If you have a non-professional photographer friend doing your wedding day pics, point them to this page.
How to photograph a wedding (assuming you already know your way around your camera).
Create a PL (Pic List)
Get the couple to think ahead about the pics that they’d like you to capture on the day and compile a list so that you can check them off. This is particularly helpful in the family pics. There’s nothing worse than going through the photos later and realizing you didn’t photograph the happy couple with Auntie Jane!
Of course you could always use my list … just ask!
The family pic part of the day can be extremely stressful. People are milling around all over the place, you probably don’t know about the different family dynamics at play, and everyone is usually in a festive spirit (or they have the festive spirits in them) to the point where it can become a nightmare to control. Get the couple to nominate a family member (or, better still, one from each side of the family) who can be the family director for the day. They can be responsible for rounding everyone up, helping to get them in the shot and keeping things moving so that the couple can get back to the party.
Scout it out
If possible, check out the locations of the different places that you’ll be shooting before the big day. Although most Pros don’t do this, it can be extremely helpful to know where you’re going to be, have an idea of a few positions for shots and to know how the light might affect the end results. If you go with the couple, you can even take a few test shots – which can later be part of the “pre-wedding” pics.
Have a backup plan in case of bad weather (even just a sturdy, clear plastic bag for the camera will help), have spare batteries charged, extra memory cards, and think about routes and time to get to places and get an itinerary of the full day so you know what’s happening next.
Make sure you know what the couple want
Find out what they want to achieve, how many pics they want, what important things or people they want to be photographed, how the pics will be used (printed or digital, etc.). If you’re charging them for the event, make sure you have an agreement of final price in place up front.
Turn off the sound effects on your camera
While you might like hearing beeps, buzzes and fake shutter noises, these will be more of an annoyance than anything else for everyone else. Turn off the sound effects beforehand.
What to shoot?
Apart from the obvious, get shots of the rings, backs of dresses, shoes, flowers, table settings, menus, etc. These will all help to give an extra dimension to the end result.
Use two cameras
If you have a spare, great. Otherwise, beg, borrow or hire an extra camera for the day – and make sure it has a different lens. If you have one camera set up with a wide angle lens and one with a longer lens (say something like a 70-200mm zoom lens) you’ll be able to quickly get to the right camera for the shot.
Or use another photographer
If you have a second photographer you’ll probable get a much better end result. It means less moving around for both of you during the ceremony and speeches, allows for one to get the formal pics and the other to get the candid ones. It also takes the pressure off you having to get pics of everything that happens on the day!
Get the “money shot”
You need to be present to capture a great moment. However timing is everything, so thinking ahead to be in the right position for key moments is important so as not to disrupt the whole event. During the ceremony, move around and get facial expressions of the bride and groom at critical moments. Take note of things like shoe positions, standing posture, and other body language to get a clue. After the ceremony, while taking more formal pics, know what you want and ask for it from the couple and their guests. You’re running the show at this point, and you need to keep things moving.
Learn how to use light
The ability to bounce a flash or to diffuse it is crucial. You’ll find that in many indoor venues, the light is not ideal. If you’re allowed to use a flash (some churches don’t allow it – but I have no problem with it) think about whether bouncing the flash will work, or whether you might need a diffuser to soften the light. If you can’t use a flash you’ll need to either use a fast lens at wide apertures or bump up the ISO rating. A lens with image stabilization might also help.
Display the pics at the reception
The best thing about digital photography is the immediacy of it as a medium. More and more photographers take a computer to the reception, upload the pics taken earlier in the day and set them up as a slideshow during the reception.
Consider the backgrounds
One of the challenges of weddings is that there are often people moving about everywhere – including the backgrounds of your pics. More especially with the formal pics, check out the area where they’ll be taken ahead of time, looking for good backgrounds. Ideally you’ll have uncluttered areas and shaded spots out of direct sunlight where there’s unlikely to be a wandering Auntie Jane strolling about the back of the pic.
Don’t dump your “bad” pics
These days, using digital cameras allows you to check the images as you go and to delete those that don’t work immediately. The problem with this is that you might just be getting rid of some of the more interesting and usable images. Keep in mind that images can be cropped or manipulated later to give you pics that can add real interest to the end album.
Change your perspective
Be a bit creative with your picture taking. While the majority of the images in the final album will probably be fairly normal or formal poses, make sure you mix things up a little by taking pics from below waist level, above eye level, wide angles etc.
One thing that every wedding album should have is the photograph of everyone who is in attendance in one pic. Try and arrange for a place that you can get up above everyone as soon as possible after the ceremony, before they all disperse. This might mean getting a tall ladder, using a balcony or even climbing on a roof. The beauty of getting high up is that you get everyone’s face in it, and you can fit a lot of people in the one shot. The key is to be able to get everyone to the place you want them to stand quickly and to be ready to get the pic without having everyone stand around for too long. The best way to get everyone to the spot is to get the bride and groom there and to have a couple of helpers to herd everyone in that direction.
When shooting outside after a ceremony or during the posed shots, you’ll find that a little fill flash can work wonders. Especially in back light or midday shooting conditions where there can be a lot of shadow, fill flash is a must.
If your camera can be switched to continuous mode, the ability to shoot a lot of images fast is a great wedding day plus. Very often, it’s the shot you take a second after the formal or posed shot when everyone is relaxing that really captures the moment!
Expect the unexpected
One more piece of advice : Things will go wrong – but they can turn out to be the best parts of the day. Most weddings tend to have something go wrong. The best man can’t find the ring, the rain pours down just as the ceremony starts, the groom forgets to do up his zip, the flower girl decides to sit down in the middle of the aisle or the bride can’t remember her personal vows!
These moments can feel a little panicky at the time, but it’s these moments that can actually make a day and give the bride and groom memories. Attempt to capture them and you could end up with some fun images that sum up the day really well.
Weddings are about celebrating – they should be fun. The more fun you have as the photographer the more relaxed those you are photographing will be. Perhaps the best way to loosen people up is to smile.