I’m not sure if anyone gets into photography specifically to shoot weddings, but I know I didn’t. I have always shot fashion editorials and conceptual portraits for publication, an entirely different style of photography. So when I got my first wedding client, I was surprised and nervous. Making the leap from conceptual art to documenting the biggest day in someone’s life was intimidating, but it got a little easier over time. If you’re one of those photographers who normally shoots everything except weddings, here are some tips to help you survive your first wedding:
1. Research, Research, Research
As with any fashion/commercial shoot, the more you know about your clients and where you’ll be shooting makes a huge difference. Go before the wedding and scout out the location, maybe take the time to pre-plan some shots. It’s always a bonus if you can incorporate something unique about the location into the photos, it’s one more detail the couple will appreciate.
2. Respect the moment
Weddings are big days filled with lots of emotional moments — respect them. If the bride and groom are having an intimate kissy face fiesta in the corner, capture it at a distance but don’t be too invasive. Nothing kills the mood like a camera in your face. For every happy moment, there will be a sad/stressed moment – be patient with your stressed bride or the worried guests who are waiting in the chapel. Looking back at the pictures, the bride will probably laugh about how nervous she was that day. But for now, at that moment, you must respect that nervousness. And lastly, don’t EVER take pictures of people while they’re eating food.
As their photographer, you should try not to miss any moment of the day — but don’t let that stop you from interacting with them! And by interacting, I don’t just mean telling people to “look left” or “smile!” because those are things a robot would say. I mean move the camera away from your face and have a conversation with them every once in a while. Sometimes I keep the camera just to the side of my cheek while talking to them so I can capture their reactions while chatting — because nothing beats a genuine smile.
4. Be on the lookout
The entire day may have been planned well in advance, but sometimes things don’t go as planned. Here is where some sports photography intuition comes in handy. Just like a sports photographer watching the game to predict when someone will shoot a winning basket or goal, you have to be on the lookout in case something memorable happens. Maybe one of the groomsmen will spontaneously start dancing with the mother-in-law or one of the ring bearers will put the ring on his dog’s tail — you never know what will happen, but make sure you’re there to capture the thing that people will talk about long after the wedding.
5. Keep it personal
After the wedding is done and you are going to present the photos to the bride and groom, don’t just drop it into a photo gallery and send them the link. Weddings are personal events with lots of sentimental feelings surrounding it and letting your client browse in a gallery seems cold. They’ll start to focus on the wrong things like that piece of hair in their face or what someone in the background is doing — everything except the mood of the image. This is why I prepare a video slideshow with music for my clients, it controls the pacing of the images and lets them relive the day as they remember it.
Making the leap from conceptual photography to weddings can be intimidating, but it’s not difficult if you remember that you’re working with real people, not models. Treat others the way you’d want to be treated on your wedding day and you’ll find ways to tell their story without sacrificing your own photography style.