Yesterday was quite momentous. I shot my first Wedding. I knew that the stakes where high, and I had been warned by many that it was going to be a stressful experience. However, I felt it was not nearly as stressful as I had been lead to believe. As part of a team of 3, I think that we each got a good selection of images between us, in which the happy couple can choose from and remember their day.
For their wedding, the clients had 3 different photographers taking all sorts of images, from every angle, view point and subject. By working as a group of 3, I was ultimately able to take the pressure of of one individual and ultimately get as many images from the day as we could. However, as a complete new-be to wedding photography, I can say that I really enjoyed the day. I feel like experience taught me a lot about professional photography and how I can use what I learnt to better my own personal work.
So, without further ado, here are 10 things I learnt on the day, which I hope will help photographers interested in taking wedding photos:
1: You're going to get the best and the worst images
I knew that the likely-hood of having a purely fantastic set of images from start to finish was slim, but I didn't expect so many disasters. Eyes shut (my biggest annoyance), looking in the wrong direction, mid speech, something in the way, you name it, it will happen! To right this wrong in the post edit, I recommend taking a good selection of images, multiples of even just one pose/group of people, because it really is a lot easier to pick and choose in the best images from a selection of 6 than that of 1.
2: Take pictures of EVERYTHING
Weddings are huge deals, in all cultures. Its a massive thing for someone to do and the couple in question want their day to be perfect and for everyone to leave with fond memories. When I say take pictures of everything, I mean it. Take photos of the venue, the guests, the bride, bridesmaids, groom, best man, the conversations, the food, the happiness of everyone! Position of the camera is key too, if you change it up, you will view the day from all sorts of angles and some of the views you may think won't work, end up being your best shots. Every moment at a wedding is a photo opportunity.
3: Take control
There is nothing worse than some random guest coming up to you and asking for a picture of them and their s/o, sibling or whoever, when you are in the middle of taking some photos. You have been hired for the couple getting married, not them. I found as well, getting groups of people together was a nightmare, because everyone wanted to chat. The nature of a gathering is just that, so to not waste peoples time, including your own, I really do recommend having the camera on a fast shutter, because the nature of people isn't to stay completely still and reflexes will be working.
Before you get to the big day, (this links with point 8), drum up a decent list of what is necessary to be photographed. The obvious "Bride and Groom" photographs are no brainers, along with the "groom/bride with parents/siblings." However, they may have invited a long time friend from across the world to come and the share their day, so they may ask for a photograph with them. Have your list ready to hand, along with a pen to cross off the images that have already been taken. Also, draw up your own list. The grooms sister may have her own list which she ran by the groom but it may miss out the important images which need to be included, so be on top of it and you won't miss out on anything that is necessary.
5: Be sneaky
When I take my personal images, I am not actually a massive fan of staged portraits because I feel that they inhibit the nature of humans and the natural fluidity of the human spirit. Weddings are not melancholy events, everyone at one point is smiling or laughing. Like I said before, every moment at a wedding is a photo opportunity. If you're brave enough to just stick a camera in someones face (not literally but from a decent distance) when they least expect it, you can get some of the best images, because you will capture un-staged happiness, which is really what people will ultimately appreciate.
I personally think "through crowds" where you just pick up on someone in the sea of guests and you focus on them (like the image to your left), that you can get some really nice images, in which you can literally capture them and bring all the attention to them. I use this technique a lot in my photojournalism, because I feel that the capturing one in amongst many leaves the viewer hoping for more of an insight.
6: Take into account where you are
Location is a huge part of the entire day, its been chosen for a reason. However, the other half of this equation is the weather. We were lucky, the wedding was on the sunniest day the northwest has seen in a while, not a cloud in sight. There was a cooling breeze as well, which was nice addition as we all didn't roast under the sun. However, maybe you won't be as lucky as us and get caught in a really rainy day or stuck inside. Don't mope and moan, the weather isn't your friend. If you utilise what you have got and use lighting correctly, artificial or not, the images will still be good.
7: Use your equipment!
I can't stress this enough. Use your camera! Its there with loads of settings for just this occasion and many others! Longtime camera users know their cameras inside out and back to front. They also know their lenses, the focal lengths and which ones get the best images for which situation. If you know and use your equipment wisely, you will be amazed at how good the images are.
8: Create a good contact between yourself and the couple
You want to be on good terms with the couple getting married. Your best strategy really is to try and be an invisible camera, capturing the day but not disrupting it to an extent that you become a nuisance. You don't have to be best friends with them, but friendly enough that you can go and talk to them about any issues regarding anything, even annoying guests!
9: Practice before?
If you are an absolute novice to portraiture and photography or just a casual hobbyist but you're friend has asked you to take the images, (which could be for a slew of reasons) I would really recommend getting some practice in. I do think that if you call some friends over, or if you have a s/o, kids, practice with them! Family is the best form of practice because you can be as bossy as you want to be with them.
10: Capture the love
Love comes in many forms. You could love a person, your pet, your favourite film or book which you could revisit over and over. Weddings days are extra love filled because of the nature of the day and thats even the reason for the day! I intended on capturing the love and creating a lasting memory of the day for those who where there. Capture it during the fleeting moments of clarity before the formalities take over.
After I wrote up my top 10, I had an extra 3 thoughts, so here you go!
11: Dress comfortably
You are going to be on your feet, doing a lot of walking, and moving a lot more than those who are guests. I actually had been invited as a guest before I was hired as a photographer so I wore a stretchy dress, which allowed me to move really freely. I also wore flats instead of high heels, for obvious reasons. So ladies, if you have been invited as a guest and a photographer, dress smartly! Don't wear your most expensive heels so you look the part, that is not important. Be practical and stay as comfortable as you can. If you've been hired as a photographer alone, dress smartly, but comfortably. If you want to wear a smart shirt and a pair of jeans, that is totally fine, just don't turn up in your pyjamas with jam smeared across your face from breakfast! You need to look presentable because you are representing your business if you are freelance. But do keep in mind that you will be moving around a lot and need to think about positions, so don't turn up in your tightest pair of skinny jeans as a "fashion statement". I can't stress comfort enough, because I was wearing flats but ended up with horrific blisters, that is how much you move around!
12: Post edit is your friend.
Every image I take goes through an editing session. I rarely edit the image to within an inch of it's life and I don't necessarily agree with using softwares like photoshop to make a bad photograph better, because to me, it looses its clarity and the rawness of the original image. I feel that if you need to edit the photographs, do so, but gently. Maybe if it is suitable, add a filter. I do recommend experimenting as well though. Set the image to black and white, crop it down, play with the saturation, bring up the sharpness/definition. Play around till you are happy and you feel the image now looks suitable and up to the standard you expect out of your own work.
13: Don't undersell yourself
You really are being your best representative by showcasing your skills through something public like this. If you are freelance, like me, you need to set up pricing. The nature of freelance is that you can work with your own requirements and price guidelines. For this commission; (which is essentially what it is), I decided to create an hourly rate, which I agreed with the couple. I also lowered the average asking price fractionally because it was my first wedding shoot and I had not idea how it would go. If you feel you can do the job well and you don't want loose out, set the price to your own requirements and how you would like to be paid - direct cash to hand or online banking.
I hope that has helped any novices in making decisions or you needed a refresh, or even just were curious to how the day went. Now go forth! Get your camera and go wow everyone with your talent!
Thanks and I'll catch you on the flip side