It is always great to have the cash to hire a well-known wedding photographer to capture the moments that you will want to remember forever but in this age of austerity, not all of us can afford it. Weddings these days cost an arm and a leg and a head for all the other elements that go with the event. You can always take a chance with an unknown photographer that can’t provide proof of their work. Is it worth the risk? Some of us get friend or family member with a flair for photography to snap away and hope that they get some good shots. This means that the person can’t really enjoy the event themselves as they will constantly be preoccupied with the job. Or even worse they may not be focused on the job at all. I remember one such wedding I attended as a guest; the photographer was a friend of the groom. He spent most of the wedding chatting to the other guests and the rest of the wedding at the bar. The bridal photo album has been a running joke ever since. Most couples wouldn’t be so forgiving. For this very reason I have prepared a short list of four of my ultimate tips to focus on… whether you are a fledgling wedding photographer or someone taking some photos for the couple to save them on expenses.
The first and one of the most important tips for an amateur wedding photographer is PREPARATION. Some of the worse photos ever taken have been when the “photographer” readily accepts the task with all the confidence in the world. Like a soldier running into battle having never taken a day of target practice, he goes in gun locked and loaded. Without surveying the area and not knowing his weapon, the enemy quickly shoots him down! This is why it is important to approach the wedding shoot with humility, respect and most of all preparation. Prepare for the shots that you are going to get, not only in your mind but on paper too. Check out some professional wedding photographer website galleries and run through each shot with your mind. Try to imagine how each shot was angled and where the photographer was at the time. Do some research into various camera settings and try match up your camera settings with those of the pros. Practice your shots in different lighting conditions and from different angles. Try your shots with different lenses. You will then see that experience is everything! Create a shot list of all the shots that are needed and if you have the time visit the locations beforehand so that you will know where to shoot these shots from. The seasoned wedding photographers have their own shot lists imprinted in their heads. They do not falter in unforeseen shooting conditions and they manage to get a perfect shot for each scenario. They can quickly and easily prepare their cameras, frame up the shots that they need and never miss a moment. This all comes with familiarity with the equipment and familiarity with each possible situation. So in order for you to come close you need to familiarize yourself with the equipment and shooting conditions. Don’t be the rookie that goes into photography battle confident as ever, as you will come running out of battle with a set of pretty abstract images.
Not all of us have the funds to invest in top of the range cameras, lenses, lighting and equipment for photo shoots. So what can be done… You say? Well it is true that the type of camera can make or break a photo shoot… so you could try and borrow or hire one. If this is not an option for you then you will find that having a low end camera will make your task of getting good shots more difficult. You should then at least try to find a camera with a focus and zoom ring. This will allow you to quickly frame up and focus you shots. You will also be able to create depth of field which is that blurred background look that gives photos a professional look in itself. If you have a camera that can control the aperture manually it will also enable you to control the amounts of light that enters the lens. This will give you more creative freedom over your shots because the domestic cameras that automatically control these settings for you will always assume that your exposure should be at one level or another. Funnily enough most of these automatic exposure settings have a really bland and unprofessional look to them. If you can’t get a hold of a camera that has any of the above and all you have is a point and click then… hehehe! The next bit of advice would be to get as creative as possible and most importantly shoot in a very well lit area. If you can find an area where the light looks absolutely amazing to your own eyes, chances are they will look pretty OK on even with a cheap camera. Only then some of your images may turn out semi-pro. You will also have to get up close and be a bit pushy to get the better shots. The reason for this is that you don’t have the luxury of a telephoto lens and domestic cameras loose quality when zoomed in. You will want to get the widest angle possible and that means getting nice and cosy with your subject.
Light and location
As I have mentioned before the factors of light and location are extremely important when it comes to getting great shots. If you can accomplish both then seldom will the photographer go wrong? This might mean that you will have to direct the wedding couple and large groups of wedding guests to get them to the right location. It might also mean that you will have to make announcements either by standing on a chair and shouting out or using the DJ to announce over the PA. It seems like a lot to do to get the right backdrop for the photos, but when you see you work afterwards you will not be disappointed. Posed and group shoots are great and need to be ticked off your shot list but natural shots are always better. Try to be ready for these shots and time these types of natural photo shoots for the right lighting conditions. You can get some amazing shots with a bit of forethought when anticipating subjects to be shot naturally in the right area. You may have heard photographers speaking about the golden hour. This is when the sunlight is at a low angle about an hour and a half before the sun is to set. It always makes for great shots. You may have to juggle the shoot around to get this great light and this might even mean that you may have to plan the shoot out of sync with the wedding schedule. So this goes with the saying that the more you get in the way at a wedding as a photographer the better your shots will be. On the other hand you could always just stand in the background and snap away and leave the wedding party to have a great time. Your shots on the other hand might not be so great that time.
Seasoned wedding photographers have a backup for everything… Backup batteries, memory cards, cameras, lenses, lights, tripods, extension leads, umbrellas… The list can go on and on. It may seem like overkill, but trust me it’s not! At almost each and every photo shoot I attend there is always something that I need spare. You can never rely on situations to be in the perfect condition for taking photos and you can never wholly rely on mechanical and electronic equipment. There will always be a moment where it will fail. So get a list of all your equipment and a list of anything that you might possibly need. Then make sure they all go into the back of your car before you set out on your photo shoot.
I hope my tips will help you greenhorn wedding shooters out there, but at the end of the day as I have said experience is everything. This being said not all of us have the time to get this experience and cash to hire the experience. Follow the four tips above and hopefully there will more tears of joy rather than tears of regret at your next wedding. Happy shooting!