Wedding Photography 101 (Part 2)

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Read Part 1 of this series on Wedding Photography.

Lighting

Image by Pelipe

To truly master photography, not just the wedding genre, you will need to learn how light affects everything. Invest time in reading, training and experience to perfect techniques as on the day of the shoot you won’t have time to stop and think about what settings you need – you’ll need to understand the basic principles as well as the set up of your DSLR like the back of your hand.

Not only will the subject’s grow impatient but you could find yourself missing those all important ‘moments’ because you were too busy fiddling around in the settings menu.

Backing up

If you have time and the equipment on hand – back up your images onto a storage device, laptop or use built in wi-fi technology or a wi-fi card (such as the Eye-Fi memory card) to beam the images to your desktop. Whatever you do don’t format the cards until you have edited your frames and ensured everything is securely backed up across a handful of hard drives. 

To limit the risk of losing files or shooting on a corrupt card on the day, take several medium capacity (2-8 GB) cards, perhaps even marking each for relevant parts of the day, for example: bridal prep, ceremony, reception and evening.

Your style and manner

Rather than be a jack of all trades it is advisable and perhaps even more lucrative to try and carve out a recognisable style and niche that shows what you are not only capable of but also enjoy doing. If your work is good and your style attractive, couples want to book you for their wedding day. You may need to alter this slightly as fashions change but always stick to what you enjoy creating and shoot in a style and manner that suits you.

Be up front about your style and your manner when the client books, but to make that sale you may also want to consider being flexible if the couple wants something which is outside your normal ‘remit’. Have everything you are providing the couple down in writing before the big day, set a fee with payments guidelines and deadlines – never forget this is a business transaction.

On the day be unobtrusive – this is their wedding – you are just there to record it and not ruin it. There are millions of wedding photographers out there but the ones who are really successful preach about the importance of politeness and respect. Yes be assertive and you will need to be as wedding photography is one of the most stressful jobs know to man, but do it with manners.

Remember the little things

As well as capturing the important stages of the day such as: bride and groom preparation, the ceremony, romantic portraits, candids, group shots, speeches and the first dance, you should use any time between these events to record the smaller – yet hugely significant details; in essence – anything the bride and groom have spent time and money on choosing for their big day.

On your hit list should be: bridal accessories (such as jewellery, shoes, bouquets, bags, headwear and even underwear), table decorations, the cake, flowers, party favours, the seating plan, place settings, and even the bows tied to the seats used at the ceremony and reception venues. For creating a soft effect use a wide aperture such as f4 or 5.6 and crop in close using a fast lens.

Post production

As soon as you get back to your office, load the images straight into your computer and back them up on to the computer’s hard drive as well as several other portable external hard drives and online storage sites.

Using an editing suit such as Photoshop, Lightroom or one of the other thousand options available,  delete any images which don’t meet the grade whether that be because they are out of focus, blurred, incorrectly exposed – beyond redemption, the subject is pulling an unattractive face or has their eyes shut etc. Next begin cleaning the image, tweaking exposure, brightness and contrast and/or adding filters you may like to use. 

It is possible to run edits on multiple images at once, so check your software’s manual for advice. Load the final edit to an online library at low resolution for the couple to choose their favourites. With decision made make albums and send the couple the proofs. Administer any changes and then send the result off to the suppliers, which can then be returned to you or straight to your client. Most photographers estimate that after the wedding, the couple should receive their album within four to six weeks, however this ultimately depends on the volume of customers the photographer has, how quickly the suppliers can turn around products and how long the couple take to decide which frames they want.

Breaks

Wedding photography is hugely demanding mentally and physically, and it may be likely that you could end up working 12 hours without a break. Try to take five minutes when you can and get a soft drink to recover. Pack a few cereal or power bars and even a small tub of pasta to see you through the lulls as its unlikely you’ll get fed.

Insurance

If you are getting paid for your work you should definitely have adequate insurance in case something goes wrong. Not only will this cover you if your equipment is damaged, lost or stolen but will also protect you in case a third party injures themselves because of your equipment or because of a situation you have asked them to get into. What is more indemnity insurance will protect you and your businesses from claims of negligence, breach of duty of care, infringement of intellectual property, loss of data and client dishonesty.  See our blog on Insurance for more information on this.

Read Part 3 in our Wedding Photography 101 series.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Natalie Denton (nee Johnson) Natalie Denton (nee Johnson) is the former editor of Digital Photographer magazine, and is now a freelance journalist and photographer who has written for dozens of photography and technology magazines and websites over the last decade. Recent author and tutor too.

  • Tyler F

    I wouldn’t keep a ceremony card, a reception card, an evening card. Then if one of the cards does corrupt, you could have lost the ceremony. Just a few cards, and then swap every now and again, they will all still be numbered in order, but if you swap cards every 50 shots, or at a time when there is not much going on just do a quick card change. Maybe work out the average number of shots you can get on a card (say 200 in this example), then maybe make a mark every time you change cards. Then when there is 4 marks, put that card safely away. That way if a card does fail, you will still have plenty of other shots from that part of the wedding.

  • Just a note about the pasta – it’s a high GI food which while means it can give a short term boost in energy, but can cause a dip in energy after a short while, and actually leave you feeling hungry again and with the “sugar blues” (tired and lacking energy). If you want pasta, go for wholemeal pasta cooked “al dente”, which is better than pasta based on refined wheat.

    I would have a couple of bananas to hand as these are a healthier alternative and can give a longer lasting energy boost (but don’t eat too many!)

  • mike

    I have never done a wedding that I didn’t get fed. I now even put it in most of my contracts. And I take alot of short breaks. You can only get so many shots of uncle Joey stuffing his face, or doing the macorana! As long as you let your clients know before hand, and you don’t miss anything you will be fine. There is no reason to “suffer ” on those long stressful days.

  • Joshua Young

    Attended a wedding today and saw the photographer walking around the church looking through her camera manual trying to figure out part of the settings. I can’t imagine being that unprepared for a shoot, especially a wedding shoot.

  • retlaw7

    lol @Andy’s comment. Good advice! 🙂

  • Maybe I’m just missing it, but where is the link to the blog site that has more info on insurance?

  • I remember my own wedding where the photographer didn’t eat, and made sure that we didn’t either. As soon as we sat down to eat, he came and grabbed us for “special” shots. He could have done this afterward. What it amounted to is that we never got to eat at our own wedding. Make sure that you eat so that the bride and groom get a chance to eat too.

    Frank

  • This is excellent. I would stress the fact that extra batteries are necessary! Remember to treat your memory cards with care and diligence they can break easily. Additionally, don’t run them out– once you have about 10 images left stop taking pictures with that memory card as it can get corrupted by using up all of the space allotted.

    Regards,

    Yobe from BM Photographers

  • Johnp

    A question about insurance Natalie, probably more a legal question but your comment would be appreciated. If you accept to do the wedding as I do on the basis that you are not a professional and therefore they shouldn’t expect professional results, do you think if you had that or something similar in writing it would negate the need for insurance? I suppose if you ask for payment you might be in trouble, I dont ask for payment but I’m usually given gift cards (after the event). I have asked that my offsider be paid though. That’s another thing, I’d only do a wedding if I had someone as an assistant for backup.

  • on lighting add, an off camera flash cord… cheap and transform your results…

  • For whatever reason I don’t like the first photo attached to this post.

    But the content is nice. Now heading to the third part.

  • @Johnp There are venues that require you to have liability insurance to be able to shoot in them, so you won’t be able to shoot the reception without it. So you might need it for that, and professional indemnity may only just be a little extra on top of liability if you buy both at the same time.

    But if you are doing a favour for a friend or someone, and make sure they understand that there is no indemnity insurance and to not be upset if it all goes wrong (reminding them you are not a professional)…

  • @mike — I can second your statement that I have never shot a wedding where I was not offered a meal either, now I am vegetarian so there have been several times there were no options, but I anticipated this and brought my own food in a little cooler I kept in my car.

    @Frank — that’s too bad what happened to you. I always ask my clients for a very detailed itinerary of events (which includes when we will shoot together) and shots that they want. Thus, there are no impromptu photo sessions during the day, unless requested by the bride/groom. In this way I also see when I can take a break or two myself and can tell the clients if the shots/locations they want are feasible given time constraints.

    About memory cards, I would be sure and use cards you absolutely trust. My two 8GB Transcend CF cards have my absolute confidence. I have used them for a long time. I would definitely not want to shoot a wedding or any other paid job with a card for the first time, or even within the first month of owning it.

    http://jasoncollinphotography.com/wedding

  • Jason, part of the thing that still annoys me about it is that we *did* give the photographer the itinerary of the day. We made it clear that the impromptu photo session that he wanted should have taken place while our various family members were dancing. Instead, he did it during dinner so we could not eat, then, he comes up to me, the groom who is not paying for his time (his contract was with my in-laws) and asks for more money to stay longer. Add in the general way that he treated us (we were there for his use and no one else’s) and I just put the whole thing down to an unprofessional photographer. When asked to comment on his performance to his agency, I waited until after we got the completed pictures back and let them know exactly how we felt.

    I know too many professionals now who do it the right way to ever let any of my friends or relatives get stuck with an unprofessional photographer again. 🙂

    Frank

  • Johnp

    Thanks Andy. My venues are usually outdoors, peoples properties, parks, beaches, etc so I’ll try to keep to those. I’m hoping I don’t have to do anymore weddings, find it hard to resist the challenge though when people ask me.

  • As a photographer at weddings I almost never get to eat a full meal. Mostly it is just snacks along the way, and usually I can sit for about 5-10 minutes, that’s it. One wedding I knew the bride really well and she forced myself and my assistant to have a couple beers and relax, easily one of my top 5 weddings! It helped my assistant relax a bit because it was his first wedding!

  • very good idea.. 🙂

  • Shirley

    All the tips on the actual photos are great, but here’s one on being the photographer … let the bride and groom enjoy their wedding! I had a somewhat large Italian wedding almost 40 years ago. To this day, I remember more about how in-your-face and annoying the photographer was more vividly than some of the memorable moments! While the photographs are ultra important to the bride and groom, so is the event itself. Our photographer was in nearly EVERY photograph that anyone took with their own cameras. He interrupted our conversations with guests, he grabbed us away from the table 2 minutes after he took the toast pictures (so we barely got to eat anything), he “directed” and posed our cake cutting, first dance, bouquet throw, garter toss and nearly every other special moment. Biggest kicker was that he was in a hurry to take the “going away” photos, so he rushed us off to the dressing rooms to change, he got the pics and we were to young and stupid to think he could have left and we could have gone back inside and REALLY had a better time without him, so we left when the party was still going strong! Yes, we got some good pics, but the photographer was as much in the forefront as we were! Word of advice to all you professionals … some shots require your direction, but when you can, stand back and LET the event unfold. Most will appreciate you using a longer-range lens to get the shots from a distance instead of running circles around the couple during the entire event. You’re supposed to record the event in pics, not be a participant! Thanks for listening. 🙂

  • I have a question about editing. I generally have pproxaimately 1000 shots or more for each wedding. How long do you spending in post production for each photo. I actually find this the most tiring part of the job.

  • Singapore Guy,

    I am using Adobe Lightroom to edit for that amount of photos. It easy and faster.. 🙂 But for the detail, I used Adobe Photoshop CS2 or higher than that. 🙂

  • Editing, I use LR for 80% of my work and only go into PS CS2 for specific editing, i.e. air brush out some distracting background (i.e. an illuminated ‘Exit’ sign above a door.

    Tip: NEVER format a camera memory card on your computer. A FAT32 format will destroy it!

Some Older Comments

  • Paul April 2, 2011 08:02 pm

    Editing, I use LR for 80% of my work and only go into PS CS2 for specific editing, i.e. air brush out some distracting background (i.e. an illuminated 'Exit' sign above a door.

    Tip: NEVER format a camera memory card on your computer. A FAT32 format will destroy it!

  • pirut April 2, 2011 02:40 pm

    Singapore Guy,

    I am using Adobe Lightroom to edit for that amount of photos. It easy and faster.. :) But for the detail, I used Adobe Photoshop CS2 or higher than that. :)

  • Singapore guy April 1, 2011 02:19 pm

    I have a question about editing. I generally have pproxaimately 1000 shots or more for each wedding. How long do you spending in post production for each photo. I actually find this the most tiring part of the job.

  • Shirley April 1, 2011 02:43 am

    All the tips on the actual photos are great, but here's one on being the photographer ... let the bride and groom enjoy their wedding! I had a somewhat large Italian wedding almost 40 years ago. To this day, I remember more about how in-your-face and annoying the photographer was more vividly than some of the memorable moments! While the photographs are ultra important to the bride and groom, so is the event itself. Our photographer was in nearly EVERY photograph that anyone took with their own cameras. He interrupted our conversations with guests, he grabbed us away from the table 2 minutes after he took the toast pictures (so we barely got to eat anything), he "directed" and posed our cake cutting, first dance, bouquet throw, garter toss and nearly every other special moment. Biggest kicker was that he was in a hurry to take the "going away" photos, so he rushed us off to the dressing rooms to change, he got the pics and we were to young and stupid to think he could have left and we could have gone back inside and REALLY had a better time without him, so we left when the party was still going strong! Yes, we got some good pics, but the photographer was as much in the forefront as we were! Word of advice to all you professionals ... some shots require your direction, but when you can, stand back and LET the event unfold. Most will appreciate you using a longer-range lens to get the shots from a distance instead of running circles around the couple during the entire event. You're supposed to record the event in pics, not be a participant! Thanks for listening. :)

  • pirut March 30, 2011 01:34 pm

    very good idea.. :)

  • Jared Lawson March 29, 2011 03:54 pm

    As a photographer at weddings I almost never get to eat a full meal. Mostly it is just snacks along the way, and usually I can sit for about 5-10 minutes, that's it. One wedding I knew the bride really well and she forced myself and my assistant to have a couple beers and relax, easily one of my top 5 weddings! It helped my assistant relax a bit because it was his first wedding!

  • Johnp March 29, 2011 10:34 am

    Thanks Andy. My venues are usually outdoors, peoples properties, parks, beaches, etc so I'll try to keep to those. I'm hoping I don't have to do anymore weddings, find it hard to resist the challenge though when people ask me.

  • Frank March 29, 2011 07:09 am

    Jason, part of the thing that still annoys me about it is that we *did* give the photographer the itinerary of the day. We made it clear that the impromptu photo session that he wanted should have taken place while our various family members were dancing. Instead, he did it during dinner so we could not eat, then, he comes up to me, the groom who is not paying for his time (his contract was with my in-laws) and asks for more money to stay longer. Add in the general way that he treated us (we were there for his use and no one else's) and I just put the whole thing down to an unprofessional photographer. When asked to comment on his performance to his agency, I waited until after we got the completed pictures back and let them know exactly how we felt.

    I know too many professionals now who do it the right way to ever let any of my friends or relatives get stuck with an unprofessional photographer again. :)

    Frank

  • Jason St. Petersburg Photographer March 29, 2011 04:29 am

    @mike -- I can second your statement that I have never shot a wedding where I was not offered a meal either, now I am vegetarian so there have been several times there were no options, but I anticipated this and brought my own food in a little cooler I kept in my car.

    @Frank -- that's too bad what happened to you. I always ask my clients for a very detailed itinerary of events (which includes when we will shoot together) and shots that they want. Thus, there are no impromptu photo sessions during the day, unless requested by the bride/groom. In this way I also see when I can take a break or two myself and can tell the clients if the shots/locations they want are feasible given time constraints.

    About memory cards, I would be sure and use cards you absolutely trust. My two 8GB Transcend CF cards have my absolute confidence. I have used them for a long time. I would definitely not want to shoot a wedding or any other paid job with a card for the first time, or even within the first month of owning it.

    http://jasoncollinphotography.com/wedding

  • Andy Mills March 29, 2011 02:30 am

    @Johnp There are venues that require you to have liability insurance to be able to shoot in them, so you won't be able to shoot the reception without it. So you might need it for that, and professional indemnity may only just be a little extra on top of liability if you buy both at the same time.

    But if you are doing a favour for a friend or someone, and make sure they understand that there is no indemnity insurance and to not be upset if it all goes wrong (reminding them you are not a professional)...

  • Sajib March 28, 2011 09:36 pm

    For whatever reason I don't like the first photo attached to this post.

    But the content is nice. Now heading to the third part.

  • bycostello March 28, 2011 08:29 pm

    on lighting add, an off camera flash cord... cheap and transform your results...

  • Johnp March 28, 2011 01:14 pm

    A question about insurance Natalie, probably more a legal question but your comment would be appreciated. If you accept to do the wedding as I do on the basis that you are not a professional and therefore they shouldn't expect professional results, do you think if you had that or something similar in writing it would negate the need for insurance? I suppose if you ask for payment you might be in trouble, I dont ask for payment but I'm usually given gift cards (after the event). I have asked that my offsider be paid though. That's another thing, I'd only do a wedding if I had someone as an assistant for backup.

  • BMPhotographers March 28, 2011 12:03 pm

    This is excellent. I would stress the fact that extra batteries are necessary! Remember to treat your memory cards with care and diligence they can break easily. Additionally, don't run them out-- once you have about 10 images left stop taking pictures with that memory card as it can get corrupted by using up all of the space allotted.

    Regards,

    Yobe from BM Photographers

  • Frank March 28, 2011 07:28 am

    I remember my own wedding where the photographer didn't eat, and made sure that we didn't either. As soon as we sat down to eat, he came and grabbed us for "special" shots. He could have done this afterward. What it amounted to is that we never got to eat at our own wedding. Make sure that you eat so that the bride and groom get a chance to eat too.

    Frank

  • Steve March 28, 2011 06:02 am

    Maybe I'm just missing it, but where is the link to the blog site that has more info on insurance?

  • retlaw7 March 28, 2011 03:24 am

    lol @Andy's comment. Good advice! :-)

  • Joshua Young March 27, 2011 05:43 pm

    Attended a wedding today and saw the photographer walking around the church looking through her camera manual trying to figure out part of the settings. I can't imagine being that unprepared for a shoot, especially a wedding shoot.

  • mike March 27, 2011 04:28 pm

    I have never done a wedding that I didn't get fed. I now even put it in most of my contracts. And I take alot of short breaks. You can only get so many shots of uncle Joey stuffing his face, or doing the macorana! As long as you let your clients know before hand, and you don't miss anything you will be fine. There is no reason to "suffer " on those long stressful days.

  • Andy Mills March 27, 2011 09:30 am

    Just a note about the pasta - it's a high GI food which while means it can give a short term boost in energy, but can cause a dip in energy after a short while, and actually leave you feeling hungry again and with the "sugar blues" (tired and lacking energy). If you want pasta, go for wholemeal pasta cooked "al dente", which is better than pasta based on refined wheat.

    I would have a couple of bananas to hand as these are a healthier alternative and can give a longer lasting energy boost (but don't eat too many!)

  • Tyler F March 27, 2011 07:00 am

    I wouldn't keep a ceremony card, a reception card, an evening card. Then if one of the cards does corrupt, you could have lost the ceremony. Just a few cards, and then swap every now and again, they will all still be numbered in order, but if you swap cards every 50 shots, or at a time when there is not much going on just do a quick card change. Maybe work out the average number of shots you can get on a card (say 200 in this example), then maybe make a mark every time you change cards. Then when there is 4 marks, put that card safely away. That way if a card does fail, you will still have plenty of other shots from that part of the wedding.

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