One of the easiest ways to learn anything is to just do it. When you make mistakes you learn from them. When it comes to wedding photography you really don’t want to make many mistakes. Hopefully by the end of this article I will have provided you enough quality information for you to take better photos at your next wedding.
Wedding photography is unlike most types of photography in that you only have one chance to capture a shot, there’s no retakes once a shot is gone you will never be able to recapture that moment. So if you want a happy bride and groom, less stress and more money in your bank account then keep on reading because these handy tips will save your butt when it comes to shooting weddings.
1. Create a shot list
If you’re just starting out then a shot list is vital. Having a shot list will allow you to make sure that no shots have been missed. If you start shooting weddings on a regular basis then chances are that you won’t need a shot list after a while but I believe it’s always handy to have one as backup. Some of the shots I recommend taking include:
- The wedding dress hanging up/leaning over a chair
- The brides dress getting done up
- Brides garter
- Bride getting hair done/looking in the mirror
- Bride/bridesmaids having makeup artist
- Groom tying his tie
- Groom hugging parents
- Parents/best man straitening grooms tie
- Bride and father arriving at ceremony
- Family members being seated
- Bridesmaids walking down the aisle
- Groom waiting/checking his watch
- Groom seeing bride for the first time
- Bride before making her entrance
- Father and bride walking down the aisle
- The back of the father and bride walking down the aisle (if you have a second photographer)
- Close up of bride and groom exchanging vows
- Close up of the rings going onto hands
- The first kiss as married couple
- Walking up the aisle as a married couple
- Bride and groom outside the location
- Family throwing confetti at bride and groom
After the ceremony you will usually get a chance to get the bride and groom along with the bridesmaids and groomsmen to pose for some photos. I said usually because I have shot wedding where couples didn’t want these types of shots. You will find the majority of couples expect these photos however and personally these types of photos I enjoy taking. Here is a shot list of some of the posed photos you should take.
- Full length bride shot
- Bride and maid of honour (3/4 and full length shots)
- The bride with all of the bridesmaids
- The bride and her parents
- Groom with parents
- Bride and groom
- Bride and groom with each set of parents
- Groom with his best man
- Groom with bridesmaids
- Bride with groomsmen
- Bride and groom with bridesmaids
- Bride and groom with groomsmen
- Bride, groom, bridesmaids and groomsmen
One tip I would give you when shooting big groups is that you have to take control. One of the first weddings I ever shot I had people not paying any attention to me and looking in different directions. When I realised this I quickly took control and specifically asked everyone behind me with their digital cameras to stop taking photographs until I had taken mine and then I would hold the group together for a few seconds so everyone with their digital cameras could come in and take their photos. It worked and I had no problem with people looking in the wrong direction.
Another tip I would give you is to ask everyone to first look at your camera and then close their eyes. Then ask them to open their eyes on the count of 3. When they open their eyes ask them to find your camera lens with their eyes as quickly as possible. I would then recommend taking a burst of shots. This will help minimise the chance of anyone having their eyes closed.
One final tip when dealing with group shots is to say “can everyone see the camera”, then follow that line with “if you can’t see the camera it can’t see you”. This will make sure no one’s head is being covered by another guests.
Once you have moved past taking the group shots you will want to start taking photos at the wedding reception. The following is a shot list I would recommend capturing:
- The outside of the reception site
- Candid photos of guests outside the reception
- The bride and groom arriving at the reception
- The bride and groom laughing and joking with guests
- Inside of the reception before guests arrive
- Little details on the table such as patterns or decorations
- Guests names on cards at table
- The wedding cake (multiple shots and angles)
- The first dance
- Parents dancing
- Cutting of the cake
- The throwing of the bouquet
- Bride and groom leaving
Having a set list will help you make sure that you don’t miss a thing, however don’t rely on them too much as you may miss some spontaneous shots. I would also recommend sending the set list to the bride and groom before hand to see if there are any additional shots they would like.
2. Having the right equipment
Now I’m sure the best photographers in the world could produce stunning images with point and shoot digital cameras, however unfortunately I’m not the best photographer in the world and have no shame in admitting it. I do however book more than enough weddings every year to earn a living from it. Having the right equipment will make your job as a wedding photographer much easier.
Wedding photography can be expensive to get into, however you can pay off your initial investment and turn a profit by just shooting one or two weddings.
I recommend at least two camera bodies and at least two lenses at a minimum. The reason for this is that in a wedding setting you don’t have any time to change lenses. So for this reason I recommend using camera lenses that cover a wide range of focal lengths. If you’re a Canon photographer I recommend the following two lenses as must haves:
Canon 24-70mm f2.8 Luxury Lens (Medium Range Lens)
Canon 70-200mm f2.8 II IS Lens (Telephoto Lens)
You may also want a lens such as the Canon 17-40mm F4 L lens for wide angled group shots.
If you’re a Nikon or Sony photographer then look out for similar lenses.
3. Use Flash
Now when your outdoors there may be a temptation just to use natural lighting and there’s nothing wrong with this at all. However simply adding a little flash will do wonders for your images. Having a flash to give a little fill light will give you nice catch lights in the eyes and will get rid of any nasty shadows cast on the face from sunlight.
Once again if you’re a canon shooter I would recommend owning at least 2-3 flashes with wireless triggers. The following flashes are what I use at weddings:
Canon 430 EX II Speedlite
Canon 580 EX II Speedlite
I also wouldn’t leave my home without a Gary Fong diffuser. This little accessory attaches to the top of your flash gun and makes the light less harsh, giving your images a much softer and natural feel.
4. Stick to the bride like glue
OK perhaps not like glue but you get the idea. Where ever the bride goes you must follow her and keep eyes on her at all times. Now you may be thinking what about the groom, the truth is you want to include the groom as much as possible but in reality all eyes are on the Bride. People want to see her hair, her flowers, her makeup and anything else you can imagine. The bride is the centre of the attention on her wedding day so make sure your photos reflect it.
5. Make sure you have backups
Thankfully I have never had any of my equipment fail on me, however if it did I have equipment ready to back it up. For this reason I carry two camera bodies, 3-4 lenses, multiple batteries, multiple memory cards and 3 Speedlites.
If something did go wrong you wouldn’t want to be in a position where you couldn’t shoot the wedding. Be prepared and you will do fine.
I believe it takes a special type of person to become a wedding photographer as wedding photography isn’t for the faint of heart. Wedding photography can be stressful but I believe if you’re prepared then you can take a lot of the stress out of the situation.
Things will go wrong when you’re shooting a wedding. If you stay calm and composed however there is no reason as to why you can’t handle any situation thrown at you.
Most importantly enjoy the experience. Quite often guests and family members will take care of a photographer who has been respectful and courteous. I personally love the pressure put on me to get good shots in a wedding and I think because of this my wedding photography work improves each and every time I photograph different weddings.