An old high school friend commissioned me to photograph his wedding. He was confident that he’d be pleased with my work and I knew working for him would be the most comfortable first wedding job I could get.
I have shot at weddings before mostly as a guest. There was one wedding where I was one of the two principal photographers but it was an extremely informal wedding.
Here are a few lessons I learned on the day:
A step ladder is an essential item for a photographer
I didn’t have one and I could have gotten some pretty nice group shots with one. Also I could have used on in the back of the church and during the well wishing. It was really hard taking shots of the hugs when people were inadvertently blocking my view. The group shots I got were the typical side by side style. In hindsight I wish I had brought a ladder so that I could take the shot from above the group while having the people in the group bunch together in a more round configuration.
I can understand not being allowed to take a big, ugly step ladder into the church but I could at least have a little black box to stand on.
Use shutter priority and Bracket Bracket Bracket!
I was using aperture priority in the church and I wasn’t bracketing my shots. The majority of shots were sharp and within acceptable exposure limits but there were many shots that would have been 5 star shots had they been exposed properly and/or not blurry. Because I was in aperture priority mode the shutter speeds were getting quite low at points despite having the f/2.8 lenses.
If I had used shutter priority, I could have set the maximum shutter speed to 1/50 (the 70-200 is an IS lens) and let the camera choose the aperture. If the scene was just too dark to shoot at the chosen shutter speed the camera wouldn’t shoot which tells me that the scene is took dark. At that point I could reduce shift the exposure compensation to the left to force the camera to shoot or just give up on the shot … it’s too dark, it’ll be a wasted shot!
Bracketing would have been good too. I would have 1/3 the shots per memory card but I’d at least be covered!
Have business cards on you
I was asked a few times for business cards and I just don’t have them yet. They said they’d ask the groom afterwards but they’re less likely to do that than see my card in their wallet and call. I think having business cards is a must for any sold trader anyway. It communicates that you’re serious about your business and that you’re not just a guy with a camera.
If the room lets you bounce flash then bloody bounce flash!
During the reception I used an inflatable soft box on my flash gun. While it does diffuse the light it still shoots light straight at the subject. Bouncing the flash off the ceiling makes the subject’s illumination much more even and appealing. Bouncing did work in that room as it was quite small but I still decided to use my soft box anyway.
Using the soft box should be a last resort. I should only use it if the room is so big that I can’t bounce flash off the walls and ceiling when taking head shots of the guests.
Another idea would be to buy an ETTL sync cord and have an assistant hold my 580EX to the side with one of my shoot through umbrellas I own. The ETTL cord will allow the 580EX to automatically set the power of the flash. I could also extend the flash bracket that came with the strobist kit I bought so that it holds the flash a little further away than it does already.
Organise the participants more
I always knew that a wedding photographer had to be the defacto coordinator of the day but I really had to step up the bossiness that day. I was at the bride’s and bride’s maids house taking pictures when they finally went upstairs to get the dresses on. I told them that I’ll let them be until they were dressed and asked them to let me know when they were. I wanted to ease off the pressure on them a little so that they’d relax. Big mistake! The bride’s mother found me and said “Come on lazy, get up there and get them ready!”. I suddenly realised that I had let 15 minutes pass with no word from the bride or the bride’s maids! I went upstairs and told them they had 5 minutes to get their dresses on so that we could take the final shots and get to the church. I should have done that 10 minutes earlier!
After the ceremony the mother of the groom asked me where they should do the group photos and I said “Where ever you want”. She looked at me the way she used to look at me when I was a child and had done something wrong, she’s a school teacher so she can be quite stern! I realised then that I needed to take charge again. I said “ok let’s do it out here on the grass, not facing the setting sun. After that I did throw my weight around, politely, for the rest of the day so I could get the group shots done.
It was 37 degrees Celsius that day and I haven’t been drinking much water lately. I drank a few bottles of water in the morning and took some water with me. You definitely don’t want to pass out while you’re shooting a wedding!
Synchronise the times on all cameras
I like to shoot with two camera bodies with a different lens on each. I’ll sling a camera over each shoulder and switch cameras whenever I want wide shot or a telelphoto shot. I did this at wedding.
When I transferred the photos to my laptop and I found that I couldn’t rely on the file names, of course, because the two cameras have different shutter counts! I sorted by capture time but the cameras didn’t have the exact same date and times set so the photos were not in order between the two.
Here are some shots from the day: