How I Prepare to Photograph a Wedding

I honestly love capturing weddings, it's one of the most rewarding jobs I've done in my lifetime and if I'm honest, it hardly feels like 'work'. It obviously doesn't start out so easy and capturing your first wedding can be slightly daunting, but there are plenty of things you can do to make sure you approach the day feeling confident. Before we go any further, don't assume these few simple tips will guarantee a successful wedding. Before I even begun capturing weddings under 'Luke Holroyd Photography' I had completed a degree in Photography, now university isn't essential and it in no way will teach you how to capture a wedding, but it helped me mature and gain the basic skill set needed. Secondly I assisted as many wedding photographers as I could, now this is essential, if you want to learn more about assisting have a read Assisting & Second Shooting for Photographers

So once you have the skills, equipment and most importantly, the experience, to capture a couple's once in a lifetime day, you're probably feeling slightly nervous. If you're like me and don't mind working under pressure this will help,  but there's still a few things I do to ensure the day is perfect for myself and the Bride & Groom. 

Get All The Boring Things Done with Straight Away

I personally hate paperwork, taxes.. the list goes on. When a client books, I ensure all the formal agreements are complete, and I have the Bride & Groom's contact numbers, address and full names - make sure they have yours too. I also make sure I have all the details of the wedding venue and reception. If you can have all this information collected and deposits paid after a few weeks of the couple booking you can start to talk about creating awesome pictures on their wedding day. 

Build Up a Relationship With Your Clients

In the modern day, most business transactions happen relatively quickly. If we take weddings for example; a couple will meet with the cake maker/florist/bridal store once or twice and hand over cash. The clients will probably never see that person ever again except for a brief exchange of the product on the morning of their wedding, photography on the other hand requires the photographer and Bride & Groom to spend a good 10 hours together on their wedding day. 

The most important thing for me is making sure the couple are comfortable in front of the camera and with me. I often say that it feels like I'm capturing a friend's wedding every time I pick the camera up. It's like this because I have spent many months before talking to the couple, sometimes meeting up with them and going for food, capturing their pre wedding shoot and most of all, answering all their questions and concerns.  

Gather Inspiration

I never stop searching for inspiration and I always try and do something new at each wedding. Photography is constantly evolving and the work out there just keeps on getting better and better. You should never get to a stage where you think you have achieved everything you can do with a camera. You should always be looking to add new techniques to your work. I spend as much time as possible surrounding myself with inspiration and this doesn't mean I sit  on Pinterest all day, in fact, 50% of the inspiration I take isn't photography. If you get out there visit galleries, talk to artists and photographers and mix that with some online inspiration ( Pinterest, other photographer's work) you will start creating images you didn't think you could achieve. 

Embrace Rain 

Unless you work in Sydney or another guaranteed sun-filled destination, you're probably going to be capturing weddings in the UK. We all know the UK isn't exactly the most dry place, so there is a good chance you can expect rain even in the summer months. Even before a couple book me I talk about the possibility of rain, and no I'm not one of those negative people, it's just I like to prepare for the worst case scenarios. Having a 'rain plan' in place will make you a whole lot more confident if you read the weather forecast the night before and it's forecast rain... if you don't have a plan, trust me you wont be able to sleep! Not only that, but people who book you are more than likely going to ask you what happens if it rains? By answering their questions before they've even asked them, helps them gain confidence in you.

So what do I actually say?  I ask them firstly what their plans are if it rains, if they're tying the knot in October - March, chances are they've already thought about it. If they're tying the knot in the summer, chances are they're banking on sunshine and won't even want to discuss wet weather... 'don't jinx it!' I reassure them that if it rains, there will still be plenty of opportunity to be creative with their photographs - obviously with their participation and the promise that you will keep the dress dry.

You're documenting their wedding day so why hide the fact it rained? Use it to your advantage, think outside the box a little bit and pack plenty of umbrellas in the back of your car.     

Prepare for the Worst 

What happens if the make-up artist doesn't turn up? The Groom forgets his Tie? So you think well that's not the photographer's problem and you're totally right. It may not be your problem but if you can solve the situation it's going to make the day run a hell of a lot more smoothly, which in return means a less stressed wedding party. Once you start shooting weddings full time, you will learn how they flow and what usually goes wrong. Consider keeping a small kit in the car that contains things like spare ties, deodorant, hair clips, paracetamol, suncream..basically anything that may save the day for the bride, bridesmaids, groom or groomsmen. 

Keep a list of make up artists, florists and any useful phone numbers in your phone that may come in handy if there is a disaster in the morning.    

Check your Equipment, then check again....and again! 

Make yourself a checklist to ensure your equipment is ready and complete it a couple of days before the wedding, not the night before. Here's a few things that list should include: 

  • Your Cameras are set to RAW Image Quality 
  • The date and time on your cameras match.
  • The Memory cards are formatted 
  • All batteries and spares are fully charged
  • Camera Bodies & Lenses are packed 

To shoot a wedding you're going to need double to triple of everything, 1-2 spare camera bodies, 3-4 spare batteries, 4-5 spare flashgun batteries, 9-10 spare SD cards. Having more than what you need is obviously going to cost you more money, but having more back ups than you need really does help you feel relaxed. 

Don't forget to check your non photographic equipment; do you have a spare shirt in the car? Are the cars oil levels & tyre pressures ok? Is your watch set to the correct time? Is your mobile phone charged? Is your satnav charged and do you have a map for back up? Have you got petty cash for any unforeseen charges i.e car parking?  

Arrive in Plenty of Time

I travel up and down the country shooting weddings, and I very rarely travel the morning of a wedding. If you're going to be travelling more than an hour to a wedding I highly recommend staying close to the location the night before.  You can't rely on the motorways being clear and if you're conscious about racking up accommodation bills, add a notice to your terms and conditions and charge extra for X amount of miles.  

The morning of the wedding I will always arrive early, if the bride has asked me to be there for 11am, I'll be there for 10.30am. Hey, they may not be ready for you, but at least they're not panicking if you're late. 

Do you have any great tips for preparing to photograph a wedding? How do you tackle wet weather at weddings?