Being a beginner in the wedding industry can be as challenging as it is exciting – especially if you have nobody guiding you. While having professional photography skills and top-notch, functional gear are important, you might need to add some more things on your checklist when you are preparing to shoot your first wedding. So if you have your heart and mind set on being a part of the wedding photography industry, in this blog, we bring you 20 tips for amateur wedding photographers that might help you prep and shoot your first wedding.
20 Tips for Amateur Wedding Photographers
A. Before the Wedding
1. Get To Know The Couple
Before anything else, once a couple finalizes you as their wedding photographer, take out time to get to know them better. This could be done during the consultation meet-ups or any other meetings or video calls between you and your couple. Ultimately, you will be telling their story through your photos, so it would benefit you to know them as a couple and as individuals too. Whether it’s their love story, little quirks about their personalities, or what they like to do together – all of this might just help you put together a better, more cohesive visual story on their wedding day. And as you prepare to photograph their wedding, don’t forget to get to know their family members too!
2. Scout the Venue
Scouting the venue ahead of the wedding day is one of the most valuable tips for amateur wedding photographers. Adding this step to your pre-wedding TDL could help you analyze many aspects, such as lighting scenarios or unique photography spots. Checking out the venue in advance may also give you the chance to meet the manager or coordinator at the venue, and you could use that opportunity to establish a relationship with them. Why? Because this relationship could potentially turn into a partnership wherein you could be the wedding photographer that they recommend to their couples.
3. Create a Personalized Shot List
Creating your own shot list could help you save a lot of time and photograph a wedding without worrying about your next step. One way to create a shot list is by breaking down the wedding into different segments and preparing a list of photographs you could take during each of them.
Even though the structure of your shot list might more or less be the same for every wedding, some weddings might require you to make edits. For example, there could be cultural traditions that you may have to photograph, or your couple might want a picture with a specific member of their family. In order to make space for these images, we would suggest that you try to discuss and create a shot list in advance.
Related Read: The Ultimate Wedding Photography Shot List For You
4. Create a Wedding Day Timeline
Creating a wedding day timeline is a good practice since it helps you keep track of things. It is also important to discuss the timeline with your couples or the wedding coordinator so that everyone is on the same page and there is minimum scope of confusion. Also, you could keep a copy of the timeline during the wedding day so that you can just check things off the list.
5. Hire a Second Shooter
One of the most useful tips for amateur wedding photographers is to consider hiring a second shooter, especially for weddings with a larger guest list. While you may prefer the do-it-yourself lifestyle for many reasons, it might also lead to missing some key moments from a wedding day. You can’t possibly be at all places at once, so you could take the help of a second shooter. With a second shooter, you could also have one scene being shot from different angles. If you have a photographer friend, who is more experienced than you, you could consider taking them along for the job.
Related Read: Hiring A Second Shooter For Weddings: Tips & Tricks
6. Cut Costs By Renting Gear
If you are not sure about what gear to get, you could try renting it out. This would help you get an idea about whether it’s worth investing in. Since photography gear tends to get expensive and you will be using it for years to come, you want to make sure that you are investing in the right product. You could do some research online or ask around in the photographers’ community about what equipment is an absolute must-have for weddings, and then figure out whether you want to directly invest in it or try it out first. This totally depends on your budget.
7. Get Your Equipment Ready
Even though you may know your gear by now, try not to wait until the last moment to check whether everything is working fine. Ideally, try out all your equipment a day before the wedding to make sure that everything is in order. Also, ensure that all your batteries are charged, your memory cards are packed, and your camera lenses are squeaky clean before you leave. If you can, carry backup gear for emergencies. Additionally, if it’s going to rain on the wedding day and your couple is still willing to go ahead with those outdoor photos you had planned, be prepared to protect your camera from the rain.
8. Pack Water Bottles, Snacks, & First Aid
Constantly moving around with equipment, talking to people, and simply a long workday can get physically taxing, and even though you will have food and water at your disposal, it’s better to do your own prep for the wedding too. Remember to keep a water bottle and some light snacks without adding too much weight to your baggage. Staying hydrated and maintaining your energy levels will help you get through a long workday. Also, keep some basic first aid items like band-aids, sanitizers, masks, etc., with you.
9. Prepare a Contract
When you are in the wedding photography industry, a contract signed by both parties is essential – for you and your client. Things might not always go as planned, and sometimes a simple change in the plan could cause either party huge losses – contracts could help you during those times. Whether it’s a rescheduling or payment issue, a contract could be the way out for you and your client if any problems arise.
Related Read: The Ultimate Guide To Wedding Photography Contracts
10. Keep Your Business Cards
Keeping your business cards with you is always a good business practice, even more so during a wedding. At weddings, there will be moments where you will be interacting with several people, and in case someone wants to contact you in the future or wants to introduce their contacts to you, a business card will come in handy. Also, carry a small notepad and pen with you to note down important information about any potential clients. And if you have hired a second shooter, make sure he/she has them too.
B. On the Wedding Day
11. Check the Weather Forecast
It’s the day of the wedding! Before you start doing your final prep, check out what the weather has in store for you. This will help you prepare and plan better. This is one of those wedding photography tips for beginners that never gets old. If the forecast shows that it’s likely to rain or snow, pack umbrellas, raincoats, extra shoes, off-camera flash, and extra covering for your gear.
Also, if you have the time before you meet your couple, call them to discuss whether they would want to make any changes to the shot list if the weather takes a turn for the worse. This might give you some extra time to brainstorm any modifications you would have to make.
12. Dress to Impress
Another important tip for amateur wedding photographers is to dress well. Not only does it help you establish yourself as a professional, but it would also ensure that you don’t stand out from the crowd – so try not to be overdressed or underdressed. When in doubt, you could wear black or ask your couple if they have any specific requirements. Since you will be on your feet all day, comfortable footwear is recommended.
15. Arrive Early
At weddings, brides can be expected to keep the guests waiting, but your job depends on your timing. If you can, try to arrive at least an hour early at the venue. This will give you enough time to set up the equipment and perhaps even take photographs of the decor and the venue before it fills up with guests. In case you were not able to scout the venue beforehand, this tip may be even more helpful.
14. Use Silent Shooting Mode
Camera noise could be a distraction at weddings – especially during the wedding ceremony. Even though you might not notice it when you are photographing larger groups or outdoors, a simple “click” of a camera could sound louder than usual in a quiet setting. So it would be wise to keep all of your cameras in silent shooting mode.
15. Shoot RAW
One of the tips for amateur wedding photographers that goes without saying is to shoot RAW. Your wedding images are likely to undergo a lot of editing, and shooting RAW gives you that freedom in the post-production stage. In addition, shooting RAW allows you to retain most of the details, which could turn out to be helpful while you edit.
16. Pay Attention to Lighting
Good lighting is a game-changer. However, you might soon realize that not all wedding venues have great lighting setups. So it is essential that you learn about lighting techniques, especially for small and dark venues. This is where scouting the location in advance can help. Doing so will help you better understand the lighting situation at the venue, so on the day of the wedding, you come prepared with any extra lighting equipment that you may need.
17. Use Fill Flash
When you are shooting on a cloudy day or a very sunny day, you could use the fill flash technique to brighten up the subject with soft lighting. This will make sure that your subject does not have any deep shadows as an effect of hard lighting. To learn more about how to use fill flash, click here.
18. Take Detail Shots
Remember that your couples have carefully picked out every detail of the wedding, including the decor, the seating cards, and centerpieces. So now it’s your turn to make sure that these don’t go unnoticed by taking stellar detail photos of them. If you want, you could also enhance the setting and elevate the beauty of things by putting some elements together and taking a photograph of that. This works especially well when trying to take photos of the bridal dress or the rings!
Related Read: 10 Creative Wedding Ring Photography Ideas
19. Experiment with Different Angles & Perspectives
It is good to have a set of angles planned for the wedding, but you don’t always have to stick to the list. Once you’ve got some good images, try experimenting with new camera angles as well. Getting creative may require you to get out of your comfort zone, but it also means taking photographs that you have never tried taking before. And since you are just starting out, it may be a good idea to explore new things.
20. Get Ready for the Unexpected
No matter how prepared you go, there might be some moments at some weddings that you simply cannot be prepared for. So when an unexpected change comes your way, try to embrace it and go with it rather than trying to control it. Moreover, sometimes, in these unexpected moments, you may find the most incredible moments to photograph!
Don’t Be Afraid, Learn From Your Mistakes
Mistakes are only milestones on the way to learning. Therefore, be open to change what didn’t work for you in the past and stick with things that did. One of the most essential tips for amateur wedding photographers would simply be to not be afraid and take ownership of your work. You have impressed your couple and come far enough to photograph their wedding day, so show them what you’ve got! After every wedding, take out time to analyze how it went, what worked, what could have been better, and how you can make it better. Motivating yourself, staying inspired, and constantly pushing yourself to do better could help you get that confidence and keep creating great images!
At ShootDotEdit, we love to share resourceful tips to help you grow as a wedding photographer – a beginner or a seasoned pro. One of the ways we do that is doing the editing for you and reducing your post-production workload. To learn more about how we can help, check out our pricing plans.