Getting Started in Wedding Photography

Getting Started in Wedding Photography

The bride-to-be was delighted with the photo-album I had made from a half-day photo-shoot in my lounge/studio; so she asked me to take photographs at her wedding. I agreed, but without fully realising the enormity of what I was under-taking.

I set about reading books on Wedding Photography, Posing Women, Contemporary Portraits, Studio Lighting, Out-door Flash etc. and the more I learnt, the less I knew. It was a daunting prospect, but I have always said that I like a challenge. There was just so much to take in and then become proficient at, even before I picked up a camera.

The first thing we did was to discuss the types of photographs that they wanted and the Bride produced a scrap album of pictures that she wanted in her album. She had very definite ideas, but thankfully her taste over-lapped with mine.

Then we talked about the venue and quickly realised that there was no time available to take the photographs that they wanted, so the ceremony was brought forward by two hours. Then began the detailed planning for each photograph that they wanted;

  • at the bride’s home
  • the details of the venue and decorations
  • the groom at the venue before the ceremony
  • the arrival of all the guests
  • the bride and her parents
  • the arrival of the bride in the car with her father
  • the entrance to the out-door ceremony, in a wooded area by a pond
  • the ceremony
  • the guests mingling after the ceremony
  • the Wedding Party Photo on the bridge
  • the Wedding Couple and friends and family group photos on the lawn
  • the Guests with refreshments while the group photographs are being taken
  • Portraits of each guest/s as they queued to enter the reception
  • Portraits of the Wedding Couple while the guests queued to enter the reception
  • The entrance of the Wedding Couple at the reception
  • The details of the table decorations and food
  • Guests at each table
  • The speakers and translator (yes 1/3 of the the guests did not speak English)
  • Photographs of myself giving one of the speeches
  • The giving of presents to the parents by the Wedding Couple
  • After the meal, portraits of the wedding couple with studio lights and 4 different locations inside the venue
  • Photos of the entertainment
  • The Scottish Country Dancing
  • More portraits of the Wedding Couple in the grounds while the guests eat the Roasted Hog
  • The Disco
  • The departure of the guests

There was such an extensive list of photographs and different locations that we spend a few hours walking around the venue discussing each site and making plans. This was again repeated at the wedding rehearsal two days before the wedding.

It was quite a large venue with different locations for the ceremony, the lunch, the entertainment, the hog roast and the dancing, as well as for the photographs. With considerable project planning and management in the IT industry behind me as well as working as a maître d’ on occasions I was relatively comfortable with juggling all the arrangements. What I did not realise that on the day, apart from the Bride, I would be the only person who know everything that was going on.

I engaged the help of my son, an experienced still-life animator and illustration university graduate, but with his bad back, he would not be available to help all the time. So as his backup, a friend agreed to step in and press the button as directed.

So between the three of us and after three changes of clothes for me (it was a hot day) we managed to take 4,500 photographs, requiring 40Gb of disk space.

After the couple returned from the honeymoon, the groom wrote: “John was the photographer for our wedding in July. He was quick so that people’s smiles didn’t wear off and they never became impatient. He was sensitive to the ambiance of the ceremony and creative in his angles and selection of subjects and surroundings. He also made us feel at ease while taking portrait photos.His photos really captured the day which included an outdoor ceremony, indoor reception, games and a Ceilidh.”

The bride also wrote: “Friendly, helpful with excellent ideas. You will be amazed with the final product. Highly recommend!!!”

So all was well, but under-neath it all I was a little depressed; although the couple were very pleased with the photographs, I knew the photographs that they had not seen and the photographs that I had not managed to capture fully. The first major error I noticed was that 2/3rds of my photos were either under or over exposed because of the way I had set the camera up, but had forgotten to remove this setting. I noticed how some indoor flash shots had the wrong speed so some guests were rather blurred and so the list went on. I realised that on the day, when the pressure is on, that it is impossible to remember everything and that there is not time to work things out. You either know it and do it or you miss it. I realised that I had taken too much on, I was collecting flowers, helping organise the guests and the programme, I was giving a speech, I was supervising two inexperience assistants and we had set a high target in terms of photographs.

But on the up-side – the couple have chosen 600 photographs that they like and it is hard to choose which ones to leave out of the album. The photographs give a complete picture of just about everything that happened during the day, sometimes things that the couple had not seen themselves. There are also some lovely formal portraits with stunning lighting and setting. So all in all the result is very satisfying but with lots of lessons learnt.

  1. Practise all your techniques so they are automatic for each environment
  2. Don’t take on too much
  3. Don’t set un-realistic objectives
  4. Take rest breaks during the day
  5. Use experience assistants
  6. After you have taken the normal shots be more selective and creative
  7. Have enough disk space to store, backup and work on the photographs
  8. Have enough memory cards to avoid over-writing any
  9. Don’t take too many photographs
  10. Be prepared for some things not to work out as well as you hoped

One month before the wedding, I lost my IT Management job and am now a full-time Wedding and Portrait Photographer in Ascot and this has led me down three completely new roads:

  • how to set up a new business
  • how to market
  • how to make a website

This last year has been very different and I am looking forward to what the next one brings.