This week’s post will be the conclusion of my 3-part series on how to prepare for a wedding shoot. In Part 1, we went over the bare minimum gear requirements needed to get the job done. In Part 2, we went into all of the important pre-wedding aspects that a new wedding photographer would need to address such as the client consultation, scouting, and pre-wedding day activities. Today, we go in depth about the big day! We’ll get into the pre-ceremony, wedding ceremony, post-ceremony (reception), and post “big day” stuff.
Before we even get into the nitty-gritty stuff, let’s go over the importance of this day. You have been tasked with capturing moments from one of the most important days in the life of a bride and groom. Let that last sentence marinate for a second. If you aren’t ready for that responsibility, then you may want to rethink your choice of being a wedding photographer. If you’re ready for that responsibility to be placed squarely on your shoulders, then let start getting mentally prepared.
The bride and groom most likely have seen other samples of wedding photography. If you’ve done some digging around for some inspiration, then you have too. Let’s take whatever the bride and groom’s expectations are and set ours about a mile up the road. If you get acceptably good pictures of the important parts of the day, you’d most likely be okay. We don’t want to just settle for acceptable though. If this is something you want to do as a career, you need to shoot every picture as if your name and reputation depends on it……BECAUSE IT DOES!! You need to shoot like that ALL DAY LONG! You will be way more mentally exhausted than physically exhausted at the end of the day. For the record, you’ll be more exhausted than you ever thought you would. I promise you, it’ll be worth it.
Get to the Pre-Ceremony location early. Whatever time you agreed to arrive, get there at least a half hour before that. This will give you time to get set up. You’ll also have some time to get all the detail shots you’ll need of the rings, shoes, dresses, tuxes, etc. Get shots of all of the decorations and areas that have been organized for the wedding.
This is also when the bride and groom go their separate ways and get ready for the wedding ceremony. The part can be a bit tricky. What do you do if the bride and groom choose to get dressed at separate locations? This is where a second shooter really comes in handy. You and your second shooter can split up and get shots of both the bride and groom getting prepared. If you don’t have the luxury of a second shooter, you’ll have to pick one of the two to get pictures of (usually the bride, sorry fellas). Make sure this is discussed in the client consultation so that everybody knows what to expect when this situation arises.
If you’ve done your scouting properly, then you already have your shooting locations mapped out. You also have a good idea of what the lighting will be like since you scouted the place during the same time of day. You should already know where the bride is and where the rest of the wedding party will be as well. If the bride and groom are getting dressed at the same place, then let me offer a golden piece of advice. If the bride or groom has a little brother or cousin or someone like that, task that person with being your look-out. This person’s job for the next hour and a half or so will be to give you updates. When you’re with the bride shooting her and her girls sipping some pre-wedding mimosas, the look-out will be giving you updates on what the groom and his boys are up to. Your lookout’s job will work even better if you have two-way radios. When you’re nearing an important moment, scoot off and shoot it.
Plan on scooting back and forth for the next hour and a half or so. Take advantage of any opportunities you have of shooting either the bride or groom in moment where they are getting ready by themselves. Let your imagination guide you into your next artistic shot. While doing all of this, keep an eye on the time. Time will fly by so you really wont have time to get too in-depth. Keep your head on a swivel and be ready to scoot off and get shots in a different situation. This will continue on for an hour to an hour and a half, then you’ll find yourself at the wedding ceremony.
The wedding ceremony is the big moment that everyone has been working towards. All of the planning and stress you’ve been dealing with will all come to a head here. The good news is, the ceremony tends to be the shortest part of the day. Many times, a wedding ceremony will last 15-20 minutes. Religious preferences, traditions, and/or customs can sometimes extend the duration of a ceremony. The majority of the time, a typical ceremony wont be longer than a half hour.
Prior to the start of the wedding ceremony, I suggest changing out your memory cards and possibly even your batteries. The last thing you want is to hear, “You may now kiss your bride” only to find out that your camera’s battery just died. You do NOT want those kinds of problems, so swap your batteries and cards. When it comes time to actually shoot the wedding ceremony, you’ll be completely ready. You’ve scouted the location so you know what the lighting will be. If you are shooting indoors, your lighting values most likely wont change. This means you can set up your camera’s exposure settings, and leave them there! That makes life SO much easier!
Take this time to start shooting guests walking in and family members hanging out. Try to get some nice candids of the guests showing some genuine emotions. If you have time, go grab some candid shots of the antsy groom before the big moment. After that, start heading to the spot you want to be at for the procession. Grab artistic shots of the groom and the wedding party walking down the aisle. Try to grab candids of anyone in the front three rows with tears rolling down their cheeks. When the bride begins to walk down the aisle, be sure to grab a shot or two of her parents (always a great shot).
I wont go into an entire shot list here since that should be discussed in the consultation but be sure to get the vows and the kiss. Whatever you do, DON’T MISS THE KISS!! Then get great exit shots of the bride and groom, and the wedding party. That’s a wrap!
The Group Photos
This is the one part of the wedding where you almost have to be the event coordinator. Be ready to take control of the situation because there is usually some form of time limit to get the group shots done. Group photos should be one of the topics in the consultation so the bride and groom will be familiar with the flow. Photographers have different ways of managing the group photos. Some photographers start with the big group and remove people until they are left with the bride and groom. Others do the exact opposite. You’ll learn your own method of what works for you.
Just like we did for the wedding ceremony, set up your camera for the settings you’ll need for the reception. I tend to use a 24-70mm lens for the reception. It’s a good lens to get wide angle shots yet it has enough zoom to get some decent candids. Set up your flashes for the environment you’ve scouted.
The wedding party will be making their entrance so be prepared to shoot as they enter. Be flexible during the reception because every wedding is different and the reception is where they tend to differ the most. Take some time to get candid shots of guests as they hang out and hit the bar. Also, take some time to get detail shots of the decorations and various items in the room like the cake and flowers.
The reception will be some of the most fun you’ll have when shooting a wedding. You’ll be able to get candids of people dancing and genuine emotion during events like the bouquet toss. The bride and groom feeding cake to each other tends to be a blast since someone always ends up with cake mashed into their face. This is also a great time to get creative. Getting “the shot” is your primary purpose here. If there’s time after you get “the shot”, get the more artistic shot.
You made it! You have survived your first wedding shoot. You’ll experience a range of mixed emotions on that drive home. The first emotion you feel is exhaustion. You certainly earned a good night’s sleep because you worked your tail off! The second emotion you’ll feel is doubt. Did you do a good enough job? Did you possibly miss something? It’s been a long day, do I smell (I promise, that thought will occur)?? This is your first wedding so nobody expects Jerry Ghionis level work (Google him). Even if you didn’t get everything perfect, that’s ok. You have your first wedding under your belt and a solid foundation to build from. Go home and get a good night’s rest. Tomorrow, you get to start processing those images! I’ll go over processing wedding photos next week.
I hope this 3-part series helps you prepare for shooting your first wedding. Wedding photography can be very intimidating but also extremely fulfilling.
As always, thanks for stopping by and spending a few minutes with me this week. If you like what you’ve read here, please subscribe and share via the social media links. You can also find MTM Photography on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram so be sure to check out those pages! I’ll see ya next week!