For the longest time, I avoided shooting weddings at all costs. I personally thought they were something photographers only did to make money and that no one truly enjoyed them. But as I developed more and more as a professional I started getting the itch to just try one, just to say I could do it. Soon after, I got in touch with my contact that worked weddings and lined up a job as a secondary shooter the following week. When it was all said and done, those four hours were possibly the most fun and challenging times I’ve ever had with a camera.
Since then I have shot three more weddings and have no plans on slowing down anytime soon. I now understand why it’s such an interesting field of photography to be working in. I think every photographer at some point in their career should work one even if it’s just as a secondary or an assistant. That being said, here are the five biggest things I learned after shooting my first few weddings.
Figure Out Your Camera System
Without a doubt, you need two cameras on location just in case of an equipment malfunction or an ill-timed champagne shower. But as someone who wants the versatility of shooting both my Sony a7R II and my a6500 simultaneously, I need an adapted carry system. This took a little trial and error but I finally figured out that the Peak Design Slide lite paired with the Peak Design Capture Pro attached to my belt was the winning combination. This allowed me to switch between both cameras seamlessly and without worry of having to set a camera on the ground (this is how I did my first wedding). Now your mileage may vary but regardless everyone should be comfortable and confident with whatever setup you decide to use wedding day.
Know Your Gear
This one seems like a given, but to me there was a substantial difference between knowing the ins and outs of my camera while shooting outdoor lifestyle and then trying to use the same methods to shoot a wedding. Plot twist: it didn’t work. I would recommend becoming very comfortable with switching between focusing modes and continuous shooting settings. This is the only way to be prepared for everything an event of this magnitude could throw at you. It was an easy adjustment once I sat down and fully dialed down my custom button layout for weddings and then going over how I’d shoot every scenario in my head.
Constantly Adapt to the Pace of the Wedding
Probably the biggest surprise in shooting weddings was the sheer amount of slow moments that you have through the whole process. Of course, during all the key moments the pace is fast and you have to be on your toes to ensure you capture them properly. But for the most part you’re afforded enough time to get creative with your work and plan out your shots. The greatest thing I learned out of this was to take my time and get creative during the slow times and during the key moments capture quickly worrying about creativity second.
Photograph All the Details
Everything in a wedding is planned from beginning to end. All the details starting from the location to the food has been selected specifically by the bride and the groom. With that being said, all these decisions have a price tag associated with it. I try and get at least two to three good shots of every detail in the wedding. This is the special day for this couple and they want to have pictures of all the details to remember for the rest of their lives.
Socialize and Get to Know People
I feel like this one is a given but I’ve never seen anyone talk about it. Since you’re working the wedding, you’ll be spending at least eight hours with this family. Not only that but you’re going to be a part of all the big events in the wedding as well. This is the reason why you should not only be the photographer but you should get to know these people. I’m not saying pepper them with questions, but simply asking “How did you meet the bride?” or “How long have you known each other?” could help them feel like you’re interested in this experience and not just trying to make a dollar. Also, it’s going to make everyone around you more comfortable with having their photo taken by you. This will become invaluable when you have to round up the family for the post ceremony family pictures.
Rounding this up, I feel like I’ve grown as a photographer exponentially after just four weddings. I would highly recommend everyone get out and just try one because it’s an experience that you can’t teach. It gives you a level of understanding with your gear and skill level that I’ve yet to experience with any other job professionally.