Saturday, September 8, 2012

What I learned from shooting my first wedding

A few readers expressed interest in my personal experience shooting a wedding for the first time... so, here's the scoop on wedding photography from my very limited amateur point of view. :-) (thanks Wendy for the behind-the-scenes shots!)

1. Make a schedule and shot list! This was probably the #1 best thing I did. I sat down with Mrs. S (unfortunately Sarah wasn't able to be at the meeting due to work, so in an ideal situation, you'd be talking to the bride herself) and wrote out a timeline for the day. We worked backwards from the ceremony (much easier than starting at the beginning of the day!), and I left 15 minute buffers in between events. I then took that basic schedule home and filled it in with what shots I was planning to take. An example:
11:00 am  Kathryn meet Sarah & bridesmaids' for hair appt. at salon
1:00 pm    Hair finished and drive back to house
1:15 pm    Kathryn, Sarah & bridesmaids arrive at house
                       - Lunch
                       - Girls getting ready
                       - Kathryn shoot details:
                                Dress hanging up
                                Bridesmaids dresses hanging in a row
I also included notes on what I wanted my second shooter to cover, with detailed instructions on how I envisioned any specific shots if I wasn't just leaving her to her own judgement. :-) I made sure that the bride & groom, families and the wedding coordinator had copies of the schedule in its' basic form (without the shot list).

2. Don't be afraid to make suggestions, and be the boss. I'm not saying tyrannize everyone and ruin the day. But most of the time, the bride doesn't know what the best light is, etc. so just mentioning, "We could actually get a better shot if you were to stand this way," or, "Can we open the shades on this window?" can aid you in getting the shot you want. I regret that I didn't do this as much as I could have.

3. Slow down and focus (and I don't mean the camera) during portrait time. Another thing I think I can definitely improve next time. It was so easy to start feeling rushed during portraits and just zip through poses without pausing to make sure that everything looked just right before pressing the shutter. Portrait time is the fun time of the day, so relax! For instance, in the pictures with the flower girls, I realized after the fact that the one little girl's dress was slipping off her one shoulder. If I had slowed down and "studied" the shot briefly before I snapped it, I would have noticed that and been able to fix it. Also checking your shot for a moment afterward on your LCD screen would help too! (The Lord knows how to keep us humble...)

4. Remember your aperture during family portraits after the ceremony! I followed a tip from Jasmine Star where you shoot family portraits in layers - start with EVERYONE and then peel people off from there. That means the number of people in your shot is changing. I was shooting outside and it was evening and overcast - the light was fading. In my first shot there were a TON of people, so I had my aperture up around f/14, which also meant I had to have my ISO pretty high. Once I had it cut down to just the bride & groom with their parents, for instance, I could have pulled my aperture way down and lowered my ISO, resulting in a crisper, less grainy shot. Unfortunately, I totally zoned out on that point and shot everything at f/14. *blushes* Next time I think I would actually note on my shot list what aperture I would use so I'd have a visual reminder.

5. Flash has its place and it is sometimes a necessity for outdoor-receptions-at-night-with-only-cafe-lights-for-illumination. But I still don't like it, even with a big fancy 580EX II.

6. The "big name" photographers (hellooo Katelyn James - and lots of others but she's my favorite!) do NOT charge too much!!! It's a big figure, yes, but they earn it!

7. Schedule a massage for the day after. You'll need it. :-D

I'm sure I must have learned more than that, but I'm drawing a blank. If you have specific questions, leave a comment and I'll be glad to answer it, however unqualified I may be. :-)


  1. good tips--and I LOVE katelyn james' work as well!

  2. Thanks so much for sharing your tips Kathryn!

  3. Thank you, Kathryn! I was excited to see this on here. The behind the scene photos are so neat. :)

    I just did my first formal shoot the weekend before last and your third point is something I wish I had done more too. Ah, well, practice makes perfect, right? :)

    Thanks for posting this!

    1. How fun! Do you mean "formal shoot" as in, wedding formals? Exactly, use your mistakes to improve for next time! :-)
      I didn't know you were that "into" photography! What do you like to do best?

    2. Oh, my! I didn't tell you that! Yes, I am "into" photography. :) I am not as accomplished as you but I hope to be someday. :) My favorite genre is portraiture.

      My "formal shoot" was doing family portraits for some folks we know. I have done shoots before, but just for personal practice.

    3. That's great! Do you post your work anywhere? I'd love to see! :-)

    4. No, I don't post my work anywhere. I've thought about it, though. Maybe, someday. :)

  4. Thanks for sharing! To be honest, posts like this helps a lot...and it's usually hard to find. :)

    Really love #2,3,4 I'll remember it when it's my turn.

    What lens did you use? How was the flash? :)

    1. I'm glad my humble little tips helped someone!

      I used a variety of lenses - my second shooter has some lenses I don't have and we swap gear all the time. So for most of the detail shots I used the Canon 50mm 1.8, and the Sigma 30mm 1.4 for the full length dress shots since I couldn't achieve that with the 50mm due to room size. ;-) For formals I used the Canon 17-55 2.8 IS USM, though in hindsight I would have used the 30mm again just because I like the sharpness of prime lenses. I used that again for the processional, and during the prayer switched to the Canon 75-300 3.5-5.6 for the rest of the ceremony. If I had it to do over I would have used the 75-300mm for the whole ceremony, since I like the shots of them further back in the aisle versus up close and wide angle, so the telephoto zoom would have allowed me to get "up close" shots of them still in the middle of the aisle. I guess that would depend on how long your aisle is - theirs was pretty long. I shot the entire reception with my 50mm.

      The flash was... well, flashy. :-) I don't think anything will ever make me like flash. I did find that I don't think I needed to rent the Lightsphere diffuser because the 580EX II has a pop-up white bounce card which would accomplish the same idea (though I still used the diffuser because I had it). If I get more into weddings I would like to learn how to do off-camera flash so I could have two light sources going at the same time and avoid that harsh, front-lit look that flash has when it's only on-camera. I do think that it was worth renting the 580EX II versus relying on my pop-up flash (as long as your rental costs are covered of course!).

      I hope that lengthy epistle answered your questions satisfactorily!

  5. Thanks for sharing, Kathryn! I totally agree with #2 and #3... I really need to do better on those my next shoot. =) Oh, and the behind the scene shots were fun! Does your friend Wendy have a site of some sort where she shares her pictures?

    1. Right now Wendy doesn't have a public photo site... I keep telling her she should get one. :-)

  6. Great tips, Kathryn!

    Amen on the massage :) And having a second shooter is practically a must :D

  7. Hi Kathryn!!
    I am shooting my first wedding today and I providentially stumbled upon your post this morning! WHat a blessing. It calmed me down just to read it. And the reminder to slow down, focus and have fun is priceless. Thank you!!!

    Sally Krueger
    Sally Belle Photography

    1. Congrats on shooting your first wedding, Sally! I'm so glad the post was helpful to you! I am sure you will do a wonderful job!


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