If your family and friends know that you own a DSLR or advanced compact system camera, the chances are pretty high that at some point you will be asked to be a photographer for weddings. It’s important to be realistic about your capabilities and experience before you commit to shooting a wedding – especially if you are to be paid to do so.
Be honest with the couple about your experience and don’t allow anyone to bully you into taking on the job to save money if you are not confident.It’s also important to have the right kit. Ideally you’ll need two decent cameras and a selection of lenses along with a couple of flashguns.What’s more, it’s absolutely crucial that you know your equipment inside out and are confident in using it. A wedding is not the time to be trying a setting for the first time.
If you decide that being the main photographer at the wedding is too big a step, you could always offer to take on the second photographer duties, shooting from alternative angles, getting background shots and duplicating some of the pro’s shots, it’s all good experience.
2. Poor exposure
The bride’s white dress is one of the most important aspects of many weddings and it can be a real headache to photograph correctly; either a mass of bright white with no detail or grubby and grey. A little underexposure can be corrected post-production but you don’t want to lose detail in dark suits.
An ideal exposure will have detail throughout the tonal range which with the advent of digitl camersa can be quickly checked as well as allowing you to use the camera’s auto exposure bracketing facility to take a sequence of images with different exposures in quick succession without incurring any extra cost.
Another tip is to use your camera’s histogram view and highlights warning and avoid a peak at the end of the scale and burned out areas so you can check and shoot again immediately.
3. Messy background
Check out the venue in advance and identify the perfect location for the essential shots of the couple and their families. A nice, clean background can make a huge difference to a shot, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that it needs to be plain or uninteresting. A doorway or gateway will frame a picture and provide more interest than standing in front of a hedge.
4. Squinting in the sun
If you are able to visit the venue before the wedding it’s well worth doing so at the same time of day as the service as you’ll be able to assess the position of the sun to avoid squinting. As well as a nice background, you are looking for some shade, or rope in someone to hold a large diffuser which will also help avoid harsh shadows.
5. No eye contact
Some candid shots can be “near-miss”; nicely composed but without the essential eye-contact. You need to make sure you get the couples attention at key points. If you are shadowing the pro photographer wait your turn.
If you fit a longish lens you can also snap some intimate moments between the bride and groom when they look at each other rather than the camera.
6. Forgetting a shot
If you’re not the official (or semi-official) photographer this isn’t a major issue, but if the couple is banking on you to shoot their wedding for them then you need to make sure you photograph everyone and everything that they are expecting you to.Speak to the bride and groom beforehand and draw up a list of guests and groups that they want to be photographed.
It’s also a good idea to get the name of someone who is responsible for rounding up the various relatives for you; an usher or the best man are your best bets.
7. Equipment failure
It’s essential to double up on all your kit so that if something breaks or fails you have a back-up. Having two cameras has the added advantage of allowing you to swap quickly between focal lengths without having to change lens. You can mount a lens on each body and switch quickly.
If you don’t own two cameras or have sufficient overlap of lens focal length, consider hiring (or borrowing) what you need for the day.
8. Messy group shots
Large group shots aren’t especially easy to arrange, first of all you’ve got to herd all the people you need together (and get rid of any unwanted hangers-on), then you’ve got to make sure that everyone is visible, smiling, looking at the camera and not blinking.
Put the most important people towards the centre of the group around the bride and groom and have the taller one’s towards the back of large groups.
Bring a stepladder and tall tripod, or find a high vantage point for shooting very large groups. Something noisy to attract attention is also useful! Take a few shots of each group in the hope of getting everyone looking as you want in at least one, but be prepared to do a little post-production compositing.
9. Forgetting the details
Don’t forget the shots that tell the full story of the day.
Photograph the incidentals that the bride will have spent a long time choosing; the table decorations, menus, place-names and flowers for example, as well as the wedding cake and the odd glass of champagne.
Try to compose the shots as you would a normal still life or macro shot to create images that the bride and groom will want in their album rather than take straight record shots.
10. Shooting JPEG files
Give yourself the best chance of great shots with the maximum amount of data available when editing images to correct any issues with exposure, colour and white balance. Shoot RAW. Paul Craig - “Sure you can shoot JPEG files at the same time, but shoot raw files to get you out of trouble.”