Your first wedding shoot will definitely be an exciting experience, but you’ll probably be a little nervous, too. In this collection of wedding photography tips you’ll find our advice for producing fantastic images while avoiding some common pitfalls along the way.
Wedding photography tips: 01 Don’t underestimate the task
It’s only a matter of time before someone asks you to shoot their wedding. While your first inclination may be to jump on the offer, you should really take the time to determine whether or not you’re up to the task.
Shooting a wedding is a big job and requires a certain level of skill and equipment.
Your friends and family may think that you’re capable because you have a nicer camera than they do, but you’re the only one who really knows if you can handle it. Don’t be afraid to decline the offer if you’re unsure of your skills.
A nice alternative would be to offer to take some extra shots to add to what the professional takes. Think of it as a good opportunity to work on your skills.
Wedding photography tips: 02 Agree your service and price
Even if you are shooting a wedding as a favour, you still need to determine what the bride and groom will get and how much it will cost to produce it.
Your goal should be to curate a look with your images, so if the couple wants you to hand over every image that you capture simply explain to them how important the process of image selection and compilation really is.
Decide on an appropriate number of photos that the bride and groom will receive.
If you are being paid for the job, you’ll also want to account for all the post-wedding processing activities. Oftentimes these tasks take much longer than the shoot itself.
Wedding photography tips: 03 Meet the bride and groom
Meeting with the bride and groom prior to the wedding is a must. Find out what kinds of images they want, and don’t hesitate to let them know if you are unable to provide them with a certain style or look – their wedding is not the place for you to venture into unknown territory.
If you can, bring some wedding photos with you so the bride and groom can get ideas for what they want.
You’ll also want to make a list of all the family and friends they want photographed and decide how to compose any group shots. It’s a good idea to establish beforehand a couple of wedding attendees who can help you gather people for the group shots when the time comes.
You’ll want these people’s contact details so everything can be figured out before the big day.
Wedding photography tips: 04 List the shots
Once you’ve met with the bride and groom, write down all the shots you need to take. Include details such as who will be included in the shot and its location.
Don’t forget to make note of the main events you need to capture, such as the bride’s arrival, signing the register, leaving the church, the first dance, cutting the cake etc.
Remember the people you designated to help you on the wedding day? They’ll need copies of the group-shot list too, so print off a few extra.
Wedding photography tips: 05 Research the venue
This one is definitely a must. Ideally you’ll check out the venue at the same time of day that the wedding will be so you’ll know where the sun will be positioned in the sky.
Also figure out the best spot for shooting the couple and the groups. This should be a location that is suitable in both good and bad weather.
You definitely want to choose a good background for your shots, but don’t sacrifice lighting for it. Bright sunlight will only cause people to squint, so try to find a shaded area if you’re shooting outdoors.
The light will be softer and more forgiving, and you can even add just a bit of sparkle by using your fill-in flash.
Wedding photography tips: 06 Double-up on kit
The bride and groom’s wedding day is perhaps one of the most important days of their lives. Undoubtedly, they will have put in months of preparation to ensure everything goes as planned and you don’t want to kink things up with a jammed camera or a dropped lens.
Your job as their photographer is to keep shooting no matter what, so come prepared with two camera bodies (preferably both the same so the switch goes smoothly) and two of each lens – or at least a good overlap in focal length.
Having two camera bodies handy is also useful because you can two different focal lengths mounted at once, allowing you to switch quickly between the two instead of having to go through the process of mounting and unmounting your optics.
Don’t have two sets of your kit? Maybe a friend can lend you theirs or perhaps you could hire what you need. It’s not as expensive as you think to hire a professional kit for a day or two.
Wedding photography tips: 07 Clean, charge, format
Hopefully it seems obvious to you that your kit needs to be in prime condition before the wedding. Make sure your sensor is clean and your lenses are spotless. Batteries should be charged (along with a few spares) and memory cards formatted to ensure you can take as many shots as possible.
Wedding photography tips: 08 Shoot raw format
Because raw files contain much more data than JPEGs, you can extract significantly more detail from over- or under-exposed areas. You will also have a lot more control over colour and white balance.
You may want to shoot a few JPEGs successively just so you can quickly share them if need be, but you should always be shoot raw files too.
SEE MORE: What is a raw file in photography?
Wedding photography tips: 09 Expose with care
Exposing the wedding couple can be tricky with the bride’s white dress and the grooms dark suit. You don’t want to burn out the dress but you also don’t want the suit to look like a black blob.
You should be in good shape if you expose for a mid-tone, but make sure you check the images on the back of the camera and the histogram and turn on the highlight warning.
You’ll probably have a few burnt-out highlights in the background if you’re shooting on in the shade on a sunny day. Just make sure that the details of the bride’s dress are recorded.
While it can be tempting to under expose dramatically to get everything in range, you’ll run into problems with noise once the image is brightened, plus there won’t be a lot of colour information available for post-processing.
Bracketing the exposure can be useful if the lighting is tricky, but you’ll be better off if you expose with care and get what you need than you will be with the trial and error process of bracketing.
Wedding photography tips: 10 Don’t forget the details
Remember, the bride and groom put a lot of preparation into this event. They’ve taken the time to select everything from flowers and napkins to the chairs and centrepieces.
Be sure to include these details in your shots to capture the whole experience of the wedding. The bride and groom will surely appreciate it!
Wedding photography tips: 11 Enlist an usher
Like we stated before, you’re going to need a couple of people to help round up others for the group shots. You’ll want to get together with your helpers before the wedding to give them a list of who you need to shoot and where and when the shots will take place. This will allow them to gather everyone for you when the time comes so you can keep shooting.
You’ll want to make sure you choose helpers who are familiar with most of the wedding attendees so they can quickly spot if someone is missing from a group shot.