3 Part : How to Get Started in Wedding Photography

Weddings are not only fun but they are also one of the most solemn of occasions. Two souls unite into one and take the momentous first step towards learning how to live together, take care of together and grow old together! As a wedding photographer you have an enviable task, documenting all those precious moments on the couple’s biggest day.
Wedding Photo RetouchingWedding color correction by ana.hmelnitkaiaI like the whole idea of wedding. The bigger, the better. For some photographers it can be a nightmare, trying to make sense of the chaos and manage to get some decent shots. For others it’s like a duck taking to water, gleefully they will wade through the day and walk out smiling with some of the most beautiful images you are likely to see; and they do it day in and day out. How they do it? They know their trade, they have the tools and they know how to work with people. That’s the three things that you need to have to be successful in wedding photography.


Tools
That brings us to the first requirement, i.e.; tools. Tools include everything hardware and software, that you need in order to shoot and deliver professional images. If you ask 10 photographers all of them will advise you to have at least 2 bodies. That’s the bare minimum. There is a reason for that. Your couples pay you a lot of money to make them look great on the best day of their life. There are scores of guests and countless moments that are worth capturing. These moments cannot be staged later. As a wedding photographer you simply cannot afford to goof up. If your primary body fails you ought to be able to shoot with the other. A few wedding photographers that I know even carry film SLRs as a backup body.


Additionally, all wedding photographers carry several lenses on them on the day of the shoot. This is so that they have all the essential focal lengths covered. Having two bodies allow them faster transition from one lens to the other without having to miss moments while they are changing lenses. On top of all that pro shooters would shoot with at least one additional shooter.
If you cannot, yet, afford to buy an additional body, ask a friend to lend you one. Or else there are plenty of places you can rent one for a few bucks, till that point when you can afford to buy a second body.


What are the lenses that you would want to carry?
The first lens that comes to my mind is a wide angle lens. Zoom lenses would allow you some extra leverage, though I could go on and on praising the 50mm f/1.8 prime lens. On the other hand a lot of pros wouldn’t even consider the 50mm f/1.8. There is an old saying where I come from, as many paths as there are monks. As you can understand your style of shooting will determine which lenses you finally make your own. They will become part of your shooting style.Camera Lenses For Wedding PhotographyOn an average you will need a wide angle, one medium tele-photo and a prime lens to cover the basics. Beyond this you can experiment with specialty lenses such as a tilt-shift, a macro or even a fish-eye. Speaking of macro lenses, it is one of the favorite lens of a lot of wedding photographers. This lens allow you to shoot those gorgeous close-up shots that are difficult to get using other lenses.

Having said that the 24-70mm f/2.8L is a great wedding lens to start with. Yes, I know that I have already praised the 50mm f/1.8 lens above, but at times that lens can become a problem. The margin of error with focusing, when you are shooting wide open, is really narrow. There is no way to fix an image in post-production if it is out of focus. A much more manageable lens is the 24-70mm. Plus, it allows you to incorporate more of the background which, from time to time, is a great idea.
Preparations

Remember the Murphy’s Law. If there are any number of things that can go wrong, they probably will. So, prepare my dear fellow photographer and try not to leave anything to chance.

So, how do you really prepare for the wedding day? First thing is to know the couple. If they were the ones who approached you, then you are probably familiar, but yet you don’t know whether and how much they will be co-operating with you on the day of the wedding. Remember, it is a big day for them and there are bound to be butterflies in the stomach. The best option would be to do a pre-wedding shoot / engagement shoot prior to the wedding. This way you get to know the couple and they get to know you. They understand what to expect from you and you no longer are the stranger with the big camera. This is also the time when you can educate them on correct posing etc.

If you know the place, especially if it is a community hall or a church, that gives you an advantage because you will be able to prepare in advance as to whether and how much of extra artificial lighting you need. If you don’t know the place I suggest you go and visit the place in advance so that you know what to expect on the big day and basically there are no surprises.

Ensuring that your gear are all in working and in prime condition is a must do before the wedding. If you are doing weddings only on the weekends and don’t have a habit of shooting on a daily basis then it is recommended that you check your gear at least a week before and then once again two days before the wedding. This will allow you some buffer in case you need to replace or take care of any equipment. If you are renting equipment, make sure that they are in working condition and take care that you learn how to use it when taking delivery and then practice it on the days running up to the wedding. This will ensure that you will not make a fool of yourself on the wedding day fiddling with the equipment.


Compositions
Compositions are everything in wedding photography; at least when you are not shooting candid photography. This article will not be able to address all different styles of wedding photography (yes there are more than one), so if someone who is trying to make a style out of shooting candid photos only may not find this article entirely relevant. It needs different approaches, different lenses and rarely, if ever, follow a ‘list of images to be shot’. Candid wedding photographer often work alone or in collaboration with the main shooter, so that one gets the ‘must-have’ photos and the other, those fleeting but important moments that are impossible for the main shooter to cover.Wedding Photography Composition (Main Image)Coming back to compositions, all the golden rules of photography which you have learnt thus far and your personal experiments successfully breaking those rules are applicable here. A good image has to be properly setup. This is why I wrote that lengthy paragraph above trying to separate the different styles of wedding photography. A candid photographer will never have the time to stage a shot. The moment will be gone. On the other hand a more traditional wedding photographer would never shoot without properly arranging the shot.
Posing


good pose can make or break a shot. Everything that we have learnt thus far comes down to this one thing, correct posing. This is because no matter how much you prepare if the bride or the groom freezes in front of the camera your images are going to turn out really bad. The pre-wedding / engagement shoot thus assumes paramount importance.


Know something about posing. Not every pose works with every body type. A slightly angled pose can drop centimeters off of a burgeoning waist line. The same way a straight on look at the camera rarely works. Try adopting something that is known as C-curve and S-curve (thanks to Moshe Zusman). When shooting group shots of the bride and the bridesmaids ask them to pose individually. Don’t line them up just like ducks in a shooting gallery. Experiment.


The bride may not be aware of what the right pose is, but if you had shot her on the pre-wedding day you probably have her briefed and educated about the right poses. If the connection between you and the couple is great you will find it easier to get better more natural looking pose that transpires into better images.Wedding Photography PosesPosing Guide: Sample Poses for Photographing Weddings by Kaspars Grinvalds.
Marketing yourself as a wedding photographer
The first thing, if you wish to be a wedding photographer, is to find that passion inside you that can drive you forward, inspire you to make better wedding images day in and day out, not just float through the day. A better wedding photographer is one whose inspiration is the urge to create better images, not the paycheck at the end of the wedding. When you are inspired and enjoy the whole thing it shows in the work that you produce.

A good way to market yourself is to have a few portfolio books printed on high quality paper and keep them at hand to show to your clients when you meet them. But initially you may not have any images to show. Initially, you may have to even work for free to get a feel of the wedding photography business.

Many well established wedding photographers’ journey started in a subdued tone. Their friends knew that they had an eye for photography and that they had a camera and they called him to their weddings, engagements and other events to photograph. This could very well be how you make a start. There is nothing wrong with that. As you are new and you need the experience to get a footing. One of the finest wedding photographers around, Moshe Zusman said he initially did $500 weddings. Now he charges in excess of $10,000 for a day of shoot.


After you have done a few weddings, even if they are for your friends, word will go around. You will start to get inquiries for paid gigs. But before you start meeting your prospects have the printed portfolio ready.

Apart from printed portfolio you need also to have a website and a Facebook page. Both these are excellent marketing avenues. A Facebook page works as the first point of contact for your wedding photography business. You can showcase your best images to let people know that you do a great job.
Lighting

One of things that you must learn is how to use off-camera flash. Or if I may recompose that statement, you must get the habit of using on-camera flash out of your system as early as you can. Of course those without the money to buy lights or those who prefer to shoot mainly with natural lights would disagree with me here. They would argue natural light is the best possible light for shooting weddings. I would agree, if I could have a way to ensure consistent natural light all through the day and during the evening. On many occasions you would find yourself in a desperate situation trying to complete a shoot because the sun is going behind the horizon.


Additionally, even when you are shooting in broad day light and outdoors, natural light is not enough. You will need a way to be able to fill those shadow areas so that you get a more pleasing result. Natural light is not enough, not always. Only when you bring in additional light and by that I mean off-camera lighting you are able to shoot regardless of how dark it is.

Sure, ambient lighting is necessary when you are trying to incorporate the background and if it gets too dark you will miss that part, but for the larger part external light will do you great service in every other situation.Wedding Photo Editor (Main Image)One thing about lighting is you need to be able to use them the way you want. There is no point bringing in four or five large lights with grids, softboxes etc. and not knowing how to use them. In most cases one or at the most two lights are more than enough. In situations where there is beautiful ambient light (which, by the way, is not enough for lighting your subjects) use one light as the key light (always from the side which the bride is facing to) and then use the other light to create an edge to separate the subjects from the background.



There are many other methods to use your lighting. There are many technique as well. As a beginner you can study some of the lighting techniques that can be done in a studio setup using one or two lights. Invariably when shooting the real deal you will realize that it is the same thing, just outside the studio. Thus, you will need to understand things like what is a key-light and what is a fill-light, how to adjust the power of the lights manually and then also control them using TTL. You will also need to understand how to balance two lights to give your images a distinct look.


Don’t just jump and buy as many lights as you can. Buy only one at first, but something that you can use for some time and something that can gel with your future aspirations in terms of gear upgrade and shooting. Don’t buy something that you will have no use of after six months. Make a lot of research and check whether the light has batteries built-in or not, whether it can be manually controlled as well as TTL. Being able to control the light and shape its output as per your need is of primary importance. Learn more about choosing external flash.


A brief word on group shots. The group shots almost always happen sometime after the ceremony. It is always a rush to have the group shot done before the ceremony and if you leave it for too late you may not have everybody when you need them. Another thing is shooting the group images right after the ceremony allows you to get great light, especially if you are interested in shooting this in natural light. That means you can have them posed and lit with just a single light (using the natural light as the key light).
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