I usually don’t consider myself to be a wedding photographer as such however, I do shoot the odd wedding once and a while.
I recently found myself shooting at Athol Hall, one of Sydney’s premier venues overlooking the beautiful Sydney Harbour and thought I would go through my planning process to assist and help other (wedding) photographers in the lead up to the (big) day.
It goes without saying that not two venues are identical and all photographer have their own unique approach to their work.
As with most larger productions I always start the reconnaissance as early as possible to work out potential set-ups, suited location and not least to familiarise myself with area before the day of the wedding. This part of my planning process is usually done between the first and second meeting with the lucky couple. A few things I always take notice off during this phase of the planning are the tidal forecast (if shooting near water), moon phase and accessibility. Later on in the process I am keeping a very close eye on the weather forecast to be one step ahead from the very beginning.
All photographers use different equipment for different situations – so take my equipment list below for what it is, and nothing more:
I usually shoot on two master bodies, one with a zoom lens attached which is usually the 24-70mm or 24-105mm and the second with a fixed prime such as a 14mm or an 85mm . For this particular shot my bag looked like this:
The contents are:
- Canon 5d mk3 with 14mm f2.8 attached
- Canon OC-E3 flash cable and Stofen bouncers
- Canon Speedlite flash units x 2
- Canon 50mm f.1.4
- Canon 5d mk2 with 85mm f1.2 attached
- Canon 7d back-up body
- Canon 24-105mm f.4
- Canon 17-40mm f.4
Spare batteries, Sandisk Ultra Cards, UV filters, etc
I am not going into much detail about my reasoning behind the choice of lenses or bodies however, I always try to make it fit the location /occasion.
Another bag which, I usually leave in the car contains various gadgets which, may be handy should anything happen weather-wise: for this shoot it contained a handful of white brollies, single-use swim caps (bought bulk at pharmacy), soap bubbles, lens baby and a spare suit for me.
To shoot a wedding is not rocket science however, a general understanding for photography is essential and I personally find that
even after ten years and many many weddings I still learn something new every time. One of the most misunderstood, and probably also grey areas when it comes to wedding photography is pricing! Whether you are shooting for free (horror horror) or you are charging several thousand dollars for a full day’s shooting is not important: a wedding is not the place to ‘learn how to use your equipment’! If you are not confident (working) with your camera then you probably need some more time!
Weddings are one of the few things in life which you cannot re-shoot, everything needs to be nailed the first time! One of the most important things to remember on the day is to be organised (I know what you are thinking now, but it’s not always
obvious) and always being at least one step ahead of everyone else: introduce yourself to the celebrant, the wedding planner (even if you’ve met them before it is always good courtesy) and confirm the running order with them (DON’T do this with the bride or groom) spend this time to shoot the static shots of the room, table decorations, flowers etc. so you dont have to worry about that later when the room is full of people.
As soon as the ceremony starts you need to be in control, do not feel too embarrassed to (politely) ask people not to stand in your way - the wedding couple will thank you for this later.
How you shoot the ceremony and the Brides arrival is also extremely individual so I will not dictate how to do this but instead point out some very important things to remember in the overall excecution of a wedding shoot:
- The Bride’s arrival
- The Ceremony including ‘The Kiss’
- Group shots (usually as per request of the couple)
- Creative photos with the bridal party only
- First dance
- The cutting of the cake
- The departure
For the majority of the above having an assistant or a 2nd shooter would be very beneficiary to keep track on time, people, guests and to work as your extended arm during the day (this is also a g r e a t way to learn how the bells and whistles work during a wedding day)
For me personally I am always looking forward to the bridal party photos as I see that as the (most) creative part of the entire shoot, the part of it where you can really shine as a photographer and show off your skills – I always prefer to have at least one to two hours for this part but often you are left with much less which is why a thorough ‘Recce’ is essential prior to the day .
When it comes to the turn-around time between having shot the photos and the handover process to the (hopefully) happily married couple this is very different from photographer to photographer however one rule of thumb is that it should be done as soon as possible, however with many couples going on Honeymoon shortly after the big day this can work in your favour. My process (or workflow if you like) includes importing all files into LR, culling, light editing and BW conversions and then exporting onto at least two different sources. When the files/photos/media has been handed over to the couple one of the most important things to remember is to follow-up and get some feedback, not so much regarding the excecution itself but to ensure that the product you have delivered lives up to the brief and fulfils their expectations – Even great photographers can improve and the best way to improve is to learn from feedback and critique (positive as well as negative)
As with all briefs, shooting a wedding is a very personal thing and should rightfully be so! The most important thing to me is not whether your equipment is made by Nikon, Canon or Leica but that you are confident using it and know how to trouble-shoot should anything unexpected happen on the day. Being organised and well prepared is essential so you can spend the time being creative and present and not having to worry about anything..
What is your best advice for shooting weddings? good/bad aspects/stories and tales are more than welcome
Thanks for reading