Chris Garbacz, a Melbourne-based wedding photographer with 10 years experience is just shy of 400 weddings being under his belt. He would say he has seen it all and experienced almost every scenario imaginable. But most importantly he still loves photographing weddings after all this time. If you are freaking out about shooting your first wedding this article will give you the top five most important wedding photography tips you will need to know. This is the beginner's guide to getting you prepared and ready to shoot your first wedding. Sometimes you learn the hard way but if you actually follow and practice these five steps you will be ready.
Here's the situation, you booked your first wedding a year ago and at that time you were very excited. It may be a paid job or you might just do it for a friend for free and get some experience. Either way it's one of the most important days of the couple's life so you need to make sure you get it right. The wedding is about two months away and your excitement is turned to fear but it's time to get organized. These wedding tips can help calm your nerves and get you as prepared as possible.
The first thing you need to know is a being an awesome wedding photographer is not all about photography. Having good photography skills is only about 30% of what it takes to being an awesome wedding photographer.
The other 70% includes:
- Being happy and friendly and the ability to build rapport with anyone, becoming everyone's best friend.
- Being an awesome problem solver when things go wrong, i.e., the car breaks down, the camera breaks, or mother-in-law faints.
- Being able to think quickly on your feet and make big decisions, all the while convincing everyone it is the right thing to do.
- Being bold and getting people to listen to you but never rude, call it crowd control.
- Being an entertainer and having fun with the bridal party, cracking jokes and making sure the bride and groom have the best possible experience while taking their photos.
Prepare, prepare and prepare!
This may seem obvious to most people but it's amazing how little preparation some photographers put into their wedding. Don't expect to show up and rock it. You will end up winging it and it's irresponsible and totally unfair for the couple who are expecting you to know what you're doing. So what does prepare mean? Preparation is the key for success in any industry so here are the following five top wedding photography tips on helping you be as prepared as possible.
- Know your gear inside out
- Scout the locations
- Write a shot list and memorize it
- Assist as much as you can
- Shoot a fake wedding
This should be understood but making sure you pick up your camera and you know all the settings, understand the modes, get to know the settings that are available on your lenses (image stabilizer), work out all the options available on your speedlite etc. Once you think you know your gear, grab a friend and practice getting perfectly exposed images, quickly and in a lot of different locations. Practice so you get used to getting your settings right, so on the big day you can be prepared. Borrow your wife or girlfriend and practice to get the setting and lights correct. One idea is to go into the lounge room, position your subject and ideally you as photographer, your back should be to the window. Take a photo as quickly as possible with perfect exposure. Then walk outside of the backyard and do the same, either in the shade or with the sun behind the subject and shoot. Then head to the front yard or the kitchen and do the same. Use your flash, practice in a darker room with little window light or what would be similar to the conditions you will be in at the reception. Bounce the flash off the roof, or the wall and practice turning it off and crank your ISO to see what happens. Practice all these options and see what works best so on that day you will be prepared.
Scouting locations is another must do so you can be prepared. You most likely will not get a chance to see the bride or groom's homes before the day but you can imagine it will be like any average home. As long as there is light in the lounge room and master bedroom you should be okay. Apart from the bride and groom coverage you should scope out the scenes at the church or the ceremony location as well as any locations you intend to use. It is really advantageous if you can go to these locations roughly the same time of day that you would be there on the actual wedding, so the lighting will be similar. You can even Google the locations and see what other photographers have done in the past. You can then go there, use their shots as inspiration and work out your own ideas. Walk around everywhere and find the best spots and use your camera. Take photos pretending the couple is there so you can work out your compositions. This may sound like a lot of work but preparation is the key and if you've already worked out your ideas with the best spots, then on the day you're going to do great.
This is another important tip. Write a shot list of exactly what you're going to do at every location. Be specific as possible and try and memorize it. For the groom coverage shot list include: boutonniere, tie, cufflinks, rings, cologne, watch or anything else the groom once to include. For the boys getting ready: helping with cufflinks or tie, putting the vests on, slap each in the ass shot, hero shot of all the boys fully dressed, serious and gangster, big smiles, hugging and roughing up the groom. This may sound super detailed and all weddings are different but have the shots memorized as it helps you be prepared. Do this for the bride coverage also. Here are some ideas: bride in her own archway with the back of dress shot, looking down at flowers or away into the distance or directly at the camera. Groom and his own archway with hands in his pockets looking at the camera or into the distance, looking at his bride, serious or smiling. _Bride and groom together looking at each other, or looking at the camera. Bride hugging groom from behind, both looking at the camera or in the distance or bride kissing room on the cheek even sticking her tongue in the groom's ear. Another tip is for every scene try and shoot a series of wider shots then mix things up and shoot another series of close-up shots in the same location.
This is important, as you should definitely do this before you go out and shoot your first wedding. Start trying to find someone to assist you as soon as you book your first wedding. You can also be the one who starts assisting as that will help you be more prepared. Finding a job as an assistant is not an easy task. Try finding the best 20 wedding photographers you love and start shooting in their style. Email them one by one and then every month and finally your timing may be right and you'll get the job. Someone's current assistant may be sick and your email pops up. Learning from a pro and understanding what goes on behind the scenes of the wedding are invaluable insights. Best of all you can get some time with the pro and pick their brains.
One of the best ways to prepare for the real wedding is to get some friends together and try and mimic some of the shots you are actually going to do on the wedding day. Shoot the groom in a lounge room as well is the bride. Go on location to the actual spots you will use and shoot all the images you would for the real day. Practice getting it right in front of the camera.