The doorbell rings, with anticipation you rush over and swing the door open, standing in front of you is a courier, hands outstretched clasping that sexy new DSLR you’ve been waiting rather impatiently for. You scribble a poor excuse for your signature and with a big grin run inside and rip open the package as your best friend watches on, “OOOH” you hear her say, “You know how my weddings coming up, well I don’t have a photographer yet” your heart sinks as you hear such words, in one moment your excitement has diminished, now replaced by the shear terror of the thought of photographing a wedding. Unable to say no a sheepish “yes” leaves your mouth, straight away you know you are in over your head. Your friend thanks you with a big hug and promises there will be no pressure, no pressure you think as you pull a small clump of hair from your head! No sooner has your friend walked out the door and you head to your internet machine in search of tips, It is here we meet.
Lets face it, even the most well planned weddings can be hectic at times, schedules just never seem to run on time, the bride invariably spends too much time getting her makeup done, no one can find the rings or there is a traffic jam on the way to the ceremony. Unfortunately, regardless of why things don’t go to plan or run on time one of the first sacrifices to be made is time allocated to the photographer. It is for this reason that being able to work quickly and efficiently is of utmost importance.
When the heat is on (cue music) the last thing you should be worrying about is the basic technicalities of photography and using your camera. Shutter speed, aperture and ISO are fundamentals you must understand and know how to implement long before you arrive on the wedding day wondering what the hell you’re going to do! To Pfaff about changing settings is to waste time, and will lead to missed opportunities to capture once in a lifetime moments. If the fundamentals of aperture, shutter speed and ISO sound Yiddish to you then hit up Mr. Google and get your learn on!
You now understand the basic principles of photography, or at least I hope you do, what now becomes important is to learn how to implement such principles using your personal equipment. We all hate manuals but make friends with them if you have to. With manual and camera in hand hit the street and start taking photographs in a multitude of lighting conditions. Start heading out and about shooting in a variety of lighting conditions so you can really get a feel for how your camera behaves in such conditions and how you may need to use aperture, shutter speed and ISO to obtain appropriate exposures. In doing so you will quickly start to gain a feel for how your camera behaves under such conditions whilst also becoming quick and efficient at obtaining your desired results. Make sure you shoot in a range of conditions such as strong back lighting, indoors at night, practice focusing on moving subjects and force yourself to work in less than optimal conditions. Keep doing so until you become familiar enough with your camera to be able to pick it up and know how to use the settings to quickly and accurately capture a well exposed photograph.
Hopefully your finger will be hurting from all that button pushing and you will feel comfortable and confident in your ability to grab your camera and obtain some reasonable exposures without the need to look at dials and mess about? Good. But I apologize, because it’s now time to throw a spanner in the works, yep, posing. Lets hope you aren’t a poser doing laps of the block in your red Mercedes, music so loud that it hurts the ears of people three cars away… if so good luck to you, best you go do another lap and impress some more chicks, because what we are talking about is posing your subjects, which can be a very daunting ask when put on the spot. Now we all have personal taste and style, just as the way one photographer sees and composes an image differs from the next so does posing style. What is key is to know that there isn’t a series of a,b,c rules that will work for all photographers nor all clients, thus it becomes important to develop your own style and working methods. Browse through photographs you enjoy and start paying attention to how people are posed, if you pay attention to what appeals to you, you will start to notice a trend, a style that connects with you personally.
Ok, it may have taken some time however you have begun to notice a style that jumps out to you, a style that you feel you would like to employ and impart your personal vision upon. Now we can jump into dissecting these images and poses. Pay close and deliberate attention to the work, what do you enjoy about it? how are the subjects positioned relative to the light? relative to each other? relative to their environment? how is the subjects weight distributed, are they supporting themselves mainly upon their back leg? Where are their hands sitting? Are their hands clenched, perhaps in their pockets? Think about what instructions or techniques the photographer may have used to elicit such poses, given the same circumstances how would you go about obtaining such a pose? Carefully consider what steps you may take and what instructions you could provide to achieve such a pose. By taking the time to really dissect individual elements of an image you will ultimately be in a much better position (pun intended) to develop your own posing techniques and unique style.
We have now reached the point whereby you can pick up a camera and feel comfortable operating it in a variety of conditions, you have spent a lot of time looking at photographs and made effort to really understand what appeals to you within photographs. As such you feel like you may even be able to pose people in a manner you find pleasing. In fact you have practiced this with your friends and begun to develop and understanding for what kind of language you can use to instruct people efficiently. That’s all fantastic, you are really starting to feel ready for photographing your first wedding, but we are not there yet. I’m assuming we are all humans here, one unfortunate part of being so is that when faced with pressure our minds like to present as black voids, “I’m outta here” Mr Brain yells as he jumps upon his brain mobile and drives off into the sunset. It is at this point you will be happy you prepared a shot list. What is a shot list I hear you ask. Essentially it is a list of images that you feel are important to capture, we can however take this beyond a simple list of essential photographs and develop it into a list of creative ideas that you wish to try. If you are the sort who embraces technology then you can make a list of images on your phone which you can scroll through during some quite moments, then when faced with an opportunity to grab some shots you will have ideas fresh in your mind.
Be a scout! Call your best mate, using threats and/or bribes encourage them to take a drive with you to the location of the wedding, this of course should be done before the big day! Remember to take your camera along and head there at the time of day the wedding will take place so you can get an idea what light may be doing. Use your friend as a stand in bride and groom and take the opportunity to find some shots you may wish to capture on the day, this will not only provide you with valuable practice but also ease any nerves you may have on the big day, knowing that when all else fails you already have some ideas.
Last but certainly not least familiarize yourself with the timing of the wedding day. Ask your bride and groom for an order of events and make a point of reading over it. Being in the right place at the right time is key to capturing the action of a wedding. Armed with knowledge of the days events you will be in a much better position to anticipate where you will need to be, thus maximizing valuable shooting time.
Photographing a wedding can be really stressful, chaotic even. Yet with the right preparation you can help the day run as smoothly as possible. It is up to you to put the time and effort into obtaining the knowledge you need.