Some basic tips on shooting weddings
Well! Where do I start with wedding photography? If you visit many photography forums online you will see that one of the most asked questions is something like:
"I have been asked to photograph a friend's wedding at the weekend, where do I start"?
That to me is a disaster waiting to happen! Firstly, even for a professional photographer, 2 or 3 days is no time at all to prepare for the job ahead. Secondly, the fact that the question is being asked means that the person is not ready, far from it.
This is a subject that I could write forever on but I will try and keep to the basics for now. Again, it would require a whole new book to cover everything (which, as I said, I am working on).
Free Wedding Photography Course
Update 2018: Once you have read this page, check out our full, free wedding photography course!
Before venturing into becoming a wedding photographer, there are a few things you need to ask yourself:
I would say that of all of the avenues one could take in photography, weddings have without doubt, the most pressure.
Not so much because there are no second chances. Not even because you may have to take control 150 people or more at some point. It is the fact that from the minute you arrive at the church or brides house in the morning, you don’t stop until you have done everything that has been asked of you. In order and without missing anything out.
This can mean slogging away until the early hours of the morning. Wedding photography can be quite lucrative but many people don’t understand why until they have actually photographed a full wedding.
For me personally I never intended to get heavily involved in wedding photography. However, after you have done a few they can become quite enjoyable. The best advice I can give is to prepare well.
I did my first wedding photography as an assistant to a pro when I was 16 years old. All very exciting stuff and I remember feeling like a spare part for a while. The photographer, my mentor for a year, was rushing here and there. He was throwing things at me, snatching them back, shouting at me, all until we had finally finished late that evening.
A few years later I attended a wedding photography weekend workshop held by another professional photographer. It was on the south coast of England, where we had hands on experience using a model "wedding couple". We went on location at a beautiful nearby church which was superb practice.
Tip: Highly recommended. Look for a pro near you that holds similar tutorials, you will learn a lot.
Then I shot my first wedding at about 21 or 22 years old. It was my sisters wedding but I still felt an incredible amount of pressure none-the-less.
Finally, three of us teamed up and started our wedding photography business in Surrey, England. I would take the photos, another would set up the shots, check the dress etc, and the other acted as a "director" of sorts.
It all worked well and took a lot of the pressure away. However, by having 3 of us operating, the profits were hardly enough to give up the day job.
One thing I remember is that even though we were new, the wedding photography work came flooding in. Mostly from referrals due to our professionalism on the day, another big lesson learned.
I remember attending a huge wedding fair at a well known racecourse in Surrey in order to drum up new business. The minute we walked into the "arena" we were all staggered, overwhelmed and highly intimidated by the sheer number of professionals in attendance.
There were some stunning prints on display, some as big as the walls. Each table was set up beautifully with an array of albums, flowers, colours, drapes and even some models to help out.
Our first reaction was to "get out of dodge" but then we decided to just do it. All we had was an old wallpapering easel with a nice velvet cloth draped over it. Just two albums on display. One showing our full wedding photography from start to finish, the other with a selection of shots from a range of previous weddings. Oh, and a small bouquet of flowers.
As the doors opened and visitors started pouring in, one of us immediately stood right at the entrance. Andy would welcome people with a big smile and usher them in the direction of our small, friendly and humble stall.
We were inundated and received many enquiries. So much so that at the end, one of the other wedding photographers asked how we did it; we appeared to be the busiest there!
It's all about you
Where is this going you may ask? Well, no matter what experience you have, no matter how small your portfolio, nine times out of ten, even today, a couple will book you based on your:
They assume that because you are a photographer, you can do the job. What is more important to them, is YOU.
If you are likeable, calm, professional and confident, you will shine. You just need to be able to back it all up by producing the goods on the day and that takes practice.
Here is a quick rundown of how I personally work.
Timeline for a wedding booking
- 1I receive the enquiry via email or phone call and immediately reply to any queries or questions about pricing etc. Without delay. I normally send a current price list with a selection of various packages. Remember, at this point you are probably competing with a number of other photographers. Be professional, polite and prompt.
- 2The initial enquiry is normally followed up with a meeting. This is more for the couple and/or their parents to suss you out as a person and have a browse through your portfolio. An online portfolio is great but make sure you have some hard copy examples to show too. Preferably in a fully finished album. Again, be polite and thorough. If they like you and your portfolio, you are almost there.
- 3Once booked I stay in contact with the couple and one month before the day, meet up again to finalise everything. Times, names, places, "must have" shots etc. It is also an idea to collect payment in full at this stage. This is your livelihood and it is too short notice to fill the gap should they cancel last minute.
- 4A week or two before the wedding, but on the same day, i.e., Saturday, I will do a complete dry run. This is from the brides’ house to reception at about the same time of their actual wedding. This gives me an idea of traffic and lighting and a chance to time the travelling. Also check that your equipment is all there and working.
- 5The day before I will charge all batteries, make sure all of my kit is ready and working again. I will also thoroughly clean everything. Check my list of names and "must have" shots and run through the day in my head. I will have all my clothes ready and all kit laid out ready to go. Also, fill the car with petrol the day before!
- 6I won’t go into detail of the actual wedding photography as each one is different. Suffice to say that you stay professional and polite at all times and try not to get in the way too much. Get all the shots you need (and then some more) and then say your goodbyes and leave. Try not to skimp and use an assistant if needed, you won’t regret it.
- 7Security - Out of habit, I always load the images onto my PC that night, no matter what the time. It is all just too tempting to make sure that I have all the shots I need and that they are ok.
- 8Storing - I keep the original files (RAW) on a hard drive and make a back up copy to DVD immediately. Then the TIFF or JPEG files created after processing are also saved to hard drive and DVD.
- 9Processing - We all have our own way of processing files but an average workflow should include levels, curves, colour saturation, contrast and re-touching. How you present your final images is up to you. You may want to convert to black and white or sepia, you may add a border to some or use an effect to enhance an image. I normally give all images in both colour and black and white, that way you increase the reprint order rate.
- 10Presentation to the client - Again, the way you present your work depends on which medium you use. Some post them online for all to see and order as well as producing low resolution proof images on a CD for the couple to browse. One of my wedding packages used to include a proof album with 300 6" x 4" photos all numbered. This way the couple has a complete record of the day which they can flick through with ease. Also, ordering is easier and it is an added bonus for your profits. I charge a lot less for these prints as I would for singles as this is quite a bulky order.
- 11Follow up - Stay in touch with the couple right until they or their family have placed the last order. Make sure you deliver the prints, enlargements and canvasses (if you are lucky) on time, in perfect condition and well packaged.
- 12Wedding Photography Referrals - All the way through, try and leave your business card where appropriate. Leave some with the family, friends and place one in each order you process. If the couple are happy with your work, it will be well displayed for all to see and you should receive recommendations. It also doesn’t hurt to ask once in a while.
All in all, wedding photography is hard work and a lengthy process. If you are serious about doing this full time, get your hands on the right equipment, learn as much as you can and give it 100%. Once you get busy it would be worthwhile just sticking to weddings. It is easy to take on other jobs but too many and your attention to detail may suffer.
More extensive and free wedding photography tips
We have now added a huge 90-page wedding section for those interested in getting started. Go to Wedding Photography Tips at All Things Photography.
Also, if you are a glutton for punishment, you can see some of my recent wedding photography (video).