Basics of Wedding Photography | Tutorial Freak – Online Tutorials

Basics of Wedding Photography

Wedding photography is a very challenging endeavor and there are a lot of things a photographer must prepare for and be aware of before they even attempt their first wedding. First of all, just because you’ve attended a wedding doesn’t mean you can photograph it well. We highly recommend that any would-be wedding shooters first begin by assisting as a 2nd shooter with an experienced wedding photographer before even attempting one on their own. It’s fairly easy to become a 2nd shooter, as long as you’re a decent photographer, as many wedding photographers are looking for reliable 2nd shooters all the time on the internet.

Once you’re ready to try going out on your own, remember there is a lot at stake in shooting a wedding, so being prepared can help smooth out the day and ensure you do a great job that the bride and groom appreciate.

This guide will delve into some of the basics of wedding photography, and help you in your development in this highly demanded skill.

1. Understand the Bride & Groom’s expectations from you

Before anything else, make sure you talk to the bride and groom and understand exactly what they’re looking for from your photography, and what results they want.

Some questions you need to ask them are:

* Do they want candids or formal?

* Black & white photos or colour?

* How many photos are they expecting?

* A CD of photos or an album of prints?

* What are their expectations when it comes to using photoshop?

* How long are you expected to shoot till? The first dance, the whole night?

* Is the bride and groom willing to work with you to ensure the photos come out as best as possible?

Don’t assume that you know what they want or expect from you until you’ve asked the couple explicitly – searching through any photography forum on the internet reveals that this is probably the biggest mistake new wedding photographers make. Most importantly, have the results of everything you’ve discussed in writing in your contract so that there is no mis-communication or confusion and you can always refer back to it in an emergency.

2. Be Prepared

Remember, you’re being paid to photograph a couple’s most important day. If you’re prepared ahead of time for the worst-case scenarios, you’ll find that you’re better able to handle emergencies and unexpected problems and still complete your job to their satisfaction.

The minimum equipment you need for a wedding is the following:

* A main camera and a backup camera:
Cameras fail and cameras get dropped. Always have a reliable backup camera on hand to take its place. By the way, don’t use a point & shoot for a backup camera. If you want to do this for a living, spend the money and get a good quality SLR at the very least.

* Wide lens and a tele-zoom lens:
The wide lens will allow you to take photos that include the surroundings and place the subjects in context, while a tele-zoom will let you get up close and personal and shoot intimate moments better.

* An external flash:
You’ll be shooting in wide open spaces or large dark halls, so an on-camera flash is going to be too weak to be effective. A good reliable external flash will be essential in providing the light you need to make effective photos.

* Memory cards:
Don’t use one memory card for the whole day. If you lose that one card, you’ve lost all the photos for the day. It’s better to use more smaller capacity cards than one large capacity card.

* Backup methodology:
Ensure that you backup your cards on to a laptop or portable drive throughout the day, even if you have more than enough memory cards to handle all your photos. This will ensure that the photos are safe and sound in a redundant storage location.

* Strobes, filters, cords and tripod:
This goes without saying, but make sure all your equipment has been tested and ready a few days before the event. This will give you time to replace or borrow anything that is faulty.

Part 2: Scouting the event

Ok, so you’ve got your equipment ready in part 1, the next step is to scout out the location ahead of time and be prepared for the conditions. This post will guide you through the process.

Generate A Shot List

In the hustle and bustle of the big day, it’s going to be very easy to forget which photos you have and have not taken, so make sure you build a list of shots that you absolutely must have. Moreover, ensure that you consult with the bride and groom to make sure any important family members are included in your shot list – for example, ailing Grandpa Joe!

An example of a shot list (not in chronological order) may look like this:

* Bride putting on make up

* Bride & Groom in limo

* Looking through the veil at the groom

* Looking at the camera through a mirror

* Full length bridal gown

* Mother and father of the bride

* Mother and father of the groom

* First dance

* and so on…

How detailed you want to be is up to your own comfort level. You will probably want to be very detailed for your first few weddings and then, after you’ve gained experience, you can make your list more high level.
Scout the location(s) beforehand

There are 4 common locations you may see as wedding photographer:

1. The pre-wedding preparations at either the bride and/or groom’s home,

2. The wedding ceremony at a religious hall,

3. The reception at a banquet hall,

4. The bride/groom and group portrait locations.

When scouting the locations focus on 2 areas: logistics and lighting.

Location Logistics

If the ceremony is at a church or a religious hall, call ahead and ask them about photography arrangements. Many religious buildings might restrict flash and some places might disallow photography altogether during a ceremony. These are requests you will need to respect and plan for early.

Make sure you also scout the group photo and bride & groom portrait locations. Many photographers hold these sessions in a park or another pretty location. Verify that you have any licenses you need and that you will have permission to photograph there as a commercial photographer. Being kicked out of a location because you forgot to obtain the license is embarrassing, unprofessional and will kill future business.

If you’re shooting portraits outside and you live in an area with unpredictable weather, double-check your weather reports! Have a back-up location in case you need to change venues at the last minute.

Furthermore, determine whether your equipment can sufficiently handle the lighting conditions beforehand. If you can, get inside the building with your camera and take a few photos to see what the conditions are like. Consider the following:

* Lens speeds: Is the lighting so low that you will need to bring your fastest lenses (eg. F1.8 or F1.4)?

* ISO settings: What ISO will you be able shoot at? Is your camera good enough to handle the ISO speeds you need to produce good quality photos that are printable?

* Flash: is one needed, and if so, what power settings do you need to use?

Finally, ensure that you have clear directions to the event and the homes of the bride and groom (if you’re shooting pre-wedding ceremonies) – there’s no excuse for getting lost or being late!

Alright, you’re ready for the big day now – on to Photographing the Ceremony!

Part 3: Photographing the Ceremony

We’re now ready to tackle the big day and take some great photos. Here’s what you should keep in mind as the day progresses.

Dress For Success

First of all: dress appropriately! Wearing jeans and a t-shirt may be comfortable for you, but showing up at a nice wedding dressed poorly will only reflect badly on you and your professionalism. Wear dark clothes so as not to attract attention, and try and match what the guests would wear. If a suit is difficult for you to maneuver in, you can always wear some nice slacks and a dress shirt (or a dress).

1. Pre-Wedding Preparations

This is the period before the ceremony (usually early morning) when the bride and groom are getting ready for their big day. It will often be at someone’s home and will involve them getting dressed, putting on make-up, and lots of laughter among the bridesmaids and groomsmen. There should be a lot of intimate moments between close friends and family that the couple will love to see later, so be prepared to capture it all using the following tips:

* Arrive early and on time!
This goes without saying, but remember to give yourself time to pull out your equipment as well.

* Go wide
Often you’ll find yourself in tight cramped quarters, so put your wide angle lens to good use here.

* Use fast lenses
Lighting at homes will be dim, so you need fast lenses to allow you to capture the moments without blur. Look for windows or doors that can be opened to allow more light in.

* Fill-Flash
If you need more light, use a fill-flash. Personally, I prefer to just use fast lenses and use natural light, but sometimes you need to use a flash. If you want to avoid the paparazzi look, make sure your flash is used as a fill-flash to brighten up shadow areas. Full on flash may end up being too harsh and ruins the intimate nature of the moment

* Look around and Move Around
Don’t be shy and force yourself to move around and engage people. It’s easy to focus solely on the bride and forget about everyone else, but make sure you also look around at friends and family who are around her. Often, there are some great moments of joy away from the bride and groom that are worth capturing to show a true picture of the day’s events.

* Blend in and respect people’s privacy
You’ll be in a house full of people you don’t know very well, photographing their most intimate moments. Nothing is worse than a photographer who is in everyone’s way and is invading people’s private space. So, if a bride or a guest asks you to step out for a private moment, make sure you do! Respect their privacy and you’ll find them to be much more inviting at other times.

* Group shots

When you’re shooting the groomsmen when they’re getting ready, look for interesting and original group shots that highlight their camaraderie.

* Vehicle and Limo Shots

Often a special vehicle will be arranged to pick up the bridal parties. Remember to photograph the bride or groom getting into their respective vehicles with their party.

2. The Ceremony

The ceremony location may be a religious building such as a church or temple or a more neutral place such as a government building where a justice or judge may carry out the marriage. Whichever it is, make sure you’ve read up a bit on the wedding ceremony if it’s one that you’re not familiar with.

Some points to remember:

* Watch your flash

As I mentioned in Part 1, some halls may not allow you to use flash or even take photos during the actual ceremony, so be aware of this.

* Use 2 Photographers if possible
Ceremonies are often best photographed with 2 shooters. The reason being that 1 photographer can focus on the ceremony itself (ie. the priest reading the vows etc.), while the other photographer works in the background taking pictures of the audience, family members and also taking wide shots to put the ceremony in context. This is why the main photographer may hover near the front, while the 2nd shooter is at the back.If having 2 photographers isn’t possible, you should make sure you spend plenty of your time near the front focusing on the bride and groom, but still try and capture the audience and family if you see an interesting moment.

* Use 2 Cameras, one with a tele-zoom, one with a wide angle.

If you have 2 cameras available, use a tele-zoom on one, and a wide angle on the other, to allow you to quickly switch between focal lengths when necessary. This will allow you to capture intimate moments close up, or go wide and provide context.

* Blend In

Try your best not to block the view of the audience to get your shots and if you do, move away once you’ve taken your photographs. Don’t run back and forth making noise. In essence, take care to be quiet and to remain unseen.

* Don’t stop guests from taking their photos

Remember, guest will also be taking photos while you’re shooting and they have every right to do so, after all it’s their friends or family being married. Whatever you do, don’t be rude and don’t try and stop them even if they don’t seem too considerate in giving you the opportunity to tale your shots! If guests are truly getting in the way of your shots, you need to first decide whether you can move to a different position to get a different angle. If you have no choice but to ask guests to give you some room, be polite and remind them that you’re trying to do the best job possible for the bride and groom.

* Use flash for motion
In dark locations like a church, you will likely need to use your flash for extra light when the couple starts moving around, otherwise you’ll get blurry photos like this one:

* Think ahead and be ready

If you know the ceremony is completing, and that the couple will be down the aisle soon, position yourself ahead of time where you need to be. Remember, guests might jump in the way at any time, so be prepared for unexpected movements!

Next, we’ll take a look at shooting the bride, groom and family portraits as well as the big reception party.

Part 4: Photographing Portraits & Reception

Group Portraits

Group portraits are an important aspect of any wedding. It’s a time where the bride and groom want to create some unique memories of them, their bridal party and, sometimes, close family as well.

Once again, using point form, lets go through some important details to consider:

* Timing
The best time to hold your group portrait session is usually right after the ceremony but before the reception party. This period will allow you to photograph the bridal party members when they are still excited and exhilarated by the ceremony but before they’ve become exhausted by the long day.

* Location
If you prepared ahead of time, you should know of a good location nearby that can be used for the portrait session. Don’t choose a place too far from the ceremony/reception, as that will just make it inconvenient and tiring for everyone.

If the bride/groom have no preference then you may want to consider some popular types of locations such as parks, and or areas with old buildings (eg. a university campus). Look for a location that can be used creatively, and has plenty of room to move around. Historical sites like the one below can also be great.

* Lens Selection
Fast lenses which give you great depth of field are usually preferred for portraits. This will allow you to blur out backgrounds and have your subjects pop!

Consider using a telephoto lens as well if your location has enough room to allow it. These lenses will give you exceptional DOF that can make portraits really stand out.

* Posing
This is often overlooked. Make sure you have ideas for posing your subjects beforehand, otherwise you may find yourself struggling during the actual shoot.

* Photography Style
A lot of photographers shoot photojournalistically now with less formality compared to the older style of shooting mostly posed photos. Both styles can work great, but the most important thing is to make sure everyone is relaxed.

A good wedding photographer puts his subjects at ease, which will translate into great photos. Crack a joke, say something funny, whatever it takes to help the group enjoy their special day.

If you’re shooting photojournalistically, look for interesting unique moments that will tell a story. Funny juxtapositions of different elements can make compositions more interesting and memorable as well.

Reception & Party

The reception is the culmination of all the events of the big day. Different weddings have different types of receptions, you might have a big party or a more subdued event. Whichever it is, be prepared with a wide angle lens and a tele-zoom lens as you’ll need to be versatile in catching many types of moments.

You’ll be expected to shoot the obvious aspects of the wedding so remember to think ahead again and prepare yourself. Expect many of the guests to also move into your line of view as they capture their own photos themselves. Some of the most common events you may see are:

* The bridal party entrance into the reception hall:

Keep your flash primed as you will usually need extra light to catch the moving subjects in halls. With ceilings being so high, you will likely have little opportunity to bounce the flash, so a white reflector card will be very handy.

* The speeches:
Consider using a telephoto lens to capture the speakers. Groomsmen often come up to speak in a group, so you should be ready to switch to a wide angle lens if needed.

* First dance:
A telephoto is useful here to catch a tearing bride or father of the bride. Once the bride and groom begin their first dance though, look to capture the fun and excitement with a wide angle lens. There is often a nice chandelier above the dance floor which can be captured well with a wide angle lens

Cake cutting:
A wide angle is great to shoot a full body photo of the bride and groom posing with their cake.

In general, make sure you move around and capture as many of the guests as possible at least once. If it’s a dinner-like event, remember to make your rounds of all the tables and take at least one picture of each group. Some guests can also make some interesting photos if you’re just able to find it.

Since you’ll be mainly indoors, you may need to consider using your flash for a lot of the photos, unless you’re camera can handle high ISOs well.

If there’s any dancing later in the evening, try turning off your flash and using any of the colourful ‘disco lights’ as you main source of lights. You might find yourself getting some fun and colourful photos.


So there you have it. We’ve covered the Basics of Wedding Photography and hopefully you will find these tips helpful in becoming successful in your business.


Pro Photographer, WebMaster & Writer.. Please follow us on Facebook

KeithM.. – who has written posts on Tutorial Freak – Online Tutorials.

Help keep us alive & kicking, we need coffee 24/7, please donate, thanks!

Leave a Reply

error: Content is protected !!