Wedding Photography Tips for Amateur Photographers
By Christopher Maxwell
This is part two in a series of articles I am writing to help beginning wedding photographers. Wedding photography is a difficult and very challenging undertaking! Are you willing to dedicate 110% of your efforts to record the best possible photos?
Some will likely read this article and think “No, way! I don’t have time for that!” Others will read it and think “This is great! I’m going to invest lots of time so that I can be as prepared as possible.” This article is written for those of you in the latter category.
As I previously shared, I remember spending more than a hundred hours working HARD to prepare for my first wedding. I want to help you channel your effort and time into some productive ways to prepare for your upcoming wedding.
Prepare Your Equipment
Do you have equipment that is up to the wedding photography challenge? Preferably a DSLR with at least 5 megapixels of resolution. What about a backup camera? Do you have a selection of lenses? Flash strobes? Lots of batteries? A tripod?
Those are the basics. But it goes far beyond that.
Do you know your camera inside and out? Do you know ALL the settings? Is the sensor clean (taking a photo of the sky - but not the sun - will tell you if there is dust and the sensor needs to be cleaned). A critically important wedding photography habit is to regularly scan all of your camera’s settings throughout the day. Every time I am waiting for the bridal procession to start, I will review the critical settings on my camera (exposure mode, auto-focus, ISO, shutter speed, f-stop, flash settings, white-balance, file size, etc. etc). When taking formals, I will first review the settings on my camera. When changing from inside to outside – I review the settings. What would happen if you accidentally changed the file-size setting on your camera and, at the end of the wedding day, found out you were shooting at low resolution all day? What if you thought you were shooting RAW images all day and, at the end, found out you were shooting low-quality JPG's? (these are the types of mistakes that cannot be allowed or tolerated in the realm of wedding photography)
There have been many times that I have been shooting outdoors and all of a sudden realized my ISO was set to the indoor setting: 400. Or, I’ll take a shot and realize the auto-focus was turned off. The auto-focus is especially easy to miss when using a 17-35mm wide-angle lens. I sometimes turn off my auto-focus on wedding day, the most common cause is when I am trying to photograph a group without them realizing that I am watching them. When trying to get a really good photo journalistic shot of a group I will compose and take a quick photo of them (even if they aren’t smiling/laughing right then). I’ll check my lighting and then (sometimes) shut the auto-focus off. I’ll face away from them and watch them out of the corner of my eye. When someone says something funny and everyone laughs I am then ready to bring the camera up for a really quick shot (which will be perfectly lit, exactly focused, and well composed). I will also sometimes shut the auto-focus off when taking formal photos.
Even the batteries for your flash are important. I use a battery pack to power my Nikon flash, but I used to use AA batteries. The lithium batteries are expensive, but they do a much better job powering your flash head. Regular AA batteries begin to lose power almost immediately. Lithiums continue putting to a good amount of power until the very end when they suddenly die. Before I had my battery pack I would purchase 4 lithium AA’s and then a whole bunch of regular Alkaline AA’s. Once the Lithiums died, I would switch to Alkalines. Be careful of rechargeable AA’s. They often don’t last as long or recharge as fast as Alkalines – and if you are shooting with a lot of bounce flash the batteries will often be worked so hard they will get warm. Recharging warm batteries is asking for trouble.
A flash bracket may be helpful for shooting vertical images. Not necessary if one is using bounce flash, but it still makes the transition from horizontal to vertical quicker and easier. I MUCH prefer the simple brackets that are manufactured by Newton instead of the Stroboframe brackets.
Having one flash strobe (preferably the top-of-the-line Nikon or Canon strobe to go with your camera) is important for indoor, well-lit, photos. Having a second flash head is important as a back-up piece of equipment. It is true that real professionals will always have two of everything that is critically important. When you are beginning your backup equipment may not be an exact copy of your main piece, but you have to address all contingencies. On more than one occasion I have borrowed (while assuming full liability and promising my friend that, if damaged, I will purchase them a new piece of equipment) a piece of equipment as “backup” although, thankfully, have never needed to use it.
I’m running out of space once more – but there is so much more to talk about!
- Spend Time Online
- Get Several Wedding Photography Books
- Spend Time with the Couple
- Prepare a Shot List
- Practice the Shot List
I’ll continue writing about preparation Part 3 and beyond!
Christopher Maxwell is a photographer in the Kansas City area. He has a web site that shares some Beginning Tips for Wedding Photographers He shares practical advice and information that he has learned while photographing weddings. Additional Wedding Photography Tips:
Part 1, Learn about exposure