Thinking about putting your camera chops toward wedding photography? It is one of the most stressful and demanding genres to shoot, but as challenging as it can be, it’s incredibly rewarding.
Whether you’ve already shot a wedding (or three) and are looking to improve your work, or are debating dipping your toes in the water, we’re here to help you take your work to a whole new level with wedding photography tips for newbies and pros, alike.
Understand the business side of things
One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a photographer is to go into wedding photography without a solid business plan. First and foremost, no matter how close you are to the bride and groom, have a contract ready to sign. One of the most simple solutions is to use a service like Agree.com, which is an online platform designed specifically to handle the contracts and release forms photographers use. You can use the basic boiler plates for simplicity or customize the various stipulations within the contract to fit your needs.
Having a signed contract ensures you and the couple are protected in the event something doesn’t go as planned. It doesn’t take much Googling to see numerous examples of photographers and couples clash legally because of a miscommunication that wasn’t backed up in writing.
Payment is another thing to keep in mind. It’s easy enough if your fee is going to be paid via cash or check. But if it’s going to be paid online or via credit/debit card, make sure you have the appropriate accounts set up through your payment provider. Keep in mind you’ll also want to set aside some of your income when tax time comes around, as you’ll likely have to pay income tax plus self-employment tax, depending on the state you’re in.
Know every piece of your gear
There’s no such thing as knowing too much about your equipment. The better you understand what lenses are best suited for indoors compared to outdoors, and the more knowledgeable you are with your camera’s menu system, the easier your shoot will be. To get a quick rundown on the basics of photography, check out our comprehensive Photography 101 guide if you’re a newbie, which breaks down the basics to getting the best exposure. Once you understand the underlying fundamentals, get to the point where you can change your camera settings on the fly without moving your eye from the viewfinder. Practice, and make it second nature.
Some cameras nowadays offer silent shooting modes, employing an electronic shutter instead of a mechanical one. If your camera has this, enable it when shooting a wedding. Although it isn’t the end of the world if your camera doesn’t have this feature, the less clacking of the shutter during the ceremony, the better.
While on the topic of gear, make sure you have backups. There’s nothing worse than ruining someone’s special day because you didn’t bring an extra camera body or backup batteries. Have two of everything, or as many as you can afford.
Do your research (for locations and with the couple)
One of the best things you can do to improve your overall experience of shooting a wedding is to do your research, and do it well. From the moment the clients reach out to you, start taking notes on everything.
Take note of the couple’s personalities and be sure to write down any venues and details they mention. After you’ve met with them, use your notes to look up the venues and vendors to learn as much as you can about the environment you’ll be shooting in. Is it mainly indoors? Is there anywhere outside you can take cover if it rains? Where should you place your subject during the golden hour? Google is your friend, but if it’s possible, go so far as to visit the locations and scout out the details.
The more you are prepared, the easier it will be to overcome adversity when, not if, it strikes (because it always does when shooting weddings). If you want a peek behind the scenes, take a look at how a wedding is shot from the photographer’s point of view.
Create a shot list and know it by heart
No matter what your style of wedding photography is, the rule of thumb is that you will always have a set collection of shots that clients want: shots of the rings, a photo of the bride’s bouquet, a shot of the families, a shot with the respective wedding parties, and so on.
To ensure you don’t miss any shots, the best thing you can do is to create a shot list and memorize it. If you don’t know where to even begin, don’t worry. A quick Google search will yield you hundreds of lists created by other photographers that you can tweak to fit your needs/desires. One of the most comprehensive shot lists is one shared on Martha Stewart’s Wedding website.
If you don’t think you can remember them all, or want a backup just in case, it’s a good practice to go ahead and print off a copy of the list to take with you to the wedding. Keep it in your bag (or save it on your phone).