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Photographing my FIRST wedding: the honest truth

Updated: Apr 5, 2019

Well it’s been a very long time since I sat down and wrote a blog! I’ve spent the past few months really changing my style and focusing more on portraiture and fashion (which I am loving). This blog (I’d like to say ‘this weeks’ but will I manage writing every week? Probably not) is all about shooting my first wedding (if you hadn’t read the title…) what I did in the lead up too it and the genuine and honest truths of what it was like. I'm hoping this will be useful to any aspiring photographers out there who are wanting to shoot weddings, or maybe you have one booked. Regardless, it’s a long, but I’d like to think useful, account of what shooting your first wedding is like.

A few months ago I was asked if I would be interested in photographing a wedding. I had never shot a wedding before in my life, not even assisted one, yet for some reason I said yes. I had been asked in the past to photograph a couple of weddings and at the time I was just not ready to photograph the biggest day of 2 peoples lives. What if I miss the first kiss?? What if my camera dies? A memory card corrupts? What if I just royally f*ck it up? I had all these images in my head of the worst possible things that could happen that for quite a while the idea of photographing a wedding terrified me.

and my terrified mental state didn’t disappear until I got back home that evening AFTER photographing the wedding and I had backed up all the images I had shot.

Now I’m aware I have made myself sound like the worst photographer to hire for a wedding day (lol bare with me) but I want to be truthful and say that it truly was scary. It was my first wedding and I doubt if you asked any other wedding photographer how they felt before their first wedding, they’d most likely say the same thing as me.

In preparation for the big day I spent far too much money on camera gear; batteries (you know just in case the 5 I already had all died), Memory cards (making sure their sync speed was fast enough to deal with the speed I would be shooting at and also the size of the image files. I shoot on a D850 and my lord are the file sizes big), a SPARE/backup camera (a D7000- off of Ebay) just incase my 8 month old camera decided it had had enough. I rented a lens off of LensPimp (definitely recommend them – a YouTube video about my experience is up on my channel) and even borrowed a lens off of a fellow photographer who kindly trusted me with her 70-200! I bought a camera strap so that the camera went across my body instead of around my neck (1. So I could drop the camera when needed and access it again within a second 2. To minimize the chances of getting back ache, with the usual Nikon straps my backs aching after a couple of hours shooting so I wanted to make sure I would be comfy for at least 8 hours). I bought 8 clear umbrellas off of eBay (the wedding was in February and I was not going to risk not having umbrellas for that time of year.) I also watched countless videos on YouTube.

I created documents that went out to the bride & groom with questions, a timeline etc so I knew EXACTLY when things were happening, how long I would have for each part of the day, who they wanted to be photographed (names and relation) so that I wasn’t wasting my time focusing on getting photographs of the wrong people.

I met up with the bride at the venue so we could talk through specifics and scout out the location for good places to get images. If I had turned up ‘blind’ to the venue on the actual wedding day it would have just been an added stress. I pretty much covered all bases. This was a benefit for both the bride & groom and also myself. I was organised and the more organised I was the less stressed I was (I mean I dread to think what the stress levels would have been like had I not got my sh*t together, they were already sky high).

When it came to the day before the wedding I had a checklist of absolutely everything I needed for the upcoming day. The batteries were all on charge, memory cards were formatted (x6), the car was being loaded up. I wasn’t leaving anything to chance.

I am extremely relieved to say the day went really well. If it hadn’t I most definitely wouldn’t be writing this! Luckily the wedding was lovely and small so it meant I could pretty much photograph everyone and everything that was needed. The weather was dry and pretty sunny which was great but also difficult with shadows (first world photographer issues).

I arrived an hour before anyone else which gave me time to photograph the interior shots without anyone getting in the way and also the cake. I wanted to be there in enough time where I could figure out the lighting, get the shots I could do without others around etc and just to de-stress and become familiar with the surroundings. This really paid off. I shot in total 5 memory cards over the space of 9 hours and went through 2 batteries. I was probably a little too trigger happy but I wasn’t going to miss anything important and often within all those shots you can find some real gems.

I was firing the flash for 85% of the day (apart from the formal shots which were all done outside) and probably could have survived off of the one battery but I changed it when it was 75% empty as I knew it would probably die on me at the worst moment. I only had one flash with me, a Godox V860ii N, which was sometimes mounted to my camera and at other times mounted onto a tripod (yes a tripod, I forgot to get a light stand but it did the job).

As a photographer I often forget that it also means I have to order people about and position them. I spent my degree photographing wildlife and animals and if I wanted to get a specific shot I would have to move myself or wait a very long time. As a wedding photographer, and to be honest any kind of photographer that photographs people, you need to be authoritative. For someone that hates being bossy and at the chance would rather be swallowed by a hole then boss people about it was something I quickly had to overcome. I had no choice.

My other fear was that I would be in the way too much. It was the bride & grooms day so I didn’t want to be bossing them about and dragging them away for photos from everyone. I tried to combine the formals with photographing the bride & groom, so for about half an hour I photographed all the formal imagery with the family, bridesmaids etc and then took just the bridge & groom away for about half an hour so we could get some more intimate images. This meant that if I didn’t get another chance in the evening, I had photos of just the two of them and they could then just go and enjoy the rest of their special day.

The evening celebrations were where the fun with the photography could really begin. I played around with dragging the shutter to create really cool light trails as well as doing the standard reception images. I wanted some of the images to have real movement in them so that when people looked at the photos they would feel like they were actually there. If it works it can look pretty powerful. Now, it’s not to everyone’s tastes hence why I did do the traditional shots as well but I wanted there to also be option.

I’m going to insert some of my favourite images from the day. I’d love to have any feedback etc and if you have any questions feel free to contact me:

I'm so glad I did it and was so proud of myself for doing it. It's a pretty big deal photographing the biggest day of 2 peoples lives! If you want me to photograph your wedding then please do get in touch.

It’s been a pretty hefty blog this time but hopefully it has been of some use!

Thanks for reading, A x

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