Basic tips for wedding photography

Some basic equipment, hints and tips for amateur Wedding Photography

I have photographed a few weddings now, some as just a family member and a couple of others as the 'official' photographer, but I have tried to learn as much as possible about wedding photography, just in case. This guide is aimed at amateurs and those wanting to become professionals one day.

Check out locations in advance

If you can always go and see where the wedding and the reception will be, preferable at the right time of day or night for the wedding, that will help you see what sort of lighting and how much or little lighting there will be. Also scout out the local area, sometimes a reception might not have anywhere that nice for outdoor photos, but there can often be somewhere more pretty within a few minutes drive that you can suggest for a brief stop on the way to the reception for some nice shots. Having a backup option for bad weather is good too!

Weddings are one of those things that people hope they will only do once, so getting home and looking at your pictures and realising the photos were all on the wrong setting or could have been photographed from much better angles is not an option! Experiment, experiment and then experiment some more! Offer to photograph weddings unpaid as an additional photographer to their official one, some official ones don't like that, but as long as you don't get in their way most don't mind, a lot of them will have learnt the same way!

A digital camera!

You could use a film based camera, but for events like weddings you can't beat a digital camera, especially for candid shots. It gives you the freedom to take MANY more photos than you could using film and not have to worry about getting every one printed and the cost of films, it's much better to take too many and have extra to sort, than not enough and miss something important. As I have already said with weddings you don't get a second chance, i.e. you can't go back tomorrow to try again, so being able to see the photo you have taken is a huge benefit of digital cameras.

Plenty of fast memory cards

These days memory cards are really cheap, you can (at the time of wring this) get a 16gb (gb = gigabyte or about 1,000,000,000 bytes of information!) SD card for less than £10, if you shop around you can even find a few from about £5. The cards that come with most cameras are very small and are only really for testing out the camera, the one that came with my last camera was only big enough for about 8 photos on high quality! Always try to factor in the price of an additional card when buying a digital camera. You can never have too much memory for your camera, there is nothing worse than running out just before something really important happens. Even keep your little ones that come with the camera, you never know when you might need those extra few photos! Speed of the card is also important, most places only charge a few pounds more for a class 10 card, than a class 4 one and the class 10 will be much faster at saving photos and making sure you don't miss good things while its storing the last photo you took, this is extremely important if you use RAW instead of JPG.

Plenty of good rechargable batteries

Just like memory cards it better to have too many batteries than not enough. Invest in some high capacity NI-MH rechargeable batteries, you can get them pretty cheap (about £5 for 4) from places like 7dayshop.com and they will save you a fortune in the long run. I normally take half a dozen sets of them with me everywhere I go and they last for ages anyway. Unlike non rechargeable batteries rechargeable ones normally have a number on them that shows how much power they can store, try to go for ones that are at least 2000 if you don't want to spend half the day changing batteries! 2600 ones will last for double the number of photos as 1300 ones, so it can make a real difference at an important event like a wedding.

The right size camera bag

Try to get a bag that is the right size for the equipment you will actually NEED on the day, a huge bag that holds everything you could possible want may sound great, but its not once you have been carrying it around for a few hours. For the same reason I would say to choose a bag that has enough protection for your stuff, but that is made of a light material, aluminium cases offer great protection, but are bulky and heavy! 8o( Try to use something that is designed for camera equipment, as they will often have extra padding. I have a big rucksack that I store my equipment in to keep it all together, but I have a number of smaller cases that I choose from on a daily bases depending on the equipment I think I will NEED for that day.

A flash

No I don't mean what Cousin Paul does when he has had too many! Most small digital cameras have a built flash that only has a range of about 6 feet / 2 meters, if your camera can have an extra flash added then look round for a cheap one, you can get them from boot sales or places like eBay for a few pounds for a very basic one. Just be careful as some older flashes need a lot of power from the camera (called trigger voltage) to make it work and a lot of modern cameras are just not powerful enough and they can also damage your camera if its much too high. Search online to find out which are compatible with your camera and print out a list to take with you when shopping for a new flash. A bounce flash (one that can be tilted to different angles) is also an advantage, this is because they can bounce the light off the ceiling instead of directly at the person you are photographing, this helps reduce red eye and creates a more flattering light.

A tripod or two

If you plan to take lots of official style photos then a tripod comes in very handy, it holds the camera much more steady than you can and that helps getting really sharp images. The only problem with tripods is that they are often bulky and heavy, so also get one of the little table top mini tripods as they can be very useful, especially for wedding receptions.

Creative filters?

On some cameras you can screw glass filters on the lens for different effects such as soft focus, but these days I would not bother with most of them as its much better to get a nice unmodified photo at the time and then being digital you can play around with it once you get it home. Programs like Paint Shop Pro let you do almost any effect that you can get filters for anyway. The only exceptions are polarizers and UV / skylight filters, polarizers reduce the number of reflections and can enhance the colours in your photos, but reduce the amount of light, so be careful! UV filters and skylight filters both do the same sort of thing, they help improve photos with the sky in them by getting rid of some of the UV glow that you cannot see, but the camera can. When should you have a UV filter on your camera? All the time! They have a great added bonus of protecting your lens as a cheap filter from eBay is much easier and cheaper to replace than a scratched lens if something bad happens.

A lens hood

This is another thing you can fit on the lenses of some cameras, they stop stray light from getting into the lens, which can create a lot of problems especially with disco lights. They are another thing that most people only think of when its sunny, but they can really make a difference.

Software to edit the photos

You don't need the latest, most powerful version of Photoshop, I do all my editing on Paintshop Pro X4, which I find easier and cheaper! There are also free packages like Gimp too. The amount of editing you do is up to you, but many photos can be improved with a just slight crop or cloning out of a stray hand etc. If you are doing more extreme editing then always make sure you keep unedited versions of everything, just in case!

Wipes for those little accidents

Accidents do happen and when little Joanne smears wedding cake over your lens or Auty Sharon spills her drink on your camera its always good to have some wipes to clean it all up! Some shops do small individually sealed wet wipes designed for cleaning glasses and I find they are very good at cleaning lenses and do not take up much room.

Dress code

If somebody is having a smart wedding and you turn up in scruffy jeans and t-shirt don't expect a warm reception! lol Try to find out what the guests are wearing and blend in, no point turning up in an expensive suit if everybody else is going to be smart or casual. The more you blend in, the more natural shots you will be able to get. The only exception is shoes, I would recommend smart black trainers for most events, most people won't be looking at your feet and you will probably be spending more time on your feet than anybody else there, so comfort is very important.

Copyright

This guide was 100% created by Dean Thorpe of Death Prone Images, so please feel free to link to it if you think it is useful, but PLEASE do not copy it and use it on your own site, it took a lot of work to create. If you want to print it out for educational reasons then that is fine, just don't claim you created it or make profit out of it. Sorry to sound negative, but I have had a few bad experiences with people selling my creations on eBay!