Are you Shooting Your First Wedding? Deep down you are probably nervous but don’t be with these wedding photography tips for beginners you’ll rock!
I will never forget the experience of photographing my first wedding as a photographer — the adrenaline, the emotions, the incredible learning opportunity. When I started that first event, I didn’t think wedding photography was my calling. When that very long first day ended, I had nothing but passion and excitement for the field and for my potential future – and a whole lot of learning to do.
Hindsight always allows you to take lessons from experiences and bring about the “what ifs” of an opportunity, but my list of things I wish I had known ahead of time is very, very long.
Shooting Your First Wedding
1. Don’t start your day tired or negative
For me, the first 30 minutes of a wedding day tells me a lot about the flow and feel of the entire day. I always want my energy to be high and stay that way until my last frame or the last dance 12 hours later. To do that, I’m pretty strict about getting a good nights’ sleep the night before, drinking a lot of water the day of and allowing myself two minutes here or two minutes there (something driving from one venue to another or during a quick bite to eat at dinner) to reflect on the day and let myself catch my breath.
The beginning of the wedding day is usually spent – for me, at least – greeting the bride and the women most important to her as they get primped by hair and makeup and shooting details like the ring and flowers, dress and shoes. Those first shots allow me to get my gear and my mind going in the right direction, too.
Negative thoughts stop at the driveway of my Getting Ready location. I try hard not to let them in. If things go off course during the day, I do my best to do damage control and let my couple enjoy their day free of unnecessary stress or drama. It’s a long day for everyone and I have my most successful wedding photography days when everyone is positive.
2. Don’t forget anything!
Do like Santa does – make that list and check it twice. This goes for equipment and for your tentative timeline of the day. I like to charge my batteries and clean my lenses at least two days before the event, just in case something goes wrong or I need backups of anything. I meet with my couples at least three weeks before the wedding to plan the day’s schedule and create a list for family formal portraits. All of these things make the day go by a little smoother, bring peace to me and my couples and get me really excited for the day!
Also read: 66 Details to Photograph at a Wedding
3. Don’t force all the moments
While there are a lot of posed photos on a wedding day – family formals and bridal party photos and the planned moments of the reception and ceremony – there are twice as many opportunities for “real” and candid moments of the day – a grandmother’s happy tears, a mom’s tight hug, a flower girl’s temper tantrum, some impressive dance floor moves and many, many more unscripted highlights of an incredible day.
You need to keep your peripheral vision going at all times and almost have your head on a swivel, watching not just the center of attention but also the reactions of those on either side and behind you.
A couple of times during the day, even during our scheduled photo time with the couple, I encourage them to have these real moments – walking together, talking for a few minutes, watching the party below – and then I try to capture, discretely, the magic in those moments.
4. Don’t be too visible – or too invisible
Going along with capturing the candid moments of the day is maintaining a style that keeps you in charge when you need to round up some groomsmen or shift the direction of a makeup shot but also allows you to skirt around nearly undetected. If you fly a little bit under the radar, people won’t be on high alert and may not even realize you’re there – and then they’ll let their guard down and just enjoy the moment they are in.
The best compliment I can ever receive when someone sees their wedding day images is, “I didn’t even know you were there” or when I can surprise them with a moment they didn’t know occurred. A wedding photographer isn’t just a person with a camera – it’s the most intimate documentary of perhaps the most important day of their life.
5. Don’t be an island
Being a creative and an entrepreneur can be a lonely profession – long hours by yourself at your computer editing and sometimes feeling the burden of stresses and pressures put on you by yourself or unrealistic competition with others in your field. Don’t feed into that. Mingle with the vendors at your wedding – make friends with the DJ, offer edited images to the planner and baker. Word of mouth from other vendors is just as valuable as referrals from past clients. It’s a sign of trust.
More than that, it’s a way to not feel so alone. Meet other photographers and find networking groups in your area, There’s power in educational opportunities like workshops, online tutorials and webinars with other photographers, too. Put yourself out there – you never know what it might bring to you.
6. Don’t be too hard on yourself (or too easy)
Congratulations! You made it through your first wedding experience!
Let’s be real: You’ve probably made some mistakes. There may be blurry photos; there might be a missed opportunity or something you’ve forgotten. Don’t be too hard on yourself – these errors are just as likely to happen on your 30th or 300th wedding you cover, just less often and less extreme. Practice, practice, practice, makes it less possible and preparation ahead of time goes a long way.
Similarly, maybe you walk away from a wedding feeling like you’ve nailed it. Before you prep yourself for your first magazine publication, just know it can come crashing down with one crass social media comment or one unknowing comparison to someone else. Stay realistic. I still study my final wedding galleries after they are completed and discover what I think I did really well on that day and what I could have improved on. It’s important to be real and continue to push yourself. I have mini goals going all the time of things I want to keep improving.
If I ever stop improving or making mistakes, I better find a new profession.
Wedding photography is an intense, exhausting, sometimes overwhelming experience – and yet, it can also be highly-rewarding, super-gratifying and heart-warming way to spend your days.