A few months ago, I was honoured to be asked to photograph a close friend’s wedding. My obvious thrill at being considered suitable for this job, soon gave way to nerves and dread about the implications of what was involved. I had never photographed a wedding before and didn’t know where to start!
To cut a long story short, it all worked out fine and I feel confident in saying I did a good job. I was really happy with the selection of photos from the day and more importantly, the bride and groom were too (the most important part of it all)!
So, if you ever find yourself in a similar position as me, here are my top 10 tips for photographing your first wedding – in no particular order!
- Get a professional camera body and lens/lenses.
I hired a Canon 5DMkIII along with a 2.8 70-200 and 2.8 24-70 lenses. Sure you can manage fine with a lesser set of equipment but the difference between these and my APS-C Canon and cheaper lenses was incredible. The low light/high ISO quality is a lifesaver and the zoom wide open at 200mm lets you get some great “wedding shots” with a nice blurry background.
- Find out EXACTLY what photos the bride and groom want.
Speak to them, make a list and make sure you get the shots they want. If you end the day with loads of arty shots of table decorations but none of a certain beloved family member, the whole album could be ruined. Don’t finish until you have the exact shots they want. Be flexible on the day and add to that list.
- Get an assistant.
Having someone to carry gear and remind you of what you should be doing is a great help. It’s easy to forget what you’re doing in the heat of the moment and a wingman can save you the embarassment of being the dickhead who left the lens cap on. Plus it’s a shoulder to cry on when it all gets too much…
- Visit the venue beforehand.
If you’re not used to thinking on your feet with regards to lighting and composition, it saves a headache being able to see where you’ll be taking the key photos and how best to set people up. It’s worth knowing where you can stand for good view points and locations for portraits. Knowing this will save you invaluable time on the day.
- Nail the group portraits.
These are probably the most important pictures to have from the whole day. Make sure you know who the bride and groom want to be in these and don’t stop until you have everyone you need. Be confident in directing people on where to stand/how to pose. Be prepared to be stressed. Keep calm. Get someone to help you gather the essential family member (either your assistant or a groomsman).
- Take more photos than you need.
Go overboard taking photos. Sure, you’ll have a sore trigger finger and lots of editing to do at the end of it but you guarantee capturing every moment.
- Over prepare.
Buy extra batteries for flashes. Buy extra memory cards. Read as much as you can before hand about posing people. Look at wedding blogs and magazines to see how other people do it. Learn how to use your flash. Practice taking photos of people in advance if you only ever take pictures of hills. Go above and beyond. You might not need to do all of this, but if you get to the day and don’t know what you’re doing, it won’t be fun.
- Practice talking to people and telling them what to do.
You need to find your voice for this kind of thing. Be confident in telling people where to stand or making small talk when you are setting up a shot. If you can make people relaxed they will take a better photo. Be prepared to shout when organising the big group shot. People at weddings need direction. Be brave and don’t hesitate. See if you can photo an event for practice before hand if needs be!
- Learn how to use Lightroom before you need to edit your pictures.
Once you’ve worked so hard to take the best pictures possible, you may as well process them as quickly as possible. If you don’t know how to do this efficiently, it will take you a long time to get the end product back to the happy couple. Get some software and practice in advance and develop a workflow which works for you.
- Make an album to showcase your work.
Even if you’re not producing prints for the happy couple, it’s always good to get some physical copies made to show off your hard work. If you have as much fun as I did, you might find yourself wanting to do more and it’s a great way to engage clients.