Shooting a Wedding: 3 Critical Steps to Preparing for Your First Wedding

Preparing for Your First WeddingYou’ve been trying to break into the photo business for a few months now. After many dedicated months of studying the business of photography, playing with your equipment and convincing family members to model for you, you finally have your very first gig!

This could be shooting a wedding of a friend or co-worker who didn’t have the budget for a pro, or you could be tagging along as a second shooter. Doesn’t matter. This is your first wedding and you want to make it count!

Not only do you have the opportunity to get some great shots for your portfolio, you have the opportunity to begin networking with other professional wedding vendors.

The more time you can spend preparing, the more you will get from this opportunity. When you are just starting out with weddings, there are many things to learn and understand.

If you show up without understanding what the most important shots are, where you will take the couple for portraits and the overall timeline for the day, you will spend most of the day running in circles and missing much of the action.

Study the Key Moments of a Wedding Day

Study important wedding day images so that you start to know what types of images you might be able to create. Wedding days are filled with moments filled with joy, excitement, anxiety and everything in between. When you’ve been around the block a few times, you begin to have a sense for anticipating these moments before they occur, which allows you to position yourself to best capture that moment.

While all weddings are unique in certain ways, there is also a flow to them that you will begin to anticipate after shooting a number of weddings. When you first become a photographer, it might all feel like a whirlwind to you, but after a while you’ll begin to sense the flow of the day and how each part of the day unfolds into the next part.

For more: Studying Key Wedding Shots

Scout the Location

Having an understanding for the location of the event will make your day go much smoother and is well worth the time. Merely understanding the layout of the venue and what is happening where is important in itself.

The other benefits to scouting the location prior to the wedding include having an understanding for where the ceremony will take place and what perspectives you’ll want to shoot from, the lighting conditions, a great spot for family portraits and some key spots you want to use for the couple’s portraits. Seasoned pros typically find location scouts to be less critical, although it’s always nice.

Here’s more: Scouting the Location

Review the Timeline

Once you’ve studied the key shots to capture and scouted the location, it’s time to put everything together. Having and reviewing a timeline prior to the wedding is CRITICAL. Otherwise, you are likely to wind up with no time for the 45 family portraits they were expecting done (in 15 minutes), much less any time with the couple. Even if you have to work with the bride and put together a timeline yourself, it’s worth it to avoid a disaster on the day.

Once you have reviewed the timeline, you can put together your photography plan. Will there by time for bridal portraits prior to the ceremony? Will you have a chance to photograph the reception room prior to the reception? How long will it take to complete family portraits? How much time will be available for the couple’s romantic portraits? How many spots did you pick out? If there isn’t enough time to get to all of them, which location is the most important backdrop for bride and groom portraits?

If you want more on this topic, go here:

Reviewing the wedding timeline

As you can see, there is a great deal of planning prior to the wedding day in order to ensure a great shoot. Take your time and get it right. Shooting a wedding is something you want to be prepared for. It will be time well spent.


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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Joelle May 9, 2012 at 5:26 pm

My first wedding,lovely couple, made the front page of the local paper (outside of DC), No pressure, 🙁 now the networks want to be at the wedding and the schedule is changing. I have my shot list, second shooter and game plan, but feel change is inevitable. How do I handle ?

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Lara White May 9, 2012 at 6:25 pm

Joelle,

When TV crews come in, it can be tricky to get the shots you need, so be prepared for a bit of a frenzy/paparazzi feeling and don’t be afraid to get in there and get the shots you need. Be polite but firm in letting the camera crew know you are hired by the couple to capture their day, and politely ask them to give you the room you need to work, particularly when it comes to covering the ceremony and getting the formals. If the camera crew will be staying into the reception, you’ll need to be very familiar with your flash settings so you can quickly adjust on the fly to different lighting scenarios. I would also recommend starting early so you have some time to warm up without the tv crew there just yet. Lastly, have fun!

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tunji February 20, 2012 at 11:06 pm

Hi.
I am a newbie of some sorts and I identify withsome of thechallenges that you can overcome with just a little extra preparation like you have outlines above. It’s just the timeline thing I am still trying to get a hang of because culturally in my present area of operation, people do not place premium value on keeping to time!! 🙂
Barring all unforeseens you would think they would just make your work easy by being where they are supposed to at the right (or agreed) time. But it seems to play out otherwise most of the time. So I would like to add to the preparation checklist that you should have done your meditation (as drastic as yoga) to equip yourself witth a healthy dose of patience so that bad vibes dont enter your pictures!!
Thanks for this great write-up

Reply

Lara White February 21, 2012 at 8:00 am

that is actually excellent advice! It can be quite frustrating when you have 30 minutes allotted for time alone with the bride, and you’ve picked out these GREAT spots and you already have this perfect image in your mind composed…but just as your time with her is starting, the makeup artist is about half way done with no concern for the time whatsoever. So lots of patience is needed!

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