Guidelines to Help Any Amateur Photographer When Photographing at a Friend’s Wedding

As a photographer there are two common questions asked at a wedding. The first question is invariably how much did that camera cost? My reply is always honest and is usually met with a sharp intake of breath by the individual who have passed question. The second most common question that is asked is “what advice do you have for anyone wishing to become a wedding photographer?” This is a difficult question to answer as the individuals usually thinks that being a photographer is simply owning a camera. It is important that anyone who wishes to become a professional photographer understands that they have a certain responsibilities when it comes to taking photographs of an event that is both as special and as unique as a wedding. Nevertheless, there are certain guidelines that can help any amateur photographer achieve a good results when photographing at a friend’s wedding. It must be stressed however that these guidelines cannot and will not make any one into a professional photographer.

Every photographer has his or her own style that is developed over time; therefore don’t expect to have a style of photography without the experience to develop your own personal style. It would therefore be incorrect of me to try and pretend that there are any shortcuts to experience. This being so I will not endeavour to explain the technical side of photography but assume that you will be using your digital SLR camera in the fully automatic mode, and will be recording your images as JPEG files. If however you feel more confident and wish to use either aperture priority, shutter priority, or for the Manual modes on your camera and even shoot in raw, then I would ask that you ensure you are fully proficient as a photographer be free for endeavouring to take control of these settings on your camera.

Wedding Photography Guidelines

One: it is important that a couple getting married think about and discussed with the photographer the type of images they are expecting. The bride and groom need to be happy that the finished results will match the expectations, moreover, exceed them. Ask the question; one style of photography do you require? The answer may be traditional, where every one of stands shoulder to shoulder, or reportage where the photographer documents today through the images and hopefully, days both the story and the emotion of the wedding. The couple may also ask for a more contemporary style where the images are both candid and perhaps a little more quirky than would otherwise be expected. Moreover the couple may decide that they would like a selection of styles to match different criteria, for example the traditional style to keep parents and grandparents happy, reportage, to create a wedding album that will tell the story of the day and the contemporary style of photographs to capture the amusement for friends and family.

Having established the style of images required by the bride and groom it is important to convey the necessity of producing a list of important photographs that must be captured. There is nothing worse than discovering ‘great Aunt Bertha’ was missed out of the official photographs, as great Aunt Bertha will think that this was deliberate and that you never liked her in the first place! This can and does happen but by asking the bride and groom to look at their guest list and compile a list of photographs will help alleviate the possibility of embarrassment.

I always find it advantageous to ask the bride and groom if they can nominate a friend or family member who can act as a co-ordinator for the photographs. The bride and groom will not have time to round up friends and family and as a photographer I generally have no idea who the individuals listed are. Enlisting a co-ordinator to assist has a number of benefits, firstly this person should have an idea to all the individuals are at all know if they are not available. Second because this person can be getting one group together for a photograph while the preceding group as their photograph taken this speeds up the process considerably preventing people from getting bored and disappearing. The third benefit is that because the official wedding photographs are taken in a shorter time than would otherwise be possible, both photographer and the bride and groom will be less fatigued by the process.

Choose Your Location

I believe it is important that as a wedding photographer you understand the wedding venue. This may require visiting the venue on a date before the wedding or if this is not possible arriving before the wedding party in order to look around and find the best places for the photographs. I usually try to meet the bride and groom at the venue before the wedding day in order to take some pre-wedding photographs.

Understanding your location will also help in the event of bad weather. For many people weather he’s the one thing that they feel will ruin their wedding photographs. However if we understand our environment then we are able to ensure that even in bad weather we are able to produce remarkable images by using our imagination and our environment to greatest effect.

Don’t forget that the couple have often gone to great lengths to choose a wedding venue that is beautiful and often expect to have photographs that reflect this beauty. Try to capture the detail of the day both in the architecture and the grounds of the wedding venue. It is also important to capture the decoration, those details chosen by the bride that make her wedding different from every other. This is another reason why a arriving before the wedding party may be useful as it may give you time to take those photographs that may otherwise be forgotten.

Consider Your Equipment

If you are photographing a friend’s wedding it would be very unfortunate if that friendship was spoiled because you lost the images, or indeed whenever able to take them in the first place. My advice would be to ensure that you have two cameras available to you. Perhaps you can borrow one as a spare or perhaps it would be better to hire a camera, but it is important that you do have a backup in case there is a problem. Ensure you have a memory card that will not be filled up in the first 20 minutes. So often I have seen people with expensive cameras running out of space on their memory card and so not able to continue taking photographs.

When using a flash it is important to use a flash diffuser. Most churches and registry offices have quite low light levels. It is very rare that you are allowed to use flash during a ceremony. Therefore it is advisable to use a tripod or mono pod and a fast lens with engage stabilisation. If you are allowed to use flash can consider balancing the flash off the ceiling or walls, but remember if the ceiling or walls are a colored surface then you will add a colour cast to the picture.

When shooting outside after the ceremony or during the formal photography you may require your flash to fill in the shade. It can be useful even when you are shooting in daylight particularly in an area that is back lit or when the sun is causing harsh shadows. The remember to reduce the power of the flash in order to prevent the highlights from being blown out.

Expect The Unexpected

It is good to remember that even in the best planned weddings things can go wrong. Always be ready to capture the amusement and tenderness of those moments. They can make the day unique. It may be the weather, it may be that the people hired to decorate the reception venue ran out of balloons, the best man mislaid the rings or the flower girl decides she wants her daddy, always be ready to capture those moments.

As the photographer you are the eyes of the bride and groom, but your eyes see what they fail to see and capture those moments for ever.

Wedding photography is about having fun; we are celebrating the beginning of the two people’s new lives together as they are joined together in matrimony. When we ask people to smile and a smile because they are told to very quickly they get tired and their faces begin to make with the effort. I believe that as a photographer I should engage with the bride and groom in such a way that they have fun and smile naturally because they are enjoying themselves. When this is achieved there are no aching faces because we are designed to have fun and will be reflected in the photographs that will form the final wedding album.

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