Wedding Photography: An Inside Look (Part 3)

In the previous parts I’ve talked about the equipment and financial requirements of professional wedding photography. This time I’m going to attempt to describe the activities involved in shooting a typical wedding. For the puropose of this article, let’s assume the wedding is at a hotel, with all activities taking place there.

While most weddings take place on Saturday the photographer’s work has to start a day or two before. It is important to check that each piece of equipment is working properly, that batteries are charged and lenses cleaned. Then everything needs to be packed in an accessible manner.

The morning of the wedding, or the even before if the location is more distant, the photographer loads the gear and travels to the wedding location. I always, always plan on arrive 1/2 to 1 hour prior to the agreed time in case of car trouble, heavy traffic or other circumstances that might delay my arrival. Of course if I’ve never been to the particular venue I’ll have produced directions via MapQuest of GoogleMaps the evening before. It’s also helpful to use a GPS navigation system in case a detour is needed.

After arriving, hopefull early, I’ll spend a little time “scouting” the location. I need to get a feel for the location and develop some ideas of where I need to be at key moments durint the day’s events to capture the “must have” images. Also, if things are already set-up, this is an excellent time to make so detail photos.

At the agreed time I will meet with the bride and/or groom to shoot some “getting ready” shots. Depending on the couple’s expectations my time may be nearly exclusiverly spent with the bride, or split fairly evenly. Either way there will be some hustling back and forth to insure adequate coverage of all the pre-ceremony activities.

Shortly before the ceremony I move to that location and set-up a tripod for camera 2. Camera 2 will be set-up with a long lens at the back of the room, usually on center aisle. Prior to the ceremony it will be set off to the side, then moved into place after the bride passes to walk down the aisle. I’ll use a hand-held camera for mobility during the ceremony, passing by camera 2 to trip its shutter every few minutes. This provides some vareity in perspective and some insurance that usable photos from the ceremony will be made. I’ll also take this time to check the lighting, make some decisions concerning aperature settings, and ISO. Now it’s back to find the bride and grab some candids of the wedding party just before the ceremony begins.

As the wedding party enters I’ll grab two or three shots of each, using on-camera flash. As soon as the bride reaches the alter I shut-off the strobe and reset camera 1 to shoot in the ambient. During the ceremony I’ll work both sides and the center aisle, as well as using camerea 2 on the tripod. As the bride and groom start up the aisle I move camera 2 to the side, turn on the on-camera flash, make any necessary adjustments to ISO settings and blast away. (You got to move fast!).

Nearly everny bride will want some formal groupings shot following the ceremony. These may be done at the alter, or at some picturesque spot on site. Depending on the size of the wedding party and number of family members this portrait session will take between 20 minutes to an hour. For these shots I’ll set-up a portable flash, sometimes two, on a light stand and bounced into an umbrella. Hurry getting everything set-up; the bride, groom and wedding party are anxious to get to the reception!

Following the formal shots I try to schedule a little “alone time” with the bride and groom. This is where the nice, soft romantic shots usually come from that has everyone oohing and ahhing. Depending on the couple, this session could be as short as 15 minutes to as long as an hour. The guests and wedding party will usually be enjoying cocktails during this time.

Ok, I’ve finished the formal shots, the “alone time,” now I have to scoot ahead so I can catch the newlyweds as they make their entrance to the reception. I really need to get in ahead of them, determine and make any exposure adjustment that may be needed and be ready to shoot in a minute or two.

Depending on the wedding plans, they may do the first dance immediately upon entering the reception or it may come after meal time. During the meal I’ll get a short period to swap batteries, recharge myself, and set-up off camera lights for the dance floor (if I haven’t been able to sneak that in previously). As a general rule people don’t like to be photographed while eating, so I try to avoid doing so.

Following the meal, and for the rest of the evening I’m running around trying to catch the bride, groom with their family and friends during those special moments. I’m on and around the dance floor capturing images of the celebration. And, of course, shooting the “must haves” such as the father/daughter dance, cake cutting, bouquet toss, etc. Bascially I’m in motion from the moment I arrive on site until it’s time for me to leave.

Following all this there is the drive home, or another night in a hotel. Then there’s the hours of editing, post processing, backing up, up-loading and all the other things that have to be done to finish the job. (Maybe a “Part 4” will be upcoming!)

I hope this has provided some insight into the world of wedding photography. There really is more to it than just grabbing a few shots and cashing the check. There is a substantial investment of both time and money, a big level of responsibility that you don’t blow someone’s special day, and a lot of hard work involved.

10 Comments

  1. Karen March 20, 2007 at 1:39 pm #

    I love the “inside look” things. What a great idea to get people familiar with what goes in from the “inside”.

  2. Allison March 21, 2007 at 9:42 am #

    Great article!

  3. Christy March 21, 2007 at 10:37 am #

    Great article! I need to do more of this on my own blog. I really like the look of yours and the way it’s set up.

  4. hassel March 21, 2007 at 12:02 pm #

    Christy is right, your blog looks great.

    This is also a good idea to let people see how much goes into covering a wedding. And Part 4 should be a long, long post that takes hour after hour to read….

  5. Ashley March 21, 2007 at 12:09 pm #

    Dude, stop giving away all our secrets! 🙂

    Thanks for the look behind the scenes.

  6. Audra March 21, 2007 at 6:42 pm #

    It’s great you took the time to put this together, Bob. It’s great insight!

  7. Cris March 22, 2007 at 8:52 am #

    Great article! Thanks for sharing!

  8. Heather Mason March 23, 2007 at 1:25 pm #

    Nice Bob! Great way to educate people!

  9. erin March 28, 2007 at 8:14 am #

    wow, very comprehensive! this is a good series of info posts you have going…

  10. Sandy Johnson June 7, 2007 at 10:50 am #

    Wonderfully refreshing info! My daughter, Rae of Wilmington, is looking forward to hearing from you this Sunday to plan a meeting. After viewing your site – I am EXCITED about the possibility of your being our photographer on Sept. 29th!!!

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