In terms of equipment, you will need a minimum of two cameras, both accessible quickly, I use a twin camera strap. I have lots of memory card capacity and I recommend you have at least one speed-light and know how to use it indoors and outdoors.
So the big day is here. Make sure you have a copy of the schedule. Give yourself plenty of time to get to the venue(s) with enough time to check your locations on site before the guests arrive. Check with venue staff that there are no last-minute changes or issues.
Generally, British weddings will begin with images of the bride getting ready. If you are working with the bride during preparation, try to capture natural interaction the giving of gifts etc. There can be some very poignant moments before the wedding. This will be an opportunity to remind the bride and bridesmaids to walk slowly down the aisle and not to get too close together so that you can photograph them individually. If there’s time, get them to stand in formation so as to rehearse the procession. You might get a good shot and you might be helping their nervous excitement as well.
At this time look out for small items and mementoes that mean a lot to the bride, bridesmaids and family. Jewellery, tokens attached to the bride’s bouquet, cards or family pictures, items of clothing. Don’t miss capturing these important emotional details. Get important images. The last capture and so important is the father seeing his daughter in her dress, ready to leave for the service or ceremony.
If the bride is not getting prepared at the service location, you need to drive between the two locations and arrive there first. Sacrifice photographing the bride getting into the car with her father. You need to be well ahead of them to arrive at the wedding venue, get parked and be ready for their arrival.
If you are working on your own then then expect family and friends to be already seated waiting for the bride to arrive. Say hello to the vicar or celebrant again and check they are still ok with where you will be to take the pictures.
With two photographers, capturing the people arriving for the service, the groom waiting and the bride preparing to walk down the aisle is easy but if you’re on your own this can still be achieved (with the exception of people arriving) as long as you communicate with all involved. You must be in position when the service takes place waiting for the bridesmaids the bride to make their entrance. Make sure some of these images also capture the groom waiting then looking round, he will. You need to get yourself into the shooting position and ensure your camera is straight in a combination of landscape and portrait orientations. It’s a real shame if you need to crop these images.
You should be allowed to have a central position to capture the bridal procession and that you can (if possible) move to the left side of the room from your perspective looking at the couple. This will mean you are getting the brides face more directly than the grooms.
Trust me she is more important. With same sex couples positioning is less critical but make sure you are in the best position for light. If you are faced with a room where windows are on one side only. In this situation shoot from the window side to avoid silhouettes. its best generally working with room light only for the service.
During the service when everyone is asked “does anyone down of any reason why the couple should not be joined in matrimony etc” be ready for smiles this is special.
When the rings are placed on their fingers try to get a close shot of this important moment but do not move close. Ideally have your second camera with a long lens or even crop to capture this part of the service.
Remind the couple that the ‘first’ kiss needs to linger a little while to ensure you don’t miss it or even worse you get the shot of them coming apart a split second after the kiss.
After the service let everyone have that little drink and relax and be there to capture these moments. Find a location to make a channel of people on both sides. Place colourful ladies’ outfits (yes, the ladies will be in them) at the front and do the confetti shot if there is a wind make sure that it is mostly being thrown so it does blow at the couple. Always give that last couple a good handful of confetti and ask them to wait until you tell the couple to kiss at the end of this little walk before showing them with it.
Now you need to nail the group shots. Start with the full party. Hopefully you have found a second-floor balcony or position where you can shoot down on the party. Or get them to assemble on stairs so you can see all the faces. Allowing the guests to relax and mingle, move on to the couples list. Working with the nominated family member or friend who knows everybody in the party should get the full set captured in around 30 minutes. This part of the shoot will lead to small group images and it’s important to have poses that can make everyone relax and smile. You will need to communicate and provide guidance quickly so that the group does not lose confidence or patience. Be prepared with poses ready to share.
Throughout the time you are with the wedding guests you will be capturing the reportage – documentary – fly on the wall images. This can be so important, often you are capturing people and angles that the couple will not see. This part of your shoot can deliver something really special and it’s a good idea to keep looking around in anticipation for a shot that you may have missed if your eye does not leave the camera. This is where good assistance can be helpful. You need to strike a balance between the informal gatherings and the formal poses, ensure there is a time to capture the group(s) in this way. Keep an overall awareness of how the whole group is interacting.
After the group shots, throwing the bouquet or confetti (if it’s allowed) can give everyone a laugh they will then go into the speeches smiling. I provide a plastic bouquet so that the bride does not have to throw something that may be special. If they are up for it, the bride can also throw the bouquet for the men. This is always fun and can turn into a rugby scrum.
We are now at the point where everyone moves into the room for food and speeches. It is generally at this point when the couple enter the room for the food and speeches. If you have completed the fun stuff above everyone will be smiling and feeling relaxed. You may feel you are in a good position to capture their entrance but remember everyone will be asked to stand as they walk into the room so ensure that your positioning is correct. Often gifts are given to bride’s maids, parents etc so be ready to capture these moments. Emotions can spill over so be ready to capture a combination of close ups and wide shots, this should also include reaction from guests. When food is served, this is your cue to leave and have something to eat yourself.
After everyone has eaten the room is generally going to be transformed for the evening set up. This is the perfect time to separate the couple from the party for a portrait set, the bride and groom will often panic about time away from the guests so be ready to assure them that everyone is fine and is having a good old catch up. With practice you can get this session down to half an hour. This additional 30 mins will not be a problem for anyone if the wedding plan for the day has built this in.
I provide a posing guide if the couple are nervous and ask them to practice a couple only if they are willing then it can really relax them and things start to flow.
Next the evening and we are nearly there. As discussed in the first blog post understand everything about the first dance sometimes it will explode with fireworks and a complete change in style and dynamics so understand everything, so you are ready. Occasionally the groom will finish with the bride cradled over backwards if this is happening position yourself in the right place.
Generally during the evening, the cutting of the cake is carried out. To capture a colourful image get behind the cake and encourage everyone to come forward get the couple to pose cutting the cake with everyone behind them for a couple of shots Then move them to where you are so everyone can see the actual cutting of the cake. This is always a lovely capture and well worth the trouble.
Image delivery and what you promise. I remember a few years ago how disappointed I was when the post office suggested a delivery date but then they failed, and it took twice as long to arrive. However, If they had told me longer and the delivery was made in the same day, I would not have been disappointed. Let’s apply this simple rule to image delivery.
I always promise at least 40 images within 4 days and the full set within 6 weeks. I always hit the first date and always provide more than 40 images. Full delivery has never taken six weeks so couples are always really happy. I hear often about photographers taking 6 months or more. This suggests disorganisation and it’s clear to see why despite probably providing a great set of images the couple become frustrated. My final grain of advice is, find your own manageable delivery program and either hit it or better it (yes you knew that was coming).
Teaching and image capture
If you are interested in my wedding course, it runs for a full day and will include working with a bride and groom to get used capturing something special. You will also learn how to use a speed-light which in my opinion is essential. Speed-light training can also be provided separately as a 2.5-hour session. If you would like to know more, please ring or email me for details.
So simple summary
- Two cameras
- lots of card memory
- speed-lights and a good supply of batteries
- visit the venue(s)
- get there early on the day
- know the schedule expect it to change
- smile and enjoy the experience.
Why are weddings not featured on my website? I no longer promote weddings as they all come from referrals. I get sufficient work which balances perfectly with corporate and creative photography.