Anyone who wants to venture into the realm of professional photography has to master their first wedding. Wedding photography can be a challenging and rewarding experience but get it wrong and you are in trouble. Daphne Chan takes us through her ten tips for your first wedding shoot.
1. Preparation is key
Know your equipment well and practice using it before the big day. Make sure all your gear is in working order and check it again the night before. Ensure you have back-up equipment of everything including another camera body and extra lenses, memory cards, batteries and flashes. If you don’t own all this equipment yet, borrow (or beg) from another photographer or rent. Many rental places will only charge you for one day if you rent from Friday evening to Monday morning.
2. Scouting location
If you have never photographed, or even been to, the ceremony or reception location, consider scouting the location. Try to view the venue at the same time the wedding is scheduled for and observe the lighting conditions available.
If you have the opportunity, ask to attend the rehearsal. It will give you the opportunity to meet the officiant, learn how long the ceremony is and watch how it will proceed. If the ceremony is culturally different from what you’re familiar with, this is especially important. Attending the rehearsal will also give you a chance to introduce yourself to the bridal party and family members and establish a comfortable relationship.
There’s nothing more nerve-wracking for a bride (and groom) than a photographer who is late. On the wedding day, whether you’re starting at the bride’s home or the ceremony location, arrive early. It will give you time to set-up your equipment and examine the rooms or venue for flattering window light and other good portrait locations.
5. The ceremony
Speak to the couple or the officiant and ask about any photography restrictions during the ceremony. For example, if you’re not permitted to use flash you may need to use a tripod or a higher ISO setting or a lens with a wide aperture. If you’re only allowed to stand in one spot during the ceremony, you may need a longer lens to make sure you capture close-ups of the couple. The two key moments of the ceremony that often happen very quickly is the kiss and the recessional so be prepared to be in the right spot to capture those moments.
6. Formal portraits
Schedule adequate time for the formal portrait session. If the formals are outside, have a “in case of rain” alternate location picked out. Find out if the location requires a permit for photography and, if so, ask the couple if they have one.
7. Shot list
Try to pre-visualize the day and map out the required photos for each section of the wedding day. You can also request from the bride or groom a list of the bridal party members. The maid of honour is a key member of the bridal party and can often help you organize and identify the family members during the formal portraits.
About 4-6 weeks from the wedding date, request a copy of the wedding day schedule from the couple. Review the schedule and check that there’s enough of a time buffer built in to account for typical delays on the wedding day.
With the exception of outdoor weddings, where the ceremony and reception are in the same location, and you benefit from using natural light, at some point you will be photographing indoors. When indoors, be prepared to deal with low and mixed lighting situations. For light sources, you can use flash, strobe and even video lights.
10. Assist or second shoot at another wedding
My biggest and final tip is to get as much experience as you can before you first shoot your own wedding assignment. Try to assist or second shoot for at least one wedding and at least one photographer. Better yet, assist different wedding photographers and you can learn from their style and approach to a wedding day. In addition, strongly consider hiring an assistant or a second shooter on the day of your first wedding.