If you aren’t serious about your photography and don’t want to spend time preparing for your first wedding, you might as well stop reading these articles as they won’t help you much. While I’m a firm believers in practical advice (which is what I’m trying to give in these articles) – nothing can replace the benefit of picking up your camera, taking photos, critically reviewing them, and then starting the process over and trying to take better ones.
This article continues looking at things you can do to prepare (ahead of time) for the wedding. The previous articles discussed knowledge of photography, preparing your equipment, online/internet preparations, wedding photography books, and spending time with the couple.
Create a Shot List
With the couple, work through a list of “formal” images that they want (if they want any formal shots). Be very specific! Find out exactly who is to be included in the “Bride and Groom with Groom’s Family” photo (parents and siblings? what about sibling’s spouses? or their children?). Otherwise, at the wedding, in the middle of the photo session while you are trying to call people together for the shot (I always try to enlist the help of the wedding coordinator or a family member/friend to round people up) you will have to ask the couple exactly who they want in the shot.
My goal has always been to present the couple with any and all decisions before the wedding so that they will hopefully not have to make any photography-related decisions on wedding day. I want them to enjoy the day! The last thing I want them having to be faced with is me, as the photographer, asking them who is supposed to be in a certain photo – when it is so easily dealt with ahead of time. I’m always open to extra photos they want or other people they want to include in formals, it’s just that I want to get as many decisions out of the way ahead of time.
For beginners, I recommend you put more than just the formal images onto the shot list. I know – a shot list is the last thing you would expect a photojournalistic photographer to recommend. But it is important for your first weddings. And I highly recommend putting photojournalistic/unposed images on the shot list!
Shots like “image of groom’s parents” would be great to have on the list. You don’t have to pose them for the image! You just want to make sure you get the image and can “cross it off the list” at some point during the day.
You can search the web for sample “shot lists.” Some of the wedding photography books also have shot lists. I never did like the incredibly long and formal lists online or in books. But, I would take them as a starting point and then cut them down and convert a lot of the shots to photojournalistic.
Practice, Practice, Practice!!!!
Once you have your list I recommend you practice as many shots that are on the list as possible. Enlist family and friends to help out so you can practice your posing and arranging skills. Ideally you’ll be able to find a “couple” that will help you out. Practice taking photos of her and him by themselves in the very same poses you’ll do with the bride and groom, and then take shots of the practice couple together.
The goal is not to setup a shot, practice that one shot over and over, memorize it, and then rigidly take that same image at the wedding. The real goal is to increase your skill and “comfort level” with posing people while at the same time lighting and composing the shot. If you increase your ability to take photos of a posed (or even an unposed!) couple, and can light and compose those shots properly, you’ll be way ahead of the game on wedding day! Think about it: while the wedding day is tremendously special for the couple, in regards to your photography skills, nothing magical is going to boost your skill on that day. You will be taking the same caliber of photos on the wedding day that you took the day before. Or, because you’ll be under pressure and possibly a little rushed, you may actually be taking images that are below your normal skill level!
Definitely go to the wedding and reception venues to take sample photos on-site. All the better if your “models” can go with you. If you can’t take a well-lit photo of your friend walking down the aisle at the church with the same lighting that will be used at the wedding —– you can probably guess what I’m going to say —– you won’t be able to take a well-lit shot of the bride coming down the aisle.
A good way to visualize your “training” for the wedding is to think about a Police SWAT team. They spend far more hours training for events than they do at actual emergencies. And when an actual emergency occurs, they know that they aren’t going to have a chance to “redo” anything – it has to be handled right the first time or lives could be at stake. The SWAT team wants the right thing to happen “automatically” and “instinctively”, and that is why they train so hard.
Obviously, your wedding photography isn’t a matter of life and death. But those that view the time before shooting their first wedding as a serious time of training and who actually practice will take much better wedding photos than those who don’t do much, if anything, to prepare. Sure, you might be able to “slide” by with your current skill level, but why not seek to improve as much as possible between now and the wedding?