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5 Inspirational Wedding Photographs and How to Make Your Own

Wedding photography
is stressful, no doubt about it. The day is long and the pressure is high, but
the rewards can be pretty great too. Here we’ll look at five inspirational
wedding photographs and some advice on how to make your own.

What You Need 

Appropriate Lenses

A walk-around,
all-purpose lens isn’t going to cut it at a wedding. You’ll need at least one
fast lens that performs well in low lighting situations. Churches and halls are
often very dark and mostly you’re not allowed to use flash in them.

Prime lenses are
generally best for this: they’re fast and they’re sharp. They don’t have to
cost the earth, either. Most photographers have a ‘nifty-fifty’ (50mm) lens in
their arsenal and the f/1.8 version can be picked up for less than £100.

A wide lens is
essential for those large group shots, but make sure you don’t have anyone
standing too near the edges, or they’ll end up looking distorted.

A zoom lens will be
perfect for capturing candid moments, unobtrusively. Heading right up to
someone with a camera will either make them uncomfortable or they’ll go into ‘I’m
having my picture taken’ mode. Being further away with a zoom lens on means
you have a much better chance at capturing people as they naturally are, and
that can make for some lovely shots.

A Speedlight or
Flash

Even though you
might not be allowed to use a flash in certain venues, it’ll no doubt come in
handy for the evening party. When the lights are off and disco lights on,
photography becomes trickier. Use walls and a diffuser to soften the light and
avoid pointing the flash directly at the guests where possible.

An Itinerary

Don’t ever attempt
to shoot a wedding without having first visited the venue(s). Visiting prior to
the wedding will let you see any problematic (usually dark) areas, places you
might take some formal, posed shots  and
also give you an indoor alternative in case it happens to be terrible weather
on the day.

You should also
know how long it will take you to reach each venue so that you can plan your
timing and allow for any delays. Scope out car parks as part of your itinerary
too, will there be spaces. What’s your alternative if it’s full? Do you need
to pay or have a permit?

You also need to
know at what time of day each part of the wedding will be happening, so that
you know exactly where you need to be and what you’ll need to do for each
portion of the day.

Post-Processing
Skills

Your photographs
may look very different if you’re travelling between venues, or even as light changes throughout the day. At the end, you
want to create continuity between all the photos so they flow better when placed into an album
or set.

Actions (or pre-sets)
for Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom can not only give your editing a
boost but are also great time saving devices. You can even save your own
editing process as an action
, to run for each image.

Insurance

In any professional
photography job you should have insurance but I hear of so many people who are
asked to do a friend or family wedding on the cheap and do so for experience,
uninsured. It’s a bad idea. Even if you’re confident that the bride and groom
won’t sue you if something goes wrong, you don’t know one of the guests won’t.

If you drop your
camera on a child’s head and the parents decide to take you to court, you’d
have to pay all your expenses and any fines/compensation yourself. If you
damage something in a stately home by swinging your tripod around, you’re
liable. Be insured.

A Contract

This is really
important and a big part of managing expectations. Your contract should set out
exactly what you’ll provide, for how much and under what circumstances.
Ideally, you’ll include and take a deposit too.

Make sure your
client reads and understands the contract, initials each page, signs and dates
it.

Technique

Crucial Shots

Some spontaneity
and improvisation is required on the day, but there are also some shots you
really need to get so as not to disappoint anyone or having any glaring holes
in your album.

You need shots of
everyone at the wedding, whether that’s in a group or individually and then
combinations of those, too. Everyone directly involved with the wedding party
(bridesmaids, groomsmen, parents etc) should be photographed.

Make a shoot list
to help you if you’re not confident you’ll remember everything. Hopefully you’ll
have discovered any awkward family issues when you prepped your itinerary.

Start with the full
group and peel people away until you’re left with your core. You’ll find this
easier than having to round people up once they’ve started drinking and
partying.

Getting Shots of the
Couple

Between the ceremony and reception is
a good time to steal your couple away and take some pictures of just the two of
them. Don’t be afraid to move them around if things don’t look right, adjust
dresses if they’re bunched up. Be polite but firm and most important of all,
keep it fun!

You should have gotten to know your
couple during meetings, so tailor the experience to their taste and
personalities. Having an assistant can really help, so if you don’t have a
second shooter, think about roping in a bridesmaid!

Details

Photograph
everything, everything! Get details on any dresses, pictures of the shoes, the
rings, place settings, table decoration – everything! Usually, there’ll be time
to get into any rooms before the wedding party arrive, so make sure you check
with whoever is running the event at the venue and arrange that.

Closeups of the
little details of the day will not only pad out your album but add something
really special to it, too.

Backup Your Images

Hopefully you’ll be
shooting across two cards so you’ve got an instant back up, but when there’s a
break, try to save the images to your laptop hard drive, too. You never know
when something might go wrong and you don’t want to be in the position of
explaining to the couple why they have no photographs of their big day.

Look After Yourself

If you’re lucky and
have a thoughtful couple, they may feed you, but chances are you’ll have to
bring your own food and certainly at the very least you should bring snacks and
water.

Weddings are hectic
and it’s really important to stay hydrated – you don’t want to keel over while
you’re snapping away! It’s a long day – when I did weddings I was often there
for at least 14 hours and it’s exhausting, so keep yourself well fed and
watered.

Potential Problems

The things that can go wrong at a wedding are unlimited. There’s a lot of
pressure on everyone to have the perfect day and sometimes that can cause problems.
You need to be able to stay calm, think through the problems and offer
solutions where needed.

It’s not possible to think of every conceivable issue that might occur,
but you may want to run through a check-list of possibilities before the day to
make sure you can cope if the worst happens.

Expectations

Hopefully you’ll have nailed expectations down in the contract and
planning stages. However, if you find yourself in the position of being asked
by a friend or family to shoot their wedding, be realistic about your abilities
and what you can achieve. They may say that anything you can get will be
appreciated, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be happy after the big day.

Inspiration

Couple on the Beach

beach
Image: Photodune

Although
this is very likely set up and not candid, the couple look like they’re having
fun and it’s all very relaxed. The lighting and composition work really well
here to create a pleasant, atmospheric image.

The Kiss

kiss
Image: Photodune

You can’t go wrong with a traditional kiss shot but the low angle adds
drama, as do the surroundings and strong
gold highlights and purple-y dark tones. The bride’s bouquet works well as as small punch of colour to
keep our eyes rooted to the couple.

Nonchalant

couple
Image: Photodune

The brickwork and small ornate detail of birds is a great background for
this image. I love the expression on the groom’s face too. The image is a
little flat for my liking, but the toned-down can definitely work towards creating a classic, timeless look.

Figures in Silhouette

silhouette
Image: Photodune

You don’t have to photograph your couple the traditional way in order to
get a striking image. This silhouette in the sunset and long grass works beautifully
well.

Make a Montage

montage
Image: Photodune

All
the little details you’ll capture on a day can go towards making a lovely
montage, like this one. A picture of cuff-links or flowers may not be much on
their own, but put them together and they tell a great story: this would make
a lovely print, too. Grids like this are trendy at the moment.

How to Take Your Wedding Pictures Further

As
I mentioned earlier, actions and pre-sets can help you create a theme or style
throughout your set of photographs. They can also help to add punch to photos
that might be lacking for whatever reason. I took the picture of the couple
against the wall and used one of the actions from the Wedding
Photoshop Actions
set.

There
actions are grouped into Bases, The Wedding Day and Finish, with several
options and fill layers grouping down into a folder for each one.

action
The action options

Here
I used Sunny, combined with Be There, with the Opacity lowered slightly to take
the edge off:

after action
The Image after the actions have been applied

The actions have added a sunny yellow fill
layer which, brightens up the wall and the harsh shadows on the groom’s face.
There’s also a blue fill layer which makes the blacks look slightly more
vintage, and there’s a matt effect applied which is very popular at the moment.

Top Tips to Getting Wedding Shots

  1. Be
    fully covered with insurance and a contract.
  2. Make
    an itinerary so you know where to be and when.
  3. Remember
    to photograph all the little details.
  4. Be
    polite and friendly, but firm when directing people for photographs. Start
    with the full group and peel people away.
  5. Try
    using actions or pre-sets as a way to save time and add continuity to your
    photographs.

A Few Further Resources

Final Thoughts

Wedding photography
is most definitely stressful, but the more you do, the more you’ll relax into
the rhythm of the day and trust yourself to make the right decisions if and
when problems arise.

You’ll need
essentials in your kit, even if you’re just photographing for a friend as a
freebie. Think a good, fast prime, a zoom lens and a wide—these are your
staples. On top of this, a speedlight is really helpful for dark places like an
evening party.

Prepare properly. This means a contract should be in place as well as the appropriate insurances.
It’s not worth the risk, particularly if you’re doing it cheap in the first
place as a favour!

When it comes to
group shots, start out with photographing the whole wedding party before they
scatter and then let everyone go but the main wedding party and photograph all suitable
combinations of people. Between the ceremony and the reception is a good time
to grab your couple and get some pictures of just the two of them. Use a zoom
lens to grab some candid, reportage-style pictures of the day and use a macro
lens to get closeups of absolutely everything.

Remember to look
after yourself, stay hydrated and be sure to eat something. If something goes
wrong, keep calm and think through solutions. Back up your images as often as
you can and have spares of important things like a camera body, battery and
memory card.

When you come to
post-process your images, think about having a recognisable style through them
so that they flow well and look right together in a set. Pre-sets can help with
this as well as saving you a great deal of time.

Finally, enjoy the
day—it can be a whirlwind and exhausting but hopefully once you’ve got your
images together to present to the client, they’ll be so happy that it’ll blow
any other stress you felt right out of the water.