Wedding Photography Tips

The advice that could be given on the subject area of wedding photography tips is enough to make most wedding photographers groan. These days with the growth of digital cameras and their affordability has come the inexorable growth of wedding photography across the planet. A recently as perhaps 20 years ago, every town up and down the land would have a photographer. Generally speaking he or she would have a small shop with a studio out the back with a small lighting set up and various backdrops and drapes for those traditional stuffy studio family shots. These photographers would also photograph weddings locally, which would normally involve turning up to the church after the wedding, typically to capture 20-30 traditional group shots and then their work was done. How the world has moved on since then. These days the world of photography has improved a great deal thanks in part due to smaller, lightweight digital cameras, faster lenses and smaller lighter flashes. The faster lenses allowed the photographer access to even the darkest church without interrupting the proceedings, something which would have been unthinkable only a generation earlier. So what golden nuggets of advice can I offer to those budding photographers who are hoping to become wedding photographers of the future?

Cameras

Two cameras are essential for starters, at least. Imagine one of your cameras fails? You can’t exactly suggest a re-shoot! The wedding day cannot be repeated which means it is down to the wedding photographer to get everything right on the day and that means two cameras minimum. Some of the best wedding photographers are known to carry three or even four cameras at all times, two to shoot with continuously and the third and fourth as a back up if one or both of the other bodies fail. What else do you need?

Lenses

A bag full of lenses. Most of the pros use prime lenses. A prime lens is fixed, i.e. not zoom. If you want to zoom, you physically move your body forwards or backwards! Zoom lenses are not as sharp as primes, hence the emphasis on the fixed lenses. I have a 24mm, 35mm f1.4, 50mm f1.4, 105mm and 70-200mm f2.8 for those distant shots just in case.

Flash

I also own a pair of flash guns for each camera though I will avoid using the flash unless I absolutely have to. Flash changes everything whereas natural, available light is much more beautiful in my opinion and cannot be beaten. Though if you have to use flash, you need to understand how to use it to its best potential. You can’t simply point and shoot as the results will be disappointing. You need to try and bounce if possible and you very much need to understand how to light properly which takes practice and skill. If I am forced to use my flash, I make sure it is set to M for manual and normally stop the camera right down to around f7 @ 1/200 a second which produces lovely soft light, but of course a great deal depends on how far the subject is from the camera.

People skills

What a lot of people seem to overlook is that shooting wedding photography, you need to be good at dealing with people. You need to like people. If you find people annoying or if you are easily wound up by dealing with the general public, walk away now. This is one profession where you have to deal with the general public at close quarters and you need to like people and without that asset you are immediately in trouble. You need to be warm, friendly, kind, sharing but above all patient because as a wedding photographer you will find that you will be spending a lot of time hanging around, waiting for events to unfold and these things take time. So if you’re impatient, either start meditating or find another career because wedding photography will not be for you.

Insurance

Do not underestimate how important insurance is. If one of the guests were to fall over your camera bag and break their leg or indeed worse, you are responsible and without insurance you will be cleaned out. The UK like much of the world has become extremely litigious so don’t even attempt to shoot a single wedding without insurance because that is as dangerous as driving without insurance.

Weekend work

How much do you like your lie in on a Saturday? How much do you enjoy pottering about the house whilst having a lazy, late breakfast then watching a bit of telly in your dressing gown before finally jumping in the shower, getting dolled up ready to go out on the lash with your mates on the Saturday night? Forget it! I work nearly every single Saturday from April until October and I miss out on all the above. Am I bothered? Not in the slightest. I don’t view what I do as work. It is my career, my passion and one of the loves of my life. I have to pinch myself when I look around at some of the weddings I go to and think “Wow, I’m being paid to do something which I absolutely love”. It’s a dream ticket and I never once begrudge my Saturdays when I am in the middle of nowhere surrounded by 200+ strangers. I love what I do and that is all that counts for me. Whereas if you think you may find it hard to give up every Saturday for potentially six months, I would think very carefully about this career.

Summary

To sum up, wedding photography is incredibly rewarding and if you are any good it will be a platform to earn a good living too. Though it is not a profession for the feint of heart. It is full on hard yakka. I t can mentally and physically draining. Most weddings I end up leaving the house before 8am and I am not home before midnight. Though when you process the images and you see the magic unfold before your eyes, you remember why it is that you chose to pursue a career as a wedding photographer. For me, unquestionably photography has become the most beautifully rewarding career that I have ever known.

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Hi Jay. Thank you for such a great photography tips page. I was thinking of trading in my Nikon 28-70 f2.8 lens for a 28mm f1.8 and 50mm f1.8 prime lens. These are possibly sharper and better in lower light but of course i’ll be switching lenses more often as I only have one Nikon D4 body (i do have back up gear). Do you find yourself changing lenses alot using primes and does getting the sensor dusty/dirty worry you? Thanks!

Hi David
Great to hear from you.
Personally I can’t get enough of the prime lenses.
These days I don’t use any zooms at all, opting for the pin sharpness of my primes.
I’ve not used the 28mm, though the 1.8 is appealing for sure.
Everything in my bag these days is either 1.2 or 1.4….apart from the 135 (f2.0) and the 45mm t/s lens which is 2.8.
I work with two bodies so don’t have to change my lenses too often.
When I’m shooting weddings, one body will have either the 24mm or the 35mm pretty much all day while the other will have the 135 or 85L 1.2.
As for dust, sadly it’s all too inevitable when changing lenses, especially when out in the field, which is why I always send my bodies to Fixation for a sensor clean once a year.
Happy shooting!

Cheers

Jay

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