfortunately, word has got out and you’ve ended up being asked to bring your camera EVERYWHERE. Christenings, birthday parties,
BBQs… You are quite happy snapping away until….someone loses their event photographer and asks
you to step in at their wedding…
Assuming you’re confident in your manual photography and post-production skills, it might be tempting to
say yes. You’re just helping someone out – what’s the worst that could happen?
To be blunt; a lot. The fact is that you cannot be a photographer and be present as a guest at the same time, so at the very least, you’ll be missing out on participating in your friends’ wedding. Capturing a wedding is also really, really tricky. It requires a fine balance between traditional photography and photojournalism, and your success will hinge on your ability to flick effortlessly between the two. There’s a reason that most professionals bring a second shooter! You’re also putting your friendship on the line if you mess up. Even if your friends are chilled, their family might not be so understanding if you miss a crucial shot. Still think you can handle it?
Here are 20 Tips for Photographing a Wedding:
1. Be crystal clear about your inexperience. Tell the couple, and tell them again. Make sure you all have compatible expectations, from how long you’ll be working on the day to the number of photos you’ll produce and when they can expect the edited versions. Remember: under-promise and over-deliver.
2. Ideally, visit the venue (with your camera) before the main event to familiarise yourself with the lighting and layout, and start thinking of ideas for shot locations. Take some practice pictures.
3. Is your own equipment good enough, or will you have to rent different gear and learn how to use it? If you don’t already have them, you’ll probably want to get your hands on an external flash and 50mm f/1.8. lens to manage the lighting and help you catch every moment.
4. Ask the couple for a picture list – but make sure they keep it short and sweet. Its purpose is to help you capture the most important family groups and key moments on camera, not to have your day dictated frame-by- frame.
5. Create your own additional shot list to help you come up with ideas on the day. Flick through professional portfolios (like Bridal Light Photography) Once they send a finalised version, flick through some wedding albums to add your own ideas.
6. Are they having a rehearsal? If so, be there. Get to know key members of the bridal party and family, and see if you can appoint a “wrangler” to help you get people together when you need photos on the big day. Look for a busybody aunt or boisterous sister who knows everyone and will be pleased to get involved! 7. Before the ceremony, find out the order of the day. Know where and when key moments are going to take place, from the bride’s entrance to the cutting of the cake.
8. Stock up on memory cards and batteries. You can never have too many, and you WILL run out of
space and charge.
9. In fact, bring multiples of everything you can’t shoot without. Spare chargers, a spare shot list, even
a backup camera.
10. Clarify with the bride and groom when the best time for you to take a break will be. It’s usually during dinner, but the couple will know when you’re least likely to miss any action. You should be provided food, but double check and bring snacks just in case.
On the day:
11. Aim to build rapport with the bridal party and close family – being able to put them at ease will lead to much more comfortable, natural shots.
12. Take LOTS of pictures.
13. Look out for the details, like rings, shoes, flowers and centrepieces. A lot of thought probably went into choosing them, and those pictures will help to capture the mood of the day.
14. You need to be on high-speed shooting during the ceremony – especially for the kiss.
15. Don’t be afraid to be assertive when staging your traditional photos. Tell people where to stand, how to pose, and when to focus.
16. Remember; photographing people with food is one thing, but pictures of them actually eating?
Don’t do it.
17. Once the music starts, look out for happy couples and particularly good dancers for some atmospheric photos. Don’t worry too much about the general crowd – you’ll probably find many of the shots look the same.
18. Befriend the DJ. Offer to take a few great shots of him working in exchange a nod in your direction
when he’s about to make an announcement or put on a special song. Remember to send him his pictures after the wedding.
19. Are the newlyweds planning a special exit? Ask if they could do a “mock exit”, so you can photograph them leaving the venue while well-wishers throw confetti (or their birdseed / confetti equivalent). It will look much better than at the end of the night when everyone will be drunk, tear- stained and clutching their stilettos.
20. As soon as possible (including during the event if you can), backup all of your images, preferably
with versions uploaded to the cloud. DO NOT RELY ON YOUR CARDS. You should have two copies of
the RAW files; one which you edit, and the original which you don’t touch. Keep both versions for a
Have you ever been asked to take photos at a wedding or other important event? I would love to hear how you got on.