While I aggressively pursued my fine art and stock career, the bills were often paid by my wedding business.
Fellow photographers who know me often ask for advice before shooting their first wedding. Here is a compilation of that advice specifically aimed at the wedding newbie.
It looks easy. All you have to do is show up and point your camera at the bride. Everything else will take care of itself — right? Well not exactly. Great wedding photos are no different than any other kind of photo. They don’t happen by accident. They require careful planning and execution.
START WITH THE GEAR
Brings lots of it and bring lots of back ups. Spare batteries, flash cords, digital memory and film should also be high on your list. (Don’t forget the duct tape!) Your range of lenses should include a wide angle for large group shots e.g. 24mm, a short zoom 28-70mm can be used for everything from small group portraits to interior shots of the church and reception hall. Long telephotos in the 200 to 300 mm range are great for portraits and ceremony shots. They also help you make great candids. Use good quality lenses. Chances are you will work in low light so fast lenses (f/2.8 to f4) are a must.
A tripod is usually required for anything that you will want to shoot with strobe. It also helps you establish your turf. Handholding is okay at the reception for table shots and fun stuff but serious portraiture requires a tripod.
Besides the camera, I think the reflector is probably the one piece of equipment that I rely on most. In nearly any situation, the reflector can improve the quality, direction or amount of light that falls on your subject. If you don’t have an assistant to hold the reflector, several companies make adjustable arms that clip on to the reflector and fit on top of standard light stands.
I prefer not to use flash at weddings. If I do use flash, it is usually at the reception or as fill during portraiture. Many churches will not allow flash so be sure to check the rules for every wedding location that you work at. If you do use flash, be sure to “drag the shutter.” This means you expose the picture for ambient light and then just add enough flash to capture the subject. On most modern ETTL or TTL flash systems, this can be automatically set. For instance, using the Canon system, you just have to shoot in aperture priority mode and set the Canon 550EX or 580 EX flash to ETTL mode. It will do the rest. I like just a kiss of light in the eyes so I tend to set flash compensation at about two stops below the recommended exposure.