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How to Photograph Weddings

… this was one of the top five search terms that people use to find my website for several years in a row and I’d written an article about it that focused mostly on the technical aspects of getting wedding photos and explaining the gear required to get the job done. That was back in 2011, I considered updating the old article Shooting Weddings 101 and finally decided that all of the information had become obsolete. So I wrote this:

Wedding Photography

Let me start with my history as a wedding photographer where it began, where it took me, and then where I’m at with it now.

In the early 1980s most of the shooting I was doing was surfing, straight photojournalism, and what we would call now, street photography. I was asked to shoot a wedding for a friend of a friend.

At that time in history wedding photography was generally not done on miniature (what we now call 35 mm film) most wedding photography was done on medium format by guys that owned brick and mortar photography studios. And they really look down on GWC’s (guys with cameras) shooting weddings with automatic 35 mm SLRs like a Canon F1 I used and the Canon A1 I carried as a backup.

Long story short I shot this young ladies wedding, everybody enjoyed the photos, and I went on to shoot another 10 or 12 weddings, basically straight photojournalism some candid’s, and just a few posed shots (i was certainly no portrait photographer) all with a Canon F1 a 50mm Canon FD lens, a 100mm Canon FD lens, and rectilinear wide angle… And all on Ilford black and white film.

It was a hell of a lot of work just to shoot the wedding, and then hours in the dark room developing dodging and burning and printing and I kind of got the sense of why it was that wedding photographers charged so much money.

Going Pro

35mm Film Camera with film magazine attachedBy the time I decided that I was going to actively pursue the market for wedding photography I was shooting with two Nikon F5s and the wedding photography holy Trinity of Nikon lenses, a 17 to 35 AF-S f/2.8, a 28 to 70 AF-S f/2.8 and an 80 to 200 AF-S f/2.8… About the same time that I added color film I also added a 105mm Nikkor Micro for detail shot’s and started using Speedlights for fill flash… And that is what I packed into the next 300 or so weddings I shot.

The Digital Revolution

Full Frame Digital SLRI was late to get on board with digital capture and with what I believe was good reason, until full frame sensors with a broader latitude of exposure, meaning the Nikon D3 (Nikon D3s for myself and the Canon 5Ds for those guys) the capability of digital capture just wasn’t there and the quality of the images it produced, yeah, really just not there.

… And right up to the point that I changed my mind about everything about shooting weddings it escalated just like that. I came to rely more and more on the capture equipment and post-production software ie Adobe Photoshop CS6 Extended coupled with dxos Nick filters… And constantly trying to find a new novel way of presenting and producing wedding imagery. Quite honestly I got pretty far away from my roots as a photographer and moved into the field of digital artistry. And really there’s nothing wrong with that the guy that I would hire to shoot my own wedding there’s a Photoshop wizard the images he produces are in a word effin’amazing.

So now that it’s no longer my job and my livelihood does not depend on wedding photography in any way I’ve looked at it with a completely different pair of eyes.

How to Shoot a Wedding 2.0

It doesn’t matter what you are carrying to shoot a wedding with as long as it gets the job done reliably because if it fails to produce, nobody is going to be very happy with you.

The only things that you will be taking with you on the shoot that are going to matter are your skills with whatever gear you use and your ability to create all of the images that the client wants and you have agreed to produce.Competence with the gear is essential, the ability to make it work under any and all conditions is a must… Whether you are going to shoot with a new Nikon mirror less SLR or an old Roliflex 120 TLR your understanding and abilities with that camera must be absolute. And machines break always have a backup for anything and everything essential to your craft.

The only direct expert advice on wedding photography I have is:

  1.  To practice, practice, practice your craft as a producer of imagery… Always update your book tossing out your own obsolete shots… Always move forward as your imagery evolves.
  2. Be prepared for anything and everything to not really go according to plan the day of, but definitely show up to any rehearsals and speak to any and all of the participants about their expectations and build a good report.
  3. Be sure to be your best self on the day, be well rested, mentally and phisically fit for the job.
  4. When shooting be patient, wait for the shot. It’s very easy to become panicked, start to “spray and pray” (rapid fire shooting then hope to find a good ones in post) and in doing so missing “The Million Dollar Shot” when you are changing out a full and smoking hot CF, SD, XD card (or roll of film).
  5. Don’t sell yourself short, charge what the market will bear for your work. You will have to re the market in your area.
  6. When all is said and done only turn over the absolute best of your best images. Don’t make the Bride and Groom pour though a thousand frames to find the ones they like… That’s Your job.

The bottom line is this: who’s to say what’s art, and photography is one vehicle to create art… There are as many ways to represent life with art as there are artist.

Do what you do with photography, and get good at it… Then apply it to weddings.