Weddings are emotionally-charged moments for everyone involved. As weddings are logistical nightmares in any event, for the photographer to eliminate as many potential problems and mistakes as possible the first order of business is to communicate with the wedding party.
This does a few things; it enables you to get an idea of their “game plan”, so you can set your strategy. Otherwise, if your plan is to wing it (which is highly inadvisable), you’ll miss out on the best opportunities to get single and group photos, and you can also be rushed – all of which can contribute to poor photographs.
Create a “Shot List” with someone intimately involved with the Day’s Schedule. This way you’ll know when there is down time for you to go grab candids… the “true” bread’n butter of wedding photography
It’s vitally important for you to ESTABLISH A RAPPORT WITH THE BRIDE AND GROOM, because they need to feel most comfortable with you. It’s best to take a series of photos of them prior to the wedding, so you can learn how to communicate with them best in order to get them. An engagement photography session is one good time to do so.If you skip this crucial part of the process, when it comes down to the actual day of the wedding, the Bride & Groom won’t be at ease with you around or with you issuing commands, barking out orders and other dictates to get what you want so they’re happy with the end result.
Third, they say the best butler is not seen or heard; well the same adage is true for wedding photographers. It is paramount that you strive to be as unobtrusive as possible; many people forget this fact, and erroneously think that as “the photographer” they have the right to barge in a take the shots of this once-in-a-lifetime moment. No one wants the photographer interrupting the joyous occasion by asking to get a shot (“hey, can I…”) or bombarding unsuspecting subjects with a harsh, blinding camera flash. It’s important to move quietly, slowly and smoothly – be like a ninja as much as possible (but you don’t need soft soled shoes).
NOT COMING PREPARED
This goes without saying, but without the proper equipment you can really hamper your effort to get the best photos possible. Preparation is anything and everything you can do that will inform you on what lenses to bring and what the location looks like when photographed, so you can pre-visualize shots. Part of being prepared is scouting the location ahead of time at the time of the wedding, so you are aware of the lighting conditions and can plan accordingly. You’ll also want to bring a tripod (or monopod), as it’ll be a lifesaver. If one of your goals is to completely blend in (and it should be), then taking photos without the flash is one of the best ways to do that. But that means lowering the shutter speed and/or opening up the aperture as wide as possible to accommodate for the low-light conditions.… that’s were a tripod or monopod becomes worth its weight in gold to eliminate camera-shake and blur (too big no-no’s).
BRINGING ONE CAMERA is another major mistake that most people make.. If you bring two cameras, you have two options to mine the most out of the event – 1) is to bring an assistant; this way you can divide up the duties, subject and events and capture as much as possible. There’s so much material to cover at a wedding that two eyes are always better than one. And 2) is to have a wide-angle lens on one camera and a telephoto on the other. This saves time in switching lenses, so you can grab the group shot then immediately segue to an intimate close-up of the bride kibitzing with her bride’s maids or the father of the bride brushing aside a tear.
LACKLUSTER Group Photos
We’ve all seen these, and they are a major bummer for wedding photography. The main challenged of group photos is to get everyone smiling and not blinking at the time that you press the shutter. You can avoid this by having everyone close their eyes, and then open them “on the count of three.” Once you’ve trained your group, do the count again and snap the picture. You can also avoid these recycle bin shots by properly positioning yourself to get the most dynamic shots. Staged group shots are always awkward, severely clichéd and don’t offer anything exciting or memorable. Your individual creativity in staging can elevate a de rigeur group photo into something that everyone will want copies of (consider a changing your perspective and/or staggering the group).
Rushing usually results in UNPOLISHED COMPOSITIONS and with all the surrounding drama and chaos it is very easy for you to skip the added seconds (or minutes) it takes to find a more aesthetically appealing composition. Bad composition and sloppy framing will ruin amazing opportunities and result in mediocre (at best) or unusable (at worst) photos of action that can’t be replicated or re-staged. Take the time to make sure all the elements are properly in place – lighting, subject, background all must work in concert. As “the photographer” you do have some authority in getting the wedding party to reposition itself for your purposes. Sure, they might grumble, but the Bride & Groom will thank you later. And if you’ve scouted the location ahead of time and broken bread with the Bride & Groom ahead of time, then by all means push the envelope and be bold with your decisions.
Another common mistake is a “nice” background; now, why is this considered a mistake? Because the background should in no way, shape or form compete with the Bride & Groom. The background should be as neutral and/or bland as possible (although avoid a white background). The true skill in photographic composition is knowing how all the elements of the picture will draw the viewer’s eye director where you want it.
In the digital age there’s no excuse for NOT SHOOTING ENOUGH. You should bring two or three memory cards and don’t hold back (please shoot in RAW+JPEG for the most flexibility). Professional photographers take 100s and 100s of photos to find those 10 to 20 that not only capture the key, critical moments, but will serve as emotional hallmarks of the event.
Take these points to heart and incorporate them into your thinking, and you should be able to avoid the common mistakes and therefore elevate your work, and win raves from the couple weeks later when they review the photo album you put together for them.