Top 10 Wedding Photography Tips for Beginners

Old Kent Barn Wedding Photography

I’ve been in this wedding photography game for a while now. It is, without doubt, more than just a job. You get to meet some amazing couples, and you get to share the happiest day of their lives with them.

I mean, what’s not to love about that?

I also like to think I’ve learned a few things along the way. This isn’t a guide for the best camera settings for wedding ceremonies, or whether mirrorless cameras are better than DSLRs, nor is it a guide to using off camera flash during the wedding day.

If you’re looking for any of those things, then you’re in the wrong place my friend.

Personally, I like to think of it as a “Follow these tips and you won’t f*ck up” guide.

So if you’re just starting out in the wedding photography industry (or even if you’re a seasoned pro willing to listen to another photographer’s opinion), then follow these tips and you won’t go far wrong.

Top 10 Wedding Photography tips for Beginners:

  1. Always be in possession of a ridiculous amount of batteries. You can never have enough of them.
  2. Always be in possession of a ridiculous amount of memory cards. See point 1.
  3. Try and make an effort to get to know the names of as many people as you can. Shouting, “Oi you! Get over there and smile!” never goes down particularly well (nor does it a good photo make).
  4. Never stop learning. The exposure triangle will never change, but your creativity will if you don’t take care of and nurture it.
  5. If a couple says they’d like 10 group photos, they mean 20. If they say 20, prepare to take 40. Allow 2 minutes for each group photo and then double it.
  6. If the venue says the meal is at 4pm, make sure you’ve wrapped all the couple’s portraits 15 minutes before then AT THE LATEST. Don’t ever piss off the wedding planner or the venue. You WILL regret it.
  7. Be nice to your fellow suppliers, and don’t bitch about the state of the industry with them. You’re in this game because you love it, and if you don’t, leave it to those of us who do.
  8. Don’t slag off difficult couples in Facebook groups either. Someone in there is bound to know them and WILL invariably tell them. It also makes you look like a bit of a dick.
  9. Be confident, funny and outgoing, even if on the inside you’re insecure, dour and introverted. The couple and all the guests will notice and appreciate it.
  10. Above all else, smile! Ever noticed how professional dancers are always beaming from ear to ear, no matter how difficult the routine? Be like them, even if nothing you’re doing is coming off on the day of the wedding.

How I Got The Shot!

Lympne Castle Wedding Photography

A few people have asked me how I managed to capture this sparkler photo at Fae and Lewis’s recent wedding at Lympne Castle in Kent, so I’ve decided to put everyone out of their misery and reveal all!

Setting the scene

A month or so before the wedding, Fae mentioned that they were thinking of having a sparkler exit towards the end of the evening, which started my creative juices flowing. I’ll be the first to admit that I hadn’t attempted a sparkler photo before, and I know from other photographers how tricky they can be, so I started scouring the internet in earnest for tips and inspiration.

Issues

The first and main issue was that it was going to be dark when I was due to attempt the photo. Initially I’d planned to rely on the light from the sparklers to illuminate Fae and Lewis, but this would mean that I’d probably have to shoot using a low aperture and high ISO to let more light in, which might result in focusing being a problem. The lens I was intending to use offered an aperture of f1.4 at 85mm, but the depth of field this offered would be ridiculously thin.

My second train of thought was simply to illuminate them using an off-camera flash, which meant that I could stop the lens down a little more to a lower ISO and more reasonable aperture (I rarely stray beyond f4 these days) but this presented another couple of potential problems. One, focusing would again be a challenge as it was dark, and secondly, even thought Fae and Lewis would be nicely lit, all the guests would possibly be underexposed except for the ambient light of the sparklers.

The way around this would be to drag the shutter to let more ambient light in and freeze the happy couple using the flash, but it would still be a bit of a pain tracking their movement and focusing with the lack of light I was presented with.

(As a side note, I also contemplated using the Yongnuo YN-622C-TX trigger which emits a focus assist light, but to be honest the light it emits is crap. The trigger itself is extremely reliable, but as far as helping with autofocus goes? Forget it.)

Solutions

I was talking to a fellow photographer who’d recently photographed a sparkler exit, and they’d mentioned that they’d used a video LED light. It’s basically a continuous light source that you can mount on a tripod or monopod, meaning you can (a) visualise how the light will look before you take the photo, and (b) focus on your subject without any issues. Hurrah!

The video light I used was the Neewer 176 LED 5600K Ultra Bright Dimmable on Camera Video Light, which did the job admirably AND was fantastic value for money too. I also backlit the couple using a YongNuo YN560 III flash triggered by the Yongnuo YN 560-TX, with the intention of adding some atmosphere to the photo by illuminating the smoke from the sparklers.

So my process was:

  1. Pop Yongnuo flash on light stand behind couple at 1/16th power
  2. Place Neewer vide LED on monopod – my assistant was to the right of me just out of shot and walking alongside Fae and Lewis to keep them nicely lit. Power was roughly 50%.
  3. Ask Fae and Lewis to walk slowly (!) towards the camera
  4. Take the photo (Canon 5Diii // Sigma 85 ART // AI Servo mode // 1/100s // f3.5 // ISO 3200)

Notes

  • I chose ISO 3200 and a shutter speed of 1/100 to allow some ambient light from the sparklers to bleed through. This was just about quick enough due to Fae and Lewis kindly agreeing to walk slowly!
  • ISO 3200 allowed me to set the flash to a low power setting of 1/16, meaning recycle times were quick
  • I meant to shoot at f4, but in all the excitement accidentally bumped it to f.3.5!
  • Ask your couple to walk closely together, otherwise the flash won’t be hidden and you’ll be blinded / your photo will be a flash of white light only!
  • Finally, the links on this page are connected to the Amazon Associates programme, meaning that if you should purchase any of the products as a result of clicking on the links, I’ll make a little bit of money. The intention of the article first and foremost is to educate, but if I make a few pennies on the side as well, that’d be lovely 🙂

Photographing Dance Floor Light Trails

Photographing dance floor light trails

As a wedding photographer you need to wear lots of hats. Not literally of course – I don’t mean rocking up to a wedding donning a trilby, fez and Panama combo (although that would look…somewhat interesting…), but you need to be able to photograph a variety of situations in a variety of ways.

For example, take the dance floor. In the past I’ve photographed dance floor action by bouncing a single on-camera flash off the ceiling or the wall behind (which is great if the venue has a low white ceiling or walls, which isn’t always the case), or setting up two or three off-camera flashes in various corners of the dance floor (which is fine if you have plenty of space, but not so good if people start tripping over them. Thank God for liability insurance…)

A third technique yields some funky results, and this is achieved by firing an on-camera flash in combination with dragging the shutter. The action is frozen by the flash, and any ambient light (DJ lights, fairy lights etc) is captured by shooting with a slow(ish) shutter speed.

So how do we achieve this? As a certain animated meerkat once said, simples…

1) Use manual mode for full control / a low ISO / small aperture

For the dancefloor photos below, I shot them in manual mode at ISO 200 and stopped the lens down to f11. This achieves two things – it means the shutter needs to be open longer to capture the ambient light trails (which gives you that sense of movement – more about shutter speed below), and it also helps with your focusing…

2) Use manual focus

Focus on your subject(s) initially using autofocus, and then switch to manual focus. This means the lens won’t continually hunt in low light, and combined with your aperture of around f11 means that your subject will be in focus (unless you radically change position, or your subject(s) sashay off to the opposite side of the dancefloor).

3) Use manual flash / front curtain sync

I’m a bit of a purist and a control freak, and don’t like machines (or people, for that matter) dictating what I do. That’s why I always use a manual flash compared to TTL – I set the ambient exposure first (for the light trails) and then adjust the flash power manually to taste.

Some flashes have front / first-curtain sync, meaning the flash will fire when the shutter opens (compared to when it closes, known as rear / second-curtain sync) – using front-curtain sync means the action is captured as soon as you open the shutter, leaving you free to capture the light trails. Using rear-curtain would mean you’d capture the light trails first, but would then need to ensure your camera is aimed at your subject when the shutter / flash fires (which is a bit trickier).

4) Adjust shutter speed

There are no hard and fast rules for this, but I’d aim for around 1/2 or 1 second exposure to start with. You can adjust this to taste if your ambient exposure is too much, so have a play around.

5) Shoot!

So, you’ve set your aperture (f11 in this case), your ISO (200) and shutter speed (1/2 to 1 second), focused on your subject by using autofocus then switched to manual focus, and have taken a test shot of the ambient light. Do this by opening the shutter and moving your camera across the light source (DJ lights etc). Once you’re happy with your light trails, turn the flash on, decide on your composition, photograph the dancefloor action then move your camera across the ambient light source to capture the light trails.

You’ll get some very strange looks, but don’t worry. The photographs below were taken at a recent 18th birthday party, and some of the guests looked at me very strangely during some of the group shots when the flash fired before I moved the camera swiftly off to my left / right. I think they were wondering if I’d actually photographed them at all…

6) Things to remember!

i) What you’re effectively capturing are two exposures. Make sure you’re happy with your light trails first (by setting small aperture / low ISO / shutter speed), and then adjust your flash power to taste.

ii) Watch out for light trails cutting through people’s heads! This may be a little difficult to avoid (unless you want to ask the DJ to move to the other side of the room, or you fancy moving all the fairy lights yourself), but it’s something to be aware of (you’ll see at least one example below where this happened).

iii) Try zooming the flash in for edgier results – this will give you a spotlight effect which (in my opinion) looks more “photo-journalistic”.

See what you think…

5 Reasons Why I’m A Wedding Photographer

Kent wedding photographer

“It’s a bit stressful isn’t it? You know, photographing weddings? After all, you only have one chance to get it right, and it’s one of the most important days of people’s lives? Why put yourself though it?” – Everyone I Ever Meet

I’ll never forget the first wedding I ever photographed. An old school friend reached out and wondered if I’d photograph his wedding, because he’d heard I was a keen photographer and he liked my photos. Of course I would! I mean, how hard could it be (despite the fact that up until that point I’d only photographed architecture and landscapes, and hadn’t photographed people. Or wedding ceremonies in dark churches. Or a bride walking down the aisle. Or the first dance. Etc). It was, without doubt, the most stressful thing I’d ever done in my life, but it triggered a desire and need deep within me that I’ve been following to this day.

So why do I photograph weddings?

1) I feel I make a difference

Photographing a wedding day is an enormous privilege. These are exceptionally special moments that will never be repeated, and it’s my job to ensure that these moments are captured for all eternity. I’m effectively the bride and groom’s backup eyes, as I’ll see and photograph things that they’ll miss, because they’ll be busy mingling, catching up with loved ones and having the time of their lives. I love visiting couples after the wedding and presenting them with their photos, and watching their eyes light up or fill up with tears of joy (and quite often both). To bring that level of happiness into people’s lives is a thing of wonder.

2) It allows me to be creative

I’ve always loved to create, ever since I was young. I remember spending hours as a kid drawing superheroes such as Iron Man, Spiderman and Superman. I’ve always loved music and have been playing the guitar and writing songs for longer than I care to remember. Photography affords me the same level of creativity – in essence it boils down to pressing a button on the camera, but on a much deeper level it involves composition, using existing light or creating my own, photographing with different lenses / utilising depth of field for maximum effect, recognising and  capturing emotion and so on.

3) I meet new people and make new friends

Wedding photography is an incredibly social activity. You get to meet lots of couples, and you’re given an insight into their hopes, fears and desires. You get to meet their friends, family and loved ones. At the wedding itself you’re effectively a guest, (albeit one with a very important job to do!) and you laugh and cry with everyone who’s there. Some of the couples I’ve met have become good friends, and that’s something you can’t put a price on.

4) I share in people’s happiness

What other event or occasion do you know where everyone is deliriously happy for the entire day? Where everyone has assembled for one reason, and that’s to celebrate the love of two people? There have been occasions where I’ve arrived at a wedding not feeling one hundred percent (a bad night’s sleep thinking about the day ahead, or maybe the weather has just made a turn for the worse), but by the time I’m capturing photos I find that I’m beaming from ear to ear.

5) I love playing with tech

Yes, I’m a sad geek. Not only do I love meeting people, sharing in their happiness, indulging my creative streak and feel I’m making a difference, I also love cameras and computers. Which means that I experience almost as much joy editing and processing a wedding as I do photographing it. Yes, I really need to get out more…

Now, when’s my next wedding…?

5 Steps To Becoming a Wedding Photographer

Kings Arms Amersham Wedding Photographer

“‘Ere, this wedding photography lark’s a doddle isn’t it? I mean, all you have to do is press a button!”

Ah, if only it were that simple – turn up at the wedding, stroll about a bit, click the camera shutter now and again, sink a few cocktails, chat up the bridesmaids and then disappear enigmatically into the night. Unfortunately it isn’t quite as easy at that, and takes dedication, motivation and hard work. In fact, if you follow the five steps below in a diligent and industrious fashion, you should be well on your way to becoming a rockstar wedding photographer:

1. Learn your gear

Do you know your aperture priority from your manual? How about shutter priority? What about the interaction between aperture, shutter speed and ISO? Do you know what an f-stop is? More importantly, do you know how to capture a fantastic photograph of the bride approaching the church on a nice sunny day, and then five seconds later take another fantastic photo in a dimly lit Aladdin’s Cave of a church without batting an eyelid? How about if the sun disappears and ominous clouds roll in overhead, obliterating your lovely light?

Believe me, the last thing you want to be doing is fumbling around with your camera as the all-important events unfold before you.

2. See The Light!

Can you capture a great image no matter what the conditions? What will you do if it’s a bright sunny day and there’s no shade to be seen? How about if it’s raining? Overcast? How about at night? Do you know the difference between hard and soft light, and can you create / negate both? The bottom line is, if the light isn’t great, are you able to find or create fantastic light?

3. Assist

If you’ve never photographed a wedding before, find someone who has and offer to assist them for free. See how they work – how they interact with the couple, how they create fantastic light and how they behave around the wedding guests. Experience is invaluable – you only have one chance to capture a wedding day, so make sure you know what you’re doing before you dive in headfirst.

4. Prepare

One of my games teachers from school once said, “Fail to prepare Biggins, and PREPARE TO FAIL!” Apart from scaring the sweet bejaysus out of me, I later discovered that his sage words were correct. This is particularly pertinent when it comes to weddings – scout the venue first to see what sort of light you’ll be dealing with. Is it a huge, dark barn with very little natural light, or is a small, bright white room? Also, check your gear – do you have enough memory cards to cover the day? Are your batteries charged (the ones in the camera, as well as your emotional / mental ones). Do you know what time the bride is due to arrive, and where your couple will be at any given time during the day? Are you allowed to use flash in the ceremony? If not, what will you do? Are the couple expecting group formals? If so, who? Remember what my games teacher said…

5. Learn business & marketing

Probably the biggest mistake photographers make is lack of promotion regarding their business. “But my photographs are beautiful Dan! People will become aware of my work via the medium of telekinesis and screwing my eyes tightly shut and wishing really really hard!”

No they won’t.

Learn all about branding (clue – it’s more than just a logo), find out who your ideal client is and where they hang out (social media? Wedding blogs?), implement an email marketing strategy, look into Google AdWords and Facebook advertising, don’t compete on price, be memorable, network with other people in the industry (including other photographers), never rest on your laurels, never stop learning.

6. Sort your website out

I know, this list was only supposed to be five items long, but this one is important too – make sure people can find your website. Again pretty pictures AREN’T enough – look at your page titles, headings, friendly URL’s (if you don’t know what they are, FIND OUT), blog regularly, provide value, make sure your blog posts are at least 300 words long, be interesting enough so other relevant blogs will link to you, and never, EVER use Flash. Ever. Unless you want to hide from Google.

Did I miss anything?

5 Reasons Photographers Should Use WordPress

Leez Priory Wedding Photography

Oh how I love thee WordPress. I’ve been building websites for over 10 years now, and as satisfying as it is to handcode a site from scratch, nothing beats the convenience and sheer customisability of a WordPress installation. Heck, this site you’re looking at now is built using the WordPress platform, and modified by me (Dan Biggins, Wedding Photographer and Chief Code Monkey at your service). If you’re a photographer and your website isn’t powered by this fantastic Content Management System (or you don’t have a website yet), then here are five reasons why you should definitely consider WordPress:

Popularity & support

As I write this, there are over 71 million websites powered by WordPress. That’s pretty darned impressive, and means there’s a massive support community out there as well. Whether your site isn’t behaving as you expect, you’d like some advice regarding a plugin or you’re looking for someone to help install WordPress on your server, you’ll definitely find someone out there in the community willing to help (like, ahem, me for example).

Highly customisable

There are literally thousands of themes available for WordPress, which means that however you’d like your site to look and behave, there’s bound to be a theme out there that caters to your needs. The beauty of this is that you can transform your site into whatever you want, from a simple photography portfolio through to a full blown ecommerce site.

WordPress Photography Themes:

As well as themes, there are also plugins to consider. Plugins are small snippets of code that you literally “plug in” / upload to your site to enhance functionality. One of the plugins I’ve recently installed places the Google+ box you see in the right hand column of this site, allowing people to connect easily with me (there are plugins for Twitter and Facebook too). Another plugin I’ve installed places a sliding panel at the top of my site, allowing me to easily customise it as I wish. The possibilities are endless, especially if you know a little bit of code.

WordPress Photography Plugins:

Easy to use and update

The real beauty of WordPress is that you don’t need to know any code whatsoever to keep your site up to date. Let’s say you own a traditional static HTML website, and you pay your web developer a lot of money to update it every time you want to add a new photo / blog post etc. One morning at 3am you wake up with a fantastic idea for a blog post – if your site is driven by WordPress, you can login and thrash out your article to your heart’s content. I’m sure your web developer will be grateful not to be disturbed at 3am by a deranged photographer asking him or her to update their website.

Search Engine / SEO friendly

This is perhaps the most important reason to adopt a WordPress site, and one that most photographers ignore (more of that in a bit). It requires a bit of tweaking out of the box, but there are certain things you can do such as changing the structure of your links to ensure they’re full of keywords (for example, from something like www.danbiggins.com/p=6039 to www.danbiggins.com/5-reasons-photographers-use-wordpress). A plugin that’s absolutely essential to SEO success is Yoast – it won’t transform your site on it’s own, but with a bit of tweaking you can make your site sexy and more visible in the eyes of search engines.

A small sidenote regarding SEO, and it’s something that photographer’s the world over are guilty of (myself included). A lot of photographers seem to think that “a pretty picture wins the day” – if they pack their site with loads of fabulous images and little else, search engines will push the site up the rankings because Google et al will know that people will want to visit that site to witness and marvel at the beautiful photography.

Search engines won’t, believe me.

A site without SEO-friendly URL’s, headings, keywords and (most importantly of all) written content will be as good as invisible to Google. As will Flash sites, incidentally – there’s absolutely no excuse in the 21st Century for any photographer to have a Flash-based portfolio. Two reasons – Flash is pretty much invisible to search engines (meaning your site will be invisible), and Steve Jobs and Apple have pretty much killed off Flash with the introduction of the iPad (whether that’s a good or bad thing is for another debate at another time).

And finally…

If you’d like more help regarding SEO please feel free to drop me a line. If you’d like help switching from a static / flash site to a WordPress site, again, I’d love to help!

 

Backlighting the first dance with flash

Alicia Hotel Liverpool Wedding Photography

At the recent wedding of Sarah and Gareth in Liverpool I decided to try a new technique that I’d seen other photographers do, but had never attempted myself (after all, a wedding is surely the best time to start experimenting with a new technique that you’ve never done before, and one that has the capacity to go completely tits up. Isn’t it? Gulp.)

The technique in question is backlighting the bride and groom for the first dance, to create an attractive rim light around the couple, instead of firing the flash (modified or otherwise) straight at them. At the top of the page is an example of this technique.

It’s a fairly straightforward technique, if truth be told. The ambient light in the room at the time was pretty much non-existent, so I worked with a shutter speed and aperture I was comfortable with and within my maximum sync speed, and adjusted flash power manually to taste (none of this swanky TTL malarkey here, oh no). Out of interest, the exposure settings for all the following photographs were as follows: f4, ISO3200, 1/200s, 85mm.

As for the flash, I placed a solitary unmodified speedlight on a flash stand shoulder height, and around 10-12 feet behind the couple. I then manually (phew, hardcore eh?) set it to 1/32 power and fired it using a wireless trigger. And Bob’s your Dad’s brother.

Of course, the couple have to be directly in the line of sight between your camera and the flash, otherwise things can go a bit Pete Tong (also notice incorrect sync speed in this photo, resulting in black band along the bottom. Naughty photographer.)

Backlighting the first wedding dance with flash

However, when you get it right magic ensues. Here are a couple of other examples from the same wedding:

Where are your clients?

Bromley Registry Office London Wedding Photography

Earlier today I met fellow photographer Matt Jerram, who runs Salt Photography and ably assisted me in photographing Lindsey and Dan’s wedding in May last year. Not only did we share a few beers and munch on ribeye steak (God bless you Mr Jerram), we also discussed all things photography including marketing techniques.

Matt recounted the tale of Joshua Bell who, back in 2007, treated unsuspecting commuters to a virtuoso performance on the Washington Metro system. For those who don’t know, Joshua is an American Grammy award-winning violinist, so you’d think that (a) commuters in their hundreds would stop to listen to Joshua’s playing, and (b) Bell would make an absolute fortune from his busking exploits.

Of course, as you’ve probably guessed, it didn’t quite work out that way.

This started me thinking about us photographers, and our marketing efforts (or lack of, in most cases). As creatives, I’m sure we’ve all been guilty at some point or another of the, “If I build it they will come” syndrome, in which we’re sure that our beautiful photography will automagically generate clients out of thin air, with little or no effort on our part.

Or, we spend hour upon hour updating our websites, in the knowledge that clients will definitely book us because our photography is fantastic.

You know what? I’m sure your photography is fantastic. I’m sure it could make a burly Canadian lumberjack weep openly in public at thirty paces. The problem is, the quality of your photography has no impact on your success as a photographer.

That’s a bitter little pill to swallow isn’t it? But it’s true.

So, to recap. If our fantastic photography has no bearing on our success, and nobody seems to care even though we’re virtuoso performers in our chosen field, then what’s the point? The point is, it’s all about where we market ourselves. To take an extreme example, as a photographer you wouldn’t dream of advertising in Gardener’s Weekly, would you? (Unless you’re interested in photographing someone’s prize begonias, and if you are , then good luck to you). If you’re Joshua Bell, then you’re unlikely to choose busking as a viable method of attracting new clients (yes, I know he’s won a Grammy and is famous, but even if he wasn’t, I’m sure he’d be more savvy than to rely solely on busking as a way of generating interest).

As photographers, we need to ascertain who our clients are, and where they’re hanging out. And then stop busking to them and start marketing to them instead.

Shooting Winter Weddings Workshop

Shooting Winter Weddings Workshop

We all need to keep learning, right? No matter how good we think we are, there’s always room for improvement, and when a chance to learn from two of the best in the wedding photography business looms on the horizon, we’d be fools not to grab it with both hands.

Speaking of which, yesterday I had the pleasure to attend the Shooting Winter Weddings Workshop in Stonehouse, Gloucestershire with renowned wedding photographers Damien and Julie Lovegrove. Together they’ve photographed over 350 weddings, as well as releasing a book and a number of DVDs, so it’s safe to assume they have a pretty good idea what they’re talking about..!

The basic premise of the workshop was to demonstrate how to take (hopefully) fantastic photographs throughout the course of a wedding, often with very little light to work with. To quote from the official blurb, “This workshop is designed to give wedding photographers the confidence and skills to take beautiful images that the client will love. Simple, repeatable techniques are taught to provide you with all the necessary skills to take your wedding photography further.”

The day was divided up into three sections – the bride and groom getting ready, pre-ceremony portraits of the bride and groom, and finally shots of the ceremony and the couple together immediately after the ceremony. As a bonus, the day ended with Damien talking about lighting solutions for weddings, and Julie covered the psychology of a wedding shoot, from meeting the couple, arranging the flow of the day with them and so on.

What struck me most of all during the workshop was how possible it was to capture fabulous images in extremely low-light conditions using very low shutter speeds! For example, two scenarios spring to mind; the first was a shot of the bride Sarah in one of the corridors of the hotel against some beautiful wood panelling, where there was seemingly no usable light except for a splash coming through from a window opposite. Previously I’d have disregarded the location, and would have deemed it too dark to capture a usable image. How wrong I was…using a monopod, high ISOs, low shutter speeds (sometimes as low as 1/15 and occasionally 1/10…shudder…) and overexposing by +1EV on this occasion, it was entirely possible.

The other seemingly unusable location was under some trees just by the church. By this time the heavens had opened and the sky was bleak and angry, so the group looked at each other when Damien led us all under some trees where there was even less light. Again, using a monopod, a slow shutter speed, high ISO and overexposure, we all managed to capture an image that the couple would adore.

I’ve read numerous wedding photography / processing articles where the author warns against blowing the highlights and retaining all the detail in the bride’s dress. Julie was happy to dispel this myth, if it meant capturing some wonderful images. Damien emphasised this point by stating that all the shots should look like they were shot on a sunny day. After all, the couple hardly want to look back at their wedding photos and remember that it was tipping it down on their special day!

As you’ve probably guessed, I’d thoroughly recommend the workshop. It’s set in a beautiful location, Damien and Julie were extremely friendly, approachable and happy to help and assist along the way, the couple Alex and Sarah were extremely professional, and I came away with a renewed sense of optimism, enthusiasm and most of all, inspiration.

Photographing Your First Wedding

Bromley Garden Room London Wedding Photography

A couple of months ago I was fortunate enough to photograph the wedding of Nigel and Carmen Smith, and thanks to both of them for a wonderful (if extremely challenging) day!

I thought I’d detail my experiences here, for anyone thinking of shooting their first wedding – hopefully this will outline some of the things to look out and prepare  for, as well as any pitfalls that may arise during the day.

Prepare, prepare and prepare some more

I really can’t emphasise this enough. Two people have entrusted you to capture their special day – it doesn’t matter whether they’re paying you a small fortune to do so, or whether it’s a favour to help them out at the last minute. Either way, their expectations will be high, and they’ll be counting on you to capture some wonderful images of the day.

I met with Nigel and Carmen a month before the big day. Ideally I’d have met them a few months before that, but time being of the essence meant that I had around four to five weeks to prepare, which was just about enough time. We discussed timings, including:

  • What time was Carmen arriving?
  • When would Nigel arrive?
  • What time was the service?
  • What time was the reception commencing?
  • Was flash photography allowed during the service?
  • What group photographs would they like?
  • What photos would they consider “essential” (picture of the dress / shoes / cake etc)

And lots of other questions to boot – the more info you can garner at this stage the better.

Learn how to use your equipment

A bit of a no-brainer this one, but the last thing you want to happen while the bride is walking down the aisle is trying to figure out how to change the aperture or ISO.

For example, I bought a Nissin flash unit to help out with the shots during the speeches, and had relatively little experience regarding how to use it. I’d taken some shots using studio lighting, but a small flash unit is a different kettle of fish. For example, would I shoot using manual flash or E-TTL? How would I balance ambient light and flash to obtain a natural looking exposure? So I bought a copy of On-Camera Flash Techniques for Wedding and Portrait Photography and devoured the information within it, while taking various test shots over the next couple of weeks until I felt comfortable using it.

I also hired a Canon 5D Mkii and a couple of Canon lenses (24-70 2.8 and 70-200 2.8 IS, both wonderful and flipping heavy lenses…!) The 5D has a different menu system to my 400D, so I spent a couple of days using it, ensuring I knew exactly how to quickly change the aperture, ISO and shutter speed at a moments notice.

Scout the venue

This is something I didn’t have time to do unfortunately, but something that I thoroughly recommend. It’s incredibly helpful to know where everything is taking place, especially as a lot of wedding venues tend to be fairly dim places and lacking in natural light.

For example, Nigel and Carmen were married underneath one of the towers at Leez Priory, and although it was a beautiful location it was lacking in natural light (okay, not strictly true – there was plenty of natural light, but they were facing away from it). As it was, I had to make a snap decision to bump the ISO up to ensure a fast enough shutter speed. Not a massive decision the grand scheme of things, but something extra to think about when you’re under a lot of pressure.

Take food and drink

I was lucky enough to attend the wedding as a guest, although I have to admit I didn’t really feel like one due to the pressure of capturing the wedding. Saying that, I ate with everyone else during the reception, but foolishly didn’t take any water with me (a huge thanks to Steve and Kirstean for buying me a couple of orange juices during the day…lifesavers!) It was a hot day, I was on my feet for pretty much ten hours, and those two lenses were heavy. Take some liquids at least.

Overall, the experience was an amazing one, but I haven’t felt that knackered for a long time. Wedding photography is hard but ultimately rewarding, especially processing the images and discovering that a fair few of them were pretty good after all. If you’re thinking of shooting your first wedding, prepare all you can – meet the couple, look at the venue, know your equipment inside out and most of all stay calm during the day. I had a few moments of panic and there are things I’d do differently next time (try and relax a bit more would have been nice), but once the clients see the shots and are thrilled with them, it makes it all worthwhile.