Are you Ready to be a Wedding Photographer?


ready-to-be-wedding-photographer-12As a photographer the time will come that you are asked to shoot a friend’s wedding for free or for payment. Most photographers baulk at the idea, citing the importance of the day and fear of failure as the main reasons. In this article I want to look at what it takes to shoot someone’s wedding to help you decide if it is your lack of self confidence that is preventing you for taking one on, or a honest reflection of your abilities coupled with a moral obligation telling you not to ruin the day.

Are you ready?

This is clearly subjective and to a certain extent determined by the visual literacy of the bride and groom. What are their expectations and do they match what you are technically able to do? From your perspective, before you can even entertain the proposition, you should be competent, technically, with a camera. This means being able to use it comfortably in full Manual mode with an understanding of how shutter speed, aperture and ISO work together to give the correct exposure. If you currently work in Program ( P ) mode, although you may get okay results, you should probably decline the opportunity.

The above may seem harsh so let me explain my reasoning. If you do not understand the principles of how to nail exposure fairly accurately in Manual mode, then chances are that you will not be well versed in composition or the use of light, both of which are integral to creating images the bride and groom will love. You may ask at this point ask what does it matter if I shoot in Program mode – I spent a lot of money on my camera and I get well exposed images. Well, the problem is that you are not in control. Wedding photography is about translating what is in your mind’s eye into a photo, and you need the technical know how to do this, at the same time as capturing the couple’s and guests’ emotions. In short you need to control the depth of field which means shooting in Manual or Aperture priority mode (the latter in fine as long as you can do it manually as well and know about exposure compensation).

Do you have the right gear?


If I shoot a wedding I take at least three bodies with me (often five) so as not to miss a special moment while changing lenses, and to act as back up. The latter is incredibly important. You do not need a top of the range kit – in fact a good photographer could shoot a wedding very well with an entry level DSLR, but it does help. Do you have fast glass (f/2.8 or faster) or are you using a kit lens? If you have a kit lens, is it fast enough to give a sufficient shutter speed to capture the ceremony? The last thing you want is to ruin the proceedings and romance by using a flash. A 50mm f/1.8 can be purchased very quickly and are ideal as they all come with a built in zoom – your feet!

Can you direct people and blend into the wedding?

Even photojournalists will usually take portraits of the bride and group and arrange group shots, so being able to pose people is really important. It is an area that most photographers struggle to get right though and this shows up in the final images. They look awkward and unnatural, which is the last thing you want. It is something you can learn before the wedding and practice to get right. You really don’t want to be doing this on the day and lining the family up like a firing squad.


Do you have insurance?

Even if you are covering a wedding for a friend you should still have insurance in case something happens. Your bride and groom may be forgiving, but suppose staff member at the venue trips over your bag, which you momentarily put down, and hurts themselves? You do not want to be sued!

How do the bride and groom want their images?

They may have expectations of a grand album. Can you provide this, design it and deliver it? Do you have the time to do this or would you prefer to just hand over a disk of images?


Set the expectations for the bride and groom

A wedding is a serious thing and if you decide to take one on for the first time it is important to be very honest with the couple. Tell them that you are nervous and that it will be your first time. Unless they are very misguided, they will likely have asked you to cover it because you are either free or inexpensive, or they simply want a record of their day and you have a flash camera which works better than a camera phone.

You may be an excellent photographer, but can you handle your nerves? Can you think straight and logically if something goes wrong? Can you work to a strict deadline, like when the meal is due to be served. Are you comfortable shooting in bright sun, rain, snow or dark conditions? You need to ask yourself these questions, and ideally do a complimentary engagement shoot with the couple to ensure they like what you produce.



So, are you ready to be a wedding photographer?

The above hardly touches the surface, but if you have the self belief and confidence that you can shoot a wedding, then go for it. Just be honest with the bride and groom, and set expectations. From their point of view they may not have a budget for a professional and would prefer that you got something for them instead of none. It is hard work. Your brain will ache and you really need to do your homework first, but if you do, then chances are you will love every second.

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David Pearce is a sports and portrait photographer has published 4 books on wedding photography and one on boudoir photography. Collectively they have sold tens of thousands in print form and contain almost 1000 pages. The complete set in PDF format is currently available for instant download on his website for just $25 instead of the usual $100. This is offer is only valid for the first 1000 readers of dPS, so get in quickly.

  • John Craft

    Also checkout this cool tutorials

  • Lewis Romane

    I’ve been doing Wedding Photography for about 8 years now and it always amazes me how people can advertise all day packages for like £350, whenever I visit a client I always have to blow these husband and wife teams out of the water with their basic SLR equipment and try and teach them about light before they make a grave mistake, you pay a fortune for your wedding, might as well not scrimp to remember it and have some documented memories! Wedding photography nottingham

  • All great points, David. And thank you for writing something with an encouraging tone. I will tell you. When I started (six years ago, full time on my own for two years) I read an incredible amount of posts and articles that were scary and basically said “You can’t do it”. I felt like 90% of the ‘helpful’ stuff I read was just written by other photographers to keep the competition pool at a lower level. Thankfully, I see more encouraging things on this forum that I think are helpful.

  • Anne

    Really helpful! thanks! looking forward to hearing more about this topic

  • Darlene Hildebrandt

    John I’ve noticed you comment a lot and post a link to your website every time. This is not really the best way to get noticed and get traffic to your site. What does photo tricks have to do with wedding photography?

    If you have something to offer that relates to the article please add a comment.

    If you want to help the readers learn one of the 99 tricks then perhaps you want to submit and article to me to consider for dPS? If not please restrict your comments to just that, comments.

  • Lorri A

    Back when I was thinking about going pro, I was asked by friends to photograph their wedding. I agreed, they were well pleased with the end product, but I learned one thing that day, I don’t enjoy the pressure, the stress. Since then I’ve done anything BUT shoot weddings. Portraits, engagements, babies, children, and for my own pleasure landscapes, nature – anything that doesn’t bring the pressure of wedding photography, I don’t need the stress. I’m quite happy to be a ‘backup’ photog, did that at my niece’s wedding last month, I got some ‘ninja shots’ (a term my son coined) which she and her new husband love, but that’s about it for my interest in wedding photography.

  • Johan Bauwens

    I find the stress a good catalyst. And the ones who are the most stressed out at the wedding, are the ones getting married ! I would like to add that good gear comes in handy ! The kind of camera with two memory card slots, so you can write the pics to 2 cards, very handy in case one card crashes … And a camera that is good at high iso, so you don’t need flash.

  • Luis

    I did a wedding last year for the first time, and made a ton of mistakes. My recommendations are similar:

    – Charge. Always charge. Making the couple pay means that you suddenly have value, and they want to get that value from what you for the cost. Doing it for free, I found out, means you get less respect overall.

    – Don’t underestimate yourself. You might not think you’re good enough to charge, but if you were asked, then you’re either good enough, or the couple severely overestimates yourself. Work out if you’re good enough to charge and shoot, or avoid the shoot entirely.

    – Don’t OVERestimate yourself. Too many people buy an SLR, take nice looking photos, and their friends and family – used to seeing crappy cheap P&S and mobile phone photos on their Facebook feeds – praise your photos which would be classed as ‘average’ at best. Don’t think that just because you have some equipment and your best friend thinks you’re great, that that means you can shoot a wedding. Do some free shoots and upload your stuff to people that don’t know you to get feedback and ask if they think you’re ready.

    – ALWAYS have a second shooter. Someone to get other angles, details, etc. Someone to backup if something goes wrong. Make sure they’re vetted for quality.

    – Take control. Make sure the couple knows you’re in charge during the photo portion. Have them have the celebrant/priest/whoever announce who you are, so everyone knows to keep out of your way. Herd people firmly to their places, ask guests to stay behind you when you shoot.

    – Make sure expectations are firmly in place. If it’s your first wedding, and you’re not 100% comfortable, then be honest with the bride and groom and tell them that. Make sure they understand that there’s no guarantees, but be prepared that you might need to offer a refund or partial refund, or a reshoot if you screw up.

  • Louise

    I done a wedding in December for my Dad and that is when I realised I didn’t want to be a wedding photographer, and because of my nerves and how much I panicked I kept forgetting to do things. So I’m not made to be a wedding photographer not yet!

  • sjrw123

    Check out Joe Buissink’s creative live session on wedding photography. I shot manual all the time until I viewed it. It opened my eyes to P mode, which is so much more useful than you seem to be able to see through what seems like a pompous and self serving viewpoint. P mode used properly gives the best of shutter priority AND aperture priority; and with back button exposure hold you can catch any surprise shots that happen, as they will on a wedding day. I still use manual for predictable subjects, but for a wedding P is the way to go. Watch Joe Buissink and you will realise and understand.

  • Hyowon Choi

    This is exactly how I felt right after I did the first wedding photography! In my case, the experience was much bitter than yours so I have eventually even given up on becoming pro photographer. That’s because then I realized that I enjoy the photography as my hobby, not as job.

  • Angelfire

    hey Luis- you’re right- paying just makes people value the service you’re providing! You have to hold your head up high and click with confidence. Success will surely follow- nothing is worse for business than self doubt.

  • Trifon Anguelov

    Very useful wedding photography information. I think all the points make sense and are definitely important to consider when preparing for a wedding. The wedding photography is challenging but also very rewarding. There is nothing better than to see the bride and groom glow over their wedding photos and cry when they see their album.

    Like a San Francisco Bay Area Wedding Photographer myself, I have learned a lots while mastering my wedding workflow. But before one can prepare, it is important in my view to understand and determine if the wedding photography is truly the field one should specialize in. Created a guide: What Does It Take To Be a Wedding Photographer to help fellow wedding photographers make the switch. Hope these tips and guide are useful to others.

    Weddings are easy to photograph if one is prepared for it and has a good workflow to follow.

    Thank you.

  • Jo Adeyemo

    Thanks, this is really helpful. I shot my first two weddings (both for friends and both for free) this year and I’ll definitely use your advice going forward.

  • Funciona?

    You did convinced me to check Buissink’s work, but with a background MIDI on his website and photos like this one, I kinda doubt whatever reasons he has to shoot with P mode will convince somebody.

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