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Tips For the Person Being Forced Into Shooting A Wedding

by Chris Gampat on 10/14/2011

I’ve encountered a lot of this recently amongst friends, readers, and the like: being asked to shoot a wedding but not having the experience. Everyone in said person’s family and immediate circle says, “Oh, you can shoot the wedding! You’ve got the gear! We won’t have to pay a pro!” Many times, even if you say no, you’re still pushed to do so. The reason for this is because most of said people don’t understand just how much thought, care and work goes int photographing a wedding.

While I recommend that you tell them, “Go find a professional,” here are some tips for the person that’s forced to shoot a wedding.

Editor’s Note: Though we’ve taken a recent turn catering to the street photography crowd, we’ve got loads of resources on shooting weddings. They are listed throughout this piece.

Tell Them That You Have Minimal Experience Shooting Weddings

Even if you’re forced into shooting the wedding (though ideally you should try to get out of it and convince them why a professional may be much better) you should make it very clear to them that you have minimal experience shooting weddings. With that said, they shouldn’t expect the photos from you to be Andy Marcus, Jasmine Star, or Jeff Ascough caliber. Additionally, finding a wedding photographer can be easy if they just look through Snapknot.com. If you’re a budding wedding photographer, you may want to give them a look.

Also, don’t do this. You’re going to need to get in people’s faces and photograph them. If they’re not happy, reassure them that it’s the bride’s special day and that the photos are all about them.

Think of it this way: do you want to see everyone’s back in your wedding photos? No! You want to capture the candid emotions!

Use Your Current Crop of Skills and Apply Them

First, check out these beginner’s tips to shooting a wedding. Next consider the following (and stay with me here): I can’t shoot a landscape for my life. However, on a recent trip to Canada, I applied the skills I would use as a wedding photographer to landscape photography. In the end, I walked away with photos I really took a liking to.

So here’s where you come in to think creatively, but here are some pointers:

Macro photographer- Take photos of the details such as the rings, but also make sure that everything is evenly lit (even the non-macro shots.)

Street photographer- Try to get as many candid photos as you can. Also be sure to ask people for their photos and interact with them in a way that makes you seem non-threatening (even though they know why you’re there in the first place.)

Landscape photographer- Shoot wide, and get either deep focus or little in focus. Get up close when you can.

Wildlife photographer- Use those zoom telephoto lenses to capture candid emotions.

Portrait photographers- Be sure to capture the details in people. Everyone puts on their very best at a wedding.

Always Take Two of Every Photo

This is a tip that should go without saying, but that I’ve seen many pros not even practice. Some of said pros can nail a photo confidently in one shot, but just in case, you should take two of every photo. Here’s how I do: after posing everyone, I say, “Alright, in 1, 2, 3, *snap* Wait, hold it right there, just one more *snap* beautiful. Alright we’re done.”

Have a Checklist

A while back, we published this checklist for every wedding photographer, and people loved it.

Get The Gear

Don’t be cheap or else you’ll end up on Judge Joe Brown. If you have to rent gear, we recommend the great folks over at Borrow Lenses.

– Two camera bodies

– At least two lenses (a 24-70mm f2.8 and 70-200mm f2.8) or primes. We’ve got a list here.

– At least two flashes and backup batteries for both

Light modifiers

Check out these posts:

Canon 35mm F/1.4 L- this lens almost lived on my camera during a wedding. Go ahead and take a look at our review of this new bread and butter lens.

Canon 5D Mk II or 7D for Weddings- I’ve shot weddings with both cameras and if you’re thinking of switching camera systems then you should consider giving this a read. They also can compliment one another too by the way.

The Complete Orbis Field Review- We used the Orbis at a wedding and loved the versatility it gave us in so many different situations where the lighting was just terrible. We highly recommend taking a look at this.

The Complete Gary Fong Lightsphere Collapsible Review- This is one very versatile piece of plastic and I’d love to see critics of this unit do everything that this can with one small, easy to carry light diffuser.

The Canon 1D Mk IV Visits St. Patrick’s Cathedral- The creme-de-la-creme of churches in NYC was given a friendly visit to test if the camera could stand up to lighting conditions there.

The Nikon D3s visits St. Patrick’s Cathedral- In the summer, the large and ill-lit church was no match for the D3s.

And because you’re going to ask, in this posting the 1D Mk IV and D3s face off.

Review of the Nikon SB-900 Flash- Many wedding photographers hate it. However, our very own Matt Beardsley has something very different to say.

Breathe

Shooting weddings isn’t easy. The last and best piece of advice I can give you is to stay calm and keep a clear head. Attack one thing at a time and make sure that what you get is the absolute best you’ve shot.

And when you’re done, go home and grab a glass of wine or whiskey.

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