A wedding is a special day for the couple. As a wedding photographer, it’s your responsibility to make sure that you capture their best moments and create a great memory album for their big day. In this post, we’ll share 12 great tips to help you master wedding photography.
Scouting is one of the most consistently echoed pieces of advice for any wedding photographer. You need to scout everything about the wedding out. Know the venue, the kind of lighting to expect, along with all the cool spots for photographs. It’s always helpful to know where you’re going so that you have an idea of a few positions for great shots.
As you consult with the bride and groom before the wedding, be sure to discuss the types of locations and settings that they prefer to use for their portraits. The couple will be reimbursing you with a good amount for your expertise, knowledge, and experience. So, put in the work to research before their wedding day and review the options you feel would work best for them, depending on their feedback.
Have a plan A, B, C, and D, just in case of inclement weather or other unexpected issues. Also, make sure that you check for any requirements regarding the need for a permit. Usually, the clients will be responsible for securing anywhere necessary, especially in situations where fees are involved. However, knowing the risks involved ahead of time with regard to having or not having a permit will help put you ahead of the game.
#2. Get the Right Gear
As a wedding photographer, you should start by buying what you absolutely need and then upgrade along the way, with more experience and income. Generally speaking, you should invest in the following essential gear:
- 1 or 2 camera bodies (mirrorless or DSLR)
- 2 to 3 lenses minimum with different focal lengths
- Memory cards
- At least one flash with a diffuser
- Spare batteries and chargers
- Camera bag to organize your gear
The best camera for wedding photography is a full-frame camera that has great low light performance. For lenses, you should opt for the “fast lenses” – those you can drop down to a low aperture number. Many professional wedding photographers use a 70-200mm F/2.8 lens, a 24-70mm F/28 lens, along with a prime lens or two.
Be sure to bring lots of batteries, memory cards, and other backup equipment. Keep in mind that even the latest and greatest of equipment could fail when you least expect it. So, be prepared with backup gear and have it accessible while shooting.
#3. Know your Gear
You want to know your gear inside out before the wedding – the wedding day isn’t the place or time to experiment with your new equipment, figure out a wireless trigger, or try out different settings. Make sure that everything works beforehand and plan for when something goes wrong. You can, of course, try out new poses, shoot a night or sunset portrait for the first time, etc., just make sure that you have at least practiced at home.
Don’t forget that there’s a difference between having great gear and actually knowing how to use it. No camera equipment or lens can make up for a lack of skills or experience. Know your gear well, and you will be much better at adapting to any unexpected changes that could occur during the wedding.
#4. Plan for The Day
Proper planning and communication can help to prevent issues and help ensure a positive client experience. The following are some tips when it comes to planning for wedding day photography:
Timeline Review: Understand the entire wedding photography timeline forwards and backward. Keep in mind that you will be responsible for making sure that the day doesn’t run behind. Failure to keep time could result in issues with the wedding coordinator, shorter timeframes for executing critical shots, and overall unhappy clients.
Photo checklist: It’s important to make your own list ahead of time with some of the key events and subjects you will photograph. This is especially important if you don’t have experience shooting at weddings. Of course, it’s wise to get the couple’s input on this. Some of the key moments you want to capture during the ceremony include:
- Wedding party walking down the aisle
- The bride walking down the aisle
- The reaction of the groom when the bride walks in
- Exchange of the vows and rings
- Officiant addressing the couple
- The first kiss from different angles
- A reaction shot of guests
- The signing of the marriage contract or ketubah
- The recessional
The last part of the day is where the most fun happens. Here are some of the key shots to have in mind:
- Reception décor and setup
- Grand entrance
- Cocktail hour
- Toasts and speeches
- Cake cutting
- Garter toss and bouquet
- Interactions with the bride and groom
- Sparkler exit
#5. Consider Getting an Assistant
While you may not need a second shooter (though it’s not a crime to have one of those), you should consider hiring an assistant. Your assistant can:
- Help you carry around and/or guard your gear.
- Help to set up equipment when using tripods or lights.
- Bring a bottle of water when you need it.
- Smooth any fluff hair, trains, and re-pin boutonnieres
If not for anything else, having a second pair of hands will be life-saving when in the middle of a hectic wedding shoot.
#6. Have an Emergency Kit
An emergency kit will help to streamline your photography process and enhance the experience of your client. A small sewing kit, bobby pins, baby wipes, and a stain stick can adequately handle most of the minor issues you may experience.
Larger emergency kits could contain first aid kits, rain ponchos, crochet needles, spare bow ties, makeup basics, bug spray, a list of emergency phone numbers, and more. However, don’t overburden yourself and pack what will make you feel ready and comfortable. If you have an assistant, they can help you manage the extra bag.
When you arrive at the wedding venue, one of the things you should check is the kind of lighting that will be available throughout the day. The following are the four most common sources of light that you can optimize:
Try to use natural light as much as possible to provide you with a warm, gentle, and soft look on your subjects. Most of the wedding venues and reception areas usually have ample window light. Have a mental note of where the windows are located.
This is a magical time for shooting evocative and emotive portraits of the couple. With the sun low on the horizon, the light helps to create a beautiful look that tends to flatter the subjects.
This will help you bounce off and direct light to your desired direction. In case the sun is behind your subjects, which can create bold backlighting, reflectors let you bounce some of the light by placing a reflector in the front. The effect will give you more exposure between the background and your subject.
In case the available light is dull, you can use the flash to add interest to the scene. Use the flash to illuminate the couple while filling in the dark shadows. Be sure to check the unique rules of the venue regarding the use of flash.
Framing and composition come naturally to some photographers. However, to others, it’s a skill that has to be learned and refined. Wedding days tend to be very fast-paced. As such, you need to be extra careful and regularly remind yourself to slow down whenever you’re posing your subjects.
Spend some time to check the frame before pressing the shutter for any forms of elements that may ruin the image. There’s nothing worse than having the perfect conditions and then finding out later that there are horizon lines or tree branches cutting through the heads of your subjects. When shooting family formals, ensure that you leave some room to crop out for an 8 x 10”. This is because the size is the most popular large standard size.
#9. Use the Right Camera Settings
Shoot in the RAW format
RAW files are uncompressed image files containing all the image information. Since they are unprocessed, the images tend to look flat and lacking in contrast. The main benefit of RAW files is that they give you greater range and flexibility in editing your photos as they tend to capture a more dynamic range in the scene. Plus, all the visual information will stay on the file, giving you more leeway in adjusting the brightness, sharpness, shadows, contrast, and colors.
Experiment with Varying Shutter Speeds
Fast shutter speed is a great starting point for wedding photography since it lets you capture a lot of movement. Start with a shutter speed of 1/200 or faster. You can try adjusting the shutter priority setting to freeze moments. To capture active moments, you can set the speed to 1/500th of a second. You can then tweak the speed to capture things like dancing, laughter, twirling, and other movements.
Adjust the ISO
Whenever possible, keep the ISO under 1000 to help keep the digital artifacts at a minimum. You can always increase the ISO to suit your situation, including low-light venues. Keep in mind that an entire ISO range is at your disposal – maximize it and try out new things.
Try out a range of Apertures.
The aperture will dictate what areas of a photo are in focus. For instance, if you want to showcase the grandeur of a ballroom, ensure everything is in focus by using an aperture of f/8 or f/16. When taking photographs of details or people, opt for high apertures (e.g., f/2/8 or f/4) to blur the background and create depth.
Photography work continues even after the shoot. In fact, much of the job will start once the shoot is over.
Backup all Images
Make a habit of copying images to an external hard driver or a computer immediately after a shoot. Making two or more copies is ideal, and the soonest time you can is the best time to do this.
Cull your images quickly
Culling is basically separating the good photos from the bad ones. It’s not about immediately deleting unwanted photos because you might still need them. The goal here is to filter through thousands of wedding photos and choose ones you can edit and share with the couple. Don’t shy from using software like Photo Mechanic, which is designed to cull images.
Use Presets as Needed
The editing process is one of the most time-intensive parts of the post-processing workflow. Editing will take about 1 to 3 minutes per image, of course, based on how you edit. Consider using presets to make the process easier. You can actually apply multiple settings in bulk to your images.
However, applying presets won’t necessarily fix your images. Once you choose a preset, the editing software will allow you to adjust the settings until you get your desired tones or look. Overall, presets can help make your wedding photos look more consistent and cohesive.
There are certain arts that are intertwined with the art of wedding photography, and these come in the form of composition, lighting, location, and pose. In photography, candid images aren’t posed, and group shots might only require basic adjustments. When staging images with the bridal party, posing will be integral to the image as the background and the lighting. So, ensure you know how to pose – not everyone will be comfortable in front of the camera.
Rather than force the couple into unnatural poses, just let them be. Let them hug, talk, kiss, dance… anything that fits the mood. This will let you take unique pictures that represent people as they are, not what you’ve seen online thousands of times before only with different faces.
That’s ideally the essence of photographing people – showing them as the individuals they are. This will also make the couple feel that you understand them and that you appreciate their personalities. Yes, photography is also a lot about psychology.
Obviously, you will need to correct their positions from time to time, such as having them place a foot or an arm in a more aesthetically pleasing way. However, you should just let them be and try finding poses that complement them or encourage them to be comfortable in their skin. Other than that, try finding cool perspectives and utilize surrounding things such as the bridal bouquet, reflections, or the foreground.
In photography, it’s said that each photo you take, including non-selfies, is essentially a self-portrait. Your photography style will essentially express your brand. As a photographer, versatility is almost always a good thing, but it could also have negative effects on your wedding photography business. As a rule of thumb, keep your editing consistent. Just figure out what you like and keep it consistent. Having different editing styles on your site could be confusing to prospects.
As personal as your service is, the client will still see you as a business, and they will want to know what to expect from your photography. From your in-person meetings to your web presence, you should have a consistent message about who you are and what you do. The image processing should be consistent, and so should your ongoing communications.
Besides your style, whether it’s classic, formal, photojournalistic, or something else, you should remember not to lose sight of the task you have at hand. Be as fun, hip, and creative as possible, but don’t forget about the traditions. For instance, it’s essential to have one traditional smiling photo of the bride and groom looking at the camera. Mothers and grandmothers will be looking for this simple portrait.
Hopefully, this article has given you insights on how to approach and plan your next wedding photography shoot. Any tips we may have missed? Are you a seasoned wedding photographer and want to share some advice with budding photographers? We look forward to hearing from you in the comment section below.