for photographers:: how to shoot a wedding, part 2

9art photography, joplin mo wedding and engagement photographer, engagement photo for teresa & zach

So last week, I had a first… a blog post dedicated just to photographers (specifically, wedding photogs). You can see that HERE. I figure if you have something to learn… why not share it? That’s how I’VE learned. Not that I don’t have a whole lot more learning to do…

So, in further celebration of what is WEDDING WEEK at 9art (scroll down the blog to check out the special we have running for future brides this week), here’s part 2 of ‘how to shoot a wedding’.

[Just as a note… this is meant for those who have little or no experience with weddings].

We last discussed what goes into shooting a wedding… before you even get there.  There’s a lot of stuff to think about before you ever set foot in the venue. For more on that, go back to post 1.

Today, we’re delving into the big day itself . Picking up where we left off last time…

#5- Check your camera bag over before you leave.  No, I mean, REALLY.

Well duh, right? Yeah, you know that already, but seriously, don’t assume you’re prepared until you’re 300% sure.  Make sure you’ve recently tested every piece of equipment you might use on site.  Doublecheck everything is charged, all your memory cards are cleared, your lenses are cleaned, you have a backup camera battery… it’s charged too… if you have a backup of your backup… charge it too… if you don’t, charge the first 2 again… really, you can never overdo this stuff.  Common sense can be taken for granted so easily when it comes to prepping for this.

And if you don’t have backups of batteries, cords, etc… get some. An ideal rule in photography is to have at least 2 of everything. I say ideally, because obviously, we can’t always afford to do that when we’re starting out (especially when it comes to the camera itself), but you can double up on the more inexpensive items like batteries, sync cords (if you use flash), memory cards, strobes, etc.

#6- scope out portrait locations before the timeline of the day actually begins.

Sometimes you can explore before the day, but you don’t always get a chance to do that… plus, the lighting may be totally different when you come back.  Usually what I do is show up pretty early the day of, and look around for awhile. I like to line up my portrait locations (including backup locations) before I actually go in and start shooting ‘getting ready’ pictures.

If you’re looking outside and there’s going to be a sizable amount of time between scouting and when the portraits take place, try and think about where the sun will be when you come back. What’s in shadow now may not be later, or vice versa.  You also need to have indoor spots in mind, in case it’s too hot, too rainy, or even too humid (sometimes a bride will not set foot outdoors because her  2hr updo is going to get kinked up the second the outside hair hits it).

Be aware of the lighting conditions in both ceremony & reception, and be prepared for them. This might involve checking out the church/venue before the wedding day… if it’s super dark and your camera can’t handle it, you need to know that and figure out how to prepare for it. Sometimes borrowing or renting equipment isn’t a bad thing if it saves you stress later.

#7- Plan out/check on what’s ok for you to do during the ceremony.

I don’t mean ask if it’s ok to leave your cell ringer on in case you get an important call during the ring exchange. I’m talking about your movement.

Check with the bride (and if it’s in an older, more strict church, the pastor/priest) about how close she is comfortable with you getting to the stage during the ceremony, and how much moving around she’s ok with you doing during that time. I’m going to say it’s pretty obvious to never be on stage during the ceremony, but there are a variety of setups and situations and you need to know where you can and can’t go for this specific wedding. Getting behind the couple on a smaller church stage is likely not a good idea, but grabbing a shot from the other side  in a very open, outdoor ceremony might be ok.

I’m typically all over the place during a ceremony, but I try and do it in as sneaky a way as possible… if I’m up front in the middle of the aisle, I’m quiet as a mouse and kneeling down so I’m not obstructing anyone’s point of view, and the rest of the time, I’m sneaking around the edges to get multiple angles.

The idea is to be as unobtrusive as possible. That also means if you’re a girl and the church has hardwood floors… do NOT bring high heels. Also, don’t wear orange. Blend in. step lightly. Don’t stand in front of grandma. Take a ninja course at your local community college.

And lastly, if you are moving around a lot, Just make sure you’re back in the middle in time for the first kiss. You don’t want to forget to leave yourself enough time to get back to the right spot during the pivotal moments.

I learned my lesson years ago when I was still in the balcony for a wide shot and suddenly it was time for the first kiss… picture me in a slow motion movie scene, whispering ‘Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!’ to myself as I aimed the camera blindly toward the stage while running down the stairs…

yeah, it was too late. never again.

#8- don’t forget the details.

For some photogs, that’s impossible since details are their favorite part… but it can be easy to forget sometimes when you’re so focused on the people involved. If you leave out the back of the dress, the cake, the reception table settings, the bouquet… someone may be frustrated later, because someone went to a lot of work and/or paid a lot of money for those details.

Plus, getting great shots of things like the cake and the flowers will help you form great relationships with other wedding vendors. If you have awesome photos of their work to share, they’ll be much more likely to recommend you to brides later.

I usually grab shots like this when little else photoworthy is happening- the 20 minutes before the ceremony, the time when everyone is eating at the reception, the few moments before the bride puts her dress on and needs me to leave the room, etc.

9art photography, wedding photographer, joplin mo- detail cake shots from Jessica & caleb's wedding

#9- be confident.

So you’re quaking in your boots. You don’t feel qualified for this. You may not have much (or any) wedding experience.You pull the camera out of your bag and wonder ‘why did they hire ME for this?!’ But the truth is, if you were hired… there’s a reason. You have a gift.

‘I don’t know how to shoot a wedding!’ is what you’re thinking… but you know how to take good PICTURES, right?

Well… yeah…

Then just concentrate on each shot in front of you, as it comes. One moment at a time. By the end, you’ll have a whole set of good pictures that captured different moments, and together, they will form the story of the day.

If you’re not confident… fake it. 🙂 No-one need know.  How everyone responds to you that day, depends on how you act. If you ACT sheepish and scared and afraid to take charge, THAT’S when you look like you don’t know what you’re doing.

Something to keep in mind is, some of those pictures are ones you can’t even get without that projected confidence. Family will line up much faster, wedding parties will go along with your crazy idea, and the bride will start to relax if you just let them know that you’ve got this.

For example… if the bride pauses next to a cool door on the way to somewhere else and the light is hitting her just right (assuming there is a little time to spare), it’s a sin to be too afraid to ask her to stop so you can grab a shot. You never know when you’ll run out of time later and will be so glad you took that shot.

#10- stay calm, be and be tuned in to the bride at all times.

What I said last still goes. You need to believe in yourself and take charge when it’s picture time. If you know what has to happen to get the right shots, you’ll need to not be afraid to (politely) speak up and make it happen.

BUT…. the OTHER mistake that’s easy to make is the exact reverse of being under-confident… placing too much importance on yourself and your vision for the day.

Don’t be clueless to what’s going on. Don’t be stubborn about getting the pictures you want if the timing is wrong or the bride is extremely uncomfortable.

You need to pay very close attention to what is happening with the Bride and everyone around her. if the whole day is running behind, and everything seems to be going wrong- they can’t find the unity sand, there’s an off-color applique on the dress that has to come off, the mother isn’t there on time, and the flower girl didn’t get a nap, it’s up to you to help keep everyone calm, assure them that things going wrong is normal, and then judge where pictures realistically fit into the new flow of the day. If folks need reminded of the timeline, do that… but carefully, gently, and with extreme consideration to the bride.

It’s up to you to read the brides’ mood.  If she excitedly discussed elaborate portrait ideas with you beforehand but her hair appointment ran an hour late, she may not feel the same about that idea now and you might just have to let it go. In other words…

Never let taking a photograph create stress for the bride.

if you don’t have the time you thought you’d have to get portraits, be willing to abandon the more elaborate shots to get the ones you HAVE to get and know you can take quickly. If you’ve got the perfect spot picked out but the bride is afraid of getting dirt on her dress, respect that and find an alternate location.

Again, it’s your job to help alleviate stress- not create more of it. You do that by remaining calm yourself (even if you feel like screaming inside). You also do that by knowing  when to take the reigns and when not to. Observe the emotion of the day so that you know when it’s NOT your show, and when it is.

Also don’t be too proud to make yourself available for whatever the greatest need is at THAT moment. If I can’t get the shot right at the moment anyway and what needs done RIGHT THEN is to move those chairs, I’ll put the camera down and move the dang chairs. You have no idea how much respect people will have for a photographer that is there for anything, not just taking pictures.


Good grief.  That was forever long. Next week, it’s pictures. Just pictures. Thanks guys. 🙂 

wedding photography joplin mo, flower girls down the aisle

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