Shooting Your First Wedding

Ask Anything

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It’s crazy wild how fast this industry is growing. People ask me “So do you think anyone can be a photographer” and I feel very confident when I answer “No”. I don’t think anyone can do this and succeed at it. However, I do think that everyone has a right to try. We can’t get frustrated with the new photographers entering the industry everyday because at one point in our own lives, we sat down and thought “Maybe I could actually do this! Maybe I could be a professional photographer!”. I had that moment when I was barely 20 and was still in college… for others, they are experiencing that moment in their mid twenties after not being able

to really land a great job after college, some are in high school and some new photographers are mothers and they realized their love for photographer while photographing their children.  Whatever the case, everyone deserves a shot at this. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying EVERYONE can do it, but everyone can try.  Sometimes… actually, more often than you would think, new photographers start shooting weddings on ACCIDENT! I’m serious.  This is how it goes. “Jenny” is going to be our example.

So Jenny gets a Canon Rebel because she wants to take better pictures than what she gets on her iPhone. She’s in college and has some friends that just got engaged and they’re hanging out on the great lawn and she says “Hey let me take some pictures of you two just for fun!”.  She takes some impromptu engagement pictures and the couple likes them! So then they decide to do more of a REAL engagement shoot with Jenny. After that, someone says to Jenny “Hey! You’re good, you should be a photographer” and at the same time, that engaged couple with no money says to Jenny, “Will you shoot our wedding?”.  And that’s how it starts!! What happens next? I get an email from “Jenny” that sounds something like this:

“Katelyn Help! I’m shooting my first wedding in a few weeks and I have no clue what I’m doing!!! Do you have any tips?!”.

Whew! Where do I begin? I don’t even know. My first thought is “Well you need to be shooting 100% manually and know your camera inside and out”… but there isn’t enough time for that! I mean, it takes so much practice to be able to shoot manually on a wedding day and this wedding is going to take place in a matter of a couple of weeks! My next thought is “Well be sure to look for good light!!” But then I realize that it took me YEARS to really learn about light and understand it! Then my next thought is about gear and posing and the timeline!! AH! You just can’t teach all of that in one email. It’s impossible.

It’s also impossible to know everything you need to know before shooting your first wedding. There are some things you need to experience before you can really understand them. Wedding photography is a different world! It’s unlike any other type of photography and it’s high pressure because it only happens once. I don’t say this to new photographers to scare them, I’m just being honest. If you were asked to photograph someone’s wedding, that’s a HUGE honor and it should be taken really seriously. So while I can’t teach a new photographer how to shoot a wedding in one blog post, I can share some tips that will help you make it through your first wedding!

1. Second Shooting! As SOON as you find out you’re shooting a wedding, try your BEST to find someone that will allow you to assist them on a wedding day! You don’t even need to shoot, you just need to experience a wedding day from a photographer’s perspective. I recommend joining local FB groups in your area to find opportunities to second shoot!

2. Watch Online Tutorials! Start finding as many resources online as possible! Creative Live has some AWESOME workshops that you can purchase and watch over and over again! You can actually watch Jasmine Star shoot a real wedding on Creative Live and while I know it’s going to cost you $149, I think it’s important to gain as much knowledge as quick as possible. Videos are the way to do that.

3. PRACTICE! Practice with your kids, your husband/wife, friends… anyone!! Practice shooting in the middle of the day when the light is AWFUL! Practice shooting when the light is soft and glowy an hour and a half before sunset! Practice shooting inside with natural light and no tungsten lights turned on.

4. Communicate with the Bride! Just because you’re barely getting paid anything and you may not be a huge priority to the couple, you still have the right to talk with the bride about a timeline. If you don’t do this beforehand, you’re setting yourself up for failure! That sounds harsh but it’s true. You need to communicate that you need some TIME for their portraits. 30 minutes for the bride and groom, 20-30 minutes for the bridal party and 30 minutes for family formals is what I ask for. However, most of my couples share a First Look and so we knock out a whole hour of portraits beforehand and all I have to worry about after the ceremony is family formals and then taking extra portraits of the couple!

5. Rent a camera, lens and a flash! If you just have a Rebel or a starter SLR with a kit lens, I recommend renting another camera that will do a better job in low light AND so that you have two cameras. Now I can only recommend lenses from my experience. I love primes and so I shoot with nothing but primes (except for the 70-200). For someone that’s just trying to make it through their first wedding, a 24-70 2.8 lens may be a smarter lens to rent first. If you have the money to rent a macro and a lens with a longer focal length for the ceremony too, then you should do that! Make sure you have enough cards to handle a wedding day as well. If you have no experience shooting RAW, you probably don’t have enough card space to shoot a whole wedding RAW. The last thing we want is for you to run out of cards! If you have a lot of card space AND have an editing program that will convert CR2 files, then by all means, shoot RAW!!

6. Don’t Let your Nerves get the Best of You! The first thing to go when you’re nervous is your creativity. Try to remember that the people that hired you know that this is your first wedding. They don’t expect you to produce award winning images. However, you should try to produce images that are clear, well exposed and and well composed.  Don’t crop off feet at the ankles, don’t shoot terribly crooked images, and don’t try to be “too artsy” at your first wedding. Hopefully, if you shoot beautiful images at this first wedding, you’ll have a ton of other weddings coming your way where you can start to get “artsy” and more creative!

Well that was a fast crash course but it wasn’t nearly enough to fully educate someone on how to handle their first wedding. If you’re like “Jenny” and you have been asked to shoot your first wedding without any prior experience, I hope you find this helpful!!

6 Tips for Shooting Your First Wedding by Katelyn James Photography

Thanks for reading!

— Katelyn

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