Help an amateur take some great wedding photos!
April 28, 2008 5:45 PM   Subscribe

My friend asked me to be the photographer for his wedding (which pleased me a lot!). As an enthusiastic amateur, what should I know about wedding photography? What photos shouldn't I miss?

I plan to turn up early in the morning when everyone is getting ready and take photos thorugh to the end of the day. Obviously I need shots of the ceremony, shots of the people attending, shots of the happy couple dressed in their finery. I'd also like to make the photo set more interesting than standard snaps. What interesting or unusual wedding photographs have you seen? What should I know about wedding photography?

Thanks in advance!
posted by tomble to Media & Arts (31 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Sorry to be a buzzkill, as I'm sure you and your friend have the best intentions, but do not do this unless both of you really want this to happen, and you have worked it all out in advance.

I have many friends who are photographers, videographers, cake decorators, djs, etc. Years ago I watched them all volunteer work each others weddings. After seeing what they ALL went through, I would never in a million years place that responsibility on any one of my friends–especially on the most memorable day of my life, one where I'd love nothing more but to be happy, relaxed, and surrounded by the stress-free comfort of their company.

That said, a couple of things to think about:
1. This could be a very stressful endeavor for you.
2. This could be a very stressful endeavor for your friend.
3. You will miss the wedding.
4. And the reception.
5. Work with your friend and prepare a shot list. Even if you agree on the shot list, getting everyone together to cooperate for group photographs before heading to the reception is a nightmare. And you will feel rushed and confused.
6. There is a lot more post-wedding photography processing than you realize.
7. These photos represent memories for life. If they don't...If there aren't...If something...If...(feel free to finish this sentence however you see fit.
8. Good luck to you!

Again, sorry to be a buzzkill. Truly.

(Why did your friend ask you to do this? just curious.)
posted by iamkimiam at 5:57 PM on April 28, 2008 [4 favorites]

Best answer: A wealth of information is in this previous ask.mefi thread.

Should I get a friend to photograph my wedding? from a professional wedding photographer.

21 Tips for amateur wedding photographers. I found this list along with a whole bunch more just by Googling for "amateur wedding photography."

Also, have you already talked to your friends about what they want? That should come first!
posted by kathryn at 6:04 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Turn up a day or week early, take example pictures at the same time he's going to saying "I do". Tweak the camera settings until you're getting the perfectly exposed picture, write down those times.

Also, take pictures throughout the day, again, get good exposures and write down the settings. If you have one per hour or so, you can quickly get the right settings, indoor and outdoor for the perfect picture.

Plan out the best places to take the group photos, again, at near the correct times, write down the settings for the best picture, you don't want to be moving people back and forth because you didn't notice where the garbage bins were. Remember the weather might suck, so have places planned out that you can use for that. Bad weather will affect the lighting too, so try and plan how much it will.

Take far too many pictures.
posted by Static Vagabond at 6:17 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'd have to "ditto" iamkimiam - I've been asked a few times by friends (am an enthusiastic amateur, like you) and have said oh, heck no! Too much pressure - what if I run the whole day at ISO 1600 without noticing? Etc? :)

That said, here's a useful link, hopefully: Your Best Friend's Wedding.
posted by twiki at 6:28 PM on April 28, 2008

Best answer: My wedding photos were taken by an amateur but excellent photographer, and I gave her a list of people I didn't want her to miss getting shots of (like my three-year-old niece and my grandparents). You might want to ask your friends if there's anybody who isn't in the wedding party (who you'll already be getting shots of, assuming you do a formal photo session after the ceremony) who they especially want pictures of.

Remember to get a good shot of the cake and the bridal bouquet. One of the photos I really liked that my friend took was one of us holding hands - just our hands, showing the rings. If they do a receiving line, that's a really great time to get shots of their guests interacting with them. Shots of family members or friends doing the bride's makeup or hair can also be really neat.

If you have a camera that will take a bunch of shots in a row (on my camera this is the "burst" feature), do that for the bouquet being thrown (and maybe for some of the dancing - I have seen really fabulous sequences taken of the father-daughter dance). You can get some really great sequences as everybody dives for the bouquet (or, in the case of my wedding, leans away from it in horror).

If you take photos after the ceremony in a park, make sure people don't appear to have trees growing out of their heads.

For ideas, maybe troll through flickr and see what people have done that you like. Here are some I like: getting ready, beach wedding, flowers, flower girl, feet, bored children, in the mirror, guests in shot, garter, child with camera.
posted by joannemerriam at 6:37 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: what should I know about wedding photography?
  1. It's really hard,
  2. it can destroy your friendship,
  3. even if you warn them first,
  4. you don't want to fuck it up,
  5. it's not for amateurs,
  6. it's really hard,
  7. everybody thinks they can do it they just need the right flash and a zoom lens maybe?,
  8. the couple are really just looking to save cash,
  9. they don't realise how hard it is (it's really hard),
  10. there's a reason the pros are expensive,
  11. it'll ruin the day for you,
  12. and if you need to ask this, you shouldn't do it
(Sorry to be a buzzkill, but really, make sure the couple know there is a strong possibility of no photos or crap ones)
posted by bonaldi at 6:38 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My parents had a friend photograph their wedding. My dad tells me that it was a mistake, they just should have hired a real photographer. So, think of it that way- they're going to be looking at those photos for the rest of their lives and thinking "maybe we shouldn't have gotten tomble to do this," because no matter how good you are, you're not a professional wedding photographer.

Maybe you could hire a professional photographer as your present to them. I bet they'd really appreciate it.
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:59 PM on April 28, 2008

Best answer: Massive list of all potential wedding poses given to me by a photographer. You may want to work your way down a list like this with the bride & groom beforehand.

I plan to turn up early in the morning when everyone is getting ready and take photos thorugh to the end of the day.
No way. You should be there during the rehearsal so that on the day of the wedding you will have rehearsed all the shots you and the couple want. Ideally have a laptop there so you can review your shots during the rehearsal to identify potential lighting/metering/background problems on the spot.
posted by junesix at 7:03 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: (Why did your friend ask you to do this? just curious.)

He asked me because he likes my photography, and thought I'd be able and happy to do it.

They're keeping to a budget, and there are no bridezilla issues here. Knowing my friend as well as I do, I know he's not expecting me to spend the whole day running around and then come up with a commercial quality set of photos - they just want to document the day.

Thanks to the posters who are saying `be wary', it's all good input. Some great links above!
posted by tomble at 7:10 PM on April 28, 2008

Response by poster: junesix - that list is great! double best for that!
posted by tomble at 7:12 PM on April 28, 2008

Best answer: One of the things that's a hit at the weddings on my husband's side is family pictures. These really have nothing to do with the wedding itself, however, since everyone's together it's a great opportunity to take a big picture of the whole extended family. You will probably need a decent wide-angle lens to fit everyone into the frame.

Also, everyone loves pictures of little kids on the dance floor.

Do not depend on the flash from your camera for lighting in dim situations. Flashes are NOT flattering.
posted by Ostara at 7:15 PM on April 28, 2008

Best answer: Regarding no-flash, I would like to add that what I've done in low light situations where the flash is unflattering is to set my camera to high speed mode (so it rapid fires) and then you're likely to get a few that are not blurred. For example, in my recent set of bar shots taken for a friend playing music, I had some great shots.. but it was less than 10% of my total shots. Take them in RAW if you're nervous and do your post-processing in photoshop.
Good luck!
posted by mcarthey at 7:30 PM on April 28, 2008

Given the above advice-- how about you just hire a pro photographer as your wedding present to them?

That way they can still be "your" pictures (but not really). Take some on your own if you want too, but make sure the pro is there just-in-case of all the stuff everyone has said.
posted by ®@ at 7:43 PM on April 28, 2008

Best answer: beware of compulsive posers: in the presence of a camera, groups of people often immediately put their arms around each other, look at the camera and smile. it can be a lovely picture once or twice, but you'll be amazed at how un-lovely it becomes after 50 or 60 shots. you might need to sneak around and be a ninja photographer to get them, but candids are important and are much more fun to look at.
a good way to keep this from becoming a stressful day for you would be to simply establish with your friend that you're just going to be a friend with a camera. you're going to document the day, but you're not going to behave like a traditional wedding photographer. you want to do all the things you'd do at a wedding (drink, eat, drink, dance, drink, take your shoes off, dance, etc) but you're going to do them with a camera frequently attached to your eye. it's ok, it'll be fun. maybe turn on the old autofocus after 10pm or so.
posted by pieliza at 7:56 PM on April 28, 2008

Best answer: I recently saw a thank you note from a wedding with a picture of the couple at the alter holding a nice "Thank You" sign included. I thought it was a nice touch.

We had no official photographer at our wedding, but we have hundreds of good pictures out of about 800 taken by friends and family. Just take lots of pictures, and it wouldn't hurt to have a backup camera.
posted by Yorrick at 8:06 PM on April 28, 2008

I have two weddings booked this summer at $2500 a piece, and will be looking for more. It's a lot of money but after doing a couple for friends last summer for really cheap, I realize part of the reason photographers charge so much. If you are doing your job, you are not able to enjoy the wedding at all. You won't be able to have more than a drink or so. You won't be able to socialize. You won't be able to listen to the ceremony or pay attention to anything. You will be running around. You will be crouching. You will be in front of the crowd the whole time. You will feel foolish.

If it's sunny, you will be hot. You will sweat. If it's very bright and sunny out, the lighting will be really hard, and you will be stressed.

The good points are that if you do this and a couple more and get good pictures, you might start doing them for money. And you can charge a crapload if you are good.

If you are working indoors, you are most likely going to have to learn to use flash. If you don't know yet, this is going to be a problem. Depending on the space, it's almost impossible not to use flash. It's a matter of knowing it well enough so it doesn't seem obvious that you have.

Good luck to you, either way.
posted by sully75 at 8:07 PM on April 28, 2008

Best answer: Oh and I remembered this article from a while back about creating shapes with bokeh/aperture flare. I always thought this would be pretty cool to do in a wedding photo in the "fun and unique" category. Like everything else, practice before you try it on the real thing.
posted by junesix at 9:46 PM on April 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm actually the groom for the first linked ask and I just wanted to chime in that a lot of people here and in that thread will say things more or less along the lines of: "Run forever, bridezilla will destroy you!" For what it is worth, 0xFCAF and I are still on great terms and some of his shots turned our really great.

It ended up that we had 4 people taking photos with non point and shoot cameras (two who I would say had about a year or two of semi-pro experience, one who had taken a class in college and shot for maybe a year before the wedding and 0xFCAF who had two months of experience). Some of the shots from the wedding are in a set in flickr. Hopefully 0xFCAF can chime in with some ideas.

Maybe the people who say "this is going to destroy your friendship" raise an important issue, but as the groom who made this same ask to 0xFCAF (after talking it over with the bride) of course, I wouldn't be worried if you have a good read on the situation. Maybe we had safety in numbers but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.

Also, one of the photographers ended up using iPhoto to make a little photo album of the day which was really nice but it's totally something the married couple can do on their own, my wife and I were happy with just getting RAW files and working from there.
posted by mge at 11:08 PM on April 28, 2008

Response by poster: a good way to keep this from becoming a stressful day for you would be to simply establish with your friend that you're just going to be a friend with a camera

That's pretty much the idea, the exception being I get a bit more access to `behind the scenes'.

These are all great!
posted by tomble at 12:10 AM on April 29, 2008

Best answer: I agree with all of the buzzkill answers above.

However, if you insist on doing this, make sure you have a complete set of backup equipment which has the same level of quality and functionality as your primary equipment. Have more batteries and cards than you expect to need.

People like you do this kind of thing every day, and meet with relative success many times.

The rest of the times, friendships are destroyed.
posted by imjustsaying at 2:27 AM on April 29, 2008

Best answer: I have done exactly as you propose to do twice, once for a friend and again for my sister-in-law. In the friends case it was a pretty low-budget affair and so hiring a professional was not an option; in the case of my sister-in law, they were simply not that interested in top notch photos and wanted some snapshots to preserve the day; when I suggested hiring a pro as my wedding gift to them she said "oh, thats okay. I'll just put out some disposable cameras for the guests to take pictures with". I figured I could at least top that level of quality. So some people just aren't that concerned about their wedding pictures and will be happy with almost anything. Having said that, make sure the bride is 100% on board with this plan; she is the most important person for you to make happy and if she is even slightly reluctant to have an amateur shoot her big day then bail out in favor of a pro. Backup equipment is key; I used the first wedding I shot as an excuse to go out and buy a Canon 5D and relegate my 20D to backup status. For the friends wedding I also brought along my old Nikon coolpix 5700 as a third backup; and of course the ccd died on the Nikon, rendering all of its pics unusable (but there were plenty from the other two cameras). There is some great advice in this and the other askme thread, but I found this thread at very helpful. A lot of people talk about how stressful wedding photography is, but the people I dealt with were all low-key and good natured enough that I was not stressed at all. Then again, I occasionally have to do CPR on children as part of my job, so what I consider stressful might be a little different than most people. In both cases the wedding party was happy with the pictures, even though I thought they were pretty mundane. So it can be done successfully, but there are a lot of potential pitfalls to avoid. I definitely would not want to do this on a regular basis, as not everyone is as easygoing as the people I took pictures for and it is a lot more work than you anticipate; I took something like 1200+ shots per wedding which from what I have read from pros may actually be on the low end. If you want to see how the pictures I took for my sister in law turned out, I put them on the web here so I wouldn't have to email a ton of pictures to all the people who asked for them. I know they aren't particularly impressive, but the bride and groom were happy with them.
posted by TedW at 5:47 AM on April 29, 2008

Best answer: Your best resource is from Over 20 pro-wedding fotogs wrote a tutorial from start to finish and it rocks.
posted by damiano99 at 6:45 AM on April 29, 2008

Best answer: I have photographed some of my my friends' weddings.

Equally, I have knocked one friend back, and have a couple of other friends whom I expect will ask me to shoot their weddings should they decide to get married, but whom I will firmly but politely refuse.

My advice for things to consider before you say 'yes':
* Have the bride and groom seen many of your photos? Are they judging your talents on the basis of one prized photo of a sunset hanging in your loungeroom?
* Do you know both the bride and groom sufficiently well to judge their expectations independently of what they actually tell you? (I only ever agree on the basis that I will take photos in my own style, which is not 'formal wedding'. To date, everybody has always said 'that's fine', but in one instance I took an educated guess and chose not to believe them, and I have a couple of other friends who would fall into the same boat.)
* Do you know how to operate your gear sufficiently well in all conditions (inside and out, in bright sunshine and in a dark room with a very high ceiling, in a church when the priest tells you immediately before the ceremony that no flash is to be used) that you won't be trying to remember how to do it on the day? You won't have the time, nor the mental energy, to experiment on the day.
* Do you have a backup for every piece of equipment you'll need?
* Assuming you have a DSLR — and if you don't you're either so good none of this applies to you, or you should be running already — do you have two or more lenses? Then you really want to have two cameras, anyway, so that you can go wide or tele in an instant — you don't want to be changing lenses mid-ceremony. (On that basis I probably should have three bodies and four lenses to meet my point about backups, but I don't...)
* Will you feel like you are missing out on the fun? (personally I'm not a 'wedding person', so it's no great hardship)

One final point. I used to flatchat refuse, although I'd always take my camera along. I'd give my friends a CD of the photos, and in a number of instances the albums that they put together would contain more of my photos than the professional photographer's. I'm not big-noting myself here — I had an advantage over the pros: whilst they were taking the mandatory staged shots of the bridal party I had far more time to take candid, 'photo-journalist'-style photos of all the guests, and of the bridal party members when they had let their guard down, so to speak. In my experience these photos are valued because:
a) the couple have a pretty complete record far of who was there on the day (I aim to get at least one photo of everyone, although I doubt I ever have)
b) the photos look far more natural and spontaneous than the shots when the subjects were conscious of the lens being pointed at them (how many brides and grooms are professional models, who can look relaxed when a professional photographer is directing them how to stand and where to look?)

Of course when you are the designated photographer getting those shots as well as the traditional photos becomes much harder. But no less important, in my view. So if you follow this advice then don't think you'll get more than a few moments when you're not holding a camera and looking for the next opportunity ...
posted by puffmoike at 7:28 AM on April 29, 2008

Best answer: And whilst trying to keep things nice, and with no disrespect intended ...

Have you got friends that you find you take lots of pictures of, because the 'camera loves them', and others that you don't?

I hope I never become famous, and find my nom-de-plume Googled, but ...

At one wedding of a not-particularly-close friend I had never met the bridesmaids before. Arrived at the bride's home to find they were both of quite considerable girth, and dressed in unflattering dresses in a colour which screamed 'look at me!'. My stress levels went up considerably, and I ended up processing far more than my usual number of photos as black and whites ...

And more generally have you got the people skills to help people relax? I'm happy to admit it's not my strong suit, whm I'd like to think I am a better photographer than, all things considered. But at some weddings I've wished he was holding the camera instead of me, such is his ability to effortlessly put people at ease.
posted by puffmoike at 7:41 AM on April 29, 2008

Oops. Last paragraph should have read:

And more generally have you got the people skills to help people relax? I'm happy to admit it's not my strong suit, which may go some way to explaining my preference for photo journalistic-style photography. I have a friend whom I'd like to think I am a better photographer than, all things considered. But at some weddings I've wished he was holding the camera instead of me, such is his ability to effortlessly put people at ease.
posted by puffmoike at 7:44 AM on April 29, 2008

Best answer: Bring backup equipment; extra camera body if you can get it, one or two compact cameras if you can't. Bring a flash or two, check that you have two of everything you use that it all works. (flash cables do actually break) Extra batteries, extra shutter release if you're using those. Gaffer tape for your tripod that will break, and a monopod for the indoor spaces too tight and too dark. Make sure you know how to operate everything (i.e. don't count on setting up remote flash groups if you just bought three SB800 flashes the day before)

Treat is as seriously as you would a professional gig, if not more so since your friend will get pissed off no matter how relaxed he might seem now if you run out of CF cards.

If you have an assistant, or if you'll be able to ask people at the wedding to help out, bring a reflector - white on one side, silver or very slight gold on the other. Or bring a stand for the reflector, and some sandbags to hold that windtrap still it it's windy. Be sure that you have a place to set up and doodle with your stuff; sandproof, waterproof, childproof, foodproof.

Scout the shots beforehand. Be commanding if there is a shot that you've planned but find people too giddy to obey. Practice giving orders with a herd of cats so that you won't get frustrated with people.

Mark your CF/SD-cards clearly and have enough so that you don't need to back them up during the day - less chance of erasing something.

Other than that, don't get too drunk. And bring plenty of backup equipment.
posted by monocultured at 8:15 AM on April 29, 2008

Best answer: Ignore the buzzkillers. Well, actually, accept the wisdom of what they say and understand that it probably doesn't apply to your case.

Many people like super-slick wedding photographs. That's fine. But many other people prefer human, intimate photographs and (whether they have really articulated it, even to themselves, or not) they believe that a friend, with a certain minimum of technical facility, is more apt to get the photos that they want than is an intruding, fussy, expensive, stranger.

Of course, an EXCELLENT wedding photographer won't seem fussy or intruding, but they would be 3x as expensive, but that isn't the point.

Anyway, assuming you have some mastery of your camera, and your friends understand that they will NOT be getting "Vogue Wedding" style pictures, you should be fine.

I've been on both sides of this, as the groom and as the photographer, and everyone has been happy. It was a TON of work, but worth it. In every case though, post-production took a long, long time, so make sure to either be better about it or set proper expectations.

A few practical tips: get an assistant. Someone to help wrangle, especially if you are doing posed shots. Shoot way more than you think you need. Way more. Get an external flash and figure it out before the wedding. Look at for technical info, but I imagine if you try for specific advice you'll be roundly dissuaded. Plan ahead of time, with bride and groom, the pictures they really want. Spend all the time you can on getting a good shot of the happy couple. That and a some good action shots and they'll be happy.


And good luck.
posted by dirtdirt at 2:43 PM on April 29, 2008

Best answer: Everything I'm about to say has been said above in various ways, just consider this confirmation of their very helpful advice.

As someone who has done several weddings, I recommend the following:

1. Never, ever, try to shoot any assignment with new equipment. It may seem like a hot idea to rent out a really nice camera on the day of the shoot, but YOU WILL MESS IT UP. Always shoot with equipment that you are intimately familiar with. If you bought that D80 in the last three months, go out every single night between now and the wedding and shoot at least 50 frames of *anything*, using every mode you've got on the dial. When you're done reading this post, go out and do it.

2. Your equipment will fail you, in some way. I've learned this one the hard way too many times. You might get dust on the sensor five minutes before the ceremony, you might drop and crack your favourite portrait lens, your batteries might die. Just last week I was shooting a fashion show and my trusty portable hard drive suddenly decided to stop reading my memory cards for no apparent reason. The next day it worked fine. Something WILL go wrong. Always bring backups of everything. If you don't have access to a second digital body, bring a film one with several rolls of 35mm. Bring an extra flash if you can, bring LOTS of memory. And I mean LOTS. You will need it. Make up a contingency plan for every item so that if it fails, you know what you need to do to work around it.

3. As a corollary to #2, keep lens swapping to a minimum. I make this mistake all of the time, my old D50 got dust on the sensor all of the time, plus it takes your concentration away from the action. Even if you think nothing is going on, something is going on.

4. Shoot in RAW only. Seriously. I'll punch you in the mouth if you shoot in jpeg. You'll thank me later.

5. Learn to quickly switch between your preferred mode (I always preferred Aperture Priority when I was a Nikon shooter) and manual. In most situations, your preferred mode will probably be fine, but you have to learn to recognize those situations where lighting is just weird and it won't meter correctly. Don't feel bad about "aping" it, (Named for how people look while huddled around the LCD) it's important to ensure that you're getting the lighting right.

6. Shoot, shoot, shoot. It can't be stressed enough that you have to take LOTS of shots. Blinking eyes, a tie out of place, stupid expressions, there will always something that will piss you off when you're looking at it in post. Hopefully one out of the ten shots that you took of each pose will turn out exactly as you wanted. If not, Photoshop. On average, for a 10 hour wedding I generally take at least 1000 frames. It doesn't cost you anything to shoot more, except in storage space, so do it.

7. Bring lots of water and some sort of snack, power bars, whatever. You're going to get tired because you're basically going to be doing squats for several hours, and the more breaks you take, the more you're missing. Remember the rule from #3, even if you think nothing is going on, something is going on.

8. Talk to the bride and groom before the wedding, and make a list of the people they want to be in the formal photos. Then ask them again the day of the wedding. Odds are that there will be someone who came to town who wasn't expected and they'll be important.

9. Make a list of the "wedding shots." These include the cake-cutting, the rings, the couple, the parents, and everyone else on that list from #8. Print this out, and don't forget to look at it. It's very easy to overlook one or two of these, but chances are they'll be disappointed if you miss them.

10. This is really a part of #2, but bring lots of batteries. Lots and lots of them. That SB-600 is pretty good on batteries, and I'm sure the D80 is too, but you'll run through one or two sets easily.

11. This should be #1, but I'm just rattling this off so it's not in any particular order. This one is IMPORTANT: Be professional. AT ALL TIMES. I know this is your friend's wedding, but if you want to ever do another, you have to keep the tie on. Keep your language and appearance clean, maintain a calm demeanor even if things are falling around you, and treat everyone with a very high level of respect.

12. Bring business cards. Someone always knows someone who needs a wedding photographer.

13. Always try to shoot at the highest aperture you can get away with. It sucks to get home and realize that the picture you took of the wedding party has only half of the people in focus due to a shallow depth of field. You can still shoot some shallow shots, but you can always add the blur in post. Keep this in mind, but...

14. ...always keep your ISO as low as you can get it. If you're just shooting some atmospherics, go ahead and shoot at 1600, but for the formals and the ceremony, ISO200 or better. When shooting stuff that really matters NEVER use autoISO, you'll get screwed.

15. Shoot EVERYONE. Some wedding couples are not very communicative and they'll forget to mention that Auntie Em over there was the bride's favouritest relative ever, and Auntie Em never gets around to going over and congratulating the young couple. As the photographer you have no way of knowing she's important if no one tells you. Save yourself a lot of grief and just make sure to get at least one picture of everyone that you can.

16. Scout out the venue ahead of time. Decide where you want to do the formals, where you might want to do a funny shot with the groomsmen, etc. Bring a friend and have them pose where you're going to be shooting so you can get some idea of the lighting.

17. Be assertive, especially during the formals. It's easy to be lenient and let others take shots while you're shooting, but don't let it get out of hand. Pretty soon you've got a wedding party that's looking in all different directions, Grandpa Al is bumping your elbows, and you've got somebody's crappy digicam flash in half of the images. Also, don't let your wedding party run amok. If you're getting the formals, tell them where to go. People get bored and they'll wander if you don't tell them somewhat forcefully what they need to do. If they are to be in the next shot, don't let them leave the area. If they're not in this shot, make sure to tell them to get out of the way. (You *really* don't want to end up photoshopping out entire people, it gets very time-consuming.)

18. If you can get someone to assist you, do it. Or enlist a friend who's at the wedding. It's very helpful for setting up the environment and for corraling wedding parties. I don't know what I would do without my assistant, he's saved my ass more times than I can count.

19. If any money is going to change hands, get a contract signed that specifically states your liability. You may be friends now, but a screwed up set of wedding photos can change that a lot faster than you think and you do not want to get sued. As anyone who watches Judge Judy will tell you, if you don't have an agreement down on paper, you're up the creek. Here's a good example of a wedding contract.

20. Don't expect to eat there. It's unprofessional to do so unless specifically invited to do so. Most wedding couples that I've worked with have been kind enough to set a place for me, but don't expect it. Also, don't drink. Period. Don't even have a single beer. It's unprofessional, and you run the risk of getting tipsy and breaking your equipment, just don't do it.

21. Establishing shots are nice. Shoot the venue outside, the entryway, any signage for the wedding, flowers, arches, a wide angle of the reception and ceremony halls. Shoot the food, the cake, the rings, the placeholders, the napkins. I especially like cake toppers.

22. Be creative. Try to get at least a few images from a weird angle, or with strange lighting. Something that catches the eye and makes the couple feel like their wedding wasn't a day like any other. Don't overdo it though, or use it on really important shots as it can easily backfire.

This was said by others, but I want to reiterate it: I seriously recommend steering clear of shooting the weddings of friends. You screw up and not only do you lose money, but you damage your friendship as well. Even if this one goes great, the next one might not. It's just safer to avoid it altogether.

There's probably more, and I'll add them as I think of them, but there's a starter list. Feeling intimidated yet? You should be. Shooting weddings can be a really scary thing, because you are expected to be everywhere at once, catching *everything*. Just relax and focus, and you'll be fine.

Oh, and post a link to your work afterwards, I love looking at pretty pictures!

-Drayke Larson
Photosynthetique Imaging
posted by rez at 8:53 PM on April 29, 2008

Best answer: My advice, resulting from hiring a "newbie" professional at a reasonable rate for my wedding.

1. Really think about the "must-have" shots beforehand. Make a list of these and make absolutely sure you get them. They include: a full-length solo shot of the bride (front and back of dress), shots of the bride and groom--just the two of them (I know this seems obvious, but it got MISSED for my wedding - a constant stream of nieces, grandparents, parents, etc., populated all of our pictures!)

2. Take control. Our photographer wasn't quite yet comfortable with telling people what to do. On my wedding day, the last thing I wanted to do was think about where we should do the next shot and with whom, but I was constantly asked about these things. I want to emphasize this: tell people what to do and where to stand, and check off the important pictures as you get them.
posted by DarkoBeta at 9:28 PM on April 29, 2008

Response by poster: The answers were all gold, thank you all! I will post some links when the pics are taken. Again, my understanding with friends is that it won't be on the level of a professional photographer, the whole affair is not going to be a high level event. I know my friends well enough to know that my competence at photography matches their expectation of the result - i.e. I am an amateur with a reasonably good camera, I will take some pretty nice photos and a bunch of average ones - and with luck a couple of really good ones. :)

I will report in when it's all done!
posted by tomble at 8:09 AM on May 1, 2008

Response by poster: Okay, wedding done and photographed successfully! Here's my followup to this post as an amateur photographer. I spent the morning with the groom, my partner spent the morning with the bride. We both had nice SLRs with flashes (my partner borrowed the one she was using).

I used several lenses and with the telephoto lens was able to get good photos of the bride and groom without walking right up to them. I could also take pictures of people in the crowd without them knowing (more natural expressions).

The wedding was held outside, the sky was overcast so lighting was bright but diffuse (perfect!)

Total number of photos taken by me - 1230, 600 by my partner. The numbers game worked so probably 15% were awful (lighting, experimenting with flash, people blinking etc), 70% were average, 12% were good and 3% were the kind that make people say `wow! great shot!'. (approximations on percentages of course).

The bride & groom are pretty easy going people, and I have known the groom for 20 years or so, so we wandered around, took photos and didn't stress too much.

I have to say I like photography but would not like this job as a professional! Kudos to those of you who do it, I would find the responsibility intimidating.

Tips from the day:

* know how your flash works in various conditions.

* Take a metric crapload of photos (1 metric crapload = 1.33 US craploads)

* Know how to change your lenses quickly

* Keep the sensor and lenses CLEAN. I discovered a blob of something on the sensor and a whole bunch of photos have a dark spot on the side. Fortunately it is easily cropped out, if it had been in the center I would have had a problem.

* experiment a lot with framing, exposure times etc. digital shots are free and can be kept or deleted at your leisure.

* know what to expect from your battery, roughly how many shots it will give you. Carry an extra or two and a charger.

* Wear shoes you can stand up in for hours, I only sat down for the dinner.

* Carry a good camera bag which you can access easily.
posted by tomble at 9:54 PM on June 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

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