What a First Time Wedding Photographer Needs to Know

The news that you are photographing your first wedding often leads to emotions ranging from excitement to apprehension, and in some cases, fear. Assuming you have experience with your equipment and have developed the necessary skills to take great photographs, the wedding event has a greater likelihood of being a successful one if you follow some key steps.

This article provides an overview of important steps to follow before, during, and after the event. As with any important job, the keys are preparation, focus, and follow-through.

Before the Wedding

Proper preparation before the event is the best way for a photographer to have a successful outcome. I spent several weeks before my first wedding visiting other photographers’ web sites. I read books on wedding photography, and I researched photography blogs and forums. It is amazing how much information is available for little or no charge. These tips and photographs can inspire you and get you thinking about what you want to accomplish and how you are going to make it happen.

It is important that you have a standard written agreement that is signed by the bride- and groom-to-be and the photographer. There is no excuse for not having this document in place. It should describe the deliverables and the fees associated with the service and products. It should also include a model release so you can use the photos for promotional purposes. It is highly recommended that you contact an attorney and draft a standard agreement that protects you.

At the time of signing the agreement, there are two other opportunities to enhance the process. First, get to know the bride and groom. Spend some time chatting so you will know their story and they will know you. When the wedding day comes, they should feel comfortable with you so their true personalities will shine. If possible, include a no cost or low cost engagement shoot so everyone can gain even more of a comfort level. It is a good opportunity to give them some posing tips that they can use on their wedding day.

It is also imperative to know the schedule. When you are meeting with the bride and groom, go over the agenda for the time you are expected to be at the wedding. Get to know their expectations. Let them know when you expect them to devote time to photographs with you in charge. This is a good time to talk about a wedding coordinator. If they will designate a friend or family member that will help the you identify important family members during the wedding day, it can be a tremendous help.

Another important component of preparation is checking your equipment. Check it thoroughly at least four or five days before a shoot. A check prior to my first wedding revealed a faulty auto-focus mechanism on one of my camera bodies, and I had to borrow a second camera for the shoot, but I was ready.

A proper equipment check also requires making sure you have backups of everything. You need two camera bodies and two flash units at a minimum. If you do not have them, you can rent them. On my first senior photo shoot, the wind blew my tripod and camera to the concrete surface. You never know when something will drop or just fail.

Check your batteries and memory card supplies, and bring more than you think you will need. It is not uncommon to take 2,000 to 3,000 images at a wedding. If you are using flash, you will burn through batteries very fast at that rate. For memory cards, it is better to have several smaller cards than just one or two big ones. If a card fails, you minimize your loss by using multiple cards.

Visit the venue(s) prior to the wedding day in order to scope out lighting and shot locations. Do you need to gel your flash for proper white balance? I often find that if I take a few test shots with and without flash, and perform a custom white balance check with my camera, that there are competing colors from the various light sources. For indoor venues, I often have to gel the flash to match the color of the venue’s lighting. This will save you much time and aggravation later in the process.

To prepare yourself physically for a tiring day, have a light meal before you go. It is a good idea to bring granola, energy or candy bars, or other portable snacks. Bring water, too, just in case.

If you are prone to headaches, have a pain reliever with your in your pocket or bag.

Part of blending into the event is dressing appropriately. Talk to the bride and groom about their expectations before the event. In all cases, wear comfortable shoes.

Be insured. If someone trips over your equipment, are you covered?

The Ceremony

When you arrive, begin by taking outdoor venue shots. Here in southeast Michigan, you never know if the weather will turn on you later, and the same is true in many locations. Get some key building and landscape elements without people, just to have them.

Calibrate your camera’s white balance as soon as you walk indoors; do it for all of your cameras. Also, turn camera sounds off; you don’t want your camera to make noise during the ceremony.

Bring a fast lens; the faster the better. Indoor lighting at churches and reception halls is notoriously poor and dim. Be prepared with a fast lens (f /2.8 minimum – f/1.8 preferred). If you don’t have one, rent it.

If you are in a place of worship, have a clear understanding of where you can go and what locations are off-limits. Also, flash is usually not permitted in places of worship, but you can ask.

Consider bringing an assistant. Let them carry equipment, help set up shots, hold off-camera flash, and more. If you are working a 6-8 hour event, be prepared for the physical impact it will have on you. Having an assistant will ease the burden on you and should result in better photographs.

If you have a break from the bride and groom, start shooting the very young and very old early. They can get tired fast, and some may leave early.

If you have a camera bag, lock it down or have your assistant carry it. If you are on your own, consider using a cable lock for your camera bag and hide it out of sight. It serves as a deterrent from theft. You may feel comfortable with the bride and groom, but you never know about their friends and family or the staff at the venue.

Never reformat memory cards at the event. Backup when you can, but do not reformat. Check everything on your computer and complete backups before reformatting.

Take shots of the bride and groom as soon after the ceremony (or before) as possible. After people start drinking and celebrating, it will get harder to assemble people and have them look their best.

Most of the time, the photographer’s role should be to blend in and be discreet. Disappear in the background and try to capture people when they are relaxed, happy, emotional, etc.

If the wedding and reception are indoors, make sure to take shots of the bride and groom outside. Try to get away during the reception and get some outside shots–even if it is nighttime.

Take a group shot of everyone. This is a great way to have everyone in attendance in one photo. It makes for a great enlargement and an opportunity for sales to others in attendance at the wedding.

After the Event

After the event is over, I believe it is important to process the images as fast as possible. There is something to be said capturing taking the energy of the day and carrying forward. Posting images quickly to a web site will make everyone happy.

Keep in contact with the bride and groom and schedule a time to meet with them to go over the images and discuss ordering details. It is as important to provide a high level of customer service after the event and before it. If you establish a relationship with the couple, they will think of you for family portraits and portraits of their children in years to come.

Finally, take notes about what went right and what went wrong. This may help you do an even better job next time around.

7 Essential Lessons from an Experienced Travel Photographer

During the years I’ve worked organizing photo tours, I have seen a lot of things, and helped people take a lot of incredible photographs. My clients often ask me for tips on how to do travel photography well, as it is quite different from other types of photography, and so I have come up with […]

Travel Photography Tips and Techniques – Really simple and easy for all

With travel photography you want to convey not only the scenes you have seen but also the feelings and emotions associated with the locations. The unexpected is always around the corner when you travel and with some careful preparation and a keen photographic eye you can produce some memorable results.

Good travel photography starts at home or the office before you leave for the airport and weeks in advance of your trip. Here’s how capture great travel images.

1. Research before you leave

Purchase the best travel guide you can afford and find out everything about the locations you will be visiting. Find out about the natural beauty, tourist sites, and the culture. Look at the images in the guides and see what the important areas are and what you need to record.

Learn about local transportation and distances as well as timing to reach the areas you want to visit. Learn about the culture and find out what you can photograph and what is taboo, what the dress codes are and any local laws or rules. Buy a phrase book and learn some of the key phrases to communicate when photographing. You will be amazed at how this will open doors for you.

2. Prepare a checklist

Essential for any photographer is a checklist of everything you will need for the trip, photographically as well as you normal travel needs. Check that all your gear is covered by insurance and that it is up to date. Take proof that you purchased your equipment at home and not abroad so you don’t get landed with customs duty on your return.

3. Avoid cliches

Don’t return with all of the images that are in the guide books which everyone has seen. Use new angles and try get to viewpoints that are not traditionally used for photos. Leave the tourist path and get away from the bus. If you can afford it, hire a private guide to take you off the beaten track.

4. Photograph local life

Local life in foreign countries is rich with sights and scenes that are brand new to you. You’ll often find that you will experience your photography much more by getting to know the local folk and seeing just what their daily life is like. By capturing the essence of their lives and homes you will experience the journey and capture memories that are unique and far more interesting.

5. Make yourself the subject

As the photographer you probably find that in all aspects of your life there are few images of you in front of the camera. So go out of your way to include yourself in photos while touring. Ask a travel companion, a guide or another tourist to take photos of you experiencing the local life. With digital you can see immediately the results of their work and whether you’ll need to reshoot it.

6. Take portraits

By respecting the local culture and as I mentioned learning a few of the most important phrases most locals will allow you to shoot their portraits. When photographing them close-ups are great and reveal character and the beauty of people you aren’t familiar with. But, this is the time to photograph portraits of people within their environments so shoot fewer head and shoulders and more with some of the background. Use wide angle lenses more often for great shots.

7. Shoot candids

With a longer lens and the ability to stay in the background and keep your distance you are able to photography people without them knowing. Unposed photos have people behaving totally naturally in their environments without the pressure to pose. The key here is to remain unobserved. Reveal yourself only once you have your shots. Look for opportunities that will reflect the local culture and people naturally.

8. Look for detail

By getting in closer and photographing the traditional clothes and jewelry you will see details in the color and styles. Look for details in the architecture, transport and local costumes that reveal something more than a traditional shot. A macro or telephoto is great for this type of shot.

9. Tell a story

By shooting a series of shots at a location you will be able to tell a story of the life of the local people. How they dress, work, have fun and where they live and relax. Select a theme or shoot at a market and try to think about the end result and how you will tell friends and family about your trip in just pictures. Maybe shoot a day in the life of a local you have befriended from morning till bedtime.

10. Take lots of photos

Work out how many images you think you should shoot and then double it. And then double it again. You can never take too many images. This may be the only opportunity for you to see this country and rather edit later than lose the memories by shooting too little. Not every picture will be perfect but it will be a memory. You are not just looking to create perfect photos but also great memories. Digital film is inexpensive so take lots of memory cards with you.

Travel is often a once in a lifetime opportunity for many people so go well prepared and come back with memories that will last a lifetime. Happy shooting!

About the Author:
Wayne Turner has been teaching photography for 25 years. Passionate about photography, radio and video. He is a Radio CCFm producer and presenter in Cape Town.

The Essential Shots Every Event Photographer Needs to Master

Event photography is a thrilling yet challenging domain. It’s about encapsulating the essence, emotions, and narrative of an event in a set of photos. For those who are venturing into the realm of event photography, knowing which shots are crucial and how to execute them can significantly up the game. Here’s a look at the essential shots every event photographer should master:

1. Candid Shots

Candid photography is the art of capturing spontaneous moments without the subjects being aware of the camera. These unposed shots often reflect the true essence and emotions of the moment.


  • Stay Invisible: Blend with the crowd and avoid drawing attention to yourself to capture natural reactions.
  • Anticipate Moments: Keep an eye on the interactions and expressions, and have your camera ready to capture the fleeting moments.

2. Group Shots

Group shots are quintessential in events as they commemorate the gathering of families, friends, or colleagues.


  • Organize Your Subjects: Direct your group with a friendly, but firm approach to get an organized shot quickly.
  • Use a Tripod: To ensure everyone is in focus, especially in large group photos, use a tripod to keep the camera steady.

3. Detail Shots

Every event has unique details that tell its story – the decor, food, venue setup, and other intricate elements.


  • Arrive Early: Reach the venue before the guests to capture the details undisturbed.
  • Use a Macro Lens: For close-up shots of details, a macro lens can provide sharp and clear images.

4. Portraits

Portraits are personal and can be either posed or candid. They are a way to highlight the attendees and their connections to the event.


  • Engage with Your Subject: Make your subject feel comfortable, talk to them, and perhaps share a laugh to get natural expressions.
  • Use a Shallow Depth of Field: A shallow depth of field helps in focusing on the subject and blurring the background, making the portrait more engaging.

5. Mastering Low Light Photography

Events often stretch into the evening hours, with dim lighting conditions. Mastering low light photography is crucial to ensure the quality of photos isn’t compromised.


  • Use a Fast Lens: Lenses with wide apertures (like f/1.4 or f/1.8) allow more light into the camera sensor, aiding in low light conditions.
  • Increase ISO Sensitively: While higher ISO settings allow for brighter images in low light, they also introduce noise. Balance is key.
  • Steady Your Camera: Use a tripod or monopod to stabilize your camera, reducing the chances of blurred images due to camera shake.

6. On-Camera Flash Photography

On-camera flash can be a lifesaver in poorly lit environments, helping to illuminate the subject and surroundings adequately.


  • Bounce the Flash: Instead of pointing the flash directly at the subjects, bounce it off a ceiling or wall for a softer, more flattering light.
  • Use Diffusers: Diffusers soften the light from the flash, reducing harsh shadows and highlights.


Mastering these shots requires practice, the right equipment, and a keen eye for storytelling through visuals. As an event photographer, evolving your skills to capture these essential shots will not only satisfy your clients but also provide a rewarding creative outlet. Each event is a new canvas with endless possibilities to capture enduring memories and tell compelling stories through your lens.

Health Benefits of Practicing Photography and stay fit and alive.

Photography is often celebrated for its ability to capture moments, tell stories, and create art. However, beneath the layers of technique and vision, there is an array of health benefits that many practitioners may not be fully aware of. Engaging in photography not only sharpens our visual acuity but also fosters well-being in various dimensions of our lives.

1. Mental Stimulation

Photography is a blend of creativity and technical skill. Every time you frame a shot, decide on settings, or edit a picture, you are making decisions that challenge and stimulate the brain. This mental exercise can help keep the mind sharp, potentially reducing the risk of cognitive decline as we age.

2. Mindfulness and Presence

The very act of looking through a viewfinder or display screen requires one to be in the moment. It encourages a mindfulness practice, as photographers must focus on the here and now. This state of presence can reduce stress and anxiety, offering a break from the fast-paced chaos of everyday life.

3. Physical Activity

While it might not be the first thing that comes to mind, photography often involves a significant amount of physical activity. Whether you’re walking through a city looking for the perfect shot, hiking up a mountain for a breathtaking landscape, or simply standing and crouching repeatedly to get the right angle, you’re getting your body moving.

4. Social Connection

Photography can be a bridge to meeting new people and forging connections. Whether it’s attending a workshop, joining a photography club, or interacting with subjects, the art creates numerous opportunities for social interaction, which is crucial for emotional health.

5. Boosted Self-Esteem

Mastering a new skill or getting recognition for a great photo can do wonders for one’s self-esteem. As photographers see their skills improve over time, or receive positive feedback, it instills a sense of accomplishment and boosts confidence.

6. Therapeutic Expression

Photography can serve as a therapeutic outlet for expressing and processing emotions. It allows individuals to convey feelings, thoughts, and narratives that might be challenging to articulate verbally. For many, it becomes a form of visual journaling, helping to process complex emotions and experiences.

7. Enhanced Observation Skills

Regularly practicing photography trains the eye to see details that might otherwise go unnoticed. This heightened sense of observation can translate into everyday life, making one more attuned to their surroundings and more appreciative of small wonders.

8. A Sense of Purpose

For some, photography offers a renewed sense of purpose, especially if they’re working on a project or aiming to convey a particular message. This motivation can provide direction and structure, often alleviating feelings of aimlessness or depression.

9. Connection with Nature

Many photographers are drawn to the great outdoors. Nature photography not only provides stunning subject matter but also exposes the photographer to fresh air, sunlight, and the therapeutic sounds of nature, all of which have proven health benefits.

Photography is more than just a hobby or profession—it’s a pathway to better health. As with any activity, the key is to enjoy the process, be patient with oneself, and stay curious. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or just starting, the act of capturing the world through a lens offers myriad benefits that enrich both the mind and body. So, pick up that camera, and let the journey to well-being begin!