How to Photograph Weddings – Tips & Trade Tricks
Wedding photography is an important source of income for many photographers. A good wedding season can sometimes secure a photographer’s income for the entire year. Here are some tips and tricks of the trade that you can use to enhance your wedding shoots.
Plan Ahead and Make a List of Ideal Shots
Many people make lists before they head to the grocery store. Planning keeps a shopper focused, on budget, and ensures collection of all necessary items. For these same reasons, it’s important for a photographer to map out ideal shots before a shoot. It feels terrible to end a long shoot with hundreds of photographs, but minimal standard or desired shots.
What’s the best way to develop this list? Consult with the bride and groom to get an idea of their preferences and develop a wish list based on your conversation. It also helps to present the bride and groom with a list of traditional shots (including examples) and ask which they like or dislike. These might include shots of getting ready, important moments in the ceremony or reception, photos of family and friends, etc. One way to set yourself apart from other photographers is to offer a look-book for your customers that lists common shots and examples (illustrations or photos). You might even make it interactive and allow space for the couple to write in their preferences, key people they would like in the shot, shots they don’t like or want, etc.
Wear neutral colored clothing and dress according to the dress code provided to guests. This will allow you to blend in more seamlessly with the crowd. Additionally, turn the sound on your camera off. The last thing a couple wants to hear when they’re exchanging vows is the click-click-click of a camera. It’s okay to move around (in fact, it’s encouraged). However, try to move during appropriate times (i.e. after someone is done speaking or during transitions).
Find Key Stakeholders for Wedding-Day Advising
This is a big day for the bride and groom. And while many enjoy taking the lead and directing the photographer, others consider it overwhelming and would prefer to focus exclusively on their special day. Regardless of your couple’s preference, you’ll want to find some key advisors within the wedding party that can guide you when you might have questions or seek advice about a shot. Take some time before the wedding to connect with the couple’s parents, best friends, or members of the wedding party. It might also be helpful to check in with the couple during your planning session to see if they recommend some key advisors for you during the event.
Familiarize Yourself with the Wedding
and Reception Venues
Different locations have different equipment needs. Nothing feels worse than showing up to a wedding shoot only to realize that your shots could have wildly benefited from one or two key pieces of gear. For example, what are your lighting needs? To illustrate, if a wedding is being held in a church, some churches have very low lighting, but don’t allow flashes. Are there enhancements that you can make during or before the wedding to capture your ideal shots?
What is the anticipated temperature both outside and inside? Which spots have the best and worst vantage points? Recently, a good friend of mine shot a wedding reception that was being held on a boat. Being an avid outdoorsman, he brought a raft that allowed him to get shots of the entire boat mid-reception. Some of the guests were so impressed with his ingenuity that he found two clients from attendants at the reception as a direct result of his innovation. Always be prepared for the unique needs of your wedding venue.
Bring an Assistant
Many photographers – particularly new photographers or who are breaking into new genres – are hesitant to bring an assistant to shoots. I hear excuses like, “I could never afford one” or “I’m not quite that fancy”. Assistants aren’t just for established or wealthy photographers – they are a trick-of-the-trade for us all! As assistant will allow you to multi-task and to be two-places at once. Wonder what’s taking so long for the wedding to start, but don’t want to leave your post to investigate? Ask your assistant. Is there a more ideal shot going on in a neighboring room? Ask your assistant to investigate while you secure your current shot. Having an assistant also allow you to obtain multiple angles of key shots such as toasts or vows.
Bringing along an assistant will also give someone a special opportunity to learn from you and on-the-job, which is invaluable. Think about when you were first starting out. You may have dreamed of going on certain shoots, but may not have had the training, experience, or confidence. Joining a more seasoned photographer during a shoot is a fantastic opportunity to grow in one’s experiences as a photographer and to gain important hands-on experiences. So remember, you both benefit from working together!
Shoot in RAW
If you have the storage capacity (always have extra memory on hand!), shoot RAW for the highest quality pictures. When you shoot in RAW, the data within your photo is not automatically processed with your camera. Your photo will contain all image data recorded by your sensor. This allows you to use your computer for post-processing, instead of automatic changes made by your camera. By using your computer, you have much more control over the quality of post-processing and over your final product.
Use Presets and Actions to Speed up Your Workflow
Lightroom presets and Photoshop actions take the headache out of the time-consuming process of editing pictures by hand. Editing packages designed exclusively for weddings are ideal. The Luxe Lens offers exceptional options specifically for weddings:
Show Off Some of Your Work During the Reception
One benefit to being able to post-process your photos with speed is the potential to showoff your work during the latter half of the event (i.e. reception). One trick-of-the-trade that wedding photographers use to both impress their clients and to show off their work to future clients is the reception slide show.
In between the wedding and reception, photographers typically have some down time. Use this time wisely! Load your wedding pictures on your laptop, add some post-processing with presets or actions, and load into a slide-show that can be viewed on an iPad during the reception. Not only does this novelty impress current clients, but it gives potential clients a glimpse into your high-quality work! Some guests may even want to place an order with you for certain shots – adding extra income to your shoot.
Always Travel with Your Calling Card
There’s nothing worse than connecting with a solid potential client that has no way to contact you or to remember meeting you. Aim to always travel with (at minimum) a business card. For those who seem like a more series connection, it’s always helpful to have some additional marketing materials on hand. Not sure where to start when it comes to developing high-need marketing materials? The Luxe Lens has created a marketing package specifically for wedding photographers that can be personalized to your individual needs.
Few of us were drawn to photography simply because it pays the bills. Typically, there are many facets of the profession that bring us joy and fulfillment. Keep this in mind when the stress or chaos of a wedding begins to creep up (not to worry – this is normal!). Weddings are an intimate and very special celebration in another person’s life and you have been gifted an opportunity to share in this. Enjoy the celebration! Pause to appreciate the details. Take in the beautiful surroundings. Find peace in the community that has come together. And keep in mind the very important and valuable role you are playing in this magical event. What a gift!