WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY
Photography week|January 07, 2021
Wedding pro Tom Calton shares his essential tips for shooting successful and memorable images of the big day
Tom Calton

If there’s one medium of photography that’s guaranteed to test your mettle, it would have to be wedding photography. There are few other genres that require you to wear so many hats: portrait photographer, product photographer, and even studio photographer. If you’re serious about getting into wedding photography then you’ll need to at least dip your toes into each of these areas. But that’s what I believe makes wedding photogaphy so interesting – it forces you to think on your feet and truly puts your creativity to the test. If you can stick with it, it could be one of the most rewarding moves you’ll ever make – both mentally and financially.

Are you new to the world of wedding photography and don’t know where to begin? Or perhaps you’ve dabbled with weddings before and are keen to sharpen your skills? Well, in either case, you’re in the right place. Over the next few pages we’ll be delving head-first into the world of wedding photography, sharing some essential tips and tricks that will help you to refine your focus and increase your chances of bagging some fantastic photos. We’ll cover everything from shooting the integral parts of the wedding day to creative flash lighting effects, and finish off with a tutorial on creating a contemporary colour-graded look, to really give your images that professional edge.

PREP LIKE A PRO

As with most things in life, in the wedding industry if you fail to prepare, then you prepare to fail

Being entrusted with the responsibility of capturing someone’s wedding day means it’s vital that you have all of your ducks in a row. Failure to prepare could spell disaster – not only for you and your reputation, but also for the wedding couple if something goes wrong.

Now that the fear of failure has firmly set in, let’s talk about some of the pre-flight checks you should become accustomed to making. It may seem obvious, but the first step is to check that your gear is in full working order. This means ensuring that your cameras have been serviced if they’re due a check-over; making sure your lenses are clean and free from grime and dust; and even giving your camera bag the once-over to ensure you have plenty of batteries, memory cards and any other accessories you deem vital.

If you want to be extra cautious, be sure to make your checks at least two days before the wedding day itself. That way, if you do notice an important piece of kit isn’t working or needs replacing, at least you have a full day to try and find a replacement. Most weddings require an early start, so it’s unlikely that you’ll have time on the morning of the wedding day to try and resolve any issues.

Aside from equipment, it’s also a good idea to ensure that you have print-outs of all the necessary documents. Your couple should have filled in a booking form for you with all of the relevant information for the day, so bring this along with you should you need to double-check timings. If your couple have requested formal group shots then you should have also received a list from them already. Be sure to bring a few copies of this with you – it’s good to have spares that you can hand out to the bridesmaids and/ or groomsmen, so they can help you round up the required people and ensure photos are taken in good time.

SCOUT THE LOCATION

Visit the venue in advance and make a plan of action

If you want to make sure that you’re one step ahead of the game, taking a trip to the wedding venue before the big day will allow you to scope out the surroundings for potential shoot locations (just make sure you gain permission from the owners before you turn up). Locate some nice spots for the couple shots, and also a large open area that’s suitable for the group shots. Take some reference photos on your phone – you’ll then be able to quickly refer back to these on the wedding day. It’s also worth thinking about indoor locations that you could use should it start to rain or turn cold.

DUAL WIELDING

Many wedding pros carry two camera bodies for greater flexibility

At a wedding there aren’t many chances to re-do and try again, and equipping yourself with two camera bodies can significantly reduce the chances of you missing a shot because the lens you had attached was too long or too short. Fitting a wide lens on one camera and a medium/long lens on the other will mean that in most situations you’ll have the right focal length to bag that potentially day-making photo.

PACKING THE RIGHT GEAR

Take the right equipment to overcome any challenges

WIDE-ANGLE LENS

A wide-angle lens is essential for group shots if you’ve not got a great deal of space to work with. Trying to cram 20 to 30 people into a photo with just a 50mm lens to hand isn’t going to work.

TELEPHOTO LENS

There will be numerous times during the day where you need to get close to the action but you can’t physically get close enough without becoming a distraction (such as during the ceremony and speeches). This is where a telephoto pays off.

FLASHGUN

Once the sun goes down you’re going to need to create your own light, so a flashgun is a must. Rather than pointing the light directly at your subject, rotate the head and bounce the light offa low ceiling for more flattering results.

WIRELESS TRIGGERS

Having the flexibility to fire your flashgun off-camera will open up further avenues for creativity. Whether it’s lighting a dingy dancefloor or providing a back-light for low-light portraits, off-camera flash has a multitude of benefits.

BRIDAL PREPARATION

Discover how to capture the drama before the “I do’s”

For the photographer, the wedding day typically starts with bridal prep in the morning. While the other guests are getting dolled up and making their way to the wedding venue, you’ll be with the bride and her bridal party, capturing the nerves, the tears and the excitement as she and her friends prepare for the busy day ahead.

Where the bride decides to get ready will vary. It might be at the bride’s own house, or her parents’ house, a hotel room, or even at the venue itself. In any case, it’s your job to assess the location and identify the best sources of light. Most rooms will have harsh ceiling lights that cast unflattering shadows, so try and utilise the soft, diffused light spilling in from the windows as much as you can. Usually the make-up artist and hair stylist will want to position the bride and bridal party next to a window so that they can see what they’re doing, so use this to your advantage, and take plenty of snaps of the bride’s hair and make-up being applied.

If window light is scarce, a flashgun will solve the problem. Rather than aiming direct flash at everyone, though, bounce the light off the ceiling or walls to diffuse it.

You’ll also need to get some shots of the wedding and bridesmaid dresses, flowers and accessories. If the room is a little manic (as it often is) and there’s an opportunity for you to take some of the accessories and flowers outside, this is a good option – you’ll have an abundance of natural light, and you won’t have the added pressure of feeling like you’re getting in everyone’s way. It’s probably best that the dresses are photographed inside though (venture outside with them only with the bride’s direct permission and at your own peril!). Find a nice spot that you can hang them from – curtain rails, the tester canopy of a four-poster bed, in front of an ornate wardrobe – ideally in a place with plenty of natural light. There are loads of potential spots if you know where to look.

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