Best Wedding Photography Tips For Beginners
You just booked your first wedding.
Maybe you’re feeling a little nervous – worried about lighting the reception, posing a slightly-awkward couple, or choosing the right lens for the ceremony.
We’re not going to help you with any of that. Time, experience, and experimentation will earn you your style and technique.
To rock your first wedding, there’s one thing you must do: prepare for chaos. These wedding photography tips for beginners will help you do just that!
Tip #1: Make It Legal
One of the biggest beginner mistakes a photographer can make when photographing weddings is not having a signed contract. When you have a legally binding contract, it sets an agreement between you and the client.
When your client signs a contract, it means they agree with your role and responsibilities for the wedding. The contract clearly states your tasks and what your clients will receive. It serves as a protection to both parties, especially since there’s money involved.
If you haven’t already, make your booking legit with a signed contract and paid retainer. You can do both through ShootProof, using an attorney-drafted contract template from ShootProof’s Marketplace and the Invoices feature.
If you’ve already collected a signed contract and retainer: congratulations! Level up!
Tip #2: Keep Your Lines of Communication Open
Behind every scheduled wedding photography shoot is a series of inquiries, bookings, and payment discussions. It all starts with effective communication so that you can do all the necessary preparations and set expectations with the client. Make sure that clients have a way to contact you; may it be through phone, email, or social media.
When you’re just starting out, it can feel scary replying to messages. There are cases when the client won’t respond right away, which might make you nervous that you said something wrong.
Don’t worry, this is normal. Remember, your couples are in the middle of planning a wedding, so they have a lot going on! Even though they might take awhile to reply to you, it’s important that you focus on answering them as quickly as possible. The better the experience you provide them throughout the process, the more likely they are to refer you to friends!
Send a Questionnaire
Leading up to the wedding, send your couple a detailed questionnaire asking questions to help you fully understand what will be happening on their wedding day. Make sure you know exactly what time coverage begins, the locations you need to be throughout the day, the names of important family members and those in the wedding party, any specific images your client envisioned, and when coverage ends.
Additionally, use questionnaires to learn more about your couple. Find out where they met, their proposal story, and why they chose their specific wedding venue. All of these unique details are great to use when creating a blog post after the event!
Set Up a Meeting
About 2-3 weeks out from the wedding, set up a meeting to connect with your couple. This can either be done in person or on a FaceTime call, depending on what’s most convenient for them and you.
It’s great to actually have face-to-face time with your client before the big day, especially if you didn’t do an engagement shoot with them. This gives you an opportunity to review the timeline in person, ask them any last minute questions, and help relieve any nerves they might have.
Tip #3: Cooperate With Other Vendors
Other wedding vendors are going to be your best partners at the event. They can either make the job easier or harder, so it’s important that you treat them with respect throughout the entirety of the event. After the event, you can continue building a relationship with them for future weddings!
Tip #4: Hire An Assistant
No, not a second shooter (though you may have one of those, too). Hire an assistant.
Your photo assistant can:
- Carry and/or guard your gear
- Help set up equipment if you’re using lights or tripods
- Smooth trains, fluff hair, and re-pin boutonnieres
- Bring you a bottle of water so you don’t pass out
Tip #5: Prepare Your Emergency Kit
An emergency kit can help streamline the photography process and enhance your clients’ experience!
Larger emergency kits may contain rain ponchos, first aid kits, bug spray, crochet needles (for dress buttons), makeup basics, spare bow ties, lighters, a list of emergency phone numbers (backup vendors and photographers), and more. Your imagination is the limit!
Don’t overburden yourself but pack what makes you feel prepared and comfortable. Your assistant can help you manage this extra bag!
Sidelight for males works well
Men look great when lit from the side, even if the light is harsh. An easy way to accomplish this is to find a window with light streaming through it, then expose for the highlights.
When I’ve found an interesting composition with my camera settings dialed in, I’ll get the groom in place, and either get them to look out the window, or if the sun is too harsh, fiddle with their pocket square, watch, or whatever else that feels natural to them.
Try the Gangta-Groomsmen* shot
Similar to the tip above, I’ll take the groomsmen into the harsh morning light and position them all so that the sun is hitting part of their face.
Then it’s just a case of underexposing so the highlights are preserved and the shadows are black, and instructing the groomsmen to pretend they’re bouncers on a nightclub door!
This is also a handy way to disguise whatever ugly background they’re standing near, since everything without the sun hitting it falls into complete darkness.
Get the groom used to your proximity
This applies to the bride as well, but if you’re an up-close-and-personal photographer with your 35mm or 24mm lens, it’s good to get the client used to your proximity nice and early.
Since grooms won’t be sitting still having make up applied, it can feel awkward for you when you try to get really close to him for the shot.
Just like you did with the bride, you can explain that “often I won’t even be photographing you, but rather, I’ll be shooting the person in the background.”
When the groom is used to you being close, the rest of the day will pass much more comfortably for both you and him, and you’ll be able to get those candid, real moments you’re aiming for.
Buffer Your Schedule
Falling behind with your schedule is very detrimental on how many images you may receive. As you can imagine, delays can be stressful and won’t be very fun. There will always be something that will come up that will cause you to rearrange your plans. If you allot additional time creating the schedule for your day, you’ll be in a much better place when the unforeseen happens. Hair and Make-up are notorious for consuming more time than planned. Additionally, some tasks that may seem small could potentially take much longer than anticipated. Late bridal party members, late flowers, someone forgetting something, etc can all cause the schedule to come to a pause.
Time and time again the biggest hang-up we see is couples beginning to get ready far later than they need to be. Prepare for the unexpected by allowing yourself extra time for your wedding day. The earlier that you are dressed and ready to go, the more photographs can be taken. There is a dramatic difference in the amount of portrait photographs that you’ll receive between couples who begin photos early and those who schedule with just a minimum amount of time.
Start your wedding day early. Just do it. You’ll be more relaxed, you’ll remember more, you’ll enjoy yourself, and it’ll counter any schedule issues that may arise. If you end up having extra time, kick back with your bridal party over some champagne. Beginning your day early
HAVE A ‘FIRST LOOK’
We love first looks because they’re incredibly intimate and special, allowing the couple a few moments alone with each other in an otherwise crowded and busy day. First looks typically happen in a quiet area, away from guests, bridal party members, and family. We set up the groom facing away from the bride. We then have the bride approach him from behind and tap on the shoulder. It always provides a great moment between the couple.
The First Look is by far the best way to leverage time for your wedding day. Scheduling one earlier in the day will allow for freedom for you and your photographer to grab many of the portrait shots that traditionally occur after the ceremony. The last big plus for a first look is that you’ll be able to transition from the ceremony to reception quickly, preventing the guests from having to wait around too long for the bride and groom to be introduced. We do, however, recommend a quick 10-30 min shoot with just the couple between the ceremony and reception.
Schedule For The Best Light
Good light is a photographer’s best friend. To make the most of your bridal photos, schedule the time for couple portraits within the golden hour. This is the hour before sunset and it provides gorgeous, warm, and flattering light. Typically, the best time to schedule this is between the ceremony and your reception entrance.
In contrast, scheduling your portraits around noon is far more difficult for your photographer to create beautiful imagery. Harsh, mid-day sun creates heavy shadows, and since during noon the sun is directly above us, it creates raccoon-eye shadows which are unflattering. If you absolutely must schedule your portraits around noon, ensure that there a fair amount of even shade available for your photographer to work in.
Choose A Great Location / Venue
When selecting your ceremony and reception location try to keep an eye out for the photographic potential of the venue. A good photographer will be able to give you amazing images anywhere, but a sexy venue that fits your personality will be icing on the cake. Do a bit of research on venues you’re looking to book. Preview other photographers’ works who’ve shot there and see if the images they created are in line of what you’re looking to receive from your photographer. Additionally, look for variance in your venue. If portions of the venue differ from others, for example, one area of the venue is classy and elegant, where outside on a wall it might be a really great textured brick, that will provide you with a great variety in the images you receive.
Have An Engagement Session
Other than receiving great engagement photos, an engagement session acts as bonding between the photographer and the couple. The photographer gets a chance to see the couple’s personality and how they react in front of the camera. The couple can experience how it is to be photographed together and to become comfortable being photographed. Think of engagement sessions as practice for the wedding day.
If you’re unable to have an engagement session or simply do not wish to have one, I would strongly recommend that the two of you meet up with your photographer in some other way to become familiar – an example could be having dinner together. The more you know your photographer, the more relaxed you’ll be during the wedding.