What They Don't Tell You About Being A Wedding Photographer

What They Don’t Tell You About Being A Wedding Photographer

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I’ve been shooting weddings for 18 years and while I do not claim to be a know-it-all, I will say I’ve seen a wide range of the glamorous, and not so glamorous, sides of the business. Many people see the money wedding photographers charge for a day of shooting and think, “I can do that no problem!” While this may be the case, I want to point out some things the glamour side of the business doesn’t tell you about.

The Not So Good Stuff

You have to know how to put on boutonnieres

Do you know how to position corsages and boutonnieres? Are you good with make-up and hair dressing? Do you carry safety pins in your pocket just in case you need to adjust a pleat or tuck some fabric back?

If your wedding party has a coordinator or highly motivated individual, these items won’t come up for you. But a number of first time weddings will be casting about for someone with experience to help out. Think about it. The bride and groom have probably attended a number of weddings, but who pays attention to all the details all the time? For most, it’s a glaringly new experience and look at you, over there with your camera and notches on your camera strap. You must know what to do in all these situations? Who walks in first? Where do the flower girls go when they get to the end of the aisle? Do I hold my bouquet down low or higher like this? Should I face him or look at the audience? You’ll be amazed at the number of questions coming your way as the de facto wedding expert.

Editing takes a lot of time

Wow! You nailed that shoot! The Kiss. The First Dance. Mom starting to cry a little. You got it all. All 800 photos of it. 800? Really? Eh, get to it in the morning.

Editing a wedding shoot takes a bit more work than your average holiday trip. It’s by no means impossible, but it is one of the reasons you are charging more for a wedding than photos of a car to be sold on eBay. You can tighten things up a bit by not shooting so much. Back in the film days this was the default choice because more time was involved in setting up the shot and really making sure it was worth capturing. But, as we all know, digital removes that barrier and adds in extra time to the edits. I estimate about 20-40 hours of editing time per wedding shoot.

You need to be a pillar of calm

Stress levels are up on a wedding day, to say the least. Even the debonair appearing groom is fidgety under that rental tux. If you’re nervous, or unsure of your job, it will only feed the fire. Jitters during your first few weddings are normal as you’re still learning. And getting a little amped up before any wedding is fine. But when it’s show time, you need to be on, calm and in control of your aspect in the day. If you’re calm and self assured, it has a big effect on those in front of the camera. Looking clueless only flusters most brides. Get to know the wedding procedures, what comes next, who goes where, so that you can be of assistance in a “it’s ok, I’ve done this before” type of way.

Is organizing drunk people your favorite hobby?

You’re going to have to deal with them; drunk people. Sooner or later. For the most part it’s not that big of a deal, really. But trying to gather folks for a requested shot during the reception, when several party members may have started the festivities around 9am, can be exasperating. This is when you need to be a pillar of calm. But firm. Call in for backup (a likely relative of the less than helpful photo subject) if need be. At times it can be no different than the scene in any bar on a Friday night, except for the fact that you’re trying to work in that bar.

Being Professional At A Party

If you are the partying type, this one might be tough on you. A lot of weddings turn into full blown parties during the reception (certainly not all of them, but many). If alcohol is involved, you can almost be assured it will go that route. But above all else, I believe it’s very important to remain professional in this situation. You’re there to do a job and capture the revelry, not get lost in it. I almost always abstain from drinking during a shoot (unless the hosts are so heavy handed as to make my not having a sip come across as highly offensive) and I feel it helps with my results. It doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, just don’t get carried away.

Updates

“Are they ready yet?” “Not yet, the deadline is not for another three weeks.” Then, a day later, “I know I just asked, but we’re anxious to see the photos. Sorry!”

I have yet to come across a bride who just says, “Eh, get them to me when you can, it’s not important.” The photos ARE important and even more so after the wedding. You’re it, there’s no one else to bug. Before the wedding, the happy couple is juggling caterers, flowers, tux rentals, family, etc… But after the fact, all eyes are on you.

And even before the event, you will need to help calm the bride and groom with increased contacts as needed. They may be totally relaxed and just send an email two weeks before, letting you know the check will be in the mail today and we’ll see you at the wedding. Or you may get a call a day asking if they can add shots to the family list, or if a long lost cousin, who really wants to get into photography, can ghost you. Either way, be ready for the extra contact that tends to come along with wedding shoots.

There’s a whole family history you don’t know about

Part of your job as a wedding photographer is being a good sleuth. You need to find out, in short order, how the families work together and within themselves. Are there certain people you don’t want to be placing close to each other in a photo? Are there photos from the dance floor that shouldn’t be posted because, “those two shouldn’t have been dancing that close”? And is anyone in the witness protection program (no, this hasn’t happened to me, yet)? It seems most families have some quirks that keep things interesting and you get thrust right into it. Personally, I try to ask the couple as many questions as possible beforehand and, if it works out well, invite myself to the rehearsal to get a feel for how people interact under stress. It can help a lot to smooth things on the big day.

The Good Stuff

Not to make the whole experience sound like it is a death march, far from it! There are some benefits that also aren’t widely advertised.

You get to learn new customs

I’m always happy to take on a wedding ceremony I’ve never done. Being it a different religion, custom or just the couple’s own quirky way of celebrating, it’s a chance to learn something new. For the most part, I will ask for a layout of the ceremony and any ancillary events surrounding it and then it’s off to the internet to learn what I can. Friends, too, are a great source of information on customs and ceremony. I love the variety and it helps me grow as a photographer.

You meet fascinating people

This is one of the best parts of the job, the people. For me, I enjoy the chance to chat here and there with those attending the wedding. If nothing else, it gives me a personal connection to the event and does improve my photography. Plus, the sheer variety of folks I meet from wedding to wedding is very enjoyable. One weekend I met an iron sculpturer who built the decorative trellis the couple got married in front of. Two weeks later I met a couple who had spent the last five years visiting over 40 countries around the world. And the great thing is you can skip over a certain amount of small talk because you’re obviously the photographer so people already know what you do for a living and how you know the bride and groom.

You get paid to do what you love

I avoided getting paid for my first few years of weddings, choosing instead to only take photos for friends and family as a gift to them, because I thought I didn’t want to somehow soil that which I loved; taking photos. That was a mistake. It turns out I love shooting weddings for pay. It’s a happy occasion, everyone (almost) is in a great mood, smiles are rampant and I’m honored for the opportunity to preserve that feeling on paper. I will still shoot an occasional wedding pro bono for those I know well, especially if I know they are struggling financially, because I really enjoy the activity, pageantry, colors and joy of it all.

And if someone wants to pay me well for doing what I love when I’m willing to do for free, how can that not be the best job in the world?

Check out more Wedding Photography Tips.

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Peter West Carey leads photo tours and workshops in Nepal, Bhutan, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and beyond. He is also the creator of Photography Basics - A 43 Day Adventure & 40 Photography Experiments, web-based tutorials taking curious photographers on a fun ride through the basics of learning photography.

Some Older Comments

  • Neto Flores August 23, 2011 04:54 pm

    aweseome article! thanks for sharing it

  • katya November 24, 2010 08:55 am

    Yes, great article and tips! Very well covered and everybody's comments are very helpful too.
    I recently shot a wedding in which one of the elderly guests was terminally ill, and I did not capture the person, and later the bride was asking if I had a photo of the older lady, and had I thought to ask about guests beforehand, I would've known.
    The bride and her party were 20 minutes late to the ceremony, and we were scheduled to do the bridal party photos before the ceremony, so, that did not happen. Then, the couple wanted a picture with so many different groups of people, that no matter how much I urged them to follow the originally planned coule portrait session, they only left 10 minutes for that. I ended up getting in their car on the way to the reception and got some awesome pictures of them in the car. (it helped that the car was a beautiful retro vehicle of light turquoise color) and then requested me to stay in their town for another day and do a full day portrait session with them after they got the hair and make up done and all dressed up. I said no.
    Overall, that was the worst organized wedding that I experienced so far, but in the end, everybody was happy.

  • Giley November 19, 2010 08:57 pm

    Not a wedding pro but have helped out many family and friends in the past.
    But it can be fun.
    On my last wedding I was using a fountain as a prop in the grounds of a country home. After photoing the B & G in long shot I looked beyound the fountain and notived a five year old guest peeing on a tree. When we all stopped laughing it was decided to keep the photos for comedy value, and probably to embarrass the little lad in his teenage years.
    I now pay more attention to my depth of field.
    I quite often refer to weddings as "Trying to herd cats".

  • Rae Merrill November 14, 2010 04:52 am

    You probably only touched on a few of the downsides. In fact the downsides you listed are at the lower end of the scale for me. The worst of the downsides include;
    1. Clients who want you there just for show.
    2. Don't want you to take many photos then demand where they all are after the wedding,
    3. Torrential rain and high winds make life pretty difficult for even the most experienced.
    4. Aggressive guests, chauffeurs and mother in laws who want to do your job.
    5. Giving you an envelope with cash which is about £100 short then claiming they gave you it all.

    I could go on but I wont.

  • Heprey Audburn November 6, 2010 09:48 pm

    Thanks for enunciating those things I always did intuitively and never analyzed it before.
    I really found myself again in your words.
    Thank you!

    Heprey

  • Liz | elizabeth&jane photography November 3, 2010 11:02 pm

    I'd like to add to this list: You will probably not eat for 10 hours. You arrive at the wedding at noon and work non-stop until about 10pm. Even if you ask the couple to make sure you are provided a meal, the norm nowadays is to have the speeches during dinner which means you are leaving your seat every two minutes to photograph someone speaking and the couple's reaction to the speech. I make sure to bring granola bars and drink a ton of Vitamin Water on wedding days. Also, make sure you eat a very good breakfast or you won't last throughout the day.

  • Scrollwork November 1, 2010 04:27 pm

    I appreciate Jane's comment about photographers needing to be sensitive to family dynamics. I raised my stepdaughter full-time from when she was 3, but at her wedding, the photographer summoned me with the words, "And now the STEPMOM." It just added to the sting of the wedding rehearsal, where the pastor assigned an usher to escort the "real mother " (an absentee for most of those years) to her seat, while I was ignored.

    http://www.helium.com/items/503958-are-you-ready-for-a-relationship-with-a-man-who-has-children

  • Howard Gleichenhaus November 1, 2010 05:22 am

    Now that I am retired from active shooting on a regular basis I pick up many "shoot and burn jobs." Couples here in S Florida are into destination weddings. Off they go to some Caribbean paradise and hire a local who shoots several hundred images. and provide a disk. There is nice money in editing, retouching and making albums and DVDs. In fact there's more money with less hassle and no frenetic brides to deal with.

    These locals are so-so but they do provide at least 200 well shot images out of 700 or so. I can usually turn them into something spectacular using my Photoshop/lLightroom/Nik software.

  • James Fear Cheltenham November 1, 2010 12:59 am

    This article is so accurate it's untrue! I remember when I started out thinking I have found the easiest way to make money ever, but it can be so stressful and a wedding edit can easily take me 100 hours. However, I wouldn't give it up for the world and the sense of satisfaction once complete and seeing the smile on the brides face is worth the time stress any day :-)

  • Peter Hayward October 31, 2010 11:32 pm

    Agree with pretty much all of the above article. Same here in the UK! Which side of the chuch, which side Dad and so on.
    One bad experience. Putting a divorced couple together!!!! I always made sure I knew who was meant to be with whom after that. All I knew was that they were the parents of one of the couple!!!!
    That was in my early days. Retired now but sometimes miss doing weddings. Don't miss the bride's mother if she's in a bad mood!!!!

  • chiglet October 31, 2010 09:40 am

    Seen it, done it...got the Tee shirt
    Bailing the Groom and "Best Man" out of goal, [my first wedding shoot!] to "I'm the Bride's Father, and I want that shot"...on a Polaroid....
    Shot was Bride, contre jour, large broad brimmed straw hat...very soft lighting. Sticks camera [Nikkormat FTN] up her nose, meters, and takes shot.
    At the reception, he shows me a very [obviously] over exposed polaroid ...."Which 'Yout shot' won't come out"
    I think I sold 20 plus of the shot, but that was 1974...
    Happy days

  • Rose Birch October 31, 2010 07:09 am

    I started doing weddings 5 years ago in New York, I now live in Las Vegas wedding capitol of the world. I work for wedding planners and LOVE my job! the tips in this article are good.......but here weddings are slightly different you spend between 1-4 hours shooting and usually in unusual places. I always ask bride & groom what they want and expect and while I do get the formal shots they almost always want unusual and different (which I love) I can be as creative as I want! have at times had entire wedding party and friends and family standing in fountains or pools of water I can get everyone destressed (women are happy to get out of heels for a bit and soak their aching feet) and laughing while I get great genuine smiles of the fun their having, so they get formal photos as well as really fun ones that make them smile when they see them!

  • Howard Gleichenhaus October 31, 2010 06:34 am

    The stories we could tell; the homeless man who stumbled to altar demanding confession - the "nobody told the caterer" that the wedding cake was ice cream - the entire wedding party in the pool - the over amorous bride - the entire family who got up and walked out as a protest to the inter-religious marriage - the beloved old aunt who is as daft as loon - Holy cow! they actually make maternity wedding gowns - the couple who are divorced before you can deliver an album (always get paid up front) -

  • Idge October 30, 2010 11:53 am

    I have my first proper wedding to do in May (and a friends no less) so I really appreciate all these tips and advice. Definitely the one about looking confident.... Thank you, it helps me to see what I have coming

  • Shannon October 30, 2010 11:13 am

    And then....the DJ's that take over the lighting at the reception to set the mood. How important are the first dance pictures vs. the DJ's lighting for the mood. There is a happy medium.

    Great article...covered so much, so well.

  • Pam October 30, 2010 09:19 am

    Regarding shoot-and-burn for weddings: as a professional, it is a disservice to any bride and groom. Although their intentions are good (even if they are great editors), these self-service individuals most often will put off editing (or even reviewing) several hundred images. I personally know several young brides that have nothing to show for their wedding because they chose the shoot-and-burn service -- now they have 2 kids, full-time jobs, and a disk somewhere in a drawer. As wedding photogs, we owe it to them and to our industry to at least strongly urge them to reconsider. Yes, paying for the photographer is expensive, but as mentioned previously, the photography of the day is what their memories are made of (the tux has been returned, the dress is gone or packed away, the cake has been eaten, the flowers are long gone, etc), but the photographs go on for as long as they are cherished.

  • Linda October 30, 2010 08:31 am

    I've retired after 30 yrs. in the wedding industry. I picked up my Nikon after I completed the floral arrangements, bride bouquet, bridal party, etc. of my LAST wedding going into retirement. The professional photographer arrived to do what he was paid to do, take professional photos. I lagged behind, not to be in his way, and performed my own photo takes! Wa-LA ! The Bride, groom and families were very impressed with my photos. They liked my composition in all the shots. I was a little taken back, but, I thought, I can do this. I've been in the business for so long on the other end, then found myself capturing the beauty on this end. Of course, I presented a CD to the bride and groom. I do agree with most of the statements to be prepared. The wedding participants are very nervous, when you can save the day by preparing yourself, you come out on top everytime. I had to decline 3 wedding jobs out of this wedding, but a new door opened. You never know !!!

  • Gabor October 30, 2010 06:56 am

    Good article, a lot of people want to do wedding photography as beginners, but there's a plethora of things you have to take into account.

    Additional advice on the technical side: you should keep a replacement for, well... everything! More camera bodies, more similar lenses, more batteries, etc., missing anything is really disastrous here.

  • roby October 30, 2010 05:18 am

    You forgot about "Can you tie a tie???"

  • Crystal October 30, 2010 04:47 am

    GREAT article and SO VERY true! I've only 2nd shoot a couple of weddings and already encountered MOST of wht you said! Ha! Also, if the bridal party is running late and you can't get photos that were agreed upon before hand because they are late, they will most likely blame YOU! This happened at a wedding I 2nd shot not too long ago. The hired photog had a clause to this effect in her contract to protect her and any of her shooters. Keep that in mind when drawing up your contract! :0) I LOVE shooting weddings...as the 2nd shooter! Ha! One of the best articles I've read on here so far. It's great to hear about the things they DON'T tell you and the things that can happen so you can be prepared! Thanks!

  • Jan October 30, 2010 02:24 am

    Great article. You have put into words the things I have always felt when talking to a person whom just got a digital camera and they want to make the "big money" in wedding photography. With the way the economic has been lately, there has been an over-load of wedding photographers in my area, which are not experience photographers. This article will also help me explain to the bride and groom the difference about the time, cost and experience of choosing a professional wedding photographer, thanks again.

  • Erin Coates October 30, 2010 12:52 am

    Every word of this is true! I have not been doing it for 20 years but I have experienced everything in your article. Wedding Photography is fun but not a quick way to make easy money. By the time you keep your equipment up to date and repaired, take into account travel time, editing and dealing with soused guests, you are making about 12 dollars an hour, if that.

    Do it because you love it, not because you want to get rich quick.

  • halmooney October 30, 2010 12:17 am

    The family history tip reminded me of a wedding where the bride told me SPECIFICALLY - "I want a picture with my (divorced) parents together".
    When we started the group shots at the altar, the father pulled me aside, and said "I'm telling you now - if you make me stand next to that #*%@&, I will walk right out that door!"
    What to do???
    I had to tell him (in a very careful, but very forceful way) that his precious daughter wanted the picture, that I work for her, and he was going to have to suck it up for 30 seconds, and let me get it!
    His eyes got real big, then he said, "Oh, OK. But make it quick!"
    I got the pose set up, then grabbed him, shoved him in beside Mom, and hit the button QUICK!
    It was over before he knew what happened.
    The bride, and everyone else, was happy. If I'd been less experienced, or a wimp, I would have missed it.

  • Martin October 30, 2010 12:10 am

    This guy is right on the mark with weddings. I've been photographing weddings for a number of years now and nothing can really prepare you for this kind of work. You just never know what's going to happen. All you know is that you have to be prepared to lead people (possibly drunk people) and be calm and confident. Many of the things he said happened to him have happened to me too. A few years ago I had a groom berate me in front of his guests for no reason. Why? Because he could and he did. My only revenge was delivering beautiful, flawless wedding photos to the 'happy' couple. As photographers we love photography and we love our jobs (no matter how abusive people get) but ultimately our job is a part of our business, which means you can't take the negative stuff personal. These days it only takes one bad review online to undo all the good ones. Anyway, thanks for the great article.

  • Jason Collin Photography October 29, 2010 11:30 pm

    @Mary McGrath -- I could not suggest enough NOT going the shoot-and-burn route for wedding photography. There are dozens of reasons not to do that. Just a few: loss of control of the final product, no establishment of branding in your photos via your style, putting work that has not met your final approval out for the public to see, basically making you just a hired gun, and cannot make any money like that.

  • Pamela October 29, 2010 11:00 pm

    Besides the obvious, total knowledge of equipment and technical aspects of photography add in constantly changing lighting conditions, never does every aspect you or the bride plan happen as expected. I tell brides to expect the unexpected but to relish those moments as they are tomorrow's great stories.

    The second most important skill-set a wedding photographer needs is people skills. I guarantee the photographer will be more successful if he/she has the ability to say the right things that will relax the bride and family members. There is a definite psychology involved. Nervous and/or upset subjects equals crappy photos and ultimately an unhappy bride. I take the time early on to help the bride understand that no matter how much you plan a wedding things will not always turn out as planned. Therefore it is important for her to focus less on the details and more on the 'moment'. It is fleeting; those moments add up to the feel of the event.

  • Paul October 29, 2010 08:34 pm

    A very good article on some of what you might need to know to be a professional wedding photographer. I could do weddings but right now I am not outfitted properly for it - you need to know things like that too. If I were doing wedding photography I would want camera bodies with dual card slots and transmitters to two separate computers so that there is not a chance that I will lose a shot to technical glitch (after testing out the gear before hand). However, I also realize that even if I could do wedding photography I wouldn't because I would find it too stressful and I do not consider it my strong point. I am fortunate in that I can photograph what I want to and not worry too much about money so I shoot mostly nature, landscape, and macro. No animals, scenery, or insects have ever complained to me (yet) about missing a shot - better for me - better for the bride and groom. Know when to say "no" - you need to have somebody else do it.

  • Nicki W October 29, 2010 07:03 pm

    Having worked as an assistant wedding photographer for a few of years, I was questioning if I really wanted to do it any more. The first 4 weddings this season have changed my mind!

    1st - muscle car enthusiasts!
    2nd - brides family were deaf and the signers were amazing (had to remember not to stand in front of them!) It was also a beautiful heartfelt ceremony.
    3rd - Jewish wedding, a new experience for me and I found the rituals, ceremony and joy of the day fascinating, fun and emotional. This groom had 9 groomsmen - I had to put the buttonholes on all of them!!
    4th - bride was German and the day was conducted in both German and English. As only her mother and father were there it was a moving, but lovely day

    At the end of the day it's wonderful to know that when the cake's been eaten and the flowers have died the photo's you've taken will be in their wedding albums to be always looked at and will be handed down through the generations of their family. That feels nice.

    Top tips - baby wet wipes remove almost everything, drink lots of water, a caramel slice from Maccas on the way never hurts - you'll appreciate the sugar hit!!!

  • Erin McGrath October 29, 2010 03:10 pm

    Thank you for writing this!!! I am shooting my first wedding in a little under two months and this helps a lot. Thanks again!!! :)

  • Trevor Batstone October 29, 2010 12:43 pm

    I have been doing wedding photography since 1993. My first wedding shoot was for the daughter of a friend of mine (still a paid gig). I find that the job of a wedding photographer gets easier to do the more you do it. I even carry an emergency sewing kit with me to all my weddings, and believe me, it has come into use a few times, as well as a pleasant surprise to the wedding party. I have even chauffeured brides & grooms during their wedding in my large Chev Impala. I live near Vancouver, Canada, and thanks to my website, I have been hired to do weddings for brides & grooms from Japan, England, California, Louisianna, and Washington, for their weddings here in the Vancouver area. The bride & groom from Louisianna come to Vancouver once a year for a mini vacation, and they always phone me year after year to invite me and my wife to join them for dinner (paid by them) at the same restaurant that we ate at following their wedding shoot. And yes, you do get to meet some very interesting people as a wedding photographer, even TV celebrities. I agree that the post editing is a time-consuming task, but necessary, as I shoot totally in RAW mode. My years as a wedding photographer has been a gratifying experience, not only financially, but in meeting so many great people.

  • Jack October 29, 2010 11:36 am

    Wow...you hit it right on the head. I've been pweddings for 25+ years and it is so true. People don't realize. Particularly the after wedding editing with digital. Ahh...but for the good old film days!

  • St Louis Wedding Photographer October 29, 2010 11:17 am

    B Cooper, interesting that you asked about wedding gear. I recently wrote a blog post on which Canon cameras are good choices for wedding photography

    www.larissaphotography.com/blog/2010/10/best-canon-digital-cameras-for-wedding-photography/

    I think you'll find that there is probably not a single list of gear that will suit everyone, but the camera body is at least a start.

  • Trep Ford October 29, 2010 11:01 am

    Having shot a few dozen weddings over the years, I'd agree with all your comments. Weddings definitely aren't for everyone and I've given up shooting them except for friends. They are a load of work that's a lot more fun if you know and love the people involved. When I was younger, being a pillar of calm and handling all the juggling that goes with weddings seemed fun. I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys being in the midst of social chaos and working hard to meet people's very high expectations. There is a rush to it.

  • B Cooper October 29, 2010 10:39 am

    I have been wondering, if I wanted to get into wedding photography, what would be the minimum, but best photographic gear to have on me. Can someone explain (makes, models and all).

  • L Flanagan October 29, 2010 08:34 am

    Wow, who knew. Think I will pass on this type of photo art. I've seen some really neat wedding albums though. Glad someone likes doing this!

  • Rich D., Wedding Photographer October 29, 2010 06:44 am

    Want to really impress your clients? Buy a button hook & zipper pull tool.

    I love to watch bridemaids try to button-up the bride. I let them struggle for a bit so I can shoot a few frames. Inevitably, one of them says that there should be a tool made for the job. That's when I present the button hook tool, and they're blown away that I actually have one. It makes the women very happy with me for the rest of the day.

  • Lynn Alexander October 29, 2010 05:54 am

    Love this article, I've only photographed two weddings in 20 years, the first one I referred to as the wedding from hell, the bride's mother met the guests at the door and refused entrance to any of the groom's friends and family, asked me to leave as I was not the photographer she had hired (I was hired by the bride and groom), the bride's father's toast to the couple was a very derisive "Don't forget what I told you, boy", and the official the performed the ceremony got drunk and proceded to drink everyone else under the table. So I didn't photograph another wedding for 14 years.

    Then I met Bridezilla. At the wedding rehearsal, I took the blame for bad church decorations, was at fault for not having her brand of cigarettes and wearing ugly shoes. I knew it was going to be bad when one of her sons, who was being disciplined for being unruly, was sitting in the corner. When I showed him the digital photographs he said "Don't show those to my mom or she will hate you too!" I was appalled but it was way too late to back out. I worked for hours editing photos so that dark tattoo's wouldn't show through very pale pink dresses, and glitter makeup didn't end up looking like snot smeared all over faces. I took over 400 photos and only three showed the bride with any kind of a smile at all.

    Needless to say, I don't do weddings anymore!

  • Cathy October 29, 2010 03:52 am

    Ah yes. The family dynamics. I found out the hard way to ask about family dynamics after my 3rd wedding. The groom's parents were divorced and hated each other. I was asking them to stand beside each other in a formal shot with the B & G. Someone clued me in and saved my hiney.

  • Susan Roberts October 29, 2010 03:14 am

    Been there done that! While your article is very informative, I would like to add one more point. Grandparents and other elderly relatives including someone ill or with a terminal illness are important to focus on as well. A photo with the bride and groom, or separately sort of a portrait setting works well. On several occassions a grandparent passed on shortly after a wedding and requests from the family came in for copies of those shots. Even if there is no passing, who doesn't love their Gradma!! Just my 2 cents worth and hope it's helpful for someone.

  • Kayla October 29, 2010 02:52 am

    Wow! There is a LOT I never considered. Luckily my first two weddings aren't until May, but still there are a lot of things I need to read up on and reference shots for different styles of ceremonies!
    Thanks for the tips!

  • Frances October 29, 2010 02:49 am

    As a keen amateur photographer and also a 'mother-of-the-groom' twice this year this article both interested and amused me, and there are some great tips as well. May I suggest that learning to tie cravats and bow-ties would be another good skill to learn as the menfolk always seem to be adjusting theirs. And carry some small toys (finger puppets perhaps) to catch the interest (and a smile) of small bridesmaids & pageboys. It worked for our photographer and her resulting images were delightful.

  • Edward Montague October 29, 2010 02:45 am

    A very seasoned Wedding Photographer offered me this advice when asked if there was anything in particular that he could recommend to someone just starting to photograph weddings.
    He said "Ask the Bride who was the bossiest woman in the wedding party", and then very nicely ask this woman if she would be so kind as to help set up, and pose the groups of people for the shots. This made her feel even more important to the Bride and Groom, she knew all of the family members, no one would dare challenge her, and it took a huge load off of me trying to get everybody together, when all everybody wanted to do after the vows was party! Unless of course the bossiest woman is the Bride.

  • Mary McGrath October 29, 2010 02:28 am

    I've never done a wedding, although I've done many portraits, family shoots, and some model headshots. This is more involved than I thought, which was illuminating. I'd probably prefer to do a shoot-and-burn wedding, and be done with it, letting the wedding people do what they want with the images, and getting away from the arduous editing process.

  • Amanda October 29, 2010 01:44 am

    Don't forget that after all those hours of being on you feet and moving around, you will probably wake up the next morning with every muscle in your body hurting and your fingers stuck in the camera hold.

  • Nicholas Cooper October 29, 2010 01:39 am

    A wonderful article showing how difficult shooting a wedding can be. I know from slightly bitter experience.
    Taking the actual photo's is one thing, but having a tempermant that is rock steady and radiating calm is,in
    my opinion a must. I used to assist a Professional some years ago, and remember how easy he made it look, he seemed to mould and shape the groups and all other poses with total ease. I remember one dishelved group, which after his direction made the 'Photo' appear in front of my eyes, WOW. After that I realised that I did not have the temperment to handle the situation on my own.

    Best wishes to those who can handle it.

  • nikhilesh chande October 29, 2010 01:16 am

    I am liking your tips about photography, but would be happy if you can give some tips regarding INDIAN WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY. Here we have many rituals so its important to be more perfect.

  • Jason Collin Photography October 29, 2010 12:53 am

    I really do not think a wedding photographer needs to be good with hair and makeup. That is one thing I leave up to the bride/groom for sure. I wonder if the author really has had a bride ask for makeup advice or even help applying it?

    To solve the bride/groom asking for updates and when the photos will be ready, I post like three or four edited images on Facebook within 24 hours of the wedding. I have already added them as friends by that point so I also get to tag them in the photos and it creates some buzz for the rest of the images and gets (hopefully) the compliments from wedding guests rolling in.

    If I get a long list of formal shots, recently I had 34 groupings!, I tell the maid of honor and best man when I first arrive I will be needing to enlist their help to gather everyone. I even bring a printed out shot list with copies for them. They will likely know by sight who many of the people are and usually like to help out. If not for their help the last time, the 12 minutes of remaining daylight would have long expired before even getting through a third of the list.

  • Steve October 28, 2010 08:37 am

    Interesting article, good stuff, I love this tips, I just bought a new digital camera and I'm looking forward to the wedding day I'll shoot

  • Charleston Wedding Photographer October 28, 2010 01:24 am

    I think that's the biggest thing people don't realize. When you tell them how much it costs to shoot their wedding. It's like why so expensive. Well the editing takes a very long time if your a good photographer that wants to give quality work. If you don't want any editing then you get what you ask for.

  • Mei Teng October 27, 2010 09:15 pm

    I shot a wedding once. Found it to be quite stressful...particularly so as it was a first time for me.

    Thanks for sharing these tips.

  • JAN SHIM October 27, 2010 12:19 pm

    The author has left out the ultimate wedding photographer taboo: think twice, no, thrice about shooting weddings for family members or avoid it all together. FWIW, I channeled all that bad energy into the launch of SHIMWORLD blog and pushed it beyond where I'd imagine it would be today.

    http://shimworld.wordpress.com/2006/11/03/pro-for-nothing-and-insults-for-free/

  • more please October 27, 2010 08:52 am

    most camera mags only deal with landscape and portrait. few and rarely do they talk about wedding photographers. so I am happy to see an article like this and unlike Ron hope to see more.

  • Bryan Grant October 27, 2010 07:47 am

    you forgot "how to bustle and fluff a wedding dress" This article made me laugh a little in side

  • St Louis Wedding Photographer October 27, 2010 03:25 am

    We've been doing weddings for over 7 years ourselves and we've found what you've been saying to be true. Being a wedding photographer is so much more than clicking the shutter. As far as guests asking about the wedding pictures, anything you can do to get the pictures up in just a few days will reduce those calls and emails a ton. We usually aim to have our Saturday wedding up by Wednesday at the latest. Lightroom has really helped us out getting weddings posted online quicker. Plus, we put in a few extra hours to get everything up quicker. We find that posting online quicker generates a better response. After a week or so, people start to forget to check online to see if the pictures are up.

  • Anita October 27, 2010 02:11 am

    Great tips, thanks!

    I shot my first wedding last month. After shooting the bridal party getting ready, we (boyfriend and I work together) nipped over to the boys' house to get shots of them getting ready too. I quickly became the go-to person for all manner of things, mainly because I'm a girl, and "girls know about this stuff, right?"... so the boyfriend ended up getting most of the shots, while I spent my time adjusting collars and pinning boutonnieres.

    Still, as helpless as they were with pinning roses on their lapels, I much preferred that atmosphere to the air of uncomfortable tension in the bride's house. You couldn't move an inch without stepping on someone's feelings, while the guys were watching the game and eating hot dogs 8 blocks away.

  • kymberlie October 27, 2010 01:51 am

    I remember when i got married and my usual hairdresser said she didn't do "wedding hair." I thought she was missing such a great opportunity. after I shot my first wedding, I called her and told her I completely understood why she didn't want to get into the wedding business. I do enjoy shooting them, but of all the jobs I've ever had, including the 70 hour a week catering gig, this is the hardest.

  • Michael October 27, 2010 01:19 am

    I just recently shot my first wedding, actually second shooting behind a local photographer (GREAT learning experience, by the way), and loved it. One thing i learned is that if you're going to be standing for eight hours, don't over-exercise the day before. I had gone on a three mile run the day before, and while I don't ordinarily have trouble, my left knee locked up big time. Overall a success, I learned more about exposure and composition in those eight hours than days I did in days researching those topics in books and online... even compared to shooting on the wedding location a couple days early at the time that the wedding was supposed to be going on. While that did help me, I suppose the idea is "while it's good to look before leaping, the leaping is what's important."

    I personally am loving the wedding posts, though and hope to see more geared toward getting those first few clients, selling yourself without a well-known name or huge portfolio, and the best gear to have as a wedding photographer. Thanks =+)

  • Caroline October 27, 2010 01:05 am

    My sister worked as a chocolate founatin attendant during college, back when chocolate fountains were all the rage. Most of her events were weddings, and she collected some great stories from them. Most entertaining were the alcohol-fueled receptions that ended in a drunken brawl. Like you, she also got to meet a lot of interesting people that were also involved in the event, from DJs to caterers to musicians. Although the job had its downsides-- imagine having to clean and diassemble a messy chocolate fountain after the reception's over-- it sounded like a great epxerience.

  • Lisa Thomas October 26, 2010 11:45 pm

    Did my first wedding a couple of weeks ago..it was my daughters and it was a spur of the moment wedding. All went well except the photographer aka Mom didnt get into any of the pictures.. Rem. if you are photographing occasions of your own family have someone take pictures with you in it..

  • Leslie October 26, 2010 10:47 pm

    I just did my first and second wedding this past weekend. The first was a planned event from about a year ago, the second, a last minute 'let's get it over with' event--all in the same day. I really wish I would have seen this last week but it does resonate with me. I had a wonderful time and it was a learning experience I will never forget. The next day I was utterly exhausted BUT man--I can't wait to do it again LOL

  • Paul T October 26, 2010 10:46 pm

    If you are spending 20-40 hrs editing a set of wedding image then imho you need to focus on shooting better and fewer shots. A good photographer shouldn't need to do much touch up in post.

  • Mark October 26, 2010 05:34 pm

    Good article and very helpful. Thanks for sharing :-)

  • Michael October 26, 2010 05:24 pm

    Excellent article. The point about knowing some family history is very relevant. For example, when posing moms & dads with bride & groom, if parents are divorced, I say: "OK guys...boys on one side, girls on the other."

  • Jane October 26, 2010 04:44 pm

    Top tip with "There’s a whole family history you don’t know about "

    My sister's wedding was a prime example of that where the photographers didn't twig I was her sister and I had to get them to stop shooting so I could jump into the picture to make sure I was in the family shots! Not every key family member is going to be wearing a bridesmaids dresses or a tux but you need to make sure they are in the picture! I've been to lots of weddings and so often the photographers haven't a clue of the family dynamics. I've seen pictures where the father of the bride was left out of key pictures because nobody fetched him. And, the best (or worse one) was when photographer placed the parents of the groom who were ex-wife and husband together with his hand lovingly on her arm on one side of the wedding party while his new wife was placed on the opposite side standing with the brides family! It just looked wrong!

  • Saptarshi Sanyal October 26, 2010 02:38 pm

    Hi Peter

    Am neither a wedding photographer or a professional photographer for that matter, but your article is very well written and as I have had a couple of experiences photographing at friends' weddings, I felt I could relate to what you wrote about that. As a serious amateur, I have so far stayed away from things like weddings (eeew..) but what you wrote has me seeing it as a job to be well respected and well-paid for.

    In short, it was great to read someone who loves their work so much and was able to bring out so many details about his experiences so eloquently.

    Cheers
    Saptarshi

  • Rob Spendlove October 26, 2010 01:06 pm

    I've done a few weddings now, before I even realized It. The first one, I just got into photography and bought the camera two weeks before... no I wasn't first shooter or even ghosting, just taking some shots while there. The bride loved them. 18 months later, my cousin asked if I'd do the wedding shots for her on a boat at Lake Tahoe. Sure. Last weekend, a "reception" shoot for a friend at work turned into a "wedding and reception" shoot. (My first paid shoot, BTW) While I wasn't fully prepared for becoming a "wedding photographer", and I'm not about to go out and create any business cards, that is what I quickly had to become last weekend, at the very least I had to play the part, for both my benefit and the benefit of the families involved. Keep calm, and act like you know what you're doing at all times if you find yourself as the only one with a camera in the room.

    Things to remember:

    BATTERIES FOR THE FLASH UNITS - keep an new pack in your camera bag at all times

    CHECK YOUR REMAINING SHOTS JUST BEFORE THE CEREMONY - don't run out of shots as the first kiss is about to happen.

    GET SHOTS OF THE CAKE BEFORE IT IS CUT - it is easily forgotten.

  • Naomi October 26, 2010 12:24 pm

    Good perspective. I've recently got myself a good SLR digi camera, and have been getting requests to take pictures of friends and family's children etc. At first I thought "no problem" but having recently done a course to learn about all the manual settings on the camera, the ISO, the aperture, shutter speed etc, I am currently have discovered that I am currently only capable of things that keep entirely still!! Have you done any articles on tips and tricks for taking photos of little ones?

  • Lyn October 26, 2010 10:20 am

    So what do you say to the 'cousin who wants to assist' question?

  • Karen Skelly October 26, 2010 10:17 am

    I've done lots of weddings and have probably run across everything you have mentioned and then some. Now I've just been hired to do my first Quinceanera. I'm excited, it'll be something different, although a lot like a wedding (minus the groom). It's going to be cold though (12/26) and we just had a blizzard today, so that could be a forewarning of things to come.

  • qristie October 26, 2010 08:08 am

    Even beyond pinning flowers on the tuxes, it's really handy to have at least a basic knowledge of hair or makeup. I did a bride's makeup at a friends wedding (which I was also shooting) because she didn't normally wear it herself, and the bridesmaids trusted me to do it more than they trusted themselves to do it. I've also helped out with bridesmaids' hair a couple times.

    It's also incredibly handy to know how to tie a necktie.

    Random tip: if a bridesmaid "ruins" a dress with deodorant, rub panty hose on it and it fades. Knowing that random fact ended up coming in handy for one wedding.

  • Fábián Gábor - fotograf profesionist October 26, 2010 07:02 am

    I was thinking a lot to get in the wedding business or not. I'm a bit afraid of it. It seems easier to work with models, even with unexperienced than shoot and carry your heavy equipment all day long. Maybe with an assistant it would be an easier job.

  • Sime October 26, 2010 06:36 am

    Unlike Ron, I've not had quite my fill just yet -- Interesting to read about something I will never ever do... But on your point of the photographer always being asked lots of random questions and having to carry random stuff... my wedding day came around and we were headed down an escalator to a place we were keen to have some pictures taken - my wife's dress train (wasn't long, but was silk) got caught between the moving step and the wall of the escalator... the photog was on it in a flash - he literally dived for the stop button, eased the dress out, pinned back the tor, black, greasy part and nobody ever noticed - - the guy was awesome! (on the day, he took a YEAR to get us our photos and then missed my wife's dad out of them... quality!)

    Sime

  • Mike D October 26, 2010 06:36 am

    Just got started with our first wedding (a nice small backyard one) and I can definitely already attest to most of these. I had a total blast, though, and lucked out to have worked with such a great bride and groom. My wife and I had to keep staving off all the family that kept offering us food and drinks!

  • Simon October 26, 2010 06:19 am

    Wedding photography is not only tiring, but dehydrating. DRINK A LOT!!!

  • Ron Summers October 26, 2010 06:15 am

    It may just be me, but....

    I have had enough "Wedding Photographer" articles for awhile.....

  • Wayfaring Wanderer October 26, 2010 05:49 am

    Love the tips! I am very much looking forward to the first opportunity I have to shoot a wedding. Thanks for sharing :D

    ~WW