Talking to the Bride & Groom:
The first thing l did, was talk to the bride and groom and get some idea of what their plans were and what their expectations were. Don’t be afraid to take a pad & pen and write all this stuff down. Make a check-list of venue, address, and schedule for all the different aspects of the day. There should be a clear plan of what time the bride will be getting ready, what time she is due at the church or registry office, how many people will attend? Are there any famous guests that the couple want on the photos? For instance, there might be a brother that’s flown all the way from Australia to be at his little sister's wedding, and this will be a rare chance to get a photo of the family with him in it.
Once you have found out about times and places for the ceremony and the reception, it’s a good idea to go over beforehand and familiarize yourself with the venues. Drive the route, get to know what the traffic is like and plan how much time it takes, with some time added for contingency. You will need to allow enough time to make sure you can set up comfortably and in a relaxed manner. If you get uptight and have to rush around, this will make the couple anxious (and if you have been married yourself, you will know what an anxious day it is). Also, it will lead to you making mistakes and rushing and missing important shots. Have a look round the venues too, make notes where you think the best place to set up might be, factoring in what shots you need and the number of people that are likely the be in each shot (you did remember to write down how many guests are expected, didn’t you?).
Seeking help from the experts:
Here’s a great wedding photography tip and I found it very useful – don’t forget, the vicar or the registrar or anyone associated with setting up the venue will be very familiar with the preparation and execution of the big day. So make an appointment to see them and explain to them you're what you’ve been asked to do. They should be only too happy to help you with things like, how the ceremony will go off; where the best places are to take various shots etc. After all, everybody should have one purpose in mind, to make the couple's big day as perfect as possible. So go out of your way to make an ally of these people; you will find their help invaluable.
By now you should have compiled quite a bit of information and have a clear idea of how the day should pan out. (Did you expect this much work would be involved when you said ‘yes’?).
Seeking help from other guests:
Another good wedding photography tip on the day, ask the bride or groom if any of their friends or relatives would mind helping you with ‘ushering’ the subjects in and out of the photos when necessary. After all, you may not know many of the guests, and you will need their help in gathering together the groups of people, etc. They will probably be dead ‘chuffed’ at being asked to do such an outstanding job and will enjoy themselves bossing everyone around.
List of shots:
It’s important to prepare a list of shots that you need to take, which should include all the Formal shots required, Groom, Best Man and guests as they enter, Bride & Groom together during the ceremony and after, including the Signing, Group shots with each of the families and the other guests as a group. Also, be ready to take candid shots throughout the day and record any individual shots that set the mood…flowers, shots of the venue any unique features such as stained glass windows, that add useful punctuation to the main shots to give a flavor of the day. the wedding photography poses are very important, to provide an excellent composition and to present the bride and groom and all the guests in the most flattering way. When taking shots of the couple, get them to face each other or turn slightly side on towards each other. In close up shots for portraits, get the couple to lean slightly towards the camera for a more flattering look. Group shots should be balanced around the main subjects, i.e., Groom, and bride, the bride and groom’s parents and attention to the heights of each of the people in the shot to create some symmetry. Again, the group shots should turn slightly ‘side on’ to the camera, facing in towards the main subject.
I’m not going into the technical aspects in this article of how to set up the camera and take the actual photographs – after all; you probably would not have been asked in the first place if you had not already demonstrated a certain amount of skill with your camera. Also, there are other resources with much more in-depth information about this. I’ll tell you about one such excellent support for this later on.
One thing I would say before you start taking the photographs. If you have not used RAW on your camera before, now is the time to use it. Why? Well RAW gives you much more flexibility when you post-process the files. Beware, though, that the data will increase in size considerably as opposed to ‘jpg’ for instance, so make sure in your preparation, that you have allowed plenty of storage space on your camera and with extra storage cards. So go and learn all you can about using RAW as soon as possible before the 'Big Day.'
Preparing the equipment:
The next bit of preparation is the equipment. Digital wedding photography has a broad range of computers and accessories available nowadays, and it’s important to have the right stuff and to prepare it all in the right way. Ask yourself do you have enough of the right equipment? You will need a good DSLR with a range of lenses that allow you to take close portrait shots (a good 50mm prime lens would be best for this). A lens that gives a wider view is handy for those big group shots. You don’t want it too full, or it will look distorted, maybe a zoom lens that goes down to 28mm would be about right.
A good flash is a must; possibly with some movable reflectors to bounce the light around would be good to include’. A good sturdy tripod is crucial and also gives the photographer some presence to make the guests more aware of you, and they will know to keep out of the way and give you space. Extra memory cards and spare batteries should all be included in your armory. A second camera can be a life saver. Imagine how foolish you would look and how upset the couple would be if your camera stopped working. If you can’t beg, steal or borrow another DSLR, then take along a compact camera as a backup. Not ideal I know, but better than having no camera at all. I even took a small video camera in the car as a last resort…should I have needed it? At least that way, you can record the day's events if the primary camera fails.
How to act on the day:
It’s very important to conduct yourself well on the day. I think it’s an excellent balance between being assertive but unobtrusive. After all, your there as an observer, to record the events of the day, not to be part of the wedding. But that’s quite a hard balance to achieve. Firstly, dress appropriately; I would suggest you imagine you are one of the guests and wear an outfit accordingly. Don’t be afraid to be assertive on the day with other guests. Some will be reluctant to be in the photos, or they will be awkward about posting and standing in the right spot. Just gently remind them, that these pictures are for the happy couple and that they would be disappointed it they were not in the photo. The main thing, of course, is to be polite and professional at all times and SMILE! Make sure you look like your enjoying the day and look calm (even if inside you're a bag of nerves). Pay attention to the ‘experts’ that you talked to before the wedding and take your cues from them for the appropriate times to make each different set where necessary. Don’t forget to use your ally to help marshal the guests.
Somewhere Special Portraits:
You need to take some pictures of the happy couple somewhere special; these are often taken on the grounds of the church or registry, so that you get natural light, which is often more flattering, along with fantastic backdrops of nice gardens or trees in blossom, etc. Of course, this opens you up to the unpredictable weather, and it’s not always possible to get these shots, so a backup plan of some indoor shots, away from the other guests with preferably impressive features of the building as a backdrop. I mentioned earlier that sometimes you could get more than one shot of the big day…. if the weather is dangerous, you can maybe bring the couple back on another day to do the different shots. This is not ideal as of course the couple, especially the bride, will have gone to a lot of trouble with their hair, makeup and clothing to look ‘just right’ so it will be hard to make sure there is a convincing continuity to the shots and this should only be used as a last resort.
Finally, prepare yourself for the big day, get a good night’s sleep, so you are alert and get up in real time and have a hearty breakfast to set you up for the day. Set out early and do let the bride know you’re on your way, to calm her nerves in case she is worrying you may not show.
Most of all, enjoy the experience and although the day itself will be quite nerve racking, with the right preparation and planning, the day should be fun. I hope you found this website useful and don’t forget to bookmark it to refer to it when you need to. Good luck for the big day and have fun!