Photography Wedding Essentials!

Posted: 06/13/2013

Blog by Jim Austin

When I started shooting weddings so many years ago, I sailed off into the unknown. I've been fortunate to have worked many weddings since. Here are a few essentials I wish I knew back then:

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The Bride's trust in you is the essence of wedding photography. Build rapport with the bride. If you have her trust, you'll get great photographs. She wants you to make her, her day, her husband, and their families beautiful beyond the ordinary.

To build her trust, you must get along with her mother, and the groom. This means taking time to understand exactly what is important to each of them.

If you don't have a studio, set up a time with the couple to hang out casually with them. Then, ask to contact and introduce yourself to both sets of parents. Why? Explain to the bride and groom this will help the communication at the wedding with their families.

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Practice your portrait skills. Know the person you are photographing. Learn the difference between a forced smile and a social smile, and go with the flow of events especially when plans change. Decide if you will pose, capture spontaneous moments, or a combination of the two.

Keep the bride and groom in air conditioning to keep them cool and smiling. You'll get better images when the couple is casually interacting with each other than smiling at you. Try to set up a time and place before the ceremony for relaxed portraits if the bride allows you.

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Plan every move the bride will make, and where you will be. Think about what the bride is doing, who will be with her, where her airplane, hotel, cars, ceremony and reception will be. When you discuss a shot list with the bride in advance, imagine each memory you want to capture.This way, you'll be free to get those spontaneous, spur of the moment shots that are so much fun, and keep me going back to do another wedding shoot.

Attend the rehearsal.

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Take a detailed walk with the bride and groom through the ceremony and reception locations. If you can, do this at the same time of day as when you'll be there for the wedding. It is helpful to attend the wedding rehearsal, especially if the wedding is in a church. This lets you see bokeh backgrounds, wall colors, carpets and interior light direction. Find out what the bride does not want you to shoot, such as putting on her dress.

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Repeat to the bride all you plan to do several times, in advance. Even for socially skilled couples, emotions take over on the day of the wedding. You may think you understand each other, but it helps to review and repeat. Stuff happens.


Plan as if you are going on a NASA mission. Back up all your gear systems. For instance, double the amount of film in case you get a bad batch, back up your chemistry, and replace old stock with fresh. Take two camera bodies. Take two tripods if you are doing video.  Build in redundancy, because you do not want to be in the middle of the aisle as the bride and her father come to you, with a dead camera. Trust me, been there, done that when I did not lock a 24-70 II Canon L lens on my camera body and the shutter would not fire as the bridge and her father approached me down the aisle.

You must have a well-worn, fast aperture, low-light fast lens in your bag. F/4 does not cut it after sundown and in a dark cathedral. A trusted assistant is worth more than an extra lens.

I do not like to change lenses at a wedding unless I have to, so I carry two zooms, one on each body. I also pack mirrors, comb, paper towels, gaffer tape, aspirin, band aids, rubber bands, cold water bottles; anything I can think of to help someone in the wedding party feel better. Well  . . . almost anything.

It's helpful to know the bride and groom's traditions. Are they Muslim, Jewish, Catholic? Are they orthodox, reform, agnostic? This knowledge gives you a conceptual structure for their ceremony, and more importantly, may reveal what can't be photographed. I've been yelled at by a monsignor in his Catholic church, when I did not understand his rules about flash. Now I know to ask the person performing the service about the tradition, in advance.

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Be totally professional. I've seen newbie wedding photographers go in to a ceremony wearing tennis shoes. Don't. Wear your best clothing, but keep it understated so you do not upstage the couple. Dress for success and for the forecast. I've taken a wool suit on a 95 degree day to an outdoor wedding: Oops.

Drink bottled water at the wedding and do not be seen near the bar. You want all the guests to get a professional impression of your behavior, as they might hire you for future weddings.

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7. FILM and/or DIGITAL.

The choice of film or digital is up to you. Personally, I take both. I tend to stick to 1 film emulsion, Kodak Portra 400, for its superb grain structure. I've heated Portra in a car, accidentally, and ruined shots. Now I keep it cool.

Polaroid cameras and Impossible film from the FPP Store are great when there are lots of kids at a wedding, because giving they away to the children is a wonderful way for parents to remember you and hire you later. Digital excels in different ways. The best digital retouching tools I've found for softening, blemishes and a million other ways to make folks look better are in the Wedding tool set in NIK's Color Efex Pro plug-in.

Please let me know what you think, and if this blog on weddings was helpful to you. Thanks! - Jimages

Jimages! The Jim Austin website!




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