Whether you are entrusting the photographing of your wedding to a friend, or you are that camera-loving friend who has just agreed to shoot your first wedding, the prospect of having an amateur photographer cover a wedding can be an intimidating one. A wedding is like a giant photo shoot, with hundreds of must-capture moments, dozens of important people, and an overwhelming imperative to keep everything moving calmly and smoothly. Here are just a few tips that will keep the wedding day running more smoothly, and hopefully produce photos the bride and groom will love and cherish for the rest of their lives.
1. An engagement photo shoot can be a great way to get to know the couple and prepare your wedding photography style. Every girl loves to show off their diamond engagement rings, and any guy who just had to buy diamonds will want the whole world to see it!
2. A ‘shot list’, or a list of everyone who needs to be photographed, is a great way to ensure that no relatives or friends are left out of the important photos. You may ask for a list of names of friends and family, or even a set of photos that will help you recognize when Grandma Mildred is dancing with the groom. The shot list can also include all the important moments of the ceremony, which can be especially helpful if the couple is having an nontraditional or religious ceremony where you are unfamiliar with the details.
3. One way to ensure that all the necessary moments are captured in a smooth and orderly way is to assign one family member the position of ‘family photo coordinator’. This person will be in charge of deciding the order of the family photos, rounding up the necessary relatives for each shot, and moving people in and out of your frame as you take the photos. This helps the family photos run smoothly so everyone can get back to the party with their sanity intact!
4. If you have never been to the location where the wedding will be held, it might be a good idea to visit the venue and scout out good wedding photo locations before the big day. That will give you a sense of the available backdrops, the amount of space, and the kind of lighting you will be dealing with. Visiting while another wedding is taking place can give you some great ideas about how to utilize the space as well.
5. Be prepared. The scout motto applies to many situations in life, but perhaps none more than the wedding photographer. A wedding happens only once—and you are the only one to capture those moments forever. So bring backup everything—cameras, batteries, memory cards, etc. Arrive and set up early. Prepare for every mistake and accident you can imagine.
6. Although shooting in low-resolution mode may save memory card space for everyday, use only high-resolution mode for weddings. After all, you never know which photo will be the one the couple wants to print in poster size and hang up.
7. Communication is key in a happy marriage, and also to a well-photographed wedding. Speak to the couple about their style and expectations for your photos. Show them your portfolio so they can get to know your style and know what to expect. Ask them if they want a lot of formal, posed shots, or an emphasis on candid moments. Even if you are friends, don’t forget to discuss compensation for every element of the photography, from your time to the prints.
8. Capture all the minute details. Even if these photos don’t make the final cut into the album, the couple will treasure photos that remind them of all the little details that made their day special. Photograph the diamond engagement rings and wedding bands, the flowers, the cake, and the bride’s shoes. You never know which photo will turn out to be a treasure.
9. Having an extra camera on hand can be very useful. First, it can serve as backup in case something goes wrong, but more importantly, having one wide angle and one longer lens can help you get many different kinds of shots without having to constantly adjust your settings.
10. Don’t be afraid to get right in there and get the photo. After all, the couple will be glad you did when they see that every moment has been chronicled. Don’t be too obtrusive during the special moments of the ceremony and reception, but don’t be so polite that you miss the important moments.
11. During the couple shots, help guide the couple into poses and settings that will photograph well, but don’t over-direct them. Leave them alone for a minute to get comfortable, and then snap a few candid shots before beginning to pose them for the camera.
12. To achieve a natural glow of romance and intimacy, take the couple’s private shots in a private room or a separate area, away from prying relatives and giggling friends.
13. Relatives and friends who are standing around during the photo shoot will invariably start snapping their own photos. That’s fine while you are setting up, but feel free to issue a polite no-camera policy once you are getting started. After all, you are the photographer, so you are the boss.
14. Use the setting you have. Instead of just snapping all the photos in front of a white background, arrange poses around the architecture of the venue, or better yet, outdoors. After all, you wouldn’t buy diamonds and then display them in a cardboard box, would you? Use a sweeping staircase, a gorgeous display of tulips, or a sparkling stained glass window that will look beautiful against her diamond engagement ring.
15. Using diffused light can help you get beautiful, glowing photos even in low light. Some churches don’t allow the use of flash, so using a light diffuser can help maximize whatever light you have. Without a flash, a wide lens and image stabilization can help increase the quality of your images.
16. Besides for using the setting available to you, a few photos against a dark or neutral background can help make the bride and groom look their best. A well-lit area away from direct sunlight will bring out the best in everyone.
17. Although classic posed shots will always be a staple of the wedding photo shoot, don’t be afraid to suggest some clever, funny or creative shots. Take some close-ups of the details and some panoramic shots of the scenery.
18. During the dancing, use the continuous shooting mode on your camera to get hundreds of photos. People often look a little odd in dancing photos, so you will have to take many to find the one or two that look genuine but flattering.
19. At smaller weddings, it can be fun to gather the entire wedding party into one group shot. Stand on a higher level like a table or balcony and have an assistant gather everyone around the bride and groom and raise their glasses in a toast. This kind of photo makes a great end to a fun wedding album.
20. You may have the entire shot list planned in advance, but expect the unexpected and be ready to photograph it when it happens. Whether the bride bursts out in giggles at the altar or the flower girls sits down in middle of the aisle, these unexpected but real moments are what make the wedding album personal and special.
21. For an extra special touch, print a few photos from the ceremony using a portable photo printer during the reception. Then you can hand the couple a small album of ceremony highlights before they even leave for their honeymoon!
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