Learning Wedding Photography
|January 11, 2013||Posted by Photo GearHead under Photography Articles|
Before beginning this short guide on learning wedding photography, I feel I should preface this article with a very important point. Wedding photography is, in many ways, unlike most other forms of photography. And, I believe, it is unique in that it absolutely should not be attempted, on any sort of professional basis, by photographers who lack experience specifically with wedding photography. When you engage in wedding photography, you take upon yourself, as a photographer, a tremendous amount of responsibility — a responsibility which doesn’t exist to nearly such a degree with most other types of photography. People put a truly great amount of emotional investment in the knowledge that they will have, for year and years to come, stunning photographs to document one of the most special and unique days that they will ever experience in their lives. If you’re doing wedding photography, you’re not just taking nice pictures for someone — you’re creating for them the very things that they will use, likely for the rest of their lives, to help them more clearly remember an exceptionally special event that only ever happened on one, single day, and can never be repeated.
With other types of photography, such as, say, portraiture, if you mess up the shots, re-shoots can be scheduled and refunds can be given. Not so with wedding photography! A wedding only happens once, and if you don’t get the shots, there is no rescheduling. You can refund someone’s money, but that wont get them the photos that they were hoping to cherish for the rest of their lives. With other types of event photography there is a similar responsibility placed on the shoulders of the photographer — but not to the same degree as with wedding photography. If you’re hired to do a fashion event, let’s say, and you don’t get the shots, sure, certain people may not be too happy with you — but nobody is going to think it’s the end of the world. …well… no reasonable people will, anyway. Wedding photography is for experienced wedding photographers only — no one else!
It’s important to remember that wedding photography requires a certain set of skills that photographers who may be versed in other areas of photography, but have no experience with wedding photography, have not have developed. So, even if you’re a highly skilled, talented and experienced photographer, but you’ve never shot a wedding, the odds are very good that you will not do well with your first wedding photography assignment if you do not first prepare yourself in the proper way.
Imagine a portrait photographer that has been doing studio portrait photography for thirty years. He would obviously be a highly experienced photographer. This particular photographer, in our example, even possess an exceptional level of innate talent and skill. Let us say that, over his thirty year career, he has received a rare abundance of awards and commendations in his profession — he is a true master of his craft. But, in his thirty years of experience, he has never taken but a handful of photographs outside of his studio. And, he has, in fact, never traveled beyond the borders of the large city in which he lives.
One day, our photographer, becoming bored with studio photography after doing it for so long, decides that he’d like to try his hand at wildlife photography. So, he finally takes a trip out into the wilds — his trusty camera in hand — with the intention of photographing the magnificent grizzly bear in its natural habitat! How likely is it, do you think, that our exceptionally experienced and remarkably talented photographer will find success in his endeavor? How likely would you say it is that our photographer will return from his trip with even one truly exceptional photography of a fearsome grizzly?
The fact is that it wouldn’t be too likely at all! And, the reason is that wildlife photography of such a nature requires a particular set-of skill that are unique to that type of photography. Our studio photographer will have no experience in tracking animals, or how to orientate, or negotiate the rugged wilderness. He won’t even be able to find a grizzly bear, much less capture a good photograph of one. Because wedding photography is so common, it may not seem so, but it really is the same way. To do it well you need a particular and well developed set of skills that you just can’t develop by doing anything other than wedding photography. To even be ok at it you need real world experience actually photographing weddings. And, with wedding photography, if you mess it up, the stakes are much greater than they are in pretty much every other type of photography.
If you’re inexperienced in wedding photography, and you put yourself forward to someone as the person they should count on to photograph their wedding, and you end up messing up the job, you can really hurt people. Think about that! With wedding photography, your inexperience can really, really injure someone. Not just inconvenience them, or disappoint them, or make them angry — but actually cause real and significant emotional injury to them to quite a great degree.
So, am I saying that you shouldn’t shoot weddings? Of course not! There was a time when the best, most sought after wedding photographers in the world had never before shot a wedding. Did they go entirely against my advice in order to do it? Nope! What most if them did was to first start out by asking friends families who had weddings coming up if they could bring their camera along to the wedding. They didn’t act as THEE wedding photographer at the wedding. The wedding had an experienced, professional wedding photographer hired and working at the wedding already. They just took their camera to the wedding as a guest. They watched the wedding photographer, though. They watched what he or she did. They were learning wedding photography by watching the pro. They probably talked to the wedding photographer and asked for advice when he wasn’t busy. And, they shot wedding guests when the guests weren’t busy with the hired photographer, or busy with other things.
From there, they offered their services to an experienced, professional wedding photographer as a “second shooter.” They probably offered their services for free, at first. Then, after they had shot a good number of weddings as a second shooter — all the while learning everything they could from the professional wedding photographer they were working with — and when they felt they were finally ready and competent enough for the job, then, with a fair deal of actual, real-world wedding photography experience under their belt, they hired themselves out for their first wedding.
If you’re learning wedding photography, this is the path you should take as well. You may have just bought a really snazzy “profeshunul-type-camera”, and even paid an ungodly amount of money for it, but that does not make you a wedding photographer — so, don’t go offering your wedding photography services out to someone for a super-duper low price. You’ll end up hurting someone. Seriously — things will happen to ruin the shoot that you can’t now forsee, and you won’t know how to properly deal with those things because you don’t have any experience in wedding photography. And, you’ll end up hurting someone.
So, just simply ask people if they wouldn’t mind if you took some pictures at their wedding — offering to give them copies of any good ones you happen to get. (just be very sure to STAY WELL OUT OF THE WAY of the actual wedding photographer are taking photographs at the wedding!!!) Then, if you have your sights set on become a working wedding photographer, approach some experienced wedding photographers in your area with an offer to act as a second shooter on some of their gigs. Try to find one that you can build a good relationship with, and learn everything you can from them. In a short time, you’ll be ready to start hiring yourself out as the main wedding photographer.
So, with all of that in mind, let’s move on with a few helpful tips for…
Learning Wedding Photography
One of the most important days in a person’s life is their wedding day, and capturing all of the beautiful moments throughout that day is important in order to keep those memories alive. Each picture taken on the day of the wedding should be able to capture the emotion of each moment perfectly so that it may never be forgotten, which is why wedding photography is so important. If you are interested in wedding photography, there are some things you should consider before capturing someone’s special day. Here are some wedding photography tips to ensure that you are prepared to do the best job possible.
First, you should pay of a visit to the wedding location beforehand in order to get a good feel of the location at which you’ll be shooting. Doing this will allow you to properly gauge the amount and type of lighting you may need in each area, which is extremely important, particularly when shooting indoors. You should also take note of where you should stand in order to get the best possible angles and what sort of equipment you should bring with you on the big day. Be sure to bring a notepad and paper with you the day of the location so that you can write a detailed description of what you will need in each area of the location. It will also help you to determine how much assistance you might need during the wedding. You may have to bring along an assistant to help you set up in certain areas, so it’s a good idea to get everything settled early so that you are properly prepared.
Secondly, you should be sure to speak with the couple beforehand about their expectations for the photos. Most couples will have a specific style in mind for their wedding photographs so you will need to know about this before the day of the wedding. Make sure you bring along examples of different styles to show the couple so that you can get a better picture of how they want their wedding to be captured. You should also schedule a meeting with the wedding planner to develop a detailed time-line of the events of the day so that you know where to be and when. This will ensure that you are always in the right place to capture all of the best moments of the day. Be sure to keep in touch with the wedding planner so that you can always be up to date on any time-line or location changes.
Another important wedding photography tip is to test all of your equipment the day before. Perform a test run on all of the functions of your camera to make sure they are in tip-top shape. And, always have a backup of every piece of gear you bring with you. Bring two cameras, an extra flash, more memory cards than you think you’ll need — bring at least two of everything that you think you’ll only need one of, and three of everything that you think you’ll only need two of, and so on. Also, be sure to familiarize yourself with any additional equipment and to place it in a location that will be easy to find during the wedding. This will minimize the chance of any malfunctions on the day of the wedding that might impede you.
You should also take the time to visit some professional wedding photography websites in order to get some ideas on what moments you would like to capture and how you want to capture them. Many professional photographers use specific styles when capturing weddings (black and white photos, close ups, etc.) and viewing their work may give you some tips on how you want to capture your own photos.
Photographing a wedding can be an extremely rewarding experience, and if you follow these simple tips, you will be well prepared to capture all of the special memories of the day.