So you want to become a wedding photographer? Or perhaps you’re new to the game? Either way you’re probably aware of how competitive the industry is. All it takes is a local Google search to see what you’re up against in your area – there is no shortage of styles, quality, packages and prices for prospective customers to choose from. This is why it’s become so important to stand out from the crowd.
Below are 5 principles I always abide by when it comes to wedding photography. I hope that by reading them you’ll be able to learn a trick or two and will encourage you to differentiate yourself from other wedding photographers.
Establish your style
If you haven’t decided on your personal style yet, your first step should be to have a look at the different styles of wedding photography out there. Are you going to go down the traditional or contemporary route? Or perhaps you’re more of an artistic photographer? How about reportage? Most couples know what they want beforehand, so it’s important that you’re clear about what they’ll be getting from you. You should also check out the competition in your local area to see if there’s an under-represented niche you could take advantage of. Don’t forget that the wedding photos featured on your website should be a reflection your personal style.
A great wedding photographer plans well ahead. If you’re about to shoot at a venue you’ve visited before, don’t assume things will be the same the second time round, particularly for outdoor shots. I always like to assess the venue in the run up to the big day especially if it’s in a different season – for instance, the sun may be higher or lower, or the trees and flowers will be different. These details will really affect outdoor group shots, so adjusting your equipment accordingly will be the difference between producing good photos and truly great photos. Of course, all good plans must include good contingency plans. Ensure you have suitable indoor or sheltered locations as backup should the weather take a turn for the worse.
Capture the emotions
To be a really clever wedding photographer, you have to be tuned in to what is really going through the minds of those you’re photographing. One half of your job is to capture powerful, emotive moments that are created by those taking part in the wedding. The other half is to create your own wow moments (more on that later). One of my favourite memories as a wedding photographer was witnessing a father shed a tear at seeing his baby girl in her dress, when she had never seen him cry before – it’s a moment she’ll never want to forget.
For spur of the moment shots like this I prefer not to get bogged down with technicalities. Focus too much on the composition and technical details and you’ll miss the priceless ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ shots that we all strive to capture. Also, a narrow depth of field is often your best bet for these shots, as it further emphasises the chemistry between the families and friends in the photos.
Use the right lighting for the right job
A popular request from brides and grooms is for their photos to have a dreamy, almost fairytale-esque look, characterised by soft lighting. This can be tricky in the summer as direct sunlight may create harsh shadows, no matter how much diffusion is used. A better idea would be to shoot these types of photos in the evening, using props such as fairy lights and lanterns to enhance the effect.
For the night time portion of the wedding, choosing the right lighting is crucial to capturing the party atmosphere. As light fades outside, the inside of the venue gets brighter. In this scenario, use flash sparingly – bouncing light is your best friend here and will get you some very interesting photos.
Create some magic
Earlier I talked about how you shouldn’t be too technical when capturing quick-fire emotional moments at a wedding. However, the other aspect of your job as a wedding photographer is to create unique photographs stamped with your personal style. These are the photos where even the most observant and patient photographer with a good eye for framing and composition will struggle. It’s time to get creative and show off your technical skills so that you can wow the guests and justify the bride and groom’s decision to choose you.
The key attributes you need are confidence, a willingness to learn and enthusiasm for the job – don’t be afraid of off-camera flash, and experiment with the balance between natural and ambient light. Remember, these are the shots that will get you noticed and make you stand out from the crowd – you’re there to capture the magic unfolding around you but we can always create a bit of magic of our own.