Ten Truths About Wedding Photography

Ten Truths About Wedding Photography

Whether you're an established wedding photographer or aspiring to be, here are some truths about wedding photography that will make you say "yep" or "I had no idea!"

1. You Should Love Weddings

Every time I am asked if someone should go into wedding photography, my first response is always, “Do you love weddings?” There are so many genres of photography and weddings are a beast of their own so my advice is that if you don’t love weddings, you will probably burn out quickly. Why? Keep reading.

2. The Easiest Part of the Process Is Shooting the Wedding

Before I started shooting weddings, I had no idea the hours upon hours I would spend after the wedding culling through thousands of photos and editing. A lot of times, the wedding day was the most social part of my job. The rest of the time I was sitting in front of a computer editing for days on end.

3. It’s Exhausting

Shooting weddings are hard on the body. You are typically running around for at least eight hours carrying a bag full of heavy gear with little time to stop. You can easily go for hours without water and food without even thinking about it. There’s a thing in the industry called post-wedding hangover. It’s true. My body is so worn out the next day that I usually don’t do a thing. Nor do I want to.

4. You'll Be Hungry

Because you are on the go most of the day, there just isn't really time to eat. Sometimes you don't even notice it. You can also easily go without water if you aren't paying attention. This contributes to the exhaustion at the end of the day so I always like to keep a snack on hand in my bag just in case I find a few moments here and there to replenish myself.

5. Everyone Should Do an Engagement Session

I cannot stress this enough and if you are photographer and don’t include this in your packages I would highly recommend reconsidering it. There is a night and day difference in my interaction and relationship with my couples when they would have an engagement session versus when they don’t. Ninety percent of the time couples are not comfortable in front of the camera. Having time outside of the wedding day to get to know each other a little bit, practice posing, seeing how the couple interacts, makes such a difference. Plus, it makes photos go faster on the actual wedding day because the couple is already familiar with the process.

6. A Photo Specific Timeline Goes a Long Way

In the beginning of my wedding career, I would just use the planner's timeline, however I quickly realized that wasn’t enough. I was always running out of time or certain things wouldn’t make sense for photos. I found the more specific I was timing photos, the more the couple was aware of how everything would go and would prepare everyone else. I learned how long it would take me to shoot different parts of the day and if it was at least allotted for on the timeline, I almost always had some time to shoot if the wedding day went awry. My biggest lesson in this was when the couple didn’t do a first look and the ceremony ran behind. When it came to family photos everyone was scattered and it was sort of a disaster. In a situation where I was already short on time, I didn’t need it wasted on finding the people needed to photograph. After that I started naming every single family member that was to be photographed and named every family photograph on the timeline so that everyone knew who was needed and when. It also made it easier for the couple because they got to spend time thinking about what family photos they wanted before the wedding day so on the day of there were far less add on photos and family members couldn’t take over this portion adding a million photos in.

7. Very Rarely Does the Wedding Day Go According to Plan

You can have all the timeline planning in the world but I can guarantee you it won’t go perfectly. Things will run behind, people will panic, you will have to shoot fast and probably not where you planned to. As wedding photographers things can change quickly, but the key is being able to think quick and adapt easily.

8. You Need to Know How to Use Lighting

Just saying you’re a natural light photographer isn’t enough. Wedding photographers have to be incredibly versatile, knowing how to shoot candids, details, portraits, and action while also dealing with constantly changing lighting situations. When the sun goes down and the reception gets going you need to be able to utilize lighting to make the photo look good. Don’t just convert it to black and white because the skin tones are off because you didn’t use flash. If you aren’t comfortable with flash, test it, try it out, and make yourself practice with it. Ask someone who does it the way you like for some advice. If you totally aren’t comfortable with flash, try using LED lights. This can be a lot simpler. The problem is they aren’t as powerful and the battery life. True story. The first wedding I ever shot all I knew about flash was to bounce it. I showed up on the wedding day and it was entirely inside a dark hotel and shooting outside wasn’t an option (seems impossible and it's the only time this has ever happened in my wedding career, but it wasn’t). I had to use flash and really I didn’t know what I was doing. The clients knew they were my first wedding and the risks that came with that. I made it work and I bounced flash all over the place. I cringe at the photos now, but I learned a lot that day and after that was determined to make myself learn and master lighting in any situation.

9. In Addition to a Second Shooter, Hire an Assistant

It took me about eight years of shooting before I finally started doing this and man it makes a world of difference. Having someone there just to help you when you need it is incredible. I would have them help carry my gear, hold a light, or even just make sure I have water. It doesn’t sound like much, but after the first time I did it I was not nearly as exhausted at the end of the day. This isn’t a skilled position, they don’t even need to be a photographer. So it doesn’t need to be paid like a second shooter, but it’s well worth the money.

10. It’s Incredibly Rewarding

This is what kept me photographing weddings for so long. I got to work with some amazing couples. Being able to give them photos from the most important day of their lives up until that point, that they can treasure forever makes it all worth it. Seeing them use the images in books, their homes, and on cards and the joy it brought them made me so incredibly happy that I got to be a small part in such a significant moment.

Wedding Dress: Carrie's Bridal | Models: Andresa Mueller and Evan Hill
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Kelly Lane's picture

I know I know :) I tried that and tried several companies but it never worked out.

Should be titled "10 Opinions I have about Wedding Photography"

1. You Should Love Weddings

Ideally. Or like them a lot. It helps.

2. The Easiest Part of the Process Is Shooting the Wedding

Not if you outsource your editing. (Which I think everyone who shoots over about 25 weddings should do - IMHO.)

3 & 4. Yeah. But not as hard as many other jobs, particularly trades.

5. Everyone Should Do an Engagement Session

No, everyone should work the way it suits them to work. I don't do engagement shoots because I don't like manufactured sessions. I like to document a real event. Engagements don't work for me.

6. I'm good with a very basic timeline - start, finish, and photo time.

7. Very Rarely Does the Wedding Day Go According to Plan

I'd say things go mostly to plan most of the time. But it's not rare for things to go whack.

8. You Need to Know How to Use Lighting

Kinda. But these days with some cameras shooting pretty good images with image stabilization at 25800 ISO, it's not important as it used to be.

"When the sun goes down and the reception gets going you need to be able to utilize lighting to make the photo look good."

No you don't. You may wish to shoot using ambient light only. New sensors, fast primes and IBIS makes this easy. If the reception isn't mixing light, and doesn't have terrible-quality light, this is perfectly acceptable.

Nor are flash-assisted images objectively "better". I prefer mood over technical quality. And I don't like intrusively flashing guests throughout the reception.

9. In Addition to a Second Shooter, Hire an Assistant

Or hire neither.

"I would have them help carry my gear, hold a light, or even just make sure I have water."

If that's your thing, cool. Other people shoot with minimal gear and carry their own water.

10. It’s Incredibly Rewarding