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  1. Sean Guest

    Photographing a Friend's Wedding

    20 Comments by Sean Published on 12-05-2006 09:48 PM
    This is an article from my website, An Instant In Time. I am reprinting it here for anybody who may find it useful.

    Photographing a Friend's Wedding

    By Robert Meeks

    It is in combined anticipation that the special day arrives. Preparations
    have been made, schedules reorganized, outfits devised and fit, and travel plans finalized. It is on this day that two people will join into a union as one. It is on this day in which all the ingredients come together that make up a wedding, provided somebody did not forget to pick-up the bride.

    A Day Like No Other

    The purpose of this article is to provide an introduction to wedding
    photography. I cannot stress enough, however, the importance of a seasoned wedding photographer being used for the wedding. The main reason for this is simply that this is a very special day in the lives of several people, especially two, and most importantly the bride, who will cherish this day more than anybody. This is a photography assignment which must be done right the first time, as there are no reshoots.

    Not everyone, however, can afford everything they would like for their wedding, and should not be expected to do such. For some people getting
    married, a friend or an aquaintance who is a photographer may be a more
    affordable option. This article is written to those photographers.

    It is up to you, but for many photographers doing a wedding for the first
    time for a friend, it is often customary to do it for free. This provides a wedding gift for the bride and groom plus it gives you the opportunity to get valuable experience and to have a selection of photos to use in a portfolio for future clients, if that is a direction you wish to take.

    Take Two….Action!

    Regardless how well you may know someone, just showing up on the
    wedding day is not the best course, but is on occasion the only option in the case of short notice. The wedding rehersal is invaluable to familiarize oneself with the course of events as they shall pass, as being caught off guard can cost you an important shot, and is particularly important for the novice wedding photographer who may not be familiar with weddings enough to anticipate shots or differences in ceremonies.


    Providing a list of equipment you will need is not going to do much good
    as you most likely have your camera outfit, and, unless you are looking to do
    wedding photography regularly, buying additional equipment for a wedding can be an expense you do not necessarily need to incur.

    CAMERA: Although a 35mm SLR is most ideal for shooting a wedding for a novice, a 35mm rangefinder works well too, it just does not offer the flexibility of an SLR. An autofocus SLR, as many photographers have, will work well, provided that you have the utmost faith in your autofocus system. My preference would be to shoot in manual focus mode, but that is your decision. I will just keep reminding you throughout this article that this is a one time event, without the possibility of a reshoot, so use your most reliable equipment and settings.

    LENSES: The most used lens in wedding photography is the normal lens,
    around 50mm, which provides the sharpest image with the least distortion of any lens. When needing a wide-angle lens, a 35mm lens, not 28mm, is ideal as it will provide you with coverage in tight spaces, and group shots when necessary, while minimizing the degree of distortion that is common to wide angle lenses. Being, however, that the 35mm lens is a rare puppy these days, and that zoom lenses are the norm for 35mm, a short zoom, emphasis on short, in the range of 28-70, 35-70, 35-105, or one which falls within those ranges, will do the job. Just remember to get used to your focal lengths on the zoom so you can shoot at 50mm as much as possible and go no wider than 35mm.

    The occasion will arrive when you need to use a longer lens. I use a 100mm lens for telephoto shots but a 135mm lens or tele-zoom in the range of 70-210mm will do fine, as the telephoto is primarily used for ceremonial shots
    from the back of the church, or a balcony. Although this is a handy option to have, it is not a necessity as you can use your normal lens or the long end of your short zoom. If you are working solo, I would not recommend spending much time in the balcony anyway. Where you do have the option of a balcony and use it, the key shot is the kiss, at which you abandon your camera and move downstairs for an aisle shot. Obviously, if you do not have two cameras, the balcony is out if you are working solo.

    FLASH: The flash unit which you use, well, will be whatever flash unit you
    own. I use a Vivitar 283 which offers a guide number of 120, a bounce head, and 4 auto ranges. I use a Stroboframe bracket which allows me to position the flash several inches above the camera and directly above the lens, in horizontal and vertical positions. Using the bracket helps to reduce shadows and redeye. Providing this is just a guideline for options you may want to incorporate, but it is ideal to have a flash unit with a guide number of 80 or better. If you use the flash mounted directly to the hotshoe of your camera, be aware of redeye problems, particularly in dimly lit sanctuaries and at receptions.

    TRIPOD: A tripod is an essential at weddings. When using a telephoto
    lens or during available light shots, as most churches do not allow flash
    photograhy during the ceremony, a tripod is not an option but a necessity. Having a tripod with a quick release head is handy when having to dismount the camera quickly, but do not get too comfortable with the quick release plate being secure when moving the tripod with the camera attached, as I have seen cameras fall off and hit the floor doing this.

    FILM: The choice of film is simple; 400 speed. Most color films will do but
    moderate contrast film offering normal colors, like Kodak Portra 400NC, is ideal. A good 400 speed film will provide adequate exposure latitude indoors while allowing flexibility outdoors.

    Since the most important aspect of shooting a wedding is making certain
    that you are prepared for any eventuality, carrying lots of film is a must. Consider ten rolls to be a minimum. I have listed in the photography sessions section over seventy shots to take, and consider that a minimum. You will, not most likely, but will shoot more than that. It is a good idea to have twice the film you expect to need.

    A SECOND CAMERA: Having a second camera is not an option but a requirement. When used as a backup for the primary camera to take backup
    shots just in case something went wrong with the primary camera, it serves a very important and necessary function. No photographer should ever do a
    wedding with only one camera. The event is too important to blindly put your entire faith in one piece of equipment.

    Any camera will work as a second camera. If you do not have two SLRs,
    or a rangefinder, an inexpensive single-focal length point & shoot camera will do the job and, due to its compact size, can be used to take a second shot of crucial moments like the father walking the bride down the aisle. This will give you a backup shot just in case.

    ADDITIONAL EQUIPMENT: Additional equipment that may come in handy is a polarizing filter if you are going to be doing outdoor shots. A skylight, not UV, filter can come in handy during indoor shots under fluorescent lights as it does not affect your f-stop like an FLD filter will and your flash will correct most of the effects of fluorescent lighting on your subject.

    Batteries are an essential. Even if you use rechargeables with your equipment, carry backup alkaline batteries; at least four sets for your equipment.

    If you carry one of those inexpensive folding stools that can be purchased
    at a department store, please be advised that most of these stools have a weight limit of 200 lbs. This is not a suggestion but the limit. Never let someone sit on such a stool if they are over this weight limit (and guess, do not ask them their weight). If you do, the stool can collapse and they can be injured. Most of these stools list the maximum weight limit on the underside of the seat.

    It has been said before and I will say it again; a wedding is a one-time event which cannot be reshot. Carry a backup camera, flash, and lens, period.

    The Photography Sessions

    The photography at a wedding can be broken down into three separate
    sessions: posed photographs, ceremony photographs, and reception photographs. Each one naturally having its different required shots.

    The posed photographs are very probably going to be the most time consuming and is often broken down into two sessions. The first session is pre-ceremony and should be alotted a minimum time of 2-3 hours, with the idea of finishing no less than 30 minutes before the ceremony. If possible, get the bride and groom involved together with the posed photographs before the ceremony which will eliminate the second posed photos session which is done after the ceremony and referred to as altar returns.

    Altar returns are done immediately after the ceremony and are posed
    photos which involve the bride and groom together, if, due to tradition, they did not want to see each other before the ceremony and did not pose in photos together before the ceremony. Since the altar returns are done between the ceremony and the reception, and people have a tendency to get annoyed waiting, they should only consist of photos which involve the bride and groom together, as all other photos should have been done before the ceremony. Try to get the altar returns done in 30 minutes, but absolutely no longer than an hour.

    The posed photographs should consist of the shots in the following list:

    A head and shoulders shot of the bride

    A half length of the bride holding the bouquet

    A full length of the bride holding the bouquet and showing the full length of the train (the long part of the bridal gown which trails behind).

    A head and sholders shot of the groom

    A half length of the groom (usually seated or standing with his hands on a post or a chair back)

    A full length of the groom (you can use the same chair or post if you want)

    A head and shoulders couples pose of the bride and groom

    A half length of the bride and groom

    A full length of the bride and groom

    (extra shots of the bride and groom are advised, especially the bride)

    The bride with her parents, then his, then both

    The bride with her mother

    The bride with her father

    The groom with his parents, then hers, then both

    The groom with his mother

    The groom with his father

    The bride and groom with both sets of parents, then his parents, then her parents

    The bride and groom with all family members

    As an option, if the bride and or groom have siblings, you can take a shot of them individually with their sibling/siblings

    The bride with her family, then his

    The groom with his family, then hers

    The bride with the matron of honor and the matron of honor separately

    The bride with her bridesmaids (as an option, you can take individual shots of each bridesmaid, with and without the bride, depending on time)

    The bride with the groomsmen (usually one formal and one humorous, like all the groomsmen singing or on their knees proposing to the bride)

    The groom with the best man and the best man separately

    The groom with the groomsmen (as an option, you can take individual shots of each groomsman with and without the groom, depending on time)

    As an optional shot, the groom with the bridesmaids

    The bride and groom with the flower girl and ringbearer (bride with each, groom with each, and bride and groom with both)

    The flower girl and ringbearer (together and separately)

    The wedding party (the bride, groom, bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girl, and ringbearer)

    As an option you can also take a shot of the wedding party and family members together.

    After the posed shots and just before the ceremony, if you have the time, you can get a shot of the person (usually a female) handing out the programs (if they are doing such)

    The ceremony shots should consist of the following list:

    Flash Shots

    The groom waiting at the altar for the bride

    The mothers of the bride and groom coming down the aisle

    The flower girl and ringbearer coming down the aisle

    The bridesmaids and groomsmen coming down the aisle

    As an option, the mothers lighting the candles

    The father of the bride bringing the bride down the aisle (the most important shot at this point in the ceremony)

    Non-Flash Shots

    A wide shot of the wedding party at the altar

    A shot of the minister speaking to the bride and groom

    The lighting of the unity candle

    If communion is used, get a shot of the bride and groom partaking in the

    If the bride has the wedding license signed at the altar, especially if the witness is a sibling or best friend of the bride, get a shot

    In some churches, the bride and groom may kneel for a prayer during the
    ceremony, especially Catholic churches, you may want to get a shot of this, but without a motorwind as it could be considered rude

    The exchanging of rings

    The bride and groom's first kiss (never miss this shot)

    Flash Shots Again

    The bride and groom walking down the aisle (if they do a meet and greet, you may have to wait)

    Throwing of the rice/birdseed (a.k.a. the stoning of the bride and

    The groom putting the bride into the limo/lincoln/carriage/4-wheel drive pickup (I am not kidding)

    If possible, a shot of the bride and groom inside the vehicle (in a limo, this is
    done from the passengers seat taking the shot toward the back of the limo)

    The shots taken at the reception consist of the following list:

    The bride and groom arriving at the reception

    A shot of the wedding cake (if the groom has a groom's cake, then get a shot of it as well)

    If they go straight into dinner and you do not want to waste time, then go around and get shots of the guests at each of the tables

    The toast (or toasts) to the bride and groom (which can take place at the cake cutting)

    The first dance

    The bride dancing with her father

    The groom dancing with his mother

    If the best man and matron of honor have a dance, get a shot of that

    If they have a money dance, you may want to get at least one shot, but don't waste film unless it is something humorous (a money dance is where guests will come up and give the bride or groom a dollar to dance with them until the next guest comes up with a dollar)

    The bride and groom having a toast

    The cutting of the cake

    The groom feeding the bride

    The bride feeding the groom (it is important that it happens in this order as the bride will be chided to put the cake in the groom's face, and at most weddings I do, it is usually me doing the chiding)

    The removing of the garter

    The groom acting like he is tossing the garter

    The catching of the garter

    A shot of the groom with the guy (usually) who caught the garter

    The bride acting like she is tossing the bouquet (which is usually a smaller
    bouquet as the actual bridal bouquet could injure someone)

    The catching of the bouquet

    (the reason why the tossing and catching are done separately is that you will rarely have the depth of field and/or room to get them both acceptably sharp and together in the same shot)

    If they do it, a shot of the garter recipient putting the garter on the leg of the bouquet recipient

    If the bride and groom want to do a special exit at the reception, get a shot of that as well

    As a note, at any time during the reception, which is the best time to do
    this, you can get a close-up shot of the bride and groom's rings. This can be
    done as a shot of their hands softly placed on the bouquet, fingers slightly
    overlapping, so that both rings show. Another method is to take the rings by
    themselves and place them on the bouquet in such a way that they are clearly visible and not sinking into the flowers.

    Other poses that can be used include shots of the bride getting ready for
    the ceremony, which include shots like her putting on the garter and perhaps having her mother assist with her veil. A source of poses that will be necessary will usually be provided by the bride and groom or their families. If they have not previously suggested poses which they would like to have, ask them, and treat any poses they have requested as must haves.

    If you get into a situation of being requested to do extra shots during the
    posing session, make your list of primary shots your priority and do any extra
    requests if you have the time. If you get into a habit of trying to get everyone's requested shots that they happened to think of at the moment, you will end up running out of time and missing important shots. Be polite though, and sincerely try to get extra shots only if you have the time or it is easy like putting an extra person in a pose you have already set-up.

    Windowlight Portraits

    Windowlight portraits are a nice touch as a bonus for the bride and groom.
    You can do windowlights at any relatively clean and uncluttered window. It is best to measure your light with an incident meter (the light which falls on the subject), if, however, you do not have a meter, you can measure incident light by holding a coffee filter over your lens (white not brown) and then point the camera at the window and take a reading.

    When doing windowlights, the groom usually is posed behind the bride or
    to the outside of the shot. A reflector can come in handy to even out the light in a windowlight by positioning it to reflect light back into the faces of the bride and groom. Basically use your creativity with windowlights and you can have some nice shots to give to the bride and groom.

    Tips for Posing People

    Taking the time to build every pose for every shot is time consuming and,
    unless you are very fast, is something you do not have the time to do. A good number of the posed shots at a wedding is going to be done standing, as such, trying to pose people chin to eye is not going to be readily possible in most shots. This does not mean, however, that posing techniques are thrown out the window, instead, wedding poses take on their own form.

    Rather than develop a posing guideline as such to follow, I will be providing pointers and things to avoid in the following list:

    Pose people where two people standing beside each other are no greater
    difference in height than one head length; if possible, chin to eye (but that is not always possible)

    Rather than having people standing or sitting straight on at the camera, have their feet pointing 45 degrees away (more or less) from the camera, while turning their face and upper body toward the camera

    Do not allow gaps between people to show in group poses

    When available, steps are a handy way to pose people at different heights

    When in a group pose, center the bride and/or groom and place others
    strategically around them

    It is okay to separate family members to different parts of a group pose when the height differences call for it (try not to separate husband and wife, however, if you must, you can inject some humor by introducing them to their new partner)

    (I am really going to hear it for this one) Avoid putting heavy people in front, if possible

    If young children are involved, get poses with them as early as they are ready, as they will not last for very long

    Take 2 or 3 shots of groups to account for blinks, even if you think you did not get any blinks

    Always be aware of the background and check for cords which are hanging down into the picture and particularly candles or other objects which in the photograph may appear to be growing out of someone's head

    It is okay to move items and furniture around the altar or wherever you are
    posing people as long as you put it back when you are done

    Always be aware of clothes and hair to notice if any are out of place

    Photography Tips

    BLACK & WHITE PHOTOGRAPHY: Over the years black & white photography has become popular at many weddings. If requested, black & white
    photography can be an option. When using black & white film as a primary film, stay with 400 speed film. When using black & white film for some supplemental shots, anything goes.

    A popular use of black & white film for weddings is to use a high speed film for supplemental shots in a photojournalistic style. Photojounalistic is a long
    word for saying non-posed shots or slice-of-life, if you will. The photographer using the black & white film will roam about and capture images such as the family of the bride and groom together, the bride having her train attached, the flower girl and ring bearer playing, or any of a number of other events which are spontaneous and of which the participants are not necessarily aware that they are being photographed.

    For using black & white film as a supplemental shooting choice, you need
    to have a camera available to be dedicated to black & white film, and this means a third camera, as your second camera should be ready to go with the same type of film you are using as a primary. You do not have to have an SLR as your third camera, as this may well be expensive. A rangefinder makes a fine third camera as does any inexpensive point & shoot camera. In the event you cannot afford those alternatives, or do not wish to add another camera to your outfit, another choice is an inexpensive disposable camera loaded with black & white film, which is often 400 speed C-41 process film (chromogenic) which can be developed at any lab, as it is processed with the same chemicals as color film.

    If you are doing the shoot in color, and solo, but would like to have some of your shots done in black & white as well, rather than killing yourself by trying to use two cameras at once, you can shoot in color and have the lab convert a set of prints to black & white. This method offers an expansion to your color photography while permitting you to live.

    Many who use black & white film as a secondary do not bother with color
    balancing filters as it would be time consuming and is not really necessary in a good number of wedding situations. You do, however, have the option of using a yellow (K2) filter which just simply stays on your lens. A yellow filter causes the black & white film to render colors in their appropriate shade in relation to each other, as, without it, some colors will appear lighter or darker than they do in color film. The yellow filter is an option, not a necessity.

    FOCUSING: Taking the time to focus is not always an option, particularly
    during the bridal procession and at the reception. For these moments it is
    advisable to preset your focus. You can do this by asking someone to stand in place for you and focus on them for a full length shot and a half length shot. When you have these positions marked or memorized, you can set the lens to the position you need for the shot you are trying to get instead of taking the chance on losing a shot because you took the time to focus.

    FILL FLASH: In many indoor situations, where we do not necessarily have
    the best lighting, or dull lighting, flash photos can often come out with well
    exposed subjects against a dark background. In posed photos using a tripod, this can be corrected by setting the exposure for the available light, then setting the flash to expose the subject one stop more than the background which will provide a well exposed background with a subject which is highlighted, yet softly.

    When taking indoor shots with a flash and using the camera handheld, a
    lot of photographers will set their shutter speed at 1/60 sec. or their maximum flash sync speed. When using a normal lens, or even a short zoom set at normal or wide, you can set you shutter speed for 1/30, which will allow you to capture a higher percentage of shots where the background is well exposed, yet the flash will prevent blurring from happening in the foreground.

    When taking shots outdoors on a sunny day, the sun can often cause
    harsh shadows which are unflattering. To deal with this, you can use the flash set at one stop less exposure which will fill in the shadows without highlighting, providing a natural look. The main problem with this is flash sync speed as a bright sun with 400 speed film is going to require a setting of f/16 at 1/500 sec. or f/22 at 1/250 sec. which is higher than most SLRs will be able to sync. You can use a neutral density filter to bring down your shutter speed requirement, as well, a polarizing filter will work for this purpose.

    As an option, you can simply set your camera for its maximum flash sync
    speed, set your aperature for f/16, and set your flash for f/11, or its maximum if less than f/11, and just go for it. You will get a stop or two of overexposure, but the film latitude will handle it and a little overexposure will soften the contrast, which can provide a nice effect.

    OFF-CAMERA FLASH: If you want more controlled flash coverage than
    using the flash mounted on the camera, or a bracket, you can use a two flash setup. The simplest method for this setup is to place a secod flash on a light stand and move it at an angle to the subject of 30-45 degrees, or even less of an angle if you do not have a good place to place the light stand.

    For the purpose of this method, your off-camera flash should be set to one
    stop more exposure than the on-camera flash. This will be using the off-camera flash as a main and the on-camera flash as a fill. You can set the flash units to manual or, and most likely this will be the case, set your auto ranges for one stop difference. Although convetional methods will tell you not to do this because the flashes will interfere with each other's sensors, in this setup this will work.

    LOADING FILM: For those who will be using cameras with manual film
    advance, and thus must be manually loaded, after loading the film, turn the
    rewind crank as though you were going to rewind the film until you feel tension. Even though this is a good practice anyway, it becomes particularly useful in this situation as the tension indicates that the film has been properly loaded. If you feel no tension and the crank just keeps winding, you will have to reload, but this prevents you from shooting without the film being properly loaded, and try to explain that one to a bride.

    Handy Wedding Tips

    APPEARANCE: It is an old and mean joke that the way to learn how to
    dress for a wedding is to observe the videographer, then dress differently. The photographer at a wedding must project professionalism in the manner in which they dress.

    For a man, this means a tux or a suit. If it is a tux, that means black with a
    white shirt and black bow tie. For a suit, which is what I prefer, this means
    nothing too bright, and definitely no cartoon ties. A white shirt is standard for a suit, but a nice blue or tan shirt will work as well; as long as the shirt does not clash with the suit. Bow ties are only to be worn under two circumstances: with a tux; or when dressed as a clown. If you wear a pinstripe shirt, which is really not appropriate for a wedding, only wear it with a solid suit, as you never cross lines between a shirt and a suit. If you do not have a suit, dress as nicely as possible and get a white shirt and tie at a minimum (uh…wear pants too).

    For a woman, a solid color or stripes works best, although women do have
    more flexibility in this area (hey, there is only one way to make a man look good, while women can look good in several ways). It is advisable, however, to avoid outfits which are red, white (what do you think the bride is most likely wearing), brown, and any floral or gaudy pattern. Dark colors like black and gray work best and they look really good when offset by white. This can of course vary by season and practicality (black is not a good color in the heat of summer).

    EXTRA ITEMS TO CARRY: You can actually find items at your local grocery which are handy to have with you when shooting a wedding, although by no means a necessity.

    Stains do happen and can certainly be noticeable in a photograph. The
    easiest manner in which to deal with a stain on a bridal gown, as silly as it may sound, is to have a bottle of liquid white paper correction fluid with you. This can be applied to the stain, but will come out at the cleaners. Stain remover towellettes, such as you can find at checkout counters, sometimes, can come in handy. Both of these items, however, are not frequently used, but are handy to have for a 'just in case' situation.

    Shoes are not immune from problems either, as they can become scuffed,
    or even dirty if you were doing shots outside, or if the kids (and even adults) were playing around. Having some kind of a shoe wipe handy, as well, a bottle of black shoe polish (don't forget a buffer) can be handy.

    Keeping things together at a wedding is not helped when the clothes
    themselves won't stay together. This is the probably the most common problem you will run into at weddings. This is usually a problem with the bridal train or the bridesmaids outfits. Having items like safety pins and even a small sewing kit on hand can save a moment, let alone, someone's dignity.

    Lint is a fact of life and just cannot be avoided. If in the case of lint or hair
    sticking to clothes, a lint brush or lint roller can come in handy. An alternative to these is masking tape which can be backfolded into a loop, so the sticky side is on the outside. This can then fit around your fingers and be rolled over a surface to remove lint and hair.

    Other items which may be carried include hairpins, a cheap comb, super
    glue (when repairing an earing, please wait until it is dry before putting it on an ear), anti-static spray, lens cleaner for glasses, a small first aid kit, tylenol (for yourself), and even a broken unisex pair of glasses (for the one person who has glasses that will reflect at any angle, if they must wear glasses in a shot, you can give them a pair with the lenses missing). Do not overload yourself, however, as these are mostly just in case items, except for the safety pins and hairpins.

    SCHEDULE OF EVENTS: It is convenient for a photographer to know the
    progression of events during the wedding ceremony as not all ceremonies are the same. Often at weddings, they make available a printed program of events that will take place during the ceremony. This program is handy for the photographer to have as a way of being forewarned as to what is going to happen next. Whether or not a program is being provided, it is a good idea to inquire about the order of events with the bride and groom before the wedding. Of coures, if you attended a wedding rehearsal, you are ahead of the game.

    Additionally make it a point to communicate with the DJ or band at the
    wedding reception to find out what schedule of events they have. If events are spread too far apart, you can communicate with the bride and groom about possibly doing a few of the reception events closer together, as you do not need to go the full course of a wedding reception to get the shots you need.

    CORSAGES: It is most frequently the photographer who ends up putting
    on the corsages as they do not come with any instructions for something which would seem simple but can be quite devious. The florist will deliver the corsages and flowers and sometimes play a little game called find the flowers. If there is a kitchen, be sure to check there. Once you have found the corsages and the pins which have been left with them, you can proceed to have them put on everyone.

    To apply a corsage to a tux jacket, place the stem of the corsage against
    the spot you want to place it and push the material around the stem up into to folds, one on each side of the stem. Then push the pin through the folds and the stem at an angle making certain that the pin point is on the outside of the jacket when you are done as this will prevent the wearer from being stuck with it.

    The same technique can be used to attach the corsage to dress, but, if
    you are a guy and uncomfortable with the prospect, let a woman do it. Just make certain that the pin point is on the outside of the dress.

    Staying in Control

    Being a control freak is not the photographer's job, yet the photographer
    must maintain a balanced control over situations dealing with the photography. This means keeping people where they are supposed to be for doing the posed shots rather than letting them roam off, and they will, which will cost you time and shots as you will have less time to get in all of your shots. The reception is also a place where the photographer must exert a certain degree of control in order to have a good shot of events such as the cake cutting. Rather than just letting the event happen, take control of he event by guiding the participants through the steps necessary for the event and to get a good shot.

    Staying in control, though, means being polite and respectful. Remember
    that this is their day and not yours. You are wanting to help to make their day as smooth as possible and be able to deliver a good set of photographs to them.

    The Prints are Back

    A convenient way to present the prints to the bride and groom when they
    are ready is to use a 4x6 print album, preferably white, which holds close to the number of prints you have which are good as you only want to make the good prints available. These albums are often available in 100 print capacity and hold one print to each side of the page.

    A nice bonus would be to make an 8x10 or 10x13 of the bride and groom
    and put it in a frame for them. I have also used a long frame which will hold about 5 4x6 prints and filled it with sequential shots from the ceremony. These items with the print album will make a nice presentation. You may even consider a handful of prints of the bride and groom so they can give out a few to family members.

    If you are considering offering a reprinting service, then keep the negatives, but you will want a proofsheet for easy reference if they want to order
    additional prints. If you do not intend to bother with offering reprints, it would be handy to give the negatives to the bride and groom so they can always have reprints made, should they so desire. Just do not forget to have a set of prints made for yourself so your can put them in the same type of album you gave to the bride and groom as this will give you a sample book for future clients to view.

    A Final Word

    This article on wedding photography is collected from experience on my
    own and with other photographers. I do not present this as a course on wedding photography, rather as a guideline and hints for those photographers who may be shooting a wedding for the first time.

    Wedding photography can be a rewarding experience as a photographer
    as well a potential career move. It is handy to have an idea what to expect so you can be better prepared and therefore provide a better service to the bride and groom.

    For those interested in furthering their learning about wedding photography, a wealth of articles on the subject can be found at http://www.shutterbug.net/ , which is Shutterbug magazine's website. You
    can find many articles written by Monte Zucker, one of the premier wedding
    photographers. They have a search bar for their achives where you can search the word 'wedding' and you will be presented with a wealth of articles.


    This article is copyrighted 2005 by Robert Meeks.
    Last edited by Menard; 04-17-2007 at 10:01 AM. Click to view previous post history.

  2. Total Comments 20


  3. #11

    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
    Dear Bob,

    Interesting article, but I can't say I agree with a lot of it. Whenever I can't get out of shooting a wedding -- maybe half a dozen times in the last 35 years -- I make it abundantly clear that I shoot it my way (or, since I met Frances Schultz 26 years ago, that we shoot in our way) and that if they want it done their way (or indeed your way), they can damn' well hire a photographer.

    I completely disagree with your views about professionalism: if they're friends, they know me, and they know full well that I don't do suits. Likewise I disagree about your choice of cameras and focal lengths (we use rangefinder and fast 35, 50 and 75 or 90mm), film (Delta 3200 works wonders for many shots), flash (can't abide the stuff), tripods (never use 'em any more) and the interminable shot list.

    You also make a lot of cultural assumptions about what a wedding has to be like. Many are a good deal more bohemian than you suggest.

    Film, initial machine processing (for XP2 and colour) and a few hand-coloured prints are part of the wedding gift (as is the shoot). Reprints are their problem. We commonly shoot 500-1000 images, almost all 35mm B+W plus a few MF group shots in colour.

    Everyone so far has been delighted. I fear there will be one more (we're into friends' children now) but that should be the last. Your approach seems to me to add a lot of stress on all sides -- yours and the couple's -- and it's not really about photographing friends' weddings at all: it's about semi-pro wedding photography.

    Sorry to be so negative, but I just thought that others who are asked to shoot friends' weddings might find it easier and more rewarding to adopt my more casual approach. As I say, if this doesn't suit the happy couple, they can go find someone else.



    I apologize that I have been absent from the board for so long. I just happened across the board again and have seen some very helpful input from other members.


    I primarily wrote this article as an introduction to wedding photography for photographers who have never shot a wedding before. Certainly any photographer who has developed their own style will bring that to the table as well.

    I am not being presumptuous enough to suggest that my way is the only way to shoot a wedding; it is just a good starting point for someone who wants to know some basics.

    This article was written when I moderated a photography forum. A common question that would pop up time to time from amateur photographers whould be (along the lines of) 'I am shooting a wedding for the first time; what do I do?'.

    My intent was to create an introduction aimed at someone shooting a wedding for the first time, using what equipment they had available, plus offering some advice garnered from wedding photography that would not be covered in a simple equipment and poses checklist.

    I can certainly recall my first time shooting a wedding as a photographer; as an amateur photographer. It turned out okay (you can breathe now), but there were mistakes that were made; primarily among those was the assumption that being a photographer made one a wedding photographer.

    There are many good books and articles out there written by Monte, Bambi, and some guy named Roger Hicks:rolleyes: which provide instruction and advice well beyond what I have provided in my little article, but, what I found to be missing was a basic introdution aimed at the amateur to be able to use their own equipment to photograph a wedding.

    I do hope I provided enough of a warning of the importance of getting a professional wedding photographer, if that option is available. Of course, not everybody can afford that. Often, in that situation, someone will ask a friend, especially if they are either a photographer or they have, what they consider, a decent camera. That friend now has a reference for shooting a wedding with what they can bring to the table (yep, ah like using that phrase ).

    Negative? Not at all. I can, however, not recommend to someone considering shooting a wedding for the first time to 'do it their way'. Of course, as someone develops as a photographer, that is an option they can take, but, when someone is doing a one chance event like this for the first time, or even the first few times, they need to do it well, not screw up, and put 'their way' in the backseat.

    I am tickled pink that you took the time to critique my article and and offer input. This is very valuable for future considerations and I thank you very much, as I do all of those who have provided input.

  4. #12

    Join Date
    May 2006
    Northern Aquitaine
    35mm RF
    Dear Bob,

    You are too generous. Merely because I don't agree with you doesn't mean I think you're wrong, if you see what I mean; I was just trying to put a (rather different) viewpoint, and did it clumsily, for which I apologize. Between the assorted advice on the thread, most people should be able to steer the best course for themselves, if they make it clear to the Happy Couple what they're getting.



  5. #13

    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    You make an excellent point, Roger, and I agree. Each additional input from another photographer expands upon options and various perspectives, especially from different experiences and viewpoints. The collective lessons and opinions should provide for a useful springboard, as well, a way for someone to consider different approaches to the same subject.


  6. #14

    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Boston, MA
    Multi Format
    Quote Originally Posted by Sean View Post
    Whenever someone asks me to shoot their wedding, friend or not, I arrange to be out of town.
    How to avoid being asked to shoot wedding

    By Ryuji Suzuki

    1. Tell your single female friends that they aren't allowed to marry until they can afford real money for photographers. Don't keep friends who can't agree. Also, avoid meeting their mother at all costs. If she is Japanese, never speak Japanese to her. If Russian, same. If she is French, it's ok to speak French as long as your French is very bad. Always talk about politics when you meet their mothers, but again, not with the French.

    2. Don't put ANY picture of social events on your website. Your website should also have "I don't shoot wedding." and perhaps more in boldface. You should get a separate domain for those pictures, and make sure you have a different name or no name at all on the social pic website. Your real close friends will ask you regardless of what you have on the web, but you don't want a stranger calling you.

    3. If you don't want the job, never quote the price. Not even a price range. Just ask them to make their offer and you'll see what you can do. They won't come back to you. (Pricing high is not a good option. You feel bad if they take the price, and this actually happens more often than you think, because you will look very confident when you quote the ridiculous price.)

    4. Tell them that having you to shoot won't save much money. Whether people admit it or not, it is a factor in their decision. Give them a service fee schedule of your local pro lab (and make it as complicated as you can).

    5. (US Only) Tell them how many tablets of Tylenol you needed to go through the form 1040 and 88xx. Tell them how many BOTTLES of Excedrin you needed after the last wedding you shot. Make liberal use of exaggeration to make them feel bad asking you.

    6. Tell them you will be the first one to hit the bottle of the 18-year-old scotch at the cocktail bar, even before the bride's father, and this is the only way you can go through the group formal shots painlessly. (Conversely, never let the bride's father hit the scotch until he is dismissed from the group shots.) In most countries outside the US, they have bottles of spirits on the table, so ask for a few extra on your table. Also, you need a few glasses of Chianti Classico with the steak so that you can go through the cake cut and first dance painlessly.

    7. Never leave good impression with the caterers and the manager of the building for the reception. This part is easy if you follow my advice 6 above, but just make sure you don't get kicked out (outside the US, this won't happen). Don't give them your cards. (Or give them cards with erotic nudity printed on it.) You don't want business through them. But keep good relation with the DJ and musicians.

    8. If you shoot wedding for your close friends only and want to keep control of who you will shoot, ask them not to put the pictures on the web with your name. You better not put a watermark with your name or website, either. You should try to include pictures that no pro will shoot, but never let anyone else see your name next to it... at least until you decide to start a full service wedding studio business.
    Last edited by Ryuji; 04-17-2007 at 04:46 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  7. #15

    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Boston, MA
    Multi Format
    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
    I make it abundantly clear that I shoot it my way (or, since I met Frances Schultz 26 years ago, that we shoot in our way) and that if they want it done their way (or indeed your way), they can damn' well hire a photographer.
    I tell the same, too. My friends may be different, but I don't find that has any influence over their decisions. Most of my friends want to make their wedding differently from the rest of the world, although none of them took my advice to get married on a pirate ship on the public sea. So far the most strange request was to shoot in a middle of a forest (but then it got changed to a local arboratum because the bride's grandparents can't climb up the mountain).

    I completely disagree with your views about professionalism: if they're friends, they know me, and they know full well that I don't do suits. Likewise I disagree about your choice of cameras and focal lengths (we use rangefinder and fast 35, 50 and 75 or 90mm), film (Delta 3200 works wonders for many shots), flash (can't abide the stuff), tripods (never use 'em any more) and the interminable shot list.
    I agree with this as well, for the most part. I get hot and sweat very easily, and so there is no way to wear anything formal when I'm shooting anytime except December to February. I'm actually thinking about wearing a dark colored dryfit shirt next time.

    I've found lenses from 17mm to 100mm useful in wedding, but I don't do it any differently from my usual shooting style. For 35mm format, 24mm, 35mm and 85mm are my favorites. But in reality I shoot 6x6 in Mamiya rangefinder, and I have two bodies, one with 50mm and another 75mm ready, and 150mm in a camera case. Also, a quiet lens shutter camera with fast lens, such as Konica Hexar AF loaded with Delta 3200 or TMZ is very useful during ceremony, although I don't like to use these high speed films exclusively. You could also include other funky things like Ektachrome films cross processed, infrared film, toy camera, etc. People love this kind of crazy things. (Keep the system very simple for the ceremony and group shots but you can try other things when the stress level is low.)

    I don't find a tripod to be useful in wedding at all, except for the group shot, when it's kinda handy to have a platform to put the camera down when you arrange people and tell them to fix their expression, etc. If you want to shoot groups on a tripod, get a good grip ball head with quick release. Other heads are too slow operating. However, a good simple monopod can be very handy during ceremony. I don't like lenses longer than 100mm (35mm format), and I find the image stabilizer on Canon 24-105mm f/4 USM IS L to be very useful.

    I think it's good to be ready to shoot with available light, but in most cases I've seen, all the guests take their digital cameras out of their pocket and raise them very high above their head to take pictures in the dark church... and they of course fire the flash. Many cameras give off the nasty fake shutter noise as well. When you see people doing this, there is little point to refrain from using your flash.

    For flash, I use Sunpak 120 above the camera lens as my main flash. Sometimes in barebulb, but other times witht he reflector. It makes beautiful shadow that most other portable flash units don't. (Or you could use a Norman or Quantum flash with similar reflector.) I find it most useful to have a few slave units (I use Sunpak 383 super) ready. I sometimes use them to add rim/hair light from the back, sometimes use them to brighten the room, etc. When you use the slaves outside a closed room, you don't have control of other people using their digicam so radio slave is kinda must.

    Another thing is camera case. Ideally, everything should fit in a single case, but tripod and monopod are exceptions. I use a large Pelican case. This is very useful sometimes, because 3-4 girls can sit on it when they need a break. Ideally, the main system on the bracket should fit in the case without disassembly. But I haven't been doing that, as I don't shoot often enough to make such a perfect setup.

    I also agree with Roger that not all of the usual professionalism is required. You should assume that the couple expects the quality of work to meet or exceed that of most commercial wedding photogs, but the shooting style doesn't have to be. There are a lot of pictures only a friend photographer can take, and those can more than make up for not wearing a tux or getting drunk with the couple at the end of the night.
    Last edited by Ryuji; 04-17-2007 at 05:45 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  8. #16

    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Boston, MA
    Multi Format

    more random thoughts on shooting wedding

    What I found to be very important is to understand what people want out of wedding photography. Pros know this very well but amateurs dont. They say they have a limited budget, don't need many pictures, just this and that, do whatever you want, etc. Many things don't significantly reduce the cost, or reduce your work, or worse can increase your stress. I also think many people only have vague idea of what they want and can't really communicate it because they don't know what can cost and what requires extra work. I've come to think that most people (those in my circle of friends anyway) are better off with complete set of photographs taken (film and development are cheap) but make a small album. I don't recommend this to everyone, but for the price of an album book, one can take a class on bookmaking and buy all necessary materials. Or maybe they can get a $300 book as a wedding gift from someone else.

    Also, as a photographer, you might think anything smaller than 8x10 is a waste of time and quality. But in reality, people want lots of 5x7 pictures, two on each page. Many people seem to want 8x10 or 10x10 or something of that order for posed photos, ceremony, and other major events, but want 5x7 for the rest. Also, people don't necessarily want wall prints larger than 16x20. (Whether they can afford to pay a framer is another question.)

    Another cost saving can be made in printing. I've come to think that scanning negs and printing off shutterfly is the cheapest option. When I checked last, they are one of very few online printing services that claim to use Crystal Archive paper. I'm sure a lot of people here don't like to hear this, but when the cost is an issue, this option may be very useful. After all, I insist on the best possible quality on the film and film processing, so they can always redo this part when they get a real job. I also have a list of local labs (both pro labs and consumer labs) that use Crystal Archive paper and give it to them as well. Also, once they have digitized image files, they can make low cost picture books printed online as well. I hand print in my darkroom 8x10 and larger, but I dont want to do too many 5x7s.

    Scanning negs at a service bureau is always expensive. Printing straight out of the film is also expensive. Scanning yourself is too time consuming. I haven't found a particularly good solution to this problem yet.

    If anyone has to shoot wedding for friends, the most useful thing is to visit the sites a week or two before the actual wedding day. You want to go with a camera with a zoom, a light meter, and a notebook. Take a quick sketch of the site, where people sit, etc., and make quick reading of the light and the useful focal lengths. Set up your equipment and select films with this knowledge. Also, decide where you want to set up your equipment case, battery charger, etc.

    Another useful thing is to ask the couple to write down the detailed program and give it to you in advance. Memorize the whole thing. Also, introduce yourself to the wedding planner and/or DJ and ask him to let you know when important events are about to happen.

    Another useful thing is to ask the couple to write down the entire list of group shots they want. The original post of this thread has a long list, but not everyone wants them all. Ask them to make their list. Also ask them to have a relative in charge of checking the list off, to make sure everything important is photographed. If a bride's cousin is put in charge, he probably knows the face and name of everyone on the list, and this is a huge help to cut down your stress.

    You need to bring a big bottle of water and a couple of boxes of powerbar. When shooting groups, you have to be very fast (due to the influence from the digital technology, people are no longer patient), you have to keep talking something funny, you have to give posing instruction constantly, and you'll be using your voice a lot. Just because you are a friend, don't let the members of the bridal party too comfortable. You'll often have to yell at them to drop their camera and get in your picture. You have to maintain a good level of control during group shot and you need a lot of water. Finding a caterer is a waste of time.
    Last edited by Ryuji; 04-17-2007 at 07:10 PM. Click to view previous post history. Reason: added more stuff

  9. #17

    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Boston, MA
    Multi Format
    Quote Originally Posted by Menard View Post
    This article was written when I moderated a photography forum. A common question that would pop up time to time from amateur photographers whould be (along the lines of) 'I am shooting a wedding for the first time; what do I do?'.

    My intent was to create an introduction aimed at someone shooting a wedding for the first time, using what equipment they had available, plus offering some advice garnered from wedding photography that would not be covered in a simple equipment and poses checklist.
    I totally understand that aspect and I would've definitely appreciated your article if I read it before my first wedding.

  10. #18

    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Boston, MA
    Multi Format
    Oh another nice thing to hide in a camera case is a pair of good earplugs. When you are shooting with very loud dance music, you feel fatigue coming very fast, and you may also have hard time communicating. Many earplugs make muffled sound that make it difficult to talk, but a very specific product called Etymotic ER-20 (about $10-20 a pair, available from B&H or J&R Music) has rather flat attenuation and it is very useful. It's also great for night clubs and rock concerts.

  11. #19

    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Long Island, New York
    Medium Format
    As a photographer who has done many weddings, and still does more than he'd like, I thought is was a Great preparatory article. The list of shots was a good one. Perhaps the bride or groom don't want 'em - but, trust me, the mother-in-laws will be whining if they're not there! Between Robert and the Vicar's insights I think it was well covered.

    Have to say the "My Way or the Highway" approach is a little harsh - it's not the photographer's day, it's the bride and groom's. (or at least the bride's!). Bit like giving them a vacuum cleaner as a wedding gift when a tea service is on the list!

  12. #20
    biloko's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Chastre / Belgium
    Multi Format
    When asked to take pictures for any friend's celebration I just remember that, if they are friends, I'll also appreciate to get time to celebrate with them. Photography is real fun... but drinking, eating and meeting people too !

    So, my basic rule is: get a second friend photograph.

    Far less stress on each of them and mixing the styles and the angles is definitely a good thing.
    Charles "Biloko" Lemaire

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