What basic things did I learn from shooting my first wedding ever and what kind of things should a rookie wedding photographer take into consideration?! Before we get to that, the story is, that my friends ask me four months ago if I would be the photographer as well as a guest at their wedding.
Besides being very honored I was also very anxious. The reason is, that photography is really my new hobby. I am an enthusiastic amateur. Photography is something I picked up after I injured my knee and had surgery and couldn’t run around the woods, mountains etc. So the reason I use my camera is partly because I am, despite my knee injury, able to photograph and it is a creative field related to my professional background. I walk around and shooting odd things and in general terms I am very surprised and sensitive to how people view what I do. Not because I am looking for praise, but because it in some strange way or another is very personal expression for me. If I should give a few pointers to what/how I approach photography it would be kind of in the realm of what people would call street photography/photo journalism.
Also this is my first blog post on my new website; Welcome thanks for visiting and spending time.
Rookie Wedding photographer Worries
So… I have very little “professional” work with photography. I made a single job documenting life in a bar and a few portraits. That is it. So photographing a wedding is a major thing and many issues that entered my head;
I am an amateur photographer – I can fail miserably!
I have no experience photographing a wedding/event and a wedding is kind of a big deal – I can fail miserably!
People hired and payed me and I am photographing their big day – I can fail miserably! (You get the point…)
What about my camera gear?
I have no experience working with a camera staying alert for +12h how will I manage that?
How will my “style” of walking/working with the camera fit with a wedding setup?
How will my friends wedding, seen through my eyes match how they remember their wedding?
Being a guest and photographer – How will that go down?!
The gears and gadgets
I use a Fuji X-T1 and Fuji primes (35mm1.4, 56mm1.2 and 14mm2.8) and I guess it fits my personality very well. I soon figured out that shooting a wedding with only one camera having to switch lenses often would not make the task easier. I decided, after a bit of research, that shooting a wedding with a 56mm and 23mm had to be possible and would suffice. Also – I like the notion of less is more. Two identical cameras, two different focal lenght, no flash (as I don’t know how to use it) and the 35mm in my bag just in case… (and extra batteries and charger as I am using mirrorless, Electronic View Finder (EVF), high performance pre-AF and Fuji’s are known to use a lot of battery).
So, long story short, Facebook did some magic (and the great people in the Danish Fuji community) and I was lucky to borrow an additional XT1 and a 23mm1.4 prime.
The basic setup was Aperture Priority: AutoISO 200-6400, Min. Shutterspeed 1/125. Raw+Fine. I have all the preAF and high performance activated in the camera settings and I use Focus Peaking High Contrast Red (This is Fuji-lingo). In the end I ended up postprocessing the RAW files and not the JPG’s. During the day I often switched drive mode to CL/HL, or to shutter priority in relation to the action or the lightning. I generally trust +1500$ pieces of technology to make reasonable settings when shooting automatic and only going to full manual when I want a specific outcome.
For post processing I use CaptureOne from PhaseOne.
KEYLEARNINGS! (Yes I did learn something…)
So to make everything short and readable this is what I took with me from the experience. It’s not rocket science, I am not inventing a new wheel or anything like that:
- Be prepared and know your gear (DOH!!). This is not only “make sure you have batteries and charger, make sure you can unload the files on a laptop during the day just to make sure you have the shots somewhere on a backup”, but also visualize the event, arrive before and poke around meet and greet the couple, their parents and relatives. Research Google for wedding photographers to see “What does Wedding Photography look like?”. (Also – syncronize timestamp on your cameras, if shooting with two cameras, decide on a logical filename etc.).
- Plan for breaks: Working 15-16h photographing a wedding as it unfolds is bloody hard work, and in order to keep “awake and aware” look in the wedding plan for some breaks where you are not photographing and have an agreement with the bride and groom about that.
- Make it simple for your self: The gear choice was a good flexible choice for my approach to photographing. I switched the 56mm/1.2 to the 35mm/1.4 after the wedding dance (midnight) and I think I might use the 23mm and 35mm as the basic setup if there will be a next time. This is purely because I use the 35mm for 90% of the time and it just feels more natural to me than the 56mm.
- Do not document the timetable at wedding: As I did not have any experience as an event photographer, I felt pressured to “document” all things during the day. That made a lot of boring photographs. This was not a productive approach and stressed me out… Not knowing/having a sense of when and where great situations are likely to appear during a wedding is a disadvantage and just part of being a rookie.
- Keep moving. Yes… Do not stand in one place snapping photos. Remind yourself to keep moving in the spaces also in vertical direction to create variety in your shots.
- If this is going to a part of your photography craft, reach out to fellow photography enthusiasts who have experience in photographing weddings and ask if you can see how they work during wedding. I think I will do that, just to gain experience not because I speculate in being a wedding photographer, but because there will be teachings is this sort of photography as well you bring with you.
- Consider very closely your role in the wedding: Being a guest and photographer simultaneously is not good for either experience. As a guest it took the joy out of the party, and made me slightly distanced from the event. As photographer I felt being a guest took time away from the work I was hired to do.
The good thing is that being a friend made my access to the bride and groom very natural and relaxed and putting the camera right in their faces I got some intimate and sincere shots.
- Spend time showing the couple your photography work/portfolio so they get an impression of how you see the world through a camera. If you have the time for it, spend time photographing the couple before the wedding (I mean not just the wedding preparations but before the wedding in another context, another day etc.) so they are used to having you around.
- Trust the event will give you the moments that will make great photographs. A wedding is a great event. Naturally there will be many great moments/situations signed, sealed and delivered to the photographer so be ready, trust your experience (big or small) and snap away because you don’t get a second chance!
Just some fast facts:
I used what equals 4 battery charges.
I shot roughly 1350 pictures during 16h. 100 (more or less) was formal shots of the guests, bride and groom and family.
I chose 30-35 pictures that I really like and is included as pictures here.
I postprocessed 300-320 pictures of all sorts of things during the day. Lets call it event bread and butter shots.
I spent roughly 12h postprocessing (sorting, cropping, colorgrading uploading etc.). I guess that is too much, if you do a lot of weddings. It means that your total work load for a wedding would be give and take 30h.
EXIF is available when you scroll through the gallery.
I will not strive to be a wedding photographer but it was altogether a fun experience. The couple were, luckily, happy with the outcome from my cameras and I think there are some decents shots in the mix despite me being very anxious.
I thought many times during the day; “this could be a great shot, but then again – nothing in the shot tells you that there is a wedding happening!” (Yes I took the shot anyways…).
My approach to photographing needs some adapting to fit the steady progression of events of a wedding; You cannot wait for things to happen as they proceed in an already planned fashion. My mantra if there should be a next time would be; Relax….just relax….
The Fuji gear did the job; I am no pixel peeper, tech nerdie guy, but I like the ergonomics, size and weight (it’s the only real photography gear I ever owned and used but just know your gear whatever you use). Of course, as is known, the autofocus in poor lightning is not good, and that is annoying, but as you know this is the way it is, you can at least prepare. But as Henri Cartier-Bresson is widely quoted for saying; “Sharpness is a bourgeois concept”. This is sometimes a quote I use as an excuse…
What was your experience?