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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Wedding Photography for the non-Professional

I’m going to start into a small series of articles on wedding photography for the non-professional. Partly because right now, we are seeing a lot of people trying to enter the photography business, from students to amateurs to professional photographers working in other areas.
This beginning article is more about preparation, and gaining some experience – what to do, and more importantly, what not to do.
Because you are a good photographer doesn’t mean you will do well with wedding photography. It can have positive aspects – some are fun, and some are not so fun.
smallcameraWedding photography on a regular basis can be grueling – long hours and many weekends away from your family. Out of necessity, it is a weekend business but the whole of it is more than being there and taking the photos. During the week you will need time to process and sort images after the wedding. Before the wedding you’ll need time to meet, perhaps on a number of occasions, with the bride and groom. And you’ll have to prepare and go over the contract with them . You’ll need to prepare your list of “must have” poses/shots and if you are able to get access to venue where the bride and groom intend to have their photos taken, you should take time to visit that in advance. This give you an opportunity to see what you’ll be working with, what the possible lighting might be; the size of the space or, if it’s outdoors, the surroundings. And you’ll be taking notes of course. This will help you be ready for the day of the wedding. All of this is extraneous to the wedding day shooting.
If you have never done wedding photography, jumping in with both feet is not a good idea. Don’t offer yourself out as a hired photographer without some experience under your belt.
How do you get that? There are a number of ways. Offer to do some free photography for friends or family – not those who are hiring a professional wedding photographer, but those who can’t afford one. They might be a little skeptical at first – after all, most people don’t offer to work for free! You can offer your services as part of the wedding gift.
If you know someone who is a wedding photographer, offer to work as an assistant or a “second” at a couple of weddings – free of charge, in exchange for getting a glimpse of what the business entails.
Apply at studios for an assistant position (hard to come by).
When you are gathering skills and experience, there are some things on the “What Not To Do List”.
  • get in the way of the hired photographer at a wedding
  • don’t use your flash while the photographer is shooting
  • don’t tell the wedding party how or where to stand unless the photographer asks for input
  • don’t talk to the people being photographed. It draws their attention away from the photographer
All these don’t might seem a little harsh, but in reality these are often necessary in order for the photographer to fulfill the contract.
At many weddings there will be other “photographers” – friends or family members with cameras who want to take their own memory shots, and all of them think that one or two extra minutes for their shot or setup won’t make much difference.
They might not understand that often, the couple will have paid for a location, and that location will usually have a time-limit. Places that hire out as photo locations may have a number of different weddings booked for that same day. Once the time limit is up, the photographer and the couple must leave. There are a number of things that can affect the outcome of the photo shoot.
  • if the ceremony starts late or runs longer than expected, photo time is shortened
  • if the weather is uncooperative photo time may be shortened
  • if the traffic from the ceremony venue to photography location is heavy it may take longer to get there, leaving less time for the photography
When even more time is taken up by a number of the wedding guests also attending the photo location, things can get way out of whack. You might have six or seven different people with cameras all trying to take photos. A common phrase here is “wait, I didn’t get mine yet”.
This situation is not good for the couple, or the hired photographer. The couple have paid for these services, sometimes quite a lot of money. Guests should not be trying to fill their own albums during this time. IF you can get some shots without getting in the way, then do so, but don’t interject yourself into the planned shoot. And unless you are part of the wedding party, or part of the photographer’s staff, then you are a guest at the shoot.
Stay back from the photographer – don’t stand so close to him or her that you get in the way, or hamper their movements. They may have little enough time as it is without worry about whether or not they’ll be stumbling over another photographer. Don’t get in front of the photographer under any circumstances. Don’t use your flash while the photographer is shooting. It will throw off the lighting causing overexposure and make things more difficult for the photographer, having to reshoot the scene.
These tips profit both the couple and the photographer. Shooting a JGS_BrideAndGroom wedding isn’t all about the photographer. It’s about the couple and what they’ve paid for. If they are friends or family members, then hopefully you will want them to get the most value for their money by staying out of the way.
In some cases, the photographer will include limits in the contract. Limits on who can attend the photo shoot and whether or not the couple may hire another photographer (not every wedding has just one photographer). This helps to control the setting.
Learn first a little about how the wedding photographer works by watching. See how certain things are set up for a shot, whether or not he/she moves around; listen to their directions to the wedding party. Do this at a few weddings; as many as you can – because each photographer is different. Photographer’s work in different styles and have different work flows, and yours will probably be different from those, but watching and listening is the beginning of learning.
Next in the series…learn by doing.

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