Shooting your first wedding: how to prepare
Ever wondered what it takes to photograph a wedding?
Well I shot my first wedding just over a year ago and I wanted to share some of the experiences and lessons that I’ve learned since then.
It can’t be avoided: wedding photography is fast-paced, stressful and stretches the limits of your creativity as a photographer. But, done well, the end result is a gallery of timeless, beautiful memories that will be printed, hung and looked at for decades to come.
Over the last year and a bit, I’ve learned so much about what it means to be a good wedding photographer. Both in terms of the images that I produce but also in the relationships I develop with the couple and the guests. There’s so much more to wedding photography than just the final images. You have a significant affect on the overall experience that a couple will have on their wedding day. And because of this you have to be prepared!
Here are my FIVE TOP TIPS for your first wedding shoot.
I’ll start by being real with you: wedding photography isn’t for everyone. The success or failure of a wedding shoot hinges significantly on your relationship with the wedding couple – as well as their friends and family. If you’re thinking about getting into wedding photography ask yourself the following questions:
Am I comfortable meeting new people and quickly developing a relationship?
Can I defuse stressful circumstances through jokes, stories or otherwise?
Can I be direct and clear with instructions in an encouraging manner?
If you’ve answered YES, then you’re off to a good start!
This might seem straightforward, but I’m amazed how many times I hear of photographers or other client-based freelancers not establishing clear expectations from the client in advance.There’s a simple formula:
MEET CUSTOMER EXPECTATIONS = HAPPY CUSTOMER
If you know what your client expects, both on the day and when you deliver the final images, then before they’ve even seen the photos, you know they’ll be happy. Anything above and beyond those expectations is then an added bonus.
So spend some time with your clients upfront to clearly understand these requirements both verbally and if possible in written form.
3. SCOUT THE VENUE
For me, the most satisfying part of the wedding day is getting those newlywed couple shots. Not only does it give the couple a few moments away from the crowds. But it allows me to really use my portrait & landscape experience and help the couple feel great about themselves on their special day. Also, let’s be honest, these are usually the photos that will be printed, framed and hung.
Getting these shots right involves a combination of tips 1 and 2. But also, most importantly, it involves knowing where these shots are going to look best. So before the wedding day commences, make sure you do three key things:
Scout the entire venue for those money-maker locationsCheck sun position throughout the day and weather conditions for lightingAsk the venue owner where the best spots are (this is SUPER helpful)
4. THE RIGHT GEAR
I don’t like to dwell on gear, because some of the best ever images I’ve seen have taken on sub-par gear.
And wedding photography is fundamentally about ‘moments’ not cameras. But saying that, it definitely counts for something. And it can make your life A LOT easier if you have the right gear -freeing you up with more time to think about storytelling rather than technical problem solving.
Here are some key considerations to make:
Camera ‘must have’ features
Interchangeable lenses — these are a must-have for the number of different scenes throughout the day
Low light performance or flash for those dark reception shots
Fairly high shutter speed for those fast paced confetti throwing shots
Lots of batteries!
f1.4-f2.8 lens for portraits and low light
Something around 70–150mm for the ceremony fand dinner so you’re not up in people’s faces… #awks\
Wide angle (15-35mm ish)to capture the venue, the scenery, and larger group photos.
Laptop/hard drive to off-load images on the day
SD/CF card reader
Camera bag — needs to be sturdy and easily accessible.
Backup camera body (not essential just nice to have)
Deodorant: you’re going to need this!
MY GEAR LIST
Canon 5D IV
Canon 70d (backup)Canon 70–200mm f2.8
Canon 24–70mm f2.8
Sigma 35mm f1.4
Tamron 15–35mm f2.8
4x Canon Batteries
Lowe Pro Tactic 250 rucksack (legit the best bag — I’ve tried loads!)
SanDisk Extreme 64gb SD Card (backup)
Lexar Professional 128gb CF
MacBook Pro 15”
LaCie Rugged 1TB hard drive
This is arguably the most important part of the whole process… I don’t think I’ve ever spoken with a professional photographer who hasn’t been the victim of a memory card or hard drive failure at some stage.
Wedding days will only happen once! You need to have a foolproof plan to ensure images will never be lost.
I think there’s probably many ways to avoid this, but after a lot of research prior to my first wedding shoot this is what I do now…
The Canon 5D IV has two card slots — I shoot full RAW on my main card and also save JPEGs to the backup card. In the event of an in-camera card failure, I always have an immediate backup.
Periodically, throughout the day, I offload both cards onto my laptop HD as well as a portable hard drive. I’ll then format my main RAW card (I don’t format the backup card as it’s large enough to store JPEGS of the whole day). So I now have two copies of RAW images and three copies of JPEG images across three different storage sources. I’ll even do a cloud backup if Wi-Fi signal permits. This gives me 100% confidence I’ll never lose the images.
*I now have enough CF cards that I don’t need to format cards on the day, adding another level of backup.
Once I get home I then back up to a number of other hard drives and off-site storage. I’ll maybe go into this in more detail in another post.
So, the moral of the story is: make sure you have three backups across different sources. It may seem over-cautious but I wouldn’t fancy explaining myself to a wedding couple if I lost everything…
So there you have it: my top five tips for your first wedding shoot. I’ve definitely not covered everything as there is sooo much to talk about. But I hope that this is a good start if you’re thinking about embarking on the journey of a wedding photographer.