Shooting a wedding is one of the toughest assignment a photographer can expect. Wedding are unpredictables and the chances of encountering a misadventure along the day are incredibly high. In fact, after 6 seasons being a professional wedding supplier, I rarely had a “perfect” day. Whether it be the schedule not being respected, a camera failure, a dispute between the bride and groom, the weather, the priest not allowing me to shoot inside the church or uncle Joe in my way the whole day. Weddings aren’t always as easy as it seems to be from an external point of view.
Here is a list of the 5 essential tips I would recommend to anyone envisaging to successfully shoot a wedding for the first time.
1. Be prepared
That goes without saying but it is critical for a successful shooting day. Get you gears ready the day before. Plan enough memory cards and always store the full ones safely and separately. Always bring enough batteries and a charger in case. Bring a backup camera, yours will fail at some point, one day. Study the schedule of the wedding day. The day will pass fast, the schedule won’t necessarily be respected and it won’t be adjusted for you. You will only have one chance to shoot each moment of the day and not always with the time previously planned in the schedule. Don’t loose a minute and instead plan every shot in advance. Make a checklist on your phone or on a notebook of the key shots you want to get done in order not to forget anything and stay serene along the day.
2. Keep it light and simple
I see too much photographers bringing a pelican with all the Canikon lenses available, studio flashes and tripods on the wedding day. They’re missing the point of wedding photography. Having 2 cameras with battery grip and white lenses around the neck might impress most of the guests but remember only the result count in photography. Too much gears won’t bring great photos and just slow you down instead. Not missing any moments, be reactive and directing the couple the right way during the couple’s shoot will. You need to know what gears will you use and when before making a selection of the right gears to bring with you. I personally carry a full frame, one flash and three primes – 35mm / 50mm / 85mm. My second camera being a mirrorless with a 35mm equivalent fixed lens and completely silent shutter sound. The whole kit is light, portable and allows me to stay as reactive as possible during the day while covering all situations. Try to focus on capturing the day, your compositions and camera settings rather than worrying about flashing your gears around.
3. Anticipate the day
Any moment of the wedding has to be anticipated. While some key moments are relatively easy to anticipate, not all the best photos of the day will be captured during the key moments. You need to stay reactive the whole time and be ready to press the shutter button at any moment. Always get your camera settings ready in advance if you shoot manual and don’t feel ashamed to use the aperture priority mode of your camera when necessary. These has been invented for a reason, not for amateur photographers as the general opinion would believe but for professionals and it does come in handy for real events such as weddings.
4. Shoot RAW
That will give you more latitude in post production. Shooting RAW doesn’t mean you can just point and shoot without worrying about your settings. But it means you record all of the data of the sensor for each images. Including the white balance and exposure. You won’t be able to get back critically under/over exposed images and it is best to get a decent exposure in camera (anticipate). But it will allows you to do some crucial adjustments in post production and get back some important photos with poor exposure estimation that would be lost if not captured in RAW.
5. Say “NO”
Keep in mind you are about to work with people who don’t always have an idea about how to capture a wedding, don’t necessarily fully trust you as beginner and probably read the worst articles possible on bridal blogs or buzzfeed about how to have a successful photo report. Brides or guests can request the silliest shots because they just don’t know. I’ve recently been asked to take all these shots as mandatory moments on a wedding day. I surely explained why I couldn’t and instead what will I do. The couple understood and loved their photos on the end. Saying yes to everything won’t make you a better photographer and satisfy your clients if you bring non professional result on the end. The couple will reproach it to you and it is actually your responsibility to educate them. After all you are the professional, not them. Consider their requests and stay open minded though, the bride and groom can have wonderful ideas you might have overlook and that can be considered, such as some locations for the couple’s shoot, but don’t be shy to say no and explain why when necessary and in their interests.
There is so much more important parameters to take in consideration when it comes to successfully capture weddings. So much unplanned events can happen and each photographer will react differently. Only time and experience will teach you what is best for you and a successful shooting day. However these 5 essential tips will be a good foundation to build on for a successful career in wedding photography. Stay open minded, be eager to learn something new every week end and remember each wedding is different and so should be your approach on the shooting day.