Imagine a friend is getting married and they have seen your pictures, they think they are pretty good and ask you to capture their special day. Most would answer yes though some will say no. What your friend has asked you to do is no mean feat. A wedding is a once in lifetime event with many different variables and you have to be ready for it all.
If you are in the situation above there are some things you can do to match the expectations of your friend. Below is what I normally do when I am asked to record a couple’s special day.
The first thing I normally do is take down what I need to know for the moment; who, when and where. If I am available I then try to have two meetings with the couple. The first meeting is an interview, I showcase my work and throw out some ideas and of course find out roughly what the couples needs are. I try and think of needs instead of wants. It is the Couple’s wedding but their wants can be made unattainable due to many different factors on the day. The way I interpret needs is “We want pictures of the service.” to “We need pictures of the service”.
Once the couple have agreed to go ahead with me I then plan a second meeting where we talk about more specifics of their day making sure this meeting is closer to the wedding day.
Over informed is better than under informed.
Once you have an idea of the needs are of your soon to be married friends then you need to have an idea on how to capture the images. It is a good idea to have a rough outline of the day, when things are going to happen and where. Knowing timings and places of where specific parts of the day are happening means you are able plan an idea in your head when the best opportunity will arise to capture certain images.
As well as knowing when and where it is a good idea to have a knowledge of what these locations look like. I usually go on a rekey to the church/service and reception location. I always try and go to the church at around the same time of day as when the service will be to take pictures but also to take light readings. Churches are as different as people some of them can be filled with light while others are quite dark. Apart from visiting the church it can also be an idea to speak to the pastor or priest. In my experience some Pastors/Priests don’t like the use of flash in their services while others may have restrictions where you can be during the service. This is an opportunity to speak and maybe compromise and make agreements. For example not using your flash too much and only at key times or being able to stand somewhere for a specific image. The same can be said for the reception especially if the couple would like pictures in the grounds. Scoping out picture opportunities for all occasions rain and shine is needed, we all want people to have a sunny wedding but the weather can always work against us having a wet weather plan is never a bad idea.
On the wedding day the couple will be in their own world and it is for you to guide them when the taking pictures because they may not be able to think clearly about it.
Check, check and check again.
So the day is almost here, time to check your equipment.
There are many things that can go wrong with your equipment. Before my first wedding I was taking some pictures with my camera and realized there were huge dust spots on my images. After checking the lens there was nothing but the images still had the marks on them. I realized it was the sensor. The first thing I did was head to my camera bag got out my cleaning kit and cleaned the sensor. Since that day I check my equipment before every shoot. Batteries need to be charged and checked they are holding the charge and pack spares. For my flash gun I have 4 sets of batteries. It can be amazing how quickly you can burn through them. I also tend to carry a backup camera just in case and this needs to be checked as well. Memory cards need to be formatted and working. Just like any digital memory device they can become corrupted, check they are working well and you have enough. I normally carry three cards and my portable memory bank that I can download my memory cards onto. I have a bit of OCD when it comes to checking my equipment and I do this many times.
If the happy couple want group shots I make a list of them and have them on me so that I can call the guests to the portrait location. I also make sure that there is a step ladder available or I pack one with my kit. A ladder can be invaluable when getting those big group shots.
Go with the flow.
All the planning and prepping now goes out the window, but it has not been for nothing. Weddings have a life of their own and as the photographer you are one cog in a bigger mechanism. Your planning though will give you a guide of where you are and what is next. For example if the bride is late make use of this great opportunity to grab some extra shots of a nervous groom. Go with the flow and keep snapping or a bit like what Dory said in Finding Nemo “ Just keep snapping, snapping, snapping, what do you just snap, snap, snap.”..
You do need to move, compose images quickly, make sure there sharp and capture. Using parts of the service for example, during the Pastor/Priest’s talk to take some quick pictures of family and friends. There is no moment not needing to be shot.
With portraits after the wedding take your time to compose the shots, suggest where you can take them and be thorough.
I think it’s a great idea to place disposable cameras on the tables at the reception for guests to take pictures. As the photographer you have the images you are set to capture in your head but you might miss opportunities or images that guest can capture. After the wedding you can collect the cameras and have some great candid shots. Beware someone will always photograph the toilet.
Take your time.
As with all photography half the work done when the trigger has been pressed. When it comes to editing take your time. The happy couple will want pictures quickly so when they ask for when they can see them give them a realistic deadline, of how quickly you can work. Working flat out for days will mean that all the images will not be edited to the best of your ability. I normally agree a minimum number of images that I will produce for the couple.
I go through the images slowly looking at each capture and then decide if I will discard it or not. I call this the first cull. Ones which I discard are because the exposure, focusing or composition is not right. I normally do this in Adobe Bridge labelling the images I don’t discard as selected. Those that are discarded I just don’t label but I delete no images.
Once the images have gone through the first cull those which are selected go through a basic edit, this is the beginning of my second cull. When processing images with a basic edit I look for more technical flaws in the image that may not have been so obvious when I first went through the images. For the basic edit I use image profiles to speed up the process. Even using profiles on groups of images I still look at each one individually because a group of images processed in a batch still means a small amount of manual correction.
After the basic edit I then look at my images again but not on the screen. I create a contact sheet and print it out. A contact sheet is a traditional photography method of previewing the contents of a film. I use contact sheets to help select images that I want to process further. On the contact sheet you can see the images next to each other and spot the strong from the weak. Once selected I go back to the computer and label those images second. Normally in the contact print selection I can then see the potential of black and white conversion to some images.
I then edit each picture separately over many sessions. Once the images are edited I then compose another contact sheet for the couple to choose images from.
Now relax and get ready for the next
Although it is a long winded process from saying yes to images being handed over it means that the highest quality of images are given to the couple. A wedding is a once in a lifetime event (or that’s the idea) and you only have one chance and there are no do overs. Before every wedding my stomach turns to knots but the minute my eye is in the view finder the adrenaline kicks in.
If you are asked to capture somebodies happy day be honest with yourself and them. If you don’t feel up to it say so, I am sure they will understand. If you say yes be honest with them about your ability so they and you both know what the expectations are.
Although I wrote this about weddings the same can be said for any photographic shoot a landscape project or a fashion shoot in the studio.
Have you ever been asked to take pictures at a wedding? Or been asked to and not sure what to say. Or are you needing a photographer and not sure what to do. Let me know.