Coping With the Pressure of Photographing a Large Wedding
Wedding photography is without a doubt becoming harder in many respects.
First of all, more and more photographers are looking to break into this industry because:
- It can be very lucrative
- To a degree, you are in control of your days and how much you work
- You get to visit and shoot some wonderful locations
- You get to meet and have fun with all sorts of cool people
- You can let your creative urges run wild
This means in order to make it work, you are battling with many wannabe wedding photographers that may well be setting up in your area…on your patch.
Secondly, as technology evolves and people start to place more trust in that technology, there are a lot more “Uncle Bob’s” available to shoot your wedding for a fraction of what a professional would charge.
The trick is convincing the couple that this could be a costly mistake whilst explaining why you charge what you do.
In order to try and compete with all this, since around 2006 I have been slowly adding video services to my top packages. For any professional videographers reading this, just so you know, I have been filming as well as shooting stills for a long time from Super 8, to VHS to digital and on to HD.
The first time I really brought videography into my wedding packages was back in 2007 when I photographed a high end wedding in Florence, Italy. For whatever reason, I decided to take my HD Handycam video camera with me, a fairly basic model, and I am glad I did.
On my arrival, the couple announced that they had some special guests flying in (Girls Aloud) to play at their reception and I got to film the whole session, plus the band came for drinks and a chat with all the guests afterwards.
The fact that I filmed and photographed that event made so much difference to the final output that I gave to the couple…they loved it!
So, since then I have been offering video on a regular basis for my higher end packages.
Wedding Photography – The Case Study
Ok. This is how a recent wedding went for a couple that took my higher end package which included an engagement shoot, full photography of the day plus high definition video of the main events. Bear in mind that I had a second photographer to help me out with the boys getting ready…
Wedding Photography – Equipment
The amount of kit I used on the day isn’t a pre-requisite for all photographers, far from it.
I am just a kit-geek and love to have everything to hand just in case an opportunity arises or idea pops into my head on the day. Of course, other professional photographers will use the minimal kit of a DSLR and a few lenses, natural light all the way or even a trendy “old style” Fuji X100 or Leica X1 and that is cool…each to their own.
In fact, I may well “minimalise” the way I shoot weddings in the future…especially after this epic I am about to disclose to you.
- 2 Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR’s (I still love these cameras even though some people say they are becoming “old” and the Mark III is better…lol, like it really matters!
- Lenses – EF 24-70L 2.8, EF 70-200L 2.8IS, EF 50mm 1.4
- Speedlights – 2 x Canon 580EX II
- 2 x External flash battery packs
- Flash diffusers
- Pocket Wizards – 2 x Flex TT5’s, 1 x Mini TT1 (I love these things and they always just work)!
- Manfrotto tripod
- Sony PMW EX1 with large “Gatling Gun” Manfrotto tripod, headphones, 2 microphones (one shotgun, one Lavaliere) and S X S cards
- Sony HDR SR1 HD Video Camera (Handycam)
- 2 x Go Pro HD Hero video cameras. One HD Hero 2 and one HD Hero 3 with suction mounts, frames, external microphones and mini tripods
Phew, there you go!
Like I said, don’t read this and feel you need to go out and buy everything in that list…you don’t! This is the kit I have accumulated over the years as I add new techniques and experiment with new technology to add a certain “Je Ne Se Quoi” to my work and make me stand out from the crowd.
For example, I stick Go Pros all over the place at a wedding:
- In the bouquet
- In the architrave of a church
- On the window of a registry office
- On my car bonnet or boot to film a horse and carriage (more on that later)
- On the floor to allow the bride to flow her dress over it as she enters the church
…and so on.
Weddings are always changing and you need to keep up with your rivals in business by staying ahead of the game. For this wedding, the bride was incredibly organised and knew exactly how she wanted the day to go. This really helps as I am pretty meticulous in how I organise things too.
This is how my day went.
Please note: I am not a huge fan of overly posed photos but there were a few requests from the couple at this wedding so be prepared for some standard, posed wedding photos as opposed to a more reportage style.
2nd Note: Image quality reduced for web and they are all copyright to Freefly Multimedia Ltd
18.30pm the night before – Go to church for rehearsal and to set up three video cameras in various locations in the church. Check battery levels, sound levels and then leave them there overnight. I don’t normally do this so was a little anxious…
6.00am – Up and at em with a hearty, slow-burning fuelled breakfast of porridge, Manuka honey and bananas plus a green tea with lemon.
I normally have a bottle of water, a few bananas and perhaps some chicken pasta and salad to see me through the long day. Sometimes, in fact more often than not, you get fed at the reception but not normally during the day.
6.30am – Double check all the gear is there and ready to go having charged all batteries and checked everything twice the day before.
7.45am – Leave house and make way to the very nice venue of Poxwell Manor where the bride is getting ready.
8.15am – Go to church quickly to make sure all gear is still there and ready to go…it is!
8.30am – Arrive at stately home and get all my gear inside before the bride arrives..preparation is key. On this occasion, and because the house was so beautiful and photogenic, I decided to use mostly natural light coming in through the windows inside even though it was a murky, drizzly day.
I did use flash on occasion and where it was needed and used it a fair bit outside to assist with the poor light where the Pocket Wizards came in most handy.
The bridal party consists of the bride, chief bridesmaid, 5 other bridesmaids, the brother, a flower girl, the mother and father of the bride and three make up/hair stylists.
Approximately 4 hours of photos as they all get ready and dressed for the big day.
10.00am – My second shooter arrives at the home of the groom where he and his 9 grooms-men are getting ready for just one hour.
11.00am – Stretch Hummer arrives to take the boys to the church where the grooms-men are scattered around the village to help usher people in the right direction.
11.20am – Boys and second shooter arrive at church although they somehow find themselves in the local pub and stay for a fair few drinks whilst enjoying the games area : )
12.30am – Me and the bridal party go outside into Poxwell Manor gardens for an hour or so for some more photos.
13.15pm – I pack up all my gear and head off to the church but just before that, I get some shots of the horse and carriage for the bride and father and the stretch Hummer which has arrived for the rest of the party.
13.40pm – Arrive at church and get shots of everyone arriving and inside the church. Make sure that video cameras are ready to go.
13.50pm – Go outside to photograph the arrival of the bridal party.
14.00pm – Run back inside and get the video cameras rolling and set up indoor shots of the bridal party entering the church.
Take various shots of the ceremony whilst checking video cameras and sound levels. I was operating the Go Pro HD Hero 2 with my iPod Touch 4g and the HD Hero 3 Black with my iPhone.
15.00pm – Outside for photos with some groups and the chimney sweep that was booked for good luck (a tradition round these ‘ere parts).
15.30pm – Everyone walks to local pub for drinks and a few photos (groups and throwing of the bouquet)…chaos ensues…
16.00pm – Guests make their way to the reception venue (sailing club at Portland) and myself, the bride and groom leave for the local farm which is next door to the manor and where the bride grew up.
The couple are taken a few miles to the farm by horse and carriage so I set up one of the Go Pro’s on the boot of my car to film the journey (see slideshow at end of this page).
We then spend time taking portraits in and around this lovely big farm. I use two DSLR’s and the Pocket Wizards which are on flash stands…a lot to carry.
We then head off next door to the house where the bride grew up for more photos.
17.00pm – Stretch Hummer now arrives to take the couple on to the reception venue, about 20 minutes away. I request a “head start” so I can get organised the other end setting everything up.
Traffic gets in the way and somehow they are only minutes behind me so I have to work fast. I take a couple of trips to get all the camera bags, tripods and stands into the venue and then set up the video cameras for their arrival.
I also take a few test shots to make sure the settings on my cameras are correct.
Run outside to tell them we are ready and in they come…
18.00pm – Food is served and myself and the second shooter receive a very welcome respite and a tasty meal!
19.00 – The speeches start and I use just one video camera to film these (Sony PMW EX1) but use two microphones to pick up the sound of both the speakers and the ambience in the hall.
Whilst that is filming, we also take a number of photos.
20.00pm – Cutting of the cake. Again, I just use one video camera to film this whilst taking the usual photos.
20.30pm – Evening guests arrive and the fun starts. In the reception venue there is a photo booth, mini casino, games area, dance floor and band playing…fantastic!
21.00pm – First Dance. Here I set up three video cameras to capture the angles and set them running. Sound checked and off they go. Once cameras are rolling, I start with the stills and all goes well…
21.30pm – Take a few more photos and clips of the goings on and then pack up and head off home.
21.50pm – Get home to chill and realise I have left two tripods in the reception venue…arse…off I go again…
22.30pm – Bed!
So as you can see, this was a monster wedding with 7 different venues:
- Poxwell Manor – Girls getting ready
- Grooms house – Guys getting ready
- Bride’s old house
- Sailing Academy
At each location I had to pick and choose which gear to use, set it all up correctly and get the necessary footage and clips with the added pressure of testing sound on the video cameras.
The ONLY way I could do this was by preparing well prior to the day. We had already done an engagement shoot a few weeks earlier where we discussed everything.
I had then visited all the venues to test times and lighting.
I then went to the rehearsal the night before.
Ran everything through my head the night before.
Then spent two weeks processing all the images, video clips, slideshows and rendering the footage.
Not only that, but to do all of that whilst constantly changing from:
- Manual camera setting to shutter priority to aperture priority depending on the situation
- Manual flash setting to bounced flash to off camera flash depending on the situation
- Checking audio levels and camera alignment for video work
- Setting it all up, packing away and setting up again at each location
- Processing the images (a two stage process for each with a third special process for my favourites)
- Processing and rendering the footage. Here is an example of what processing three video cameras in professional software looks like…it takes a LOT of time to do this right.
…and that is just one section of the day.
Next I have to create, build and publish the high end photobook for the couple…
If any couple ever questions why you charge what you do to photograph and perhaps video a wedding, please direct them to this page (I will be) and hopefully they will then understand that this isn’t just a one day “job”!
In fact, a wedding like this will more than likely take more than a week of long days to prepare for, shoot and process and then I have bills to pay, expenses to pay, tax to pay and so on. THAT is why we charge what we do.
Of course, Uncle Bob will do it for a hundred quid but then, (like a couple of wedding couples who contacted me after their weddings last year), you may have to seek the skills of a professional photographer to correct EVERY single photo that he/she took and prepare an album at a cost that is almost equal to if not more than what you would have paid a pro in the first place.
If you are looking to book a wedding photographer, before you haggle or complain about the cost, ask yourself these questions:
- Are you making your own food for the reception or is Auntie Flo cooking for you? Just think that the money you spend on food is literally going down the toilet the very next day. The photos and videos will last forever.
- How much are you spending on the car(s), cake, dress, venues, drinks etc? All of these are gone the next day so why not get a professional to record all those fine details properly?
- Are you willing to risk having an amateur, or even worse, an amateur guest who will more than likely be drinking on the day, take your precious wedding photos?
If you want to learn how to photograph a wedding efficiently, effectively and professionally or simply want to brush up on your skills for an upcoming wedding, check out our highly acclaimed Wedding Photography Blueprint.
Finally, a huge thanks to Mike Shaw from Accent Pro Images for his help on the day.
Nick Stubbs – www.nickstubbs.com