Do you want to be a novice photographer and photograph your first ever wedding? Are you a professional photographer looking to get a second job reviewing the moistness of wedding cakes from hundreds of different bakeries?
No matter your level of experience or skill, there are always new ways to improve your portfolio and learn new tricks. To get their opinions on how to improve your wedding photography, we spoke with a few North American wedding photographers.
Scouting was a consistent and resounding piece of advice. Nearly all of the wedding pros we spoke with stressed this aspect in their imagery. Alex Oat, who is based in San Diego, California, says, “Scout it!” The location, the light and the cool spots to take photos are all important.
Jesse Rinka, Westchester, New York, expands on this statement by saying, “During your consultation, topics related to the type of locations and settings they prefer for portraits should be discussed. Clients are paying you a fair amount for your expertise, knowledge, and experience. Do your research before the big day. Be sure to discuss with them the options that they like best. In case of inclement weather or unexpected problems, have a plan B, C, and A. You should also check the requirements for obtaining a permit. Clients are usually responsible for securing permits, even if there are fees. However, knowing the risks associated with not having one can help you stay ahead of the curve.
2. Know Your Gear
Many wedding professionals also told us that the shooters must be familiar with their equipment. It is not the right time to try new settings or find a wireless trigger.
Eric McCallister, based in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, stated, “Don’t practice on clients. Are there new flashes? The week before, sort them out. You need to make sure that they work and you have a plan in case they don’t. You can try out new poses and shoot night portraits. But make sure that your equipment works as it should.
Rinka says, “Realize the difference between having great gear and actually being able to use it.” Lack of experience or education will not make a camera or lens better. You will know your gear better than yourself so you can adapt to any unexpected changes on the wedding day.
Ryan Brenizer from New York says that it is important to learn the basics before booking a wedding. This includes camera basics and lighting, framing, and portraiture for a variety of body types. Your overall branding and your ability to communicate with your clients will improve the sooner you get started.
Photography is all about it. Without it, there wouldn’t be images or life. There are many ways to manipulate lighting in a scene. Each photographer has a different approach to lighting. Some lighting is provided by nature. Nicki Hufford, a Warren-based photographer, tells us directly: “Learn off-camera flash (like yesterday).
Vilson Lleshaj, a New York City professional wedding photographer, said, “Use multiple lighting sources.” Be able to work with the available light and know how to balance artificial light with ambient light.
Lori Waltenbury from Ontario, Canada, closes the discussion by saying, “Practice exposure!” Take your camera everywhere you go and practice taking perfect exposures in a matter of seconds. This will allow you to save a lot of time editing, and it will also help you avoid taking poor shots of your most important moments.
Some people are naturally good at framing and composition. For others, it’s a skill that needs to be learned and improved. It would help if you thought about these things every time you press the shutter release to discuss framing. Jesse Rinka states, “Wedding day can be fast-paced. Be extra cautious and slow down when you pose your subjects.” Before you click the shutter, take a moment to look at the frame and identify any potential distractions. There is nothing worse than having everything just right and then later discovering that your subject has a few horizon lines or tree branches in their way.
A Brighton, Massachusetts photographer, Zac Wolf, shares the following tip: “When photographing family formals, leave enough room for an 8×10 crop.” This was something that I didn’t think of until I started my career. However, I did not have a wedding client and was then confronted by a client complaining about the crop factor. This was a mistake I never made again. I also make sure there is enough room for the crop when I address family formals since 8 x10″ is the most common large standard size.
5. Backup: Files
Nearly all of the photographers we spoke to stressed the importance of having a backup. Sarah Williams, a San Diego photographer, says: “Back up your photographs. One backup is not enough. Backups are essential. You should have two backups: one onsite and one offsite.
Eric McCallister has these words to share: “Take file management seriously. This includes the day and the night after the wedding. To avoid having to remove them from the cameras, I only shoot duplicate files to dual-card cards. Only card failures like opening the car door too fast or losing a card have resulted in lost files. I think I’m less likely to damage a card if I don’t have to open the camera, and I certainly won’t lose one. Make sure you have backups of your files in multiple locations once you are back home. Cloud storage is great, but it may not be the best option for photographers who upload a lot. Make sure to back up your Lightroom catalogues. It is not fun to discover that you have all your files but none of the edits.
Many pros recommended that the backup card process be started as soon as possible, even before the ceremony.
6. Backup: Gear
Cameras are mechanical devices. Many of them can be converted to electronic. Electronics and mechanicals have a limited life span. They will eventually fail, and the Law of Murphy says that failures will not occur while you are out taking photos. Your gear will fail at any moment. Pros should be prepared for this. Jamelle Kelley, a Flagstaff-based photographer, incorporates her backup gear in the shooting process. “We prefer to use multiple cameras than changing lenses throughout the day. You can’t miss the wedding day action if you fuss with your camera.
Vilson Lleshaj laughs at the idea of having backup gear. However, he adds, “There are always guests with good cameras these day, but you don’t want to have to ask their gear to be borrowed.”
Lori Waltenbury concludes by saying that “It goes without saying that you need to know your gear inside out.” You should be able to identify and fix basic problems. Also, you should have a plan for when, not if, they fail.
Shooters often overlook logistics because the focus is on images. Kim Cota Robles, a Tucson-based photographer, has some great tips for managing your gear at the venue. You can set up a home base for your equipment in the back of the venue, away from the view of guests. This will allow you to store some of your heavier gear when not in use.
She says, “Bring two cameras bags, one smaller than the other. You can use the smaller bag during ceremonies without it being too intrusive. The larger one will hold everything.
Many arts are intertwined in wedding photography. These include lighting, composition and location. While candid images can be taken without being posed and group shots may require minor adjustments, when staging images with the bridal parties, posing is just as important as background lighting and background. Alex Oat explains this by saying, “Know how pose–not everybody is a model or feels comfortable in the front of a camera!”
Andre Reichmann, a New York City photographer, says that while teaching people how to pose is difficult, it could make all the difference between being bland and unique.
Many people believe that every photo you take, even non-selfies, is a self-portrait. Your photographic style defines your brand’s image. Although versatility is a good thing for a photographer, it can negatively affect your wedding business. Sarah Williams from San Diego says: “Keep your editing consistent. Keep it consistent with what you love and find out what your preferences are. It can be not very clear for couples to see different editing styles on your website.
Eric McCallister adds, “Be consistent.” No matter how personal our services are, clients still view us as a business. They want to know what you expect. Your message about who and what you need to be consistent, from your Web presence to in-person meetings. Your images must be processed consistently. Consistency is key to your ongoing communications. Clients will be more comfortable working with you if they know what to expect.
No matter your style, formal or informal, documentary, classic or other, it’s important not to lose sight of the goal at hand. Jamelle Kelley says, “Be hip and fun, but don’t forget the traditional.” The “Gipper shot” is what we refer to as. It is important to have one traditional bride or groom looking at the camera and smiling. This simple portrait is what every grandmother and mother wants.
Alex Oat is our last trip.
“Be a ninja. “Be a ninja. This is the best compliment for a wedding.