What I Learned From Shooting My First Wedding of the Season

What I Learned From Shooting My First Wedding of the Season

The short days and long nights of winter have finally given way and spring is in full swing. For many photographers, this means one thing: wedding season. While wedding season is great, it can also be physically and mentally exhausting. I recently shot my first wedding of the season and want to share a few tips as well as things I would do differently next time around to help you plan ahead and prepare for any events you have coming up.

1.) Equipment

I am a firm believer in getting by with what equipment you have, but when it comes to photographing weddings, it really helps to have some solid equipment. I shot with only a Nikon D7000 for a long time until recently, when I upgraded to the D750. Being able to shoot in low light and keep a high shutter speed is essential when it comes to weddings. While I also brought a strobe and several speedlights, it is reassuring to know that you can always turn up the ISO and use available light to get a shot. As far as lenses that I own, I brought a 50mm 1.8, a 35mm 1.8, and a 11-16mm 2.8 (which I kept mounted on my D7000).

2.) Don’t Be Afraid To Rent

Having just upgraded my camera body, I didn’t have $2396.95 in my budget for the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II lens. I did, however, have the $99 to rent the lens for six days from LensRentals.com. Having a fast telephoto is absolutely amazing when it comes to weddings, and it was worth every penny for me to rent that lens. I think that spending a little extra money to give your clients a better product can only benefit you. Yes, maybe it takes away from my profit a little bit, but the product outweighs the cost. I have so many amazing candid shots that I wouldn’t otherwise have if it weren't for renting that lens. I have no doubt in my mind that those photos will pay off and my $99 rental investment will bring me more weddings in the future.

3.) Planning For Wind

This won’t apply to everyone, but if you are shooting outside with any type of off-camera lighting, you will want to give this some thought. The last thing you need is an umbrella to catch some wind and send your lighting equipment flying. If you bring a second shooter, you can have them hold the lighting or put a foot down on the stand. However, not all of us bring second shooters or need them for specific events. Bringing a little bit of rope or a small sandbag can save your equipment and help you keep your off-camera lighting sturdy under windy conditions.

4.) Pace

Be prepared to move. I always seem to forget how fast-paced the wedding environment is. Every wedding is different and it depends on the bride and groom, and location and size of the wedding, but in my experience time is crucial. Even if I am provided with a shot list or schedule of events, things rarely go according to plans. Between getting ready, greeting friends, and emotions, the bride and groom are very busy. I never seem to get as much time with them as I would like so it is very important that you are ready to move at all times and make the most of every second you have with the bride and groom.

5.) Bring Extra SD Cards

In my experience, you can never have enough SD cards. You never know when something could go wrong, and even if you don’t use them it's not like they take up extra space. Most professional grade DSLRs have the ability to take two SD cards. I always use the second card as a copy of the first and shoot until both are full. When they are full, I store them somewhere safe until I have time to load them onto my computer.

6.) Have Fun

Between the months of lead up, preparation, and the actual photography, weddings can be stressful. Remember why you started in the first place. It is a great feeling to provide clients with amazing photos from their special day. While not every wedding is as enjoyable as others, it's not a bad gig. The money can be good, you can be creative with your work, and best of all you get to use a camera! When the stress gets to you, take a minute and remember to have fun.

While photographing weddings can be time-consuming and stressful, capturing someone's emotions and the atmosphere of their big day is a truly rewarding experience. With an open mind and some experience, weddings are a great way to make a living as a photographer. If you are considering photographing a wedding for the first time, don’t be afraid. I’m not saying it should be taken lightly, do your research and make sure you are properly prepared for the event. When the day comes, go forward with confidence, you will need it. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. If you are an experienced wedding photographer, feel free to share any other advice or additional tips you may have below.

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13 Comments

Tony Benher's picture

What strobe is depicted in the gear photo?

Michael Brown's picture

Impact litetrek 4.0

Justin Haugen's picture

I've found it best to take charge of the schedule and make your own version of it geared for photography. Stress to brides how important it is for bridesmaids to be in makeup/hair/dresses by a certain time and how much it will set you back if they are still doing finishing touches when you should be focusing on photos with the bride.

Arrive an hour early, prestage your reception lighting setup, hide all gear.

Michael Brown's picture

I definitely agree. Getting there early is a must, also having directions and a planned route if you are traveling at all during the day is super important. When you make a new version of the schedule do you print copies, have them on your phone/tablet?

Justin Haugen's picture

I make the schedule on Google Docs so I have it with me on my phone and then share the link 2nds & assistants. I make a pdf file that I email to brides with notes on considerations on keeping the bridal prep room clean and to stage the dress and personal effects like flowers/garter/rings on a nice dresser or nightstand. It rarely works, but I like to at least hope the bridesmaids are keeping it in their head that not only is it an area to get ready, but a place to take nice photos. And I remind everyone at the rehearsal, but usually it goes to hell in a handbasket come wedding day no matter how hard I try lol.

Michael Brown's picture

Thanks so much for sharing. I will definitely have to try mentioning that to the bride next time and see if it works.

Jon Barrett's picture

Did you take many instant pics on the Fuji?

Michael Brown's picture

I didn't take any. I just put some film in it and gave it to the Bridal party to play with while they were getting ready. They shot the whole roll and had a good time with it.

Rodolfo Arechiga's picture

Reminds me of my own gear and setup. I replaced my D200 with a D7000 and now have upgraded my D7000 with a D810. I still shoot with my D7000 but much less for weddings. Which 11-16mm are you using? I own the Tokina 11-16mm f2.8 and love it on my D810 wish it would work on my D7000.

Michael Brown's picture

Nice! I love my D7000. A little weird with the autofocus but a great second camera for sure. I use the older Tokina 11-16 f2.8. Which is also one of my favorites for shooting night skies!

Kirk Willcox's picture

I can relate to number 3 (the wind). The last wedding i did i put an umbrella on my profoto gear and it went flying. Thankfully we were on a beach so it wasnt very crowded at the time. I ended up deciding to just use the profoto light without anything and granted the light wasnt as soft but it was still fine.

Michael Brown's picture

Nothing worse than when you see your equipment start to go flying. Definitely makes your heart stop for a second.

In my experience I found that your 1st, 2nd and 5th point is more crucial to show as professional. Lots of HOMEWORK is needed which I found missing above. Homework on understanding the equipments and techniques we can implement for this event. Some sample images of TOP 10 photographers in our favourite list which are going to be implemented in this event.. etc....