It is a great honour if you are asked to take the photographs for someone's big day, but it also comes with a lot of responsibility. If you ask yourself 'Am I ready for this?' then the answer is no you're not! If you do decide to go ahead with it, planning is important. Hopefully this Entry provides some help - happy photographing!
First of all, a mention of insurance - both public liability and professional indemnity cover. Even as an amateur doing friends and family a favour, accidents can happen.
Someone trips over your tripod and breaks a leg or rips an expensive outfit - who will they sue...?
Even worse, imagine your camera or memory card develops a fault and all the photos are ruined - who are the unhappy couple going to sue...?
Gods forbid your equipment gets stolen just before the big day: 'Sorry but I can't do your wedding' just won't cut it - breach of contract lawsuit and the bill for an emergency stand in goes to...?
You lean against a 15th Century church wall and it crashes down - who's going to get the bill...?
Yup - you!
Wedding photography, as well as being a joy, is also a very stressful job to take on. If in doubt leave it to the professionals and be happy with taking shots alongside the other guests - you'll always get some nice pics, but without all the worry!
Spend time finding out what kind of wedding album the couple are looking for. It is a good idea to show examples of your work or compare styles on the Internet. Make notes on the 'must have' shots and plan these accordingly.
There are no second chances in wedding photography. Admittedly the formal shots can be retaken or rearranged but even then every wedding is run to a strict schedule so if you miss a valuable moment or two whilst messing around with lenses, etc, it's gone forever... and you know exactly what shot the bride and groom are going to ask for in their album, don't you? To be on the safe side consider using two cameras, one fitted with a medium telephoto lens and the other with a wider angle lens. This combination will allow you to cope with any situation without having to make rushed lens changes or lose the opportunity of a once-in-a-lifetime shot.
If you are taking photos at the bride's house, for example, and capturing her departure in the wedding transport, make sure you then know the way to the venue so that you can get there ahead of the bride to capture the arrival in plenty of time - not too bad if the transport is a horse-drawn carriage, but it's a different matter if she's travelling in a Ferrari! All these details need to be planned well in advance.
Try to get access to the venue before the big day to test your equipment, make notes about lighting problems and find interesting points of view. A small stepladder is a useful tool for both group shots and getting something a little different. Don't be scared to experiment with backdrops and props but find out your clients' tastes first. Candid shots of the event usually gain some great images, but keep one eye on the happy couple.
If the wedding is being filmed, have a chat with the camera person and find out where the video cameras are to be positioned so that you can try your best to stay out of shot. Explain to the couple that you have liaised with the film people and are aware of the camera location(s). From personal experience, if the film camera is moved without warning there is little you can do if there's 20-odd frames of your back.
Keep a point and click camera in your pocket, as it is easily whipped out on the way between shots or while reloading, to capture that spontaneous moment that you may otherwise miss. Don't think that you ever have enough photos - take more than you need to avoid disappointment. You will probably find you simply do not have the time to review your shots on the day and you just may capture something brilliant in the background that you only notice when you have time to properly view and edit your work later.
The important point is that these are once in a lifetime shots. As we no longer use film (which was very expensive to buy and develop) there is no excuse to not take hundreds of photos!
Take your time with editing too. Save cropped images as copies and keep the originals - this will give the client a choice in the finished album while you are learning. A happy client who feels involved and consulted is more likely to recommend you to others!
Finally, and most obviously, make sure you have enough memory cards or film, take a spare camera body if you have one, don't forget your batteries and spares... oh, and take the lens cap off! Good luck.
The Important Traditional Shots
Remember if you are going to photograph a wedding there are a few dozen shots that may have to be included. The traditional 'must haves' are the close-up of the rings on fingers, cutting the cake, and the throwing of the bouquet.
At the wedding party, you will need pictures of all the parents of the couple. Family shots should especially include those people who came from out of town. Find out who all the guests are (just by group, not individually) to help group shots. For example, at one Researcher's wedding:
My wife and I both had co-workers from our jobs. There were family, neighbours, family friends and people we knew from other activities and even the venue's staff. We had about 300 in total, but that was probably because we hired a local tourist attraction for the ceremony.
Always be Open to New Ideas
When at a wedding, try to take photos of the things that no-one else is photographing. Often the small details that a couple may have agonised over, such as the right type of table confetti, flowers, favours, etc, are forgotten.
The clients' wishes should be taken into account regarding the must-have shots:
Interestingly enough the last two I've done didn't want the rings close-up or cutting the cake; they thought they were too traditional, so we went to the kids play area and messed around on the swings!
At some weddings, cheap disposable cameras are left on the tables so that guests can contribute their own photos. In this day of cheap digital cameras (admittedly low resolution), it is an opportunity for some of the guests, who know the couple much better, to add what could be a welcome addition to the wedding album.
At my daughter's wedding (no pressure there then to get some good shots!) I have learnt something new. A newfangled idea... There's an iPhone app called wedpics; she asked everyone to download and put all the pics taken on phones, etc, to the app site and viola - instant photo album. That allows instant access for everyone around the world who could not make the venue! Still have a 'proper' album but it'll be nice to see what everyone else snaps! She also had FaceTime running so friends and family could watch the ceremony live.