I’m often asked questions like “How did you get started?” and “I’ve booked my first wedding – help! What do I do now?” If you have a decent camera and can use it, sooner or later you will be asked to photograph a friends wedding.
You will probably hear the words “Will you take some pictures at my wedding”? Beware of misunderstandings or intentional simplification. Read between the lines and do a bit of research before agreeing to undertake the said duties. A good non-committal response is “Let’s set a date to discuss your wedding further and I’ll think about it.”
- What does my friend really mean by “some pictures”
- What will the bride’s mum want?
- How will I feel watching all my friends knocking back the Champagne and Canapés whilst I sip orange juice and grapple with the groups?
- Will the happy couple want an album of pictures, loose prints, files on disk or something else entirely?
- How many pictures are needed?
- How many hours on the day am I likely to be taking pictures?
- How many days will the post production of the pictures take me?
- Do I have all the equipment required to do the job properly?
- Am I available to do it?
- Do I want to do it? If not, am I strong enough to say no?
Once you have completed this initial research you are ready to answer the original question. If you have said yes “I’ll do it” or if you are likely to be asked then read on…
Photographing a wedding can be fun and if done well it may lead on to a lucrative career or a useful income on the side. There are several hoops to jump through first so here is a crash course to get you going…
Julie, my wife and I started photographing weddings back in 1998 and since then we have shot over 350 high end weddings all over Europe. A string of top awards and international recognition has led to our Lovegrove brand being a big name in the industry.
Tip: There are over 15,000 pictures available to view at our wedding site www.lovegroveweddings.com this is a good place to go for inspiration and ideas because you can see every picture we took at about 40 top weddings.
Get to grips with the logistics of the wedding day itself. It may be an advantage to rope in a friend to be a driver and bag carrier. Sit down with the couple and go through the timings of the day meticulously. Expand the time plan to include notes about the pictures you are going to shoot. ‘Start with the end in mind.’ This phrase applies to everything you do from planning the wedding day shoot itself to your choice of equipment. If your ‘client’ wants an album of 50 pictures then jot down the number of ‘keepers needed at each stage of the day and aim to not wildly overshoot. It is much better to get 5 great pictures of the guys getting ready at home rather than 50 snaps of the same scene. Julie and I work on a 6 to 1 ratio of pictures taken to pictures chosen by our client. So if your client wants an album of 50 prints try to keep the day’s shoot to about 300 frames. The image quality in each picture really does matter. The quality of expression, framing, composition, exposure, focus and timing are all important. Allow yourself plenty of time in the day’s plan to be creative. Recce your shoot locations and measure the journey times between them. Enter the location data in your sat nav if you have one. Plan your shooting approach with reference to the time of day and direction of the sun. Have a wet weather plan too. If group pictures need to be taken indoors plan your lighting set up. It is important to know how many people you have in each of your groups at the recce.
Group list aside, it is imperative that you get a few core ‘formal’ pictures on the day even if the bride is casual about the photography. Formal doesn’t have to be stiff and boring. You can have fun with these pictures too but don’t mess them up because mums and dads will expect them:
- Full-length portrait of the groom in his attire with buttonhole (if he has one)
- Shot of the groom with his best man.
- Full length portraits of the bride – front and back (showing the back of the dress with an over the shoulder look perhaps)
- Bride with her bridesmaids
- Bride and groom full length
- Bride and groom head and shoulders
- Full length shot of the bride and groom with attendants
- Parents and siblings with the bride and groom (one shot for each family)
Discuss photographic style with your ‘client’. Take the couple to a local park or location and do a mini photo shoot using the style you want to work with. If the shoot goes well and they like your pictures you have a great base to build on. If there is an air of disappointment when they see the pictures give them an easy way out by suggesting they book a professional. It is far better to find out any incompatibility before the wedding. There are couples that hate having their picture taken and others who look great but don’t like pictures of themselves. These couples are best avoided. If in doubt do yourself a favour, take a step back and suggest they book a professional. You won’t regret the decision and they will respect your advice.
“The photographer sees the picture, the lens makes the image and the camera records it”. This foundation truth must be held in mind when choosing kit. Any current £400+ DSLR is more than capable of recording wedding images. Julie and I used to shoot weddings on 3.2 megapixel Fuji S1’s back in 2001. The camera was fine for the task so my advice is to concentrate your resources on the glass. Consider hiring professional lenses for the wedding day shoot. I suggest coverage from 17mm through to 200mm at f2.8 is ideal. Three lenses should do it. You will also need a good dedicated flashgun, a tripod or a monopod and a spare camera kit. If you have faster lenses then these will be an advantage in a dark church.
The wedding day
Assuming the ‘Pre Wedding Shoot’ has gone well here is a guide to what to expect at the wedding ceremony.
Civil ceremonies: Unless you are unlucky enough to have the wedding in Wiltshire you will be allowed to take pictures during the ceremony. You will have to be discreet and abide by the rules laid down by the registrar. In London and Scotland we have found the officiators to be the most relaxed about photography during the ceremony allowing you the freedom to move around and use flash. In Wiltshire there is absolutely no photography allowed in civil ceremonies what so ever. You will still be told you can’t photograph the register wherever you are, although we usually manage to get candid shots during the signing using a long lens and picking our moments when the registrar is distracted.
Church weddings: It’s up to the vicar or priest what you can and can’t do. Start at the back of the church to get shots of the bride arriving and the start of the procession (usually the bride and her father). Aim to go to the front of the church on the right hand side (facing the bride) during the first hymn and get ready for the vows. Then during a hymn go to the back to get your wide shots. The signing of the register is often followed by the procession down the isle. There are ceremonies that have a blessing at the high alter between the two events giving you time to prepare. Check the order of service.
Keep the post production time to a minimum by shooting RAW files and use a complete software solution like Adobe Lightroom at the download stage. In very little time you can download, sort and adjust your images whilst still maintaining the integrity of the original captures. Back up your files at the earliest possible opportunity. Process the raw files to TIFFs or JPGs as required.
The end product
You can deliver your pictures in many different ways. Prints are still popular and easy to produce. Online labs like www.photobox.co.uk produce good quality real photographic prints from digital files at a fraction of the cost of home produced ink jet prints. Photographic albums take time to plan and usually cost a lot of money so these elements need to be factored in from the start. You can of course deliver your work on CD or DVD at very little cost. One last option to consider is the instant bound book. Many companies now host online design and ordering software for book making. www.sim2000.com is one of them. The books are usually printed using digital offset machines and stitched into hard covers. You can incorporate text into your designs and duplicates can be ordered with a click.
If like me, you are caught by the bug and want to take wedding photography to the next level, get yourself a copy of my book ‘The Complete Guide to Professional Wedding Photography’ at www.lovegroveconsulting.com
Please feel free to comment on your experiences or my advice.
If you found this helpful, you may also like to read How to Fish for Brides ~ Without Advertising and How to pose couples ~ A photo guide by Damien Lovegrove