Photographing Your Best Friend's Wedding - 10 Tips

Photographing Your Best Friend’s Wedding – 10 Tips

In this tutorial, Natalie Norton shares 10 great tips that will help you survive shooting your first wedding.

My Best Friend's WeddingPhoto Credit: My good friend, wedding photographer Jonathan Canlas the great.

You were asked to shoot your friend’s wedding? Hmm. Already got suckered into it? Tut, tut, tut. Fear not! By maintaining a good attitude, establishing a strong game plan and setting realistic expectations, you truly can make this lemon into sweet lemonade.

Here are 10 tips to making your first weddings a success.

1. Light Right:

If you haven’t already mastered lighting and proper exposure, I REALLY, TRULY recommend shooting in Aperture Priority. If you struggle with Aperture Priority, well you’ve just got to shoot in plain old Automatic. And hey, that ain’t always such a bad thing if I do say so myself. The bottom line is that you just cannot afford the chance of improper exposures when the dude (or nowadays the chick) says “you may kiss the bride.”

2. Under Promise, Over Deliver:

If you’re going make this work, particularly if this is your very first wedding, you’ve got to set yourself up for success by managing expectations. You recall the adage, “you get what you pay for?” Well friend, that doesn’t really hold true for brides. They generally expect to get what they want. Period. I’m not knocking brides. It’s their WEDDING DAY for Pete’s sake. They should get what they want on this great day of days. But you can’t assume that just because you’re shooting for next to nothing (or in fact nothing) that there won’t be high expectations for you and your work. Under promise, over deliver. You’ve got to set clear expectations that you know beyond a doubt in the Heavens you’ll be able to achieve. If for example you really believe that you will be able to deliver 100 knock out images for each hour of shooting, promise only 50. That way when you show up with 75 awesome images from each hour you shot they’ll be ecstatic!

3. Don’t Go it Alone:

Get an assistant to come shoot with you. Two cameras are always better than one. Particularly if you’re not all that familiar with yours. It’s VERY important to have a back up to make sure you’ve got two chances at each key shot.

4. Request an Infiltrator:

Have the bride/groom assign someone to you to be sure you get shots of all the key players. Its important that you document all the key attendees, especially if you’re familiar enough with the family that you should (but don’t) know them all by name. If every time your bff talks about her favorite Aunt Bessie you’re only half listening and don’t have a clue who she is, you better be sure you’ve got someone there to point her out so you can grab that shot of her wiping her eyes during the ceremony.

5. Click, Click, CLICK:

Take pictures until your trigger finger bleeds. If you’re not totally sure, check that LCD and try, try again. You’ve got to nail it. You only get one chance at this. There isn’t going to be a do-over. Shoot and shoot and then shoot some more. In this new digital age, particularly as of late when storage space is so cheap on memory cards, you really don’t have a single reason I can think of NOT to shoot like a bat out’a hell.

6. Tell the Story:

There are a handful of shots you’ll need to be sure to include. Clearly you’ll need to cover the ceremony in it’s entirety. ie rings, smooch, tears, cake cutting, bouquet toss etc. Beyond that, be sure to get a good establishing shot of the venue, some good detail shots of all the stuff she spent WAY too much money on to decorate said venue, some good detail shots of her dress (don’t forget the shoes . . . oh and the rings!!), bride and groom with their groupies, a zillion pics of the bride alone and with her man, and then any and everything else you can possibly think of.

7. Know Where to Go:

Check out your venue before hand. Make sure that you know EXACTLY where it is, even where you’re to park. It would not be a happy day for you to come out from your pro bono wedding only to have to fork out $200 to get your car off the impound lot. It’s also a helpful rule of thumb to know what you’re getting yourself into for a shoot. Try to visit during the same time of day the wedding will be held. Check out the lighting situation. Ask about the seating and be sure you’re going to be able to photograph from the proper angles without obstructing the guest’s view.

*** by Sergey Ivanov (Seriv) on

8. Get the 411:

Talk to the individual who will be performing the ceremony. There may be rules about photographing in a certain cathedral or religious reasons you can’t photograph certain parts of the ceremony. It’s your responsibility as the photographer to make sure that these concerns are addressed with the Priest etc before you show up on the wedding day.

9. Cover Your Bases:

It just may be a good idea to have a contract. I know it seems like an awful formality, particularly between friends. It’s a wise step however to solidify expectations (an extension of what we discussed earlier about managing expectations) in order to preserve the relationship. You really love this friend of yours, as evidenced by your willingness to shoot his/her wedding, protect that relationship by insisting on a contract.

10. Go for it!

You’ve made the commitment already, now jump in with both feet. Don’t let your fear and anxiety plug up your creativity. You’re going to be great!

A QUICK NOTE IN CLOSING: I’m really upbeat by nature. I generally err on the side of complete and absolute optimism. I really do believe in YOU and your remarkable ability to be a fantastic xxxx (fill in the blank: photographer, singer, dancer, plumber, pastor, whatever). I am 100% of the opinion that if you want it, it can be yours. Faith, hope and a sane amount of persistence and the world is your oyster. Truly. That said, photographing a wedding is not to be taken lightly. It is arguably the single most important day in a couple’s life. If you want experience shooting a wedding ask to shadow a pro. Shadowing is the perfect way to gain experience, there’s no pressure, no expectations, just you, your camera and a wedding you’re not responsible to document. Ah, beautiful. Not so beautiful however is your under-experienced self, a camera you don’t understand, a thousand overexposed images from the wedding day and Bridezilla, Queen Kong (mother of the bride) and the mother-in-law from you know where all in cardiac arrest when you break the news. Ugly. Ugly. UG-LY. Particularly if Bridezilla used to be your bff. I’m not saying this to discourage you. I merely want to ensure that you prepare amply before you plunge into an event as paramount in someone’s life as a wedding!

Happy Shooting and Good luck!

Want more Wedding Photography tips? Check out Wedding Photography: 21 Tips for Amateur Wedding Photographers

Natalie lives and shoots on the North Shore of Oahu with her wonderful husband Richie and her 3 crazy boys. You can view more of her photography and enjoy a selection of her writing by visiting her at

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Natalie Norton is a writer and a lifestyle wedding and portrait photographer who shoots across the globe. She is based off of the North Shore of Oahu and out of Gilbert, Arizona. Enjoy more of her photography and writing at You can also connect with Natalie via Twitter or on Facebook.

Some Older Comments

  • Tony Scarpelli November 8, 2011 02:09 pm

    If you are new to photography, just got your first SLR camera then yes pass on the wedding. But if you have any experience, skill with a camera and are willing to prepare, then there is no reason you can't do a wedding. I suspect that some of the photographers on here are slightly exaggerating the difficulty of weddings.

    You need the personality or personality to handle bride/momzilla but that aside it is like any customer service job. You need the organization of a minor event planner, so just prepare in your head, on paper, make to do lists and such. Not difficult but does go easier with a bit of forethought.

    While you might be offered refreshments at the reception do not drink. Don't laugh, I know a professional Miami photographer who drank and danced at a wedding and then was surprised by lousy shots. It will effect your photography.

    Use the modes that come with your camera to lighten the work load-I do most of my photos on portrait, landscape. night scene or automatic. use a tripod. There are very few shots that require adjustment outside of that. Check and see if your camera can handle higher ISO's without too much graininess in the photos. If not then spend a bit on extra lighting for indoors shots. It is good practice to go to some parties and venues with similar activities and lighting and practice so you see what challenges might have.

  • Nathan Kitsell November 8, 2011 04:17 am

    Someone just asked me to do a wedding - I've never done one before. After reading this and a few other posts, I think I'll respectfully decline. I'm just not confident enough yet :S

  • Wedding Photographer Perth November 2, 2011 03:09 pm

    If you want to remain a friend ... then don't do it! leave it to a professional.

  • Louise Mathe November 1, 2011 09:14 pm

    Lightroom is a must for Raw processing in my book. I have elements 9 too and have used CS5 but none compare in my mind. I accertain a good high quality jpeg and tiff file from my Lightroom processing then anything more creative I continue with in elements, like making flyers etc...

    I shot my friend's wedding last year, my first!

    It was a little nerve wracking but they were on a very tight budget and had I not accepted they'd have been forced to ask an uncle with a point and shoot compact.

    The whole family were so thankful and loved the images but there were a few things I'd have done differently if I had the chance again.
    At the end of the day if you don't try, you'll never learn. Every wedding photographer had their first wedding to shoot and from reading countless posts, everyone makes rookie mistakes somewhere down the line.

    As long as you're confident in your ability to take a good photo and you don't makes wild claims of being so very experienced then I say go for it. Just make sure you have the basics covered, enough memory cards, spare battery, things like that tend to help :)

    A few of my wedding shots are on my website, and no, they're not the most amazing in the world but did make one family very happy and that, in my book, is all I need to know to feel I did a good job!


  • TheDude November 1, 2011 04:19 pm

    Shooting in RAW is just as easy as shooting in JPEG, its the post processing that requires more work. Using Lightroom will allow you to fix the white balance and exposure issues, so you don't have to worry about that when shooting.

    There are lot of "the most important" things, but if you don't do anything else, make sure your shots are clearly in focus. I'm assuming you're using a digital SLR camera. All DSLR's have several focal points (those red dots or squares in the viewfinder). Change to a single focal point in the middle. The default on most DSLR's is to have all focal points activated. Since you will most likely be shooting in aperture priority, you want to make sure that you focus in on what you want to be tack sharp. For instance, when the bride and groom are kissing, you want to make sure you focus in on the couple and not the minister standing behind them. Unless you sent your focal point to a single point in the middle, you'll never know what you're going to get in focus. During the heat of the moment, you don't have time to check your LCD and try again.

  • Rob Bixby October 30, 2011 03:06 pm

    Rodney, in answer to your question about squinting, turn them away from the sun and use a little fill, either from a flash or reflector.

  • Rodney C. Davis October 30, 2011 04:53 am

    Wow.. I didn't do too badly last month when I had my first wedding shoot then. I nailed quite a few of these. Just to emphasize the wisdom of these tips, here are a few of my comments:
    1. I did NOT go tot he venue before-hand, and even though I did a pretty good job, following this tip could have made it a little better. The bride wanted some pix in the bright tropical midday sun out on a terrace. She was blown away with the shots, but I felt they were so-so, seeing that a couple of reflectors could have helped me with those shadows on everyone's face. By the way, how do you get people NOT to squint their eyes in blazing hot and bright sunlight?

    2. I had no assistant either. Again, it didn't cause a catastrophe, but I keep thinking how nice it would have been for me to get shots of the bride when she went to the hairdressers that morning while I was waiting at the civil registry... or how nice it would have been to have different angles of the "must have" moments.. like when she began getting emotional during her personal tribute to the groom.. or when they slipped the ring on each other's fingers.. or when they were smearing cake on each other's tongues. Again.. the shots were not bad at all, but I keep thinking several different angles of the same moment would have a good chance of making a good job a great one.

    3. Aperture priority was great for most shots, but I slipped into automatic exposure, optimized for portraits for quite a few, and even went fully automatic for others where I wanted a deep depth of field. Also, I made sure I shot everything in RAW, because I knew that without just the right exposure, its easy for that white dress to get blown out if everything else is properly exposed. With RAW, a little creativity with the cropping and other adjustments can help turning an average photo into an better one.

    4. Ummm I DID charge... not as much as a professional would of course, but I feel guilty about doing free work for jobs that pros should be doing. I also figure that if they liked my work well enough beforehand to even THINK of getting me to do the wedding, the least I could do was put some hours into preparing and practicing so as to get the best possible shots. And my time is VERY limited. So after telling them that a wedding is really for professionals cuz you only get to do it once, and after they still INSISTED that I do it, I asked them what their budget was, and we negotiated from there. I don't know if this is recommended practice or not, but that's what I did with it. I did not know the bride and groom personally, but the sister of the groom is my boss. They've all seen a lot of my work.

    5. The bride mentioned that she particularly wanted me because I hardly ever take anything besides candid shots that tell stories of events.My entire interest in photography was to use it as a medium for journal-making. Posing for the camera is something I view with quite a bit of distaste. As a result, even the shots that absolutely demanded that people be set up for group shots, my approach is to make that set-up part of the story by assigning a member of the group to be the "director on set." In retrospect, maybe that only worked well because the bride had a good eye. I came away from the shoot with a mental note to get better at this aspect of photography as well, instead of automatically frowning at it.

  • Tony Scarpelli October 30, 2011 04:48 am

    We only took about 350 shots each (2 of us) then we segrated the best shots down to about 100 ea, tweaked only those. Then we went back to see if we were missing any shots and if so we grabbed them from the no so good pile just to fill out the offering.

    This saved us much time not editing photos that were not going to make it to print anyway.

  • Neil Hughes October 29, 2011 06:34 pm

    Oh! and don't underestimate the amount of effort in tweaking the 1000 or so shots you'll probably take during the day.

  • Neil Hughes October 29, 2011 06:31 pm

    I was asked to do my mates wedding last year. My first and even trickier as I was also best man....

    It is highly stressful and everything seems to happen at a million miles an hour, so I'd echo the point earlier in the discussion about a comprehensive shot list. There are plenty on the web which you can customise.

    Another thing which is key to me is to know your venue. If you can, head out there the day before at the time the wedding is due and check light, where the sun is, nice places to shoot, so you don't waste time looking during the day. If it's used regluarly, snoop on another wedding and see where the photographer takes his photos.

    Re: Aperture priority, the aftermatch festivities are very much like a sports event, you can get a lot of colour shots which help tell the story of the day, but you need to react quickly, so I use AP for general shots so I don't waste time changing settings for those one off instant shots.

  • Tony Scarpelli October 29, 2011 06:50 am

    When we started our business, the way my partner and I handled our first wedding was to run a free Craigslist ad offering to do a free wedding. We asked they email us for an application to be selected. Then we sent them an application asking about the venue, number of guests, reception, number in bridle party. We made it clear we would select them. We selected the three best applications to fit what we felt we could do a good job with and we liked the looks of the couple for our portfolio.

    We made them sign a contract which stated that we would charge no photographers fee for taking the photos but they would pay for production of any photos that they want and an agreed price of same. And that while we had been in business a year and offered examples of our photography, this is our first wedding and we made no implied nor explicit warranty of quality of our work. That what you get is what you get.

    Still we found a few couples who really wouldn't get any photographer at all had we not selected them. So they and we felt that we couldn't screw up their wedding day with bad photos as the option was to not have anyone taking professional shots. We invited them to have their family and friends take photos as well.

    We did many of the things recommended above: we visited the venues, tested for light, took some sample photos the night before at the reception hall. We had two photographers. We had a list of shots we wanted and prioritized them to Must take, Should take and could take. It all worked out very, very well and we were proud of our photos. The bride, groom, family and party ordered $500 worth of photos so we made a bit of money as well. Our photo production was set to have about 85% profit margin and we controlled the quality of the end photos as well. About 6 months later, after they bought all the photos they wanted, we called and offered the Bride the copy rights (limited to production at one of two photo shops we use for quality) and all photos of their wedding on a DVD for $150 and she bought that too.

    I would add one recommendation to the article above. It is helpful to have the bride and groom assign a family assistant for each family who helped coordinate having those people available come time to photograph them. This is a person who knows all the characters in their family and helps to round them up for the family photos. Having the family ready and waiting for you to take their shots saved us time so that we can smoothly go from one group to the next without a hitch.

    Actually the first wedding we did quite accidently. My brother in law asked us to do his wedding and we turned him down as we planned to have a blast, get loaded and just have a good time. I didn't want the responsibility. So they hired a photographer. We of course took some photos staying out of the way of the photographer they hired. A month and a half after the wedding the bride calls crying saying she hoped our photos came out good as the photographers photos were less than thrilling. Since we stayed out of the way and didn't take any of the shots walking around during the actual wedding we didn't get all the shots but we did get most of the rest of the shots from across the room using zoom where light permits. We saved the day.

  • Rob October 28, 2011 11:49 am

    #1 and #7 tie together so much. When you visit the venue, try to do it at about the same time as the wedding. Then you'll know that the light from that big stained glass window will fall half way across the mother of the brides face so you can be sure to use a flash, official/venue permitting, to even out the lighting on her face as she's wiping the tears.

  • Mark October 28, 2011 10:20 am

    I would be very careful with aperature priority mode inside. Someone not familar with how it works will end up with blurry shots as the camera slows down shutter speed to get proper exposure. They will end up with a multitude of shots taken at 1/30 a second or slower and it will be a mess. If your camera has Auto ISO I would recommend manual mode indoors with shutter speed set at 1/60, aperature at F4.0 or higher as needed and let ISO adjust accordingly.

  • Ashley McCord October 28, 2011 10:19 am

    These tips are very nice :) thank you so much for responding to my comment! you truly have a lot of talent and I'm glad to hear what you have to say !
    Thanks again !

  • Rebekah October 28, 2011 09:43 am

    #6 all the stuff she spent WAY too much money on

    I was really frugal in all areas of my wedding, except for my photographer. My mother couldn't belive how much money I was spending on that but I said that in the end the photos will be the only record we'd have. The flowers will die, we'll eat the cake, the car will go back to the car place, we'll leave the venue, my dress will be put away in the wardrobe etc - but you get to keep your photos and therefore it is worth making sure that they are a pleasure to look at.

  • madelyn October 28, 2011 07:44 am

    Wow, I really have to agree. Unless you are not a highly trained and practiced pro you should NOT be doing weddings. Weddings take skill, experience and are a lot of work. Why do you think they charge so much?

    Just head over to to see just how bad a poorly shot wedding can be. Don't ruin your best friend's wedding with amateur hour photos to remember it by.

    If you want to get into weddings, you should be way past shooting in aperture, and you should have LOTS of weddings as a second under your belt.

  • Juz October 26, 2011 02:29 pm

    Agree completely with Jeff W and everyone else who says NO! How could you risk messing up anyone's special day, but especially your best friends??? Come on, get real! People who are Guest-ographers do neither job well.
    Tips like Click Click Click?? Don't play amateur hour at a wedding - go do that sort of thing in your own time at your own event/place. A true sign of a noob is someone who comes back with over 1000+ photos from a single wedding - of which you can bet 800+ with be total rubbish and most times non presentable and discarded (or should be).
    Each time I re-read over this stupid article I cringe that some people are going to take this advice, and until they make HUGE these mistakes themselves and learn for themselves, they are going to inadvertently quite possibly completely ruin the life long memories of a best friend that can NEVER be redone.
    Think about it.

  • Rob October 26, 2011 04:07 am

    Agreed with the dont do it comments. The article is good in general, im just of the opinion that you shouldnt do it anyway. If anything, and I mean ANYTHING goes wrong or you didnt do something they wanted not only will they hold it against you, you may lose a friendship over it. If its a client, you live and learn and do it the next time around. If youre doing it for practice, make sure they have another photographer doing the main shots.

  • Barry E.Warren October 26, 2011 01:21 am

    Great articular, very informant. At my stepson's wedding I took along my Fuji A330 a point to shoot. Now remember I'm just a guess so I didn't take my Nikon , and took about 200 pics with it. Did some minor editing to them and put on a cd and gave it to the Newly Weds. The pics were like the way the guess would see the wedding. They were very pleased with it. plus I got pics that the Photographer hired could not have gotten.

  • Jeff W October 26, 2011 12:22 am

    No! Don't even think about shooting your best friend's wedding if it's your first wedding or holy @#$ "you struggle with aperture priority"! What are you thinking? This is a WEDDING, not a senior photo session that can easily be redone if you mess it up. Just say "no"! Say it politely, but say it!

  • Rod October 25, 2011 10:58 pm

    Story from the old days: my older brother got married in the early 60's, and my parents asked a long-time family friend (an accomplished amateur) to be the photographer. This was the days when serious pictures were taken with large-format film; the cameras had removable film packs, with a protective light slide on the film pack and another on the back of the camera. Well, the photographer accidentally left the slide in the camera during the ENTIRE wedding. He called my dad afterward in tears and told him there were NO pictures of the wedding. Amazingly, he remained a friend after that!

  • Rachael October 25, 2011 07:51 pm

    Great article. My partner and I recently did a wedding for a family member and found it tough. Not the photography itself but the fact it was a 'family' wedding which we were also meant to be guests at. We had a role to do, we were working.... the guest part had to wait until after the last photograph and even then we were to tired to dance - that doesn't help when people grumble because you're too tired to dance with them! They tend to forget that you've just worked all day with the pressure of getting all the key shots and more.

    We've also got a friends wedding in the next few weeks which we're really looking forward too (even with the long journey - 10 hours). The good thing is that we'll get plenty of time with them before the day to go through everything. Both of us will be shooting to make sure we cover as much as possible and we will be hiring any specific lenses we may need, which works well because it's not too expensive for us to hire something for a few days. Plus hiring the lenses helps us decide what ones we'd like to invest in buying.

  • ccting October 25, 2011 07:24 pm

    well, we can always become our best friend's SECONDARY photographer, a part from the main (hired) professional photographer(s)... why not?

  • Justin October 25, 2011 07:07 pm

    NO NO NO NO NO! Absolute rubbish. If you want to work at your 'best friends' wedding then you are not thinking right. If you are an amatuer photog and want to 'practice' you skills PLEASE do NOT do it at someone's most important day of their life - especially your Bestys!

  • ccting October 25, 2011 02:45 pm

    Great tips!.. I use aperture priority most of the time for my baby, I find it great.. for a noob like me. I am using D5100 where it is quite hard to change settings ...

    Dear experts,

    Why most of experts use manual mode instead of aperture mode? Any weakness of aperture mode?


  • Dewan Demmer October 25, 2011 07:15 am

    I would say you could apply all these rules to any event or photography you want to do.

    Light Right: Photography is all about light so when in doubt let your camera help you together you will get it right. The more serious the photography less reliant on the camera but still its all about light.

    Under Promise, Over Deliver: Excellent rule, if you have them on under promise, you sure will blow them away when you over deliver. I would say that makes common sense.

    Dont go it alone: Again makes sense, and extra camera in an emergency, someone to help with lighting when it comes to it, hey common sense for the everyday and professional.

    Request an Infiltrator: Only sane thing to do, as the photographer you will never know all the important bits and that insider will help you out.

    Click, Click, CLICK: 50/50 depending what school of thought you from, me I say take the shot you want plus some extras, but to many may lead to you being swamped at the end and then you in from some real head aches, besides if you messed up the shot with 3 shots, 20 more will not fix it.

    Tell the Story: This is HUGE, if you don't tell the story you must have missed the wedding. Its all about the people and the story.

    Know Where to Go: this helps everyone else feel like you know what you doing, and if they feel comfortable with that they more likely to let things flow.

    Get the 411: Very important, you must know what rules to respect and what boundaries should not be crossed, dont want a priest lecturing you during a ceremony on what not to do.

    Cover Your Bases; there is truth in this. Create some format that sets this aside as a job from you for them.

    As you see I agree with everything said, I just gave my personal slant on everything.

    Example in point. Here are the sneak peak shots of a shoot where I would say the above rules were followed, not because I was not professional simply because the above guidelines make excellent sense.

  • LYNND October 8, 2011 07:25 am

    Natalie, you have truly written one of the best articles on this subject. I had a pro shoot my wedding and I wish our freelance photographer would have followed the "shoot until your trigger finger bleeds" advice. Instead, we received a DVD with almost 600 photos but over half were just different crops and black & whites of the color versions. Guess how many shots were taken of the bride & groom? Less than a 12 roll of film! Guess how many shots were taken of me? Just two! Guess how many shots had my bustle undone so the dress draped properly? ONE.

    The traditional image of the groom's boutonnière wasn't spared, either. There are no close ups and I can't crop a boutonnière photo out of a larger image because our pro apparently didn't use a tripod and the shots aren't crisp enough to crop!

    Of the few photographs featuring just the bride & groom, our bodies and heads are at goofy angles --- and that was after telling our photographer well in advance that we didn't like those types of poses! Guess how many of the photos featured us without a whole lot of head tilting going on at our photographer's request? Two! Of those two, we were looking either away from the camera or at each other. Long story short: We have no direct, look-into-the-camera shots suitable even for a 4x6 frame let alone a wall hanging! What's more, even though we were under cloud cover every last one of the shots had my dress blown out. I learned the hard way: You still need someone to shoot FILM at your wedding because digital cameras are most challenged by the high contrast between black tux vs. white wedding gown.

    The decision that most breaks my heart is that we all but encouraged the family/friend point-and-shoot amateurs to either stand down (which had the effect that many in our immediate family actually left their cameras at home). Of the few amateur photos that were taken, they are off to really oblique angles to stay out of our photographer's way. Consequently, nobody else in attendance captured anything better.

    I see how the argument could be made that we got what we paid for because we didn't pay a whole lot, nowhere what some people pay for wedding photography. We had the family-member-of-a-family-member discount coupled to a false sense of security because this person was a "professional wedding photographer". In hindsight, what makes the situation more tragic is that because that individual is a family member of another family member, we really can't confront the issue without causing waves.

    I share this story to remind others to think really hard about having a friend or family member --- even if that person happens to be a professional photographer --- take on the bulk of the responsibility. Looking back, I should have known better because I have another sibling who suffered a similar problem. She had her groom's uncle, a news photographer, do the shots. He was an old film pro but came with a really new digital camera. Perhaps it was unfamiliarity with the new equipment or a camera malfunction --- every single photo had a mustard yellow color cast. When he turned over the photos on a CD he never made any mention of the issue even though the yellow tint was really, really obvious to anyone who viewed the photos. Without him copping to the problem up front it put an even more awkward spin on the situation. In the end, my sibling figured it was too late; saying something would only cause a stir among her brand-new in-laws and the extended family. She asked me, instead, to use my graphic art skills to color correct the photos Apparently, it worked because she was able to salvage a beautiful wedding album. Were I only so lucky! Our wedding photos are soft, bleached out and so few in number that I can't find much to crop, enhance or to doctor in Photoshop. Out of some 250 non-duplicate photos I have some 5 percent that are real winners and only two of them include the groom and myself in the same shot. The final blow was to find that there were something like 20 shots of my groom with his family members and only two of them included me. Moreover, there was not a single group shot of the two families combined (and yes, we had a checklist!).

    How does this even happen?

    The worst thing I have to live with is my own decision: In so many words, I told just about everyone in the immediate family to stay out of our photographer's way so that they wouldn't steal the shot. As a result, I have no one else to fall back on for attractive photos.


    1) Think twice before you work with anyone you know --- even someone you vaguely know --- because it will be dicey to deal with any serious disappointments.

    2) If you can't afford a high-end pro who is wise enough to bring an assistant, you're probably better off hiring a handful of photography students from the local community college or fine arts school, separating them out to get them to take turns, turn them loose with the instruction to compose his/her own shots, and throw in the incentive of a cash bonus to he/she who takes the best pics.

    3) When it comes to wedding photography, the old adage "you get what you pay for" should be "the more the better". What you really need is a throng of well-equipped camera operators --- you're own personal Paparazzi.

  • Toledo Wedding Photographer August 12, 2011 10:08 pm

    Great info and advice! Always shoot RAW! Thanks for sharing.

  • Brian Harte May 28, 2011 06:23 am

    For your friends wedding you have to shoot RAW even if normally you wouldn't. Imagine not being able to recover an important moment and trying to explain that to them. Luckily my workflow is to shoot RAW all the time and I have found it works quicker now too (maybe having a beefy computer has something to do with it!)

  • Chelsey March 11, 2011 05:10 am

    I shot my friends wedding two years ago, it was actually really fun. But the lowered expectation thing and having an assistant is defiantly the way to go. I volunteered to be her photographer because her budget was spent on everything else and she was at the point where she was not having a photographer and had already came to terms with that. I could let her not have any photos! So day of I brought two cameras and met up with an uncle of hers who also had a camera and was sort of my co-photographer. Something I highly recommend: bring either your laptop or alot of memory cards. I had 3 memory cards and when one got full I switched it out and had my husband empty the full one onto the laptop. I shot like a bat out of hell. BUT I came out with ALOT of really great pictures (some of them pure luck). Sure there were some bad, grainy ones, but better than nothing at all.

    Lists! Talk with the bride and make sure to find out what pictures she needs to have and who she wants photographed! I was pretty sad after my own wedding when I realized there wasn't one picture off me with my sister, we just didnt think about it.

    Another great tip, when it comes to photos of the bride and groom alone, I highly recommend doing a separate photo shoot on a different day. An entire day dedicated to just them with no other stressful things going on.

  • Crystal Rolfe March 4, 2011 06:09 pm

    Thanks Natalie.....I'm about to embark on my VERY FIRST wedding shoot! I'm a bit freaked but have been reading everything that I can get my hands on.
    Thanks for the tips!! Love your tutorials!

  • John Parli Photo October 29, 2010 01:32 pm

    Friends and Family!?! I would say NO WAY! Not to them in that way exactly : ) but regardless of how strong your bond it will come between you. Just my two cents. They will inevitably want the deal of a lifetime and you will ultimately be giving them the most expensive and valuable wedding gift ever received. Once again, just my two cents but beware when working with friends and/or family.

    Best Of Luck All!


  • SherryClark May 8, 2010 10:59 pm

    Thank you Natalie! I will be shooting my first wedding in June and it is of a classmate from photography school. I am excited as well as nervous, but your article has helped me feel a lot better. BTW, I checked out your site and really like your work.

  • Jenene Ahia April 29, 2010 11:12 am

    I absolutely loved this article! Very informative! Thank you so much for your heart to bless and encourage others, like me, who are trying to find ways to make a little side money by doing what they enjoy. I met you last night at Windward Mall. I was the other crazy mom with one more kid than you have! I just really appreciate the fact that you're not stuck up like other photographers and actually enjoy sharing your gift for the building up of others. God has obviously blessed you for that! You are by far the best I've seen and I mean that! Maybe that's why you seem so down to earth because you've got nothing to prove. Your images definitely speak for themselves! Awesome work girl! Again thank you so much!

  • Patti Wallington March 15, 2010 04:48 am

    Great article! I will forward this to many of my associates and aspiring friends trying to get into the industry.

  • Hershey August 29, 2009 03:11 am

    This holds true for a lot of my friends who asked me to be their photographer. We all have to tell the true story on what happened during the wedding if there's something we failed to take a photo shoot.

  • seanmullins June 12, 2009 10:53 am

    Hi, Regarding deleting shots accidentally, I would advise against deleting any shots as you go, just make sure you have enough memory cards. Apart from the chance of accidentally deleting all, you might find (esp if using RAW) that a shot you thought unusable can be saved/cropped/used or merged with another, or even might end up a keeper. It does happen.

    One question I have is on insurance - I don't see it covered here. If your shooting even a friends wedding, if someone trips or falls over your equipment, I believe your liable. Not trying to scaremonger, but apparently it's not uncommon. So for the casual photographer, is it possible to get insurance for the day to cover this?

  • sean June 12, 2009 01:39 am

    Regarding deleting shots accidentally, I would advise against deleting any shots as you go, just make sure you have enough memory cards. Apart from the chance of accidentally deleting all, you might find (esp if using RAW) that a shot you thought unusable can be saved/cropped/used or merged with another, or even might end up a keeper. It does happen.

    One question I have is on insurance - I don't see it covered here.
    If your shooting even a friends wedding, if someone trips or falls over your equipment, I believe your liable.
    Not trying to scaremonger, but apparently it's not uncommon.
    So for the casual photographer, is it possible to get insurance for the day to cover this?

  • john December 20, 2008 07:51 pm

    just found this page,very useful.i would suggest using aperture priority and when inside,use a 50mm lens,perfect for portraits,wide aperture.use custom white balance,try using the bride's dress for this,should also work on the cake,nothing worse than a green wedding cake. when shooting outside shift white balance from auto to cloudy,better to accenturate colours.another idea is to use auto bracketing,giving you a choice of 3 for each photo.

  • Millard December 5, 2008 09:20 pm

    I recently shot a wedding reception in "spot meter" and I wasn't really ready to do that. Many of these required some major work in Adobe Bridge, cause I was focusing on white table cloths and such and the participants at the table were way too dark.

  • Andy November 24, 2008 01:00 am

    Having been the "Official Photographer" at a couple of weddings I was nervous at doing another......along came a request from the father and stepmother of a friend of the wifes, who were having their vows taken again together with a blessing.

    Would I take some photos for them????? err...give this one some thought!!!!.

    Finally the answer was yes, ok you get the gig.

    Next problem, ceremony is late afternoon, mid Autumn and it will be dark at the end when everyone troops out of church. This was an informal occasion so managed to catch family groups on their way into church, a few shots outdoors using off-camera flash and similarly more groups at the buffet. Nikon D80 and Sigma 18-50 f2.8 EX DG and Manfrotto 055XPROB/808 RC4 tripod and head. 3rd party (Jessops 300AFD) flash.

    Shot everything in RAW and JPEG luckily as the flash did not seem to give enough power and not enough time to alter flash settings, managed to "busk-it" and got some good results!!!!

    Next request, the "Happy Couple" asked me if I could do anything about their wedding photos, luckily they were on disc and I have Photoshop Elements. I was shown the shots taken by a so called "professional photographer" using a D60 and horror of horrors blurred faces which I could do nothing with, but also the bride (Italian tradition) was dressed in black, all the photos made her dress look a brown/maroon colour. I did not make any promises but experimented in "Elements" back home and found out that the "Pro" had been messing with colour settings etc and got the mix wrong big style. I persevered and found the optimum settings to correct this and worked my way through the whole album to get a "Best possible fix". The happy couple were extremely happy with both my photos taken at the blessing and my efforts in the "lightroom" to correct the faulty wedding photos.

    I suffer with a heart condition and high blood pressure and find these events VERY STRESSFUL to photograph.On balance, not really worth the effort when you are compromising your health just to mak a few pounds (dollars) in the back pocket!!!

  • Lexi November 23, 2008 01:36 pm

    I have a million questions!!

    What's a good price to give if you're asked to do a wedding as an ameteur? Is $500 a good price or would that be too low?

    What sort of contract should you write up?

    What's a good way to give them the images? Could I just give them discs with all of the images on it or print them out? I don't have a professional photo printer so this makes me really nervous.

    If anyone can help, I'd greatly appreciate it.
    (Don't respond after May 10, 2009, since that's the day of her wedding!)

  • Kris September 13, 2008 08:36 am

    Good article. Comments are even better :-)

  • jennifer August 5, 2008 02:46 pm

    Great advice. My good friend asked me to photograph her daughter's wedding and I agreed. I was extrememly nervous about messing up their big day. I did go to the venue at the same time the wedding was going to take place to check out the lighting. I am glad I did as it was on the beach and the lighting was difficult. I do not own a good digital camera so I used my good film camera. I shot a few roles of film trying aperture priority and was not successful. I ended up shooting wedding in automatic. I just got the pictures back today and I was very pleased. This was a great article and I found helpful.

  • Michelle April 14, 2008 10:53 am

    I love using a digital camera for a wedding. It gives you a chance to make sure when you are photographing the entire wedding party that everyone has their eyes open and one of the kids is not doing something crazy. With film, you have to hope that you got a good one. With digital, you can check and know you have a great shoot. And I can take many more shots without having to develop the film. I sell a lot of candid shots, not just the posed ones.

  • riaz April 13, 2008 10:37 pm

    nice looking wedding

  • nova-ex April 13, 2008 01:45 pm

    Hm. this was rather interesting. however, have you considered shutter count? if you keep bursting, your shutter count may shoot all the way up.

  • elicho April 12, 2008 01:02 pm

    I really enjoyed this tutorial. My cousin is getting married towards the end of the year and I shall keep in mind these really good tips provided by Natalie. Of course, I'll just be the 'shadow' photographer. :)

  • prapanca April 12, 2008 12:29 pm

    great..i love it. thank you for this post

  • Jean Allen April 11, 2008 10:55 pm

    I have done a couple "reluctant" weddings for friends. One thing that I found to be very useful was to use several memory cards in the course of the day. Don't shoot all photos on one card. If, heaven forbid, your card gets lost or misplaced, you will have other cards with photos on them.

  • Denise April 11, 2008 10:21 pm

    Tip Above #1: Know yourself!!

    If you like to take pictures that are perfect, and you get stressed or nervous easily...don't take the job!!

    I shot one very informal wedding for a friend's sister (second wedding), and I was SO stressed the whole night! The pictures turned out just fine, but it was not worth it in my opinion. Since then I've been asked to shoot 2 other weddings and have declined.

  • Mike April 11, 2008 05:28 pm

    I use Adobe lightroom to manipulate my Raw images, especially for weddings. It works exceptionally well, then I save the files in JPEG for downloading onto a disc for the client to choose which pics they would like printed. For printing I use a professional lab...I found it to be safer than the local mini lab. You must learn to crop IN CAMERA, not via photoshop or similar, because if you crop in these programmes and then send the images to the printer, you will get back pictures of heads or part of heads, bodies,feet etc, missing...not a good look.
    Be prepared, relax, and enjoy what your doing. Use every wedding photo boo boo as part of the never ending learning curve. Above all be confident.

  • Bill April 11, 2008 02:45 pm

    What about actual camera info. So, you have a bride in a white dress, groom in all black -- so how do you shot that??

    You cannot spend 10 years manipulating 2,000 images in RAW.

    So, give some suggestions as to evaluation correstions, exponsures, etc.



  • John P April 11, 2008 12:39 pm

    I should mention if deleting any photos in your camera before saving them on your computer to make sure you "protect" all the ones you definitely want to save first. You don't want to hit "delete all" by mistake! It hasn't happened to me but I can imagine it wouldnt go down to well.
    Keep away from the "format" command as well!
    Another point to watch is to keep an eye on your camera settings while shooting. They can be inadvertently moved without you realising it which can ruin a few shoots before noticed.

  • Jan G April 11, 2008 11:40 am

    My stepdaughter asked me to be co-photographer (the other one was a friend with lots of experience) at her wedding, and I was extremely nervous about it!
    a) I am still an amateur.
    b) I have never photographed a wedding before.
    c) I am into landscape/flower/ animal photos, not portraits.
    I told her of my fears, and she just laughed - said she had every confidence in me!
    So....we had a chat about what she would like - relaxed and informal photojournalism was the decision.
    I did a lot of research on lighting, camera settings etc. and prepared well with extra batteries, spare storage cards and so on.
    On the wedding day, I just took informal shots or took advantage of the other photographer's formal poses by getting in just after his shot, as the groups were relaxing. I also made an effort to look for special moments, intimate looks etc.
    The results were fabulous - I really surprised myself! My darling stepdaughter was thrilled to bits with the photos - she said they really captured the fun, the excitement and the personalities, as well as some very special moments and details. (The groom agreed)
    She ended up scrapping most of the other photographer's efforts, because they were very stiff and formal. She says my photos told the story of the day much better.
    She has made a special album from the photos I took, and one of them has been enlarged and now hangs on their wall.
    My satisfaction is not just in taking good photos on the day - it is the fact that my darling girl was so happy with them!

  • pirut April 11, 2008 11:39 am

    thanks for this great info. My part time is a wedding photographer.. well, this is an important notes for me. Thanks again!

  • John P April 11, 2008 11:08 am

    I've been roped into doing a few weddings so can appreciate the workload involved. I don't think anyone else realises whats involved - my wife, who gets the job as my assistance, does though and threatens to divorce me if we accept another wedding shoot!
    I dont shoot in raw even though I probably should, as it increases the workload even more and I dont really want to spend even more days in front of the computer in my free time. The married couple usually want JPEGs on a disc and some prints so I try to stick with JPEGs from the start. I save temporarily to TIFF while working on images.
    I bracket all my shots and use the camera highlight warning which allows me to sit outside with the camera and delete any rejects before downloading the then smaller file to the computer.
    Another advantage of bracketing, apart from exposure, is that you have more chance of getting the right expressions on peoples faces. Usually two of the three bracketed shots can be used.

  • Sandy W April 11, 2008 11:03 am

    Another "trick" is to look at your subject, then squint through the lens,that is what the camera sees, so it may need adjusting.Watch for shadows across faces,& if the bridal party have interesting footware, take that as well!! Just remember it is a very emotional time,& that the day passes in a blur for most of them, your photo's are the memory jogger!!

  • Sandy W April 11, 2008 10:43 am

    Hi everyone, I have shot 2 weddings now.One for a friend,& a lady who rang me from the phone book, who liked my name!!Both were very low key weddings, both VERY financially embarrased!I was lucky that I had involvment in planning weddings years ago,& had worked closely with pro photoghraphers,several of which I gave them good tips!!Both the weddings I did had less than 20 people there,including the wedding party!! My Brides & Grooms were thrilled with my photos, & so was I!!
    Here are my tips,& my check list, if I may, to get better results,& makes me look as if I know something at least!
    Check out where they want shots taken for lighting, obstructions,& backgrounds. Make sure no coke cans ect are there! Arrive early so you can set up in good time, as everyone will be in panic mode usually. This way you can remain calm yourself!!
    Dont shoot in front of windows, otherwise the light behind will sillouette everyone.Make sure your background is as free of clutter as it can be.No cords hanging everywhere,bras hanging off door handles,dirty clothes on the floor, ect ect!!Ask one of the bystanders if they can help, they love to help, & gives them a feeling of involvement. Keep an eye out for candid shots of those waiting.The flowergirl resting her head on her hands watching, Dad having a glass of whiskey to calm his nerves, Mum fixing ties or buttonhole flowers, the pageboy tossing the ring cushion around!
    Start at the house where the Bride is getting ready from, try & have someone at the Grooms place to capture them as well.Take shots of each person getting their make up on, their hair done,or their hair in rollers, Bride & co having a drink,the brother doing up the Brides zipper, all add to the day! Shots getting into the car, then make sure you arrive at least 10 minutes before them at the church, gardens ect, so you have a few minutes to set up calmly. Shots getting out of the car,& the Bridesmaids fussing over the dress & veil ect.Try to capture the Grooms expression when he first sees his Bride.He has only ever seen her in jeans, shorts, ect, & his expressions are priceless at times.Do the usual wedding shots of the ceremony,the minister, celebrant,the tears on Bride & Grooms face.Yes, the Groom often is as emotional as the Bride! Often a wedding is the only( & sometimes the last) time the family see parents & grandparents dressed up, so make sure you get shots of them on their own, & with the bridal party.Get Grandparents with all their decendents! A shot of the whole wedding guests together if possible,depending on the amount of guests.I once saw a photo of all the wedding party & the guests looking upwards to the photographer who was on a shed roof taking their photo's, & they were taking photos of the photographer! it was a great shot, & a lot of fun!!I'm not saying you do that though, but you can use your imagination!!Get shots away from the guests, in front of green or flowering bushes.I also saw shots taken in a cattle yard that were fantastic!!If you are relaxed, so will the others be.DONT stress out, enjoy the day & the experience,taking "control" as the photographer can make or break a wedding.There are some horror stories of rude,nasty photographers, dont you be one,& you will give them great memories,& hold you in awe of your abilities.
    One thing to NEVER forget, make sure the train on the Brides dress is fully displayed.She paid a lot of money for the perfect dress, make sure the photo's show as much detail as possible.If there are stairs anywhere, have her stand near the top, & her train pulled out over the steps.If she does have a train, you can get hold of it approx 12inches either side of the centre back seam, lift it up a few feet then gently parachute it down to about 8 inches,then let it go, it will then float to display beautifully.You may need a few goes to get it right, but it's really worth the effort. It's like you are making the bed!! Ok, the men may not know about that one!! I am not a wedding photographer, but have had pro's see my efforts, then adopted some of my ideas!! You only get one chance for a wedding,so have a little chat to the bridal party a few days before in a calm place,& let them know what you will be doing, it makes them more comfortable, relaxed, & they feel they still have involvement, & to a degree,control.
    Take as many shots as you can, always have backup batteries & even a backup camera.If anything can go wrong, it will!! the better prepared you are,the less chances of anything going wrong.I hope I havent been to long in my reply,good luck, & happy snapping!!
    PS I am NOT using digital yet!!!... I'm still on film, so I make every shot count! The digitals are great for this!! just delete your bad ones!!

  • Harry Phillips April 11, 2008 09:25 am

    [quote]It is arguably the single most important day in a couple’s life.[/quote]

    What a load of rubbish, only idiots place so much importance on a single day.

    Boo hoo it rained, waa waa waa the cake was ruined.... don't be concerned that he is a cheating bastard, as long as you have the perfect wedding day your entire life will be roses and sweets.

  • Kim Tyjeski April 11, 2008 07:52 am

    The tips given here are 100% 'true to life' application. I've done 6 weddings as 'gifts' to friends (expenses totaling $1,000. each) and one recently as 'paid amature'. I've found that the best way to improve is take lots of pictures...then later figure out what made the good ones good...and the bad ones bad. My very first wedding was just doing the candids...then I gradually progressed up each one from there. (The last wedding I did my cousin, a professional photographer, came as my assistant. He offered suggestions in settings for the wedding in manual mode. At the reception I used Program mode.) Also, I was totally against shooting in RAW...I was afraid of it...but the editing options for color and exposure are's like you used the right settings every time when you're done processing. My question do you figure pricing when doing a friend's wedding as a business? (I have a legal name and a vendor's liscense.) The last wedding I did was the first one I charged for. I was shooting 8 hours non-stop, took 1,000 pix, spent 20 hours editing and gave them 4 'free' wedding books (that cost me $335). I had already set their price to pay me at $500 before the wedding date. I have the same situation coming up in September...a wedding for a friend...part gift and part business. Any suggestions? Kim T.

  • Walt April 11, 2008 07:13 am

    A number of my wife's friends have been married over the past year or so. I've been more than willing to visit their house to take informal photos during holidays, all of which have turned out quite well. However, I have been asked a number of times to photograph their wedding. In each instance I respectively decline since I am neither an accomplished amateur nor do I have any professional training. I always offer to take as many photos as their heart desires but I've always stated that would be uncomfortable being the photographer of record. This decision has always worked out for the best since the hired professional takes better "staged" photos but my candid shots almost always turn out better.

  • Natalie Norton April 11, 2008 04:49 am

    Just to clarify in response to:

    "Good advice about friend's weddings.

    I'm interested to know why you favour shooting weddings in aperture priority.



    Note the opening sentence of the post: "If you haven’t already mastered lighting and proper exposure, I REALLY, TRULY recommend shooting in Aperture Priority." I should have been more clear. Thank you for brining this to my attention. I shoot all weddings in a split between MANUAL mode and AP. The ceremony is shot 100% Manual 99% of the time. What I am recommending here is that if you aren't comfortable shooting in Manual. . . a wedding is NOT the place to give it a go. If you've not TOTALLY MASTERED your lighting and proper exposure in manual settings, it is then that I recommend you shoot in AP. AP can produce fantastic images. I am comfortable shooting in Manual and love the freedom it provides, so that's how I shoot most of the time.

    I will maintain this stance to the grave, come hell or high water: a good image is a good image is a good image. I don't care how it's shot, automatic, ap, with a disposable camera. . . Do what works for you! And ignore anyone who tells you you're less of a photog for shooting in AP or auto if that's where you have the most success. Work toward shooting manually (if you want to), but in the mean time, do what works!

    Second clarification: Please refer to the closing paragraph in this article. This article was written to help those who are shooting weddings. NOT to encourage people who are not ready to begin this journey to just give it a go on the fly. It is someone's wedding. Please respect that and be sure that you have proper experience before you jump right in.

    Happy Shooting!

  • Cathy April 11, 2008 04:48 am

    How do you get those wide angle shots with a 70-200? I just bought the nifty fifty. What a diference. I only have one camera though.

  • Jake April 11, 2008 04:35 am

    "Two cameras are always better than one. Particularly if you’re not all that familiar with yours."

    Are you kidding me? If you are not all that familiar with your camera you have got to back out. It is unthiknable to be "the photographer" for someone's wedding when you don't even know how to use your camera.

  • Alan Nielsen April 11, 2008 04:10 am

    Shoot in Raw, get lots of memory cards, and get a decent zoom lens (70-200 2.8) and a macro lens for those special moments. I didn't have a macro, so I used my nifty-fifty 1.8. Here's the pic:

    The others are from our test shoot so we could get my lighting and angles together.

  • Cathy April 11, 2008 04:05 am

    There is a great website for wedding photography . I learned so many things reading that. It might be helpful to many of you wanting to learn. Weddings are not what I prefer to do, but I do like taking wedding pictures and I want to learn to do them better since I have gone totally digital.

  • Taryn April 11, 2008 03:49 am

    Thanks to everyone who responded to my question regarding the RAW images!

  • Wade Simon April 11, 2008 02:35 am

    I'm always looking for helpful tips on shooting a wedding. This is a breath of fresh air, a lot of these say if you are unsure then don't do it. My wife and I are shooting two weddings later this summer/fall. Both are family, so both are the we don't have a lot of money and you have really nice cameras deal. But we are planning to go pro sometime soon, and so we want to do a good job. Because of that I am voraciously reading everything I can about this, and of course saving tons of money for those "fast" lenses.

    AGain thanks for the info.

  • christina April 11, 2008 02:14 am

    I have suckered a friend into shooting my wedding next weekend, so this posting / article was perfectly timed.

  • Bro April 11, 2008 12:16 am

    thanks alot for the help i'm doing my first wedding next week. and it's for my best friend,... so i'm kinda confused whether to participate in the wedding as a guest or dont participate and be the photographer

    no one can be the both

  • Cathy April 11, 2008 12:02 am

    Thanks for all the info. I am doing my second digital wedding this September. I have done weddings on film for friends. I also have taken them as guests. The bride has always liked mine better than the photographers. So, I guess I should feel more comfortable. It is very nerve racking. Digital weddings are harder than doing them on film. I shot the wedding in Raw and jpeg as requested by the woman I was helping out. I did as you suggested and asked to follow her around at the "free" wedding she was doing. I did see the difference in RAW. I was terrified to try it. When you mentioned shooting in AV.. if not auto...Do you mean Program or Auto? I did the first digital in manual. It turns out the woman who I was working with had hers in Program. I had read that flash works better in manual. I used the AV mode outside with the high speed flash. I spent a lot of money on the Canon 580 flash. I had heard that maybe you should buy a good wedding photography book too.
    I had a comment for Silverhead..I looked at your wedding pictures. They are gorgeous..This can't be your first wedding. What camera,lens were you using. I would love to hear your suggestions.
    Thanks for the tips Natalie. Keep them coming.

  • Andy April 11, 2008 12:01 am

    I had previously "shadowed" several photographers at weddings, no hassles or worries and great results.
    A friend called in a favour and asked me to be the official photographer at his daughter's wedding. Bearing in mind that I am aged 50 and have already suffered one cardiac arrest and my "ticker" is a bit dodgy, what was I to do???
    I agreed to do the photoshoot and never worked so hard for so little reward, and so much stress levels, in my life. It didn't help when, on what was supposed to be the happiest day of their lives, the bride and groom both had facial expressions like "slapped arses", no amount of editing in RAW or Photoshop can alter that one, coupled with a venue with strong midday sun and deep shade to compound the problems. In the event I managed to get enough decent shots to compile an album, but vowed and declared never again.

  • Maurice Prokaziuk April 10, 2008 11:58 pm

    This info comes at a great time. Getting ready to shoot my neice's wedding in mid May. Last wedding I did was about 25 years ago (film days) and had a good time and pics were great. This will be my first go using digital. Love shooting in RAW. Just fear the post processing of hundreds of pictures. Some people do this Pro Bono as I will, but it will cost me in getting an extra battery for the camera, and additional memmory. Wish me Luck.

  • Andre April 10, 2008 07:35 pm

    I wish I would have seen this before. Did my first wedding last fall for my best friends daughter (Pro Bono & newbie photographer). For the most part, the 2000 photos she got over 2 days turned out great and she loved them afterwards, it was the "Bridezilla" she turned into that disturbed me during those 2 days. Not sure I want to do another wedding after that.

    Great information in your blog by the way, thanks for the info.

    Have a blessed day.


  • silverhead April 10, 2008 04:25 pm

    thanks for tips. these are all helpful. :)

    i got my chance to shoot my first wedding for a friend. I'm just new to photography so i took advantage of it.

    i was part of the entourage so i wasn't able to shoot from the start. anyways, i just didn't promise anything as i really don't know what to expect. i just shoot when i had the chance. glad they liked it.
    i think, the greatest rewards in doing something for free is experience. :)

    you can check my first wedding shoot from this link:

    Thanks again for the tips!

  • jayxhankins April 10, 2008 02:09 pm

    I hear that wedding photographers make a ton of money! I really want to do this kind of stuff, although I'm not very good...yet.

  • Richard April 10, 2008 11:38 am

    Seriously Natalie. You always deliver! Thanks for the practical advise. I love tip 10 coupled with your "quick note". Smart. We all have to start somewhere. Thanks for the motivation and making it that much easier!

  • António Chagas April 10, 2008 10:49 am

    PS - I never shot my best friend Weeding!!. At my best friend Weeding I will be drunk!!. :P

  • António Chagas April 10, 2008 10:45 am

    Thanks a lot for this list!
    I really enjoy and will try this in a few days!!! :P

    Wish me luck! :P

    António Chagas.

  • Heather April 10, 2008 08:46 am


    My dear friend- don't be scared of RAW. The shooting is the exact same, the only difference is:
    a. the images are much larger
    b. if you work in photoshop, there are more options to work with when you upload the image to edit make your photo amazing! Try it! You'll like it!

    Nat: Great article! You're amazing!

  • Shelly April 10, 2008 08:36 am

    What a great, helpful article, Natalie! Thank you! I HAVE been roped (arm-twisted, guilted, begged, and cajoled)
    into "gifting" wedding photography for friends' children, etc. When you're not a pro, and you're known for sharing photography talents as gifts, I'm sure many of you can attest to getting yourself into this situation. These are WONDERFUL suggestions to make it a little less stressful. In my experience, in cases like these, it's only the photographer who is stressed...those asking obviously don't know enough to realize they should be nervous! One suggestion...make sure that not only the bride knows that you're not a pro at this...make sure the parents are aware that "you get what you paid for"!
    Keep these a'coming, Natalie! Love your writing and "real" tips!

  • Natalie Norton April 10, 2008 07:31 am

    PS. Thank you Chris for bringing that to my attention. . . and for not ridiculing me for it! ;)

  • Natalie Norton April 10, 2008 07:29 am

    All the additions are wonderful! Keep sharing!

    NOTE: Last paragraph . . . it has come to my attention that I wrote "air on the side" as opposed to "err." Pretty silly of me. Particularly with a mother who's an editor. She'd kill me.

  • Patricia April 10, 2008 07:05 am

    I love the articles! I am photographing my friends wedding soon and I loved all of the tips. Thank you for making me a better photographer!

  • Matthew Miller April 10, 2008 06:39 am

    Argh. Why does this site keep memorizing my name mistyped?

  • Matthwe Miller April 10, 2008 06:38 am

    Taryn -- shooting in RAW doesn't make that big of a difference if you get the exposure and white balance correct initially. If you're off, though, RAW gives you more latitude to salvage the exposure and complete after-the-fact control of white balance. Plus, since it uses lossless (or no) compression, RAW will give you the highest possible image quality if you need to do an extreme crop or if you want to make huge prints for some reason.

    There are some people who are evangelical about always using RAW and will basically belittle you for using JPEG ever. Those people are overstating the case, but in the above situations it makes sense. And in the wedding case, where someone else is depending on you and where you don't get a second chance, it seems almost mandatory to me.

  • Patrick April 10, 2008 06:32 am

    I contacted Photochick (Amanda Fultz) about her wedding checklist and questionnaire and she generously shared them with me. With her permission, I've copied them over to Google Docs and made them available below.

  • Dustin April 10, 2008 05:49 am

    Obviously you're not the best friend if you aren't IN the wedding right? :)

  • C April 10, 2008 05:47 am

    Hi, here are photos I took of my cousin's wedding back in November:

    My cousin said she liked some of my pictures better than her professional photographer's! I just did these for myself, but I sent them to her and her parents on a CD as a little gift. Critique and enjoy!

  • Bryan Nelson April 10, 2008 05:07 am

    Recommend using a professional if not here are a few tips:

    Get someone to be an assistant.

    Have a backup camera equipment.

    Have lots of extra charged batteries and extra memory cards. Pros usually take thousands of images for a Wedding.

    Check out the locations before the wedding day.

    Pack some food/water as you'll be on the move all day.

    Spend some time to do some research and get some inspiration well before the wedding.

  • Richard April 10, 2008 05:02 am

    This is just perfect. Next month will be my very first wedding , my wife's friend's ask me to photograph it... so, technically I'm not her best friend nor a professional photographer haha. Any way I'll do my best, thanks for the advices!

  • GEli April 10, 2008 04:53 am

    I've heard that checklists, made by sitting down with the bride/groom and getting a list of all the moments/photos they'd really like to have, can be handy. Besides the obvious (The Kiss, cake cutting, etc.) there are sometimes little moments that the couple only realize they'd like when they sit down to think about it (Picture of Grandpa So-and-so playing with the grandkids like he always does, and so on). If you can capture the entire list, you can ensure that you'll at least have the minimum number of scenes that the couple really wants to remember.

    Oh, and consider renting nice glass if you don't already have it. Some of the L wedding lenses (85mm f/1.8, 135mm f/2, 70-200 f/2.8 IS) are really nice but rather expensive and unnecessary if you're not doing weddings all the time. Renting is a nice cheap way to have them for a few days, so you can practice and then shoot the wedding with really nice, fast lenses, and then bring them back. This is all doubly or triply true if it's a no-flash wedding.

  • Photochick (Amanda) April 10, 2008 04:25 am

    ** Another thing I would recommend, is to ask the friend (family member, etc), "Are you wanting me to shoot your wedding as a friend or a professional?" It's not impossible to do both, but take into consideration that YOU might be 'out' more than you bargained for... It totally just depends on the people involved. **

  • Sule Bryan April 10, 2008 02:58 am

    Great article. My sister has asked me to take some photos at her wedding but not as the main photographer but just lots of candid shots. But there is still a little pressure to produce good shots and this article will serve as a great check list.

  • Jeremy Hall April 10, 2008 02:40 am

    Spot on with the wedding advice. Personally I really don't like shooting weddings because if you forget something or just don't get some of the shots you wish you did...too bad. No chance for a reshoot. In the end, most of mine turn out fine, but I find I don't solicit that kind of business.

  • Photochick (Amanda) April 10, 2008 02:39 am

    Almost forgot to add the other thing - sorry!

    I'm huge into checklists, and I totally recommend using one for ANY wedding - even friends or family. I have a VERY comprehensive one, that continually gets updated. It's in an excel document, so very easily done. I'm sure it's far from perfect, though!

    I would LOVE to make it available to anyone... Not sure how to do that though... I suppose just shoot me an e-mail if you'd like me to pass it on your way OR if you know how to get it somewhere so anyone can just click & download.

    Again, it's not perfect Just really useful for me - and hopefully for you all too! Much love & God Bless!


  • Photochick (Amanda) April 10, 2008 02:24 am

    Very, very good advice! I would like to add just a couple of things, though if that's ok...

    I would get a very small deposit (you know, like $50-$100) that way the other party is committed as well. Or put some type of cancellation fee in your contract. Unfortunately I DID NOT do this with a cousin who was going to have me do her wedding pics almost-free (grand total: $150.00) She didn't even let me know I wouldn't be her photographer until 2 days before her wedding! Apparently she found someone who would do them for free - no SRL or professional experience though. She definitely found out that you get what you pay for!

  • Mec 73 April 10, 2008 02:09 am

    To Taryn,
    actually shooting RAW can make a big difference in some situations. It gives you more control over exposure, color, noise, sharpening and a number of other parameters BEFORE a jpeg is generated, assuring more quality over the processed image. In some cases shooting raw you can even recover blown highlits. The downside is a longer processing time.
    For beginners like me I believe Photoshop elements is a great program to start processing raw files.
    Anyway you can find lots of informations online on shooting raw, even on here DPS forums.

  • AC April 10, 2008 02:05 am

    Good stuff in here. Have never been asked to shoot a wedding before, but hey, you never know.

  • Larry Eiss April 10, 2008 02:03 am

    Very well written; thanks! These tips are great and provide me with good insights that I'll keep in mind if anyone ever asks me to shoot their wedding.

  • adent1066 April 10, 2008 01:54 am


    There is no standard for RAW files. Nikon, Canon, etc all have their own RAW file formats. Even within a single company the RAW format can very from camera to camera. Photoshop supports many of these formats. With my Canon, I also use DPP (Digital Photo Professional) which can with my camera. Lastly, don't be afraid of RAW. It opens up a whole new world of post processing.

  • adent1066 April 10, 2008 01:49 am

    Keep an eye out for blown highlights. White dresses are prone to that.

  • Irene April 10, 2008 01:43 am

    awesome post!!! :) And no. 7 is SOOOOO TRUE!!!! I once played at a wedding where the PHOTOGRAPHER was 30 minutes late ..... err!

  • Taryn April 10, 2008 01:06 am

    Another great article from Natalie. Thanks for the tips!

    Question for Matthew Miller ... does shooting in RAW really make a big difference? What software is used to edit RAW images? I'd love to plunge into the world of RAW images, but I'M AFRAID TO! LOL...

  • Klaidas April 10, 2008 01:02 am

    Your Best Friend’s Wedding - DON'T.
    Unless you really know what your doing (you eat manual mode for breakfast, and profoto lighting for lunch.). Don't mess up the important day.
    You might want to start as a real wedding photographer's assistant, do some work, learn learn learn, and then photograph a wedding yourself. But if you did that you wouldn't be reading this now, would you? ;]

  • Matthew Miller April 10, 2008 12:41 am

    This is sort of a "#5, part b": shoot in RAW (or RAW+JPEG if your camera has that mode) even if you normally don't.