On Location PhotographySubmitted by Michael on Thu, 2010-11-18 09:54

6 wedding photography tips for shooting your first wedding

If you have been among people with a camera that is actually looking like a camera and not like a cellphone, then chances are that pretty soon people will start asking you if you can make photos for their website, of their family or even... of their wedding. Before you confirm please take into account that wedding photography is not just mastering your camera settings with both eyes closed, but it’s also about your approach to the whole thing.

That’s why I encourage you to get the advice from photographers who have been there, done that and really follow it, especially in the beginning. Find my 2 cents on the topic in today’s video. It’s a bit of a tutorial with 6 wedding photography tips.
I did shoot the video on a very friendly, relaxed and informal wedding. It was an Arabian wedding party full of people who are very positive and helpful. My point is this: I don’t want to talk you out of wedding photography but if it is your first time you do a wedding, and you know that this particular wedding is going to be rather stiff and the people over there are a bit on the judgemental side, then I actually do suggest you give it a pass and instead wait for an easy assignment in which you can build up and test your routines. Maybe you even find a photographer who takes you on board as a second shooter for a wedding. I think this would be a perfect way to get your feet wet so to speak.

In any case, have a lot of fun with it.

Below are some photos from the wedding party. They are not photoshopped so you should get an idea about the outcome that you can expect from the simple lighting that I show in the video.
























Your tips gave me a lot of confidence for going into an important photo shoot. Thank you very much!

very good advice! great video. :)

Thanks a ton for your warm words, Sheri!

great advice Michael,

I would also say have fun, be at ease with the guests and the wedding party and they will respond to you in a warm and friendly way that will show through on your images.

Take plenty of candid shots as well as formal as the magic moments are often in the candid images that the couple did not witness, or did not see you shooting.

Another good tip is bring plenty of batteries and make sure they are charged, its a long day

:) J

Awesome advice J!

Regarding the batteries I even go one step further by setting up my chargers on location. In this particlar shoot my chargers were located right next to the DJ because he had easily accessible power outlets. It's part of my camera and flash battery strategy.

Very good tips once again, can I just ask two questions? what white balance did you use inside? and I have been asked to shoot a wedding and i won't have an assistant so i want to know the best way to do the group shots outside regarding using diffusers. I have done some reseach on the web and i get conflicting results on using diffusers some say it's best just to use fill in flash while others recommend using diffusers like the Gary Fong lightsphere any help would be appreciated many thanks.

> what white balance did you use inside?
About 3000K while having Lee204 filters on my flashes. I can't look up the exact value as I shoot JPGs only. I usually shoot things like weddings a bit too warm. People tent to like that.

> using diffusers like the Gary Fong lightsphere
Lightsphere outside? For groupshoots? I mean, the basic functionality of Lightsphere is to make the light so much scattering around everywhere so that the photo does not look "flashy" anymore. For me that's a bit like cranking up the ISO setting. But outside there's nothing where the light can bounce off. I have seen a promotion video in which they used the sphere outside. But they used it as a sort of standard reflector while the flash was pointing directly to the subject. But think about it, if your flash head (automatically) zooms to the focal length of your lens, can an additional sphere do anything good? Or would it rather hurt the result?

If I had no assistant then I would crank up my ISO to 1600 so that I can use natural light as my main light source. I would fill in with an on camera flash that has a ringlight adapter. I'm not a big fan of these adapters because handling is a nightmare, but if I have to, I use it. I did that probably 50 times so far. The adapter resides next to my lightsphere in my photo cabinet. So far I guess I took out the ringflash 49 times more often than the sphere - got it?

But then again, why should I have no assistant? There is always someone who likes to assist the professional photographer in order to learn lighting. And I am really willing to explain and to share. And there is always someone at the wedding ceremony who likes to help out, because it's way more interesting than simply standing around. OK, I am no big fan of working with assistants who don't know me well. Smooth communication is too important. But then again an untrained guy who never worked with me will beat an on camera flash any day of the week.

Thanks for the advice Michael, definitely no lightsphere for me

Great tips guys and love the website title!


David, I'm glad you like it!

So how do you calculate your exposure in an event like a wedding?

I mean, every single aspect changes from shoot to shoot, so when using flash, how do you approach this?

Thanks for your wonderful videos!

Cousin Kaux, I did not calculate any exposure, I am way too lazy, I leave it up to TTL. The cam is on manual, like always. Now I keep an eye on the lightmeter in the viewfinder and dial my ISO up and down to stay somewhere in the ballpark, ideally underexposing about one f-stop, but it's really not that important. My main light source is a speedlight which is running on TTL. So the speedlight will take care that my main subject is lit nicely. TTL produce best results when my subject is NOT exposed to too much ambient light. If he or she is in the shade, then it gives the speedlight more room to fill in with light.

I've been a pro photographer for years, and, like you I managed perfectly well for many of them just using the TTL on aperature priority.

You have got some great results there and I agree about under exposing slightly.

I would like to start an online business and looking for a shopping cart. 
I do not have any programming experience.  Is there any simple way that I
can create a shipping site without coding?

That was a great photo's. I like all the capture that you post. I enjoy on it. Thank you for sharing.

There is always someone who likes to assist the professional photographer in order to learn lighting. And I am really willing to explain and to share. And there is always someone at the wedding ceremony who likes to help out, because it's way more interesting than simply standing around. Thank you.

Doing some actor headshots soon and want to ensure I get a happy client, great results for return business and of course agency referrals in the future. I have a "do it right" , not "do it right now" mentality and want to see:

1- What is the proper framing of the shots nowadays?
2- Are 3/4 shots action/character based?
3- What do i need to do lighting wise to ensure a good pop of the eyes, depth of field and even skin tones?

Now, in the past I shot what used to be the standard such as an 80's style real estate head, used the beauty lights, reflector underneath, and so on. Really looking for the most up to date standards to ensure my client walks away happy most of all.

Forgot- where do I place my brand bug? In the old days it was on the back of the photo, but now everything is digital based and I don't think many people appreciate a bug on their photo. Any guidance is appreciated!

Excellent questions, cousin Joel!

> 1- What is the proper framing of the shots nowadays?
> 2- Are 3/4 shots action/character based?

I think that the awesome photographers of wired magazine are setting standards here. Type "wired magazine" into google image search and have a look yourself.

A whole lot of their portraits are framed BETWEEN a mid shoot and a closeup. They are cutted just above the belly button. But then again they vary quite often. They do whatever frame it takes to bring accross the ROLE that their subject plays in public.
Isn't that cool: Wired photographers take their subject into a studio, pull them out of their film/TV/whatever context, everyone of us now expects that their portrait will now reveal the "true" (insert star-name), and then we see... again the roll that they play. It's almost like the photo tells me: "Yes, we confirm, Brad Pitt is HONESTLY this cheaky smart guy that he plays in Oceans Eleven".

> 3- What do i need to do lighting wise to ensure a good pop of the eyes, depth of field and even skin tones?

Seems like Wired went away from Ringflash, back towards classic, 45 degree angled lighting. Beautydishes. You can simply use Umbrellas which are 5 feet away from your subject. In any case put them up so that they are higher and move them to the side. They need to be angled AT LEAST 45 degrees (from top down to the subject and also at least 45 degrees off to the side). The more you move them to the sides and up, the more of a statement you make.
Wired uses mid-tone contrast enhancement (this almost HDR like effect) quite a lot - seems still to be very popular, also in other magazines.

And as for the skin and eyes, in a word: Photoshop.
Give your photos to an excellent retoucher. That's what is necessary to play in this league.

> Forgot- where do I place my brand bug?

Here's how I see it: In my recent years I used this brand bugs. But I did not see that they helped me in any way. Never ever someone contacted me because he had seen my email in the signature.
On the other hand, I believe those signatures and watermarks hurt. I heared from various photo editors that they hate those things. That's why in my current port I am not using any signature or watermark.
The folks that matter to me, photo editors, they read IPTC tags. So I make sure that I fill all relevant IPTC fields. I have a template for that in Lightroom so those fields get populated the moment I import the photos from my memory card.

Maybe that does not really help you. I can tell you, as long as I used signature I did place them in the lower right corner of the image. 50% opacity. So that it really should disturb as little as possible.

Hi Michael!
Ever since the first time I came across you on the internet for the first time. I've found your friendly tips so full of knowledge. Once again I thank you for the wonderful work you do. I ve been behind the camera for some time now, but there's always something to learn from you. I loved your tip on carrying business cards to give the people and writing the number of the photograph on the back of the card so they contact you. Very clever!!
Once again thank you.
Best regards!
Your friend from sunny Mexico.

Having just started shooting weddings professionally has definitely been an experience! I started out shooting for some of my friends who couldn’t afford or didn’t want to hire a photographer and I must say that research is the key to understanding what is going on and how to get great shots. Practice a lot too. I am really enjoying all the tips you generously provide here. I am doing my fifth wedding this weekend but have learned a lot through mistakes. For my first wedding I prepared thoroughly, read a lot of articles found by http://byfiles.com search, anyway in practice I used too many filters that time and a lot of the shots did not come out well. One wedding was outside at a lake but I had to shoot into the sun, which was a problem. Then, the reception hall was so dark that nothing I did could save the pictures. Now I ask that the reception halls be lit and not totally dark. Every wedding I do I learn from my mistakes. This site helps me a lot.

Hard to get my thick German accent? Here's the transcript!

Hey fellow photographer how is it going? I am Michael Zelbel and today I want to give you some tips for you shooting your first wedding. Now I am shooting a wedding today and I have just arrived at the bride’s home where she is finishing the last preparations for the party and I will use this to give you a couple of tips that I think will be useful especially if you are just starting out wedding photography.

One of the tips that I would like to give you is have an assistant who is caring about the light, now I have got my assistant over here, my dear wife Emily. Actually I would say she is my art director because she is more artistic than I am myself personally and she is caring a port light and that is very very important. Why? What is very important thing in photography? Yeah the light! You need somebody who can handle it and what she will do is for all of the photos that we will take today she had got this monopod with the speedlight on top. I remote control the speedlight from the camera and she will use a shoot-through umbrella, that is why she is easily hold it up somewhere, hold it somewhere where it would be hard to place a light stand or anything. We are very very flexible with the set up and it makes for a very beautiful light.

Another tip that I would like to give you is: if you are not a manual flash shooter, if you are not used to set up the shoot manually, use ETTL, use ITTL whatever your camera system supports. I personally love to use ETTL which makes it very flexible so Emily can get very close to the subject or further away and ETTL will take care of the right amount of fill in flash. I don’t have to care, Emily doesn’t have to care it is done automatically and that is so sweet. So unless you are really a hot core manual shooter I would suggest go for an automatic for your flash.

And here we are now inside the restaurant on location and one thing I would like to suppose is, if you are the photographer, be the first one on location, right now the guests are already coming we have been here a while ago which enabled us to shoot some photos of the decorations, of the location itself. And these photos may later on serve for thank you cards or stuff like that so it is footage that you may want to have even though there are no people on the photos but you definitely want to shoot them, be first on location before anyone else comes and use that time to get familiar with the place and shoot some photos already.

Another tip I would like to give you is always prepare a list with the scenes that you are going to shoot during the wedding. And this includes all the photos from the very beginning up to the very end, everything that the couple would definitely want to have, everything that the relatives would expect. Of course you will shoot much more but to have a list of all the scenes, it leads you through the day and you can check off one scene after another and by the end of the day, you know you already or at least have your bread and butter scene so to speak shot the other stuff you shoot is just on top.

Another tip I would like to share with you is always have your business cards with you and a pen so that you can write something on to it because on such an event so many people will come to you and ask you hey can you give me the photo, can you send me the photo, so you just write the photo number on your business card, hand them over the card and tell them give me an email and I would send you the photo afterwards. This way they have your address and if they like your stuff, they might book you so this will not stay only wedding.

One more tip I would like to give you is always have the organizer of the party on speed dial really on speed dial make them know who you are, that you will call them because they know what is going on, they know exactly when does the car with the couple arrive, they know when does the wedding cake arrive and stuff like that so be in contact with the organizer of the party.

This wraps our video on the tips on your first wedding shoot and I hope you find it useful, probably I would like to give you just one final tip and that is just have fun, enjoy the party because it will be visible on your photos if you enjoyed the party and had fun. Okay but that is all for today I hope I see you next Thursday in the next post so until then, I wish you a lot of fun in your shoots. Shoot a wedding perhaps and good light.

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