How To Photograph A Wedding

Spring is here, which means wedding season should start heating up along with the weather. Although things haven’t quite returned to “normal” yet, we should certainly start to see an increase in weddings compared to last year. All that pent up demand from lovebirds around the world presents the perfect opportunity for a photographer to add wedding shoots to their repertoire. But since photographing a wedding for the first time can be daunting, here are five tips to help that first wedding shoot be less terrifying and more successful.

Shoot Your First Wedding At A Discount

With the understanding from the bride and groom that they’re going to get a deal because you’re still learning, you’ll feel much less stressed out and not so worried about screwing up. Soon enough you’ll see success and every new assignment will get easier and better. Especially during this era of smaller weddings and ceremonies held outdoors, finding a willing couple ready to give you a shot becomes less of a challenge. Plus, outdoor weddings often offer better lighting than indoor weddings and a much more photogenic environment than the basement of the local bowling alley.

Fake It Until You Make It

One of the most valuable skills for a wedding photographer is confidence. But how can you be confident when shooting your first wedding? You’ve got to fake it until that confidence is real. Easier said than done, right? To maximize your confidence and comfort level, try reigning in your expectations and your shot list. Don’t try to do too much! Instead of an ambitious editorial style portrait session between ceremony and reception, keep it simple. Manage the bride and groom’s expectations, too, by keeping the shot list tight and the setups minimal. It’s important at this point that you don’t overwhelm yourself and take the necessary steps ahead of time to help you stay calm, cool and collected on the big day.

Bring Backups

There’s an old saying that two is one and one is none. It’s all about the importance of redundancies. If you have one camera and it breaks, you can’t do your job. So at a bare minimum you’ll need to bring two. And not just two cameras—you’ll also need spare lenses, batteries, storage media and lights. Any equipment that you’ll need, you’ll need to bring a backup. It’s what professionals do, and it’s what will separate you from the hobbyists. Because it’s not a question of “if” something will go wrong, but “when.” While we’re thinking about equipment, make sure your kit includes sharp, fast lenses. A zoom is convenient for sure, but a fast prime is hard to beat for image quality and speed. Whatever you bring, make sure you’re comfortable with the camera and lenses you’re using, too, and make sure you understand their controls ahead of time. Your first wedding is no time to try to learn on the job.

Rely On Natural Light As Much As Possible

Not only is the ambient aesthetic popular, but our equipment also makes working with available light easier than ever. With a modern mirrorless camera or DSLR, high ISOs are no problem—so shooting at ISO 6400 at wide apertures produces low noise and beautiful bokeh, which just so happens to be a combination that looks great in a wedding album. While we’re on the subject of light, look for edges and transitions—areas where a brightly illuminated subject in the foreground can be set off against a dark, shadowed background. And vice versa. Take advantage of a bride’s white wedding gown or a groom’s dark tuxedo to make graphic images complemented by light and dark backgrounds as well. 

Recruit Some Help

Not only can it be beneficial for you to bring an experienced second shooter to ensure good coverage of the wedding on your customer’s behalf, but you can also have a built-in support system for the times when things get stressful or overwhelming. That might even be as simple as asking a friend or spouse to accompany you as an assistant. Better still, try being a second shooter for a more experienced wedding photographer before you shoot your first wedding so that you can learn by doing without all the pressure. The best approach of all, however, may be to find someone to turn to as a mentor ahead of time. An experienced wedding photographer can tell you what to expect, offer advice and feedback and even tell you what to watch out for at a particular venue. Best not to try to reinvent the wheel, so why not stand on the shoulders of those experienced photographers who have come before? Trade that knowledge for your own hard work, and offer assistance or second shooting to a wedding photographer from whom you can learn.

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