Being a hired wedding photographer for the first time can be a nerve-wracking experience. A couple’s life-long memories will be captured forever in an album showcasing your handy work - mistakes would stand out like a sore thumb! But fear not, we’ve got 14 tips to help you tackle the day and become the wedding photographer you were destined to be.
1. Set expectations with the couple
They may be family friends who know you own a DLSR, or you may be filling in for a pro who’s fallen ill, either way it’s important that you clarify with the couple where your strengths are, and that you probably won’t be able to produce an album of the breadth and quality of someone who’s been in the industry for decades.
Once that is clear, you’ll be in a great position to meet their photographic expectation and hopefully even surprise them.
2. Scout the location
People have wedding receptions in all kinds of places. From churches to fields, country houses to roof-top balconies overlooking a city, you’ve got to know where the light is coming from, where the hazards are for your gear, and where you’ll get a great shot. One tip would be to scout wedding photographers’ online portfolios that feature the location you’ll be shooting; you could be browsing for only a couple minutes before having an ‘aha!’ moment.
3. Bring multiples of everything
Batteries, SD-cards and even a second camera. You don’t want the battery to hit 0% just before the first dance! And imagine setting up a perfect portrait of the couple only for your memory card to decide it has no available space. Bring spares, even consider a spare you (in the form of an assistant, someone to carry bags or take snaps while you focus on the bride and groom).
4. Know the day’s schedule
Every couple likes to add a little personalisation to the day and do something out of the ordinary. Whether it’s the groom dancing up the aisle to music or the couple wanting their 5 giant pet dogs to be in the shot list, if you’re aware of the plan then you can be in the right place at the right time to anticipate where the extra effort needs to be.
5. Be prepared for rain
It’s not necessarily the end of the world if it rains, especially if you’re prepared. Bring a couple of umbrellas – one for your camera and one for the bride. Imagine how much of a hero you’ll be if you hand the bride a white umbrella that ends up creating an incredibly memorable shot!
6. Create your own ‘Ultimate Wedding Photographer Shot List’
One of the worst things a wedding photography dreads is a queue stretching far into the distance of people wanting their picture taken by a professional photographer, and then to have different combinations of people in different shots. To counter that, make it clear to the couple ahead of the big day that you’ll stick to a strict shot list.
When putting the list together with the couple, it’s best to go in order of importance: the couple, the couple’s immediate family, closest friends and then draw the line somewhere before a distant cousin’s best friend’s dog-walker, unless the guest list is only a dozen people, in which case, the more the merrier!
7. Picture the small things
Rings, menus, flowers, napkin holders, place settings, the back of the wedding dress. These are the photographs that give another side to the wedding album. It’ll evoke memories of picking colours ahead of the big day rather than simply being a book of faces.
8. Be there but not there
When you first sit down with the couple to determine what kind of photography they are expecting, quite often you’ll be tasked with taking natural photographs. This will involve darting around the guests and taking pictures of them without them knowing, otherwise it’ll come across as forced or posed.
9. Shoot in RAW
Shooting in RAW produces higher quality images because no information is compressed, meaning plenty can be extracted later to produce excellent photographs. If you shoot straight to JPEG, you use less space on you memory card but you’ll allow your camera to auto-compress, meaning you’re not left with much to work with after the shoot.
10. Wedding group shots
It’s nice after the ceremony to get everyone involved to herd together for a single giant group shot. But how do you fit everyone in? Go high. If you’re pointing down you’ll photograph everybody’s faces. It’s not uncommon to see a wedding photographer climb a tree, a roof, or navigate their way through a 17th century chateau to hang out the attic window, it’ll be worth the shot.
11. Fill Flash
The sun can only do so much! If ambient light is emanating from behind your subject then a fill flash with offer you the solution to the dark silhouettes. By removing dark shadows you reveal more detail, that might sound simple enough, but it’s worth reading this guide on how to use fill flash.
12. Continuous Shooting Mode
This can be the wedding photographer’s secret weapon, as sometimes the best shot can come as people are relaxing their face after a pose. As long as you’ve got plenty of light then the images should be sharp.
13. Expect the Unexpected
You never know what will happen, every wedding has it’s unique event that sticks in everybody’s memory. Be prepared to take a shot in any situation, half of your quick snaps might be blurry and unusable, but if you can get one phenomenal photograph it could make the whole album.
14. Have Fun
It’s a wedding, and you’re (hopefully) being paid to be there, if you enjoy yourself people will be more relaxed around you which can lead to better pictures.
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