Have you ever been asked to take photos for a wedding? For some, wedding photography is a casual affair. Take a point-and-shoot camera, then snap away when the opportunity arises. For others, it’s a serious, full-fledged business.
Wedding photos are a challenge to take, simply because of the flurry of activities that go on and the wide variety of lighting conditions that may occur. This article will serve as a beginner’s guide to wedding photography, and delve into various tips and tricks used by the pros out there.
The diagram below shows the 5 key tips which we’ll cover in this article.
One of the most critical elements in being a successful wedding photographer is preparation. You absolutely need to prepare ahead (at least 2 months’ ahead) of time. Get to know the bride and the groom, understand their needs and wants. Some good questions to ask are:
- How many photographers will there be?
- What type of photos would they like? Mostly formal group portraits? Or mostly candid shots of the couple?
- How many guests will there be at the wedding? Are they mostly family members or friends?
- Which locations will be used at the wedding? A church? Will there be a reception or a dinner?
Asking pertinent questions like these will help you understand the requirements for the wedding photos and thereby take better shots.
2. Locations, Events and Times
Once you’ve understood what the wedding locations, events and times are, find some time to go scout around those places.
For a church wedding, I usually like to go inside the church to check out the lighting, décor and environment. I try to find the correct places to position myself so I don’t mess up during the wedding day. Do take note that some churches do not allow flash photography during the wedding ceremony.
You will need to make sure you’re equipped with the correct accessories like tripods or fast lenses, depending on the wedding environment.
It’s also important to check out places like the reception area, or the podium where the speech will be made. If there will be a wedding dance, then check out the dance floor and the seating arrangement if possible.
3. Organize Your Gear
This is a critical step. I usually prepare 1 month ahead of the wedding date just to be sure I have time to get any equipment I’ve missed out. Here’s a list of critical equipment to bring for the wedding day shoot:
- Digital camera: This one is obvious. It’s good to have a backup analog camera as well, just in case.
- Camera lenses and filters: Take along any special lenses or filters you want to use.
- Tripod: Another critical piece of equipment, important for indoor shots under low light.
- Memory cards: Bring at least three 32 GB cards. I’m not kidding – you won’t believe how many shots you’ll take during a wedding, especially if you shoot a lot in RAW mode.
- Portable drive: This is critical in case you run out of space on those memory cards. I like to run with a small handy unit such as those from Western Digital.
- Assistant: Try to bring along an assistant. It could be a friend or a help at the wedding. He or she can help you arrange the group before you take photos, taking a lot of stress off you.
4. On the Wedding Day
Ok, let’s assume the actual wedding day, has arrived. Here’s a typical sequence of events to help guide you on the wedding photography process.
At the House
If you’re taking shots of the bride getting ready, please be early. In fact, you should be one of the earliest to arrive so that you can set up your positions, tripods or whatever equipment you need to use.
At the Church
Once you’re at the church, find out where the priest will be standing. Position yourself in an appropriate position. Some critical locations where wedding photos must be taken include the entrance to church, the aisle and the place where the couple will stand.
And here’s another tip – it’s important not to get too excited about your shots so early on the wedding day. Remember, you have a long day for taking photos. I once did a wedding where I snapped so many photos at the church entrance, I nearly ran out of memory card space by the time the couple exchanged vows!
If there happens to be a church reception, make sure you’re out to the reception area faster than the rest of the guests, and perch yourself in the correct position. Receptions are a good time to capture candid and fun shots, so knock yourself out.
Formal Group Shots
If there are any formal group shots to be taken, be sure your assistant is there to help you. Try to start with the big groups, then slowly remove family members so that you can get the various combinations of family and friends required.
5. Cleaning up
What do you do after shooting the wedding photos? Well, plenty! You need to do some basic photo touch up, such as editing and removing red eye, cropping and rotating. You also need to burn the photos into CDs and DVDs, (usually in a slideshow format). If you’re in the wedding photography business, you should know that you cannot delay this step. Try to get the CD or DVD final package out to the happy couple as soon as you can.
Wrapping Up …
Whew! That’s a lot of information about wedding photography.
Do remember that while wedding photos are challenging to take, they can be very rewarding. Especially when you see the couple smiling and reminiscing about how wonderful their wedding day was.
Try to keep the above tips in mind the next time you’re shooting wedding photos. Who knows, one day you may open your own wedding photography business too!