Preparing for an Upcoming (and First) Wedding Shoot!

UPDATE: Results of my First Wedding Shoot – Tanya and Marvin.

I’ve never really done much people photography. The odd family photo here and there but my main interest and passion has been landscape photography and of course astrophotography.

So you can imagine it came as quite a shock to me when a few weeks ago, Tanya (a friend and ex-work colleague at Ericsson Managed Services) asked me to photograph their upcoming wedding! My first reaction was a combination of shock, fright, nervousness, denial, interest and excitement.

Sydney Harbour Wedding Practise

Sydney Harbour Wedding Practise

But pictured here you can see a practise shot of the location! You may be saying “You’re crazy man! Leave it to the professionals!”. And you’d be 100% right. So what influenced my decision? 

Continue reading to see how I got myself into this, how I’m preparing for the event, and to see some more of the practise shots.

My instincts told me to say no – photographing a wedding is such a big deal. The pressure! This is a once-in-a-lifetime event for the bride and groom, and they want those perfect photographs to go along with their perfect memories of the day. But before giving Tanya an answer, I decided to do some reading and research. I read a number of “How to Photograph a Wedding” articles online, and also asked Tanya some questions about her expectations, and about the event (the location, the timing, duration, types of poses, etc).

Wedding Shoot Practise

Wedding Shoot Practise

Fortunately, with Tanya’s answers and my own research, I started to feel a little more confident about taking this challenge on. In fact, it’s probably the perfect opportunity to get some experience in this field of photography – as Tanya knows I’m not a wedding photographer. Some influential points were:

  • She made comment that she loved my landscape photography
  • She wants someone who knows their way around a camera, knows how to read the light and compose a good photograph
  • They just want the photos on a CD/DVD and will arrange printing themselves (with some advice)
  • They’re having a very budget wedding
  • They’re having a small number of guests (about 25)
  • It’s only for approximately 2 hours (combined ceremony, formal shots, guest shots and lunch/nibblies) and not a whole day affair
  • It’s all being done outdoors, at Cope’s Lookout at Kirribilli (on the edge of Sydney Harbour at Milson’s Point near the North end of the Harbour Bridge – I’ve photographed a small number of landscapes from this spot before).
  • Tanya knows the types of shots she likes and the types of poses they like
  • I spoke to my friend Humayun, an extremely talented amateur photographer (again mainly landscapes), who is wanting to turn professional and shoot weddings.

Humayun offered to come along and shoot the wedding with me, which is a great idea! It takes the pressure off just one person, he has some amazing pro-level equipment and lenses, and between us both, we should be able to get some fantastic shots for the bride and groom. It’s also an excellent opportunity for Humayun to get some experience and start his portfolio.

The Arch

The Arch

So now that we’ve decided to do this, how do we make sure we’re prepared? It’s only a week away (7th February). Here’s a list of 4 things I’m doing in the leadup.

1. Find out what shots they like

I asked Tanya for a list of the types of poses they like and hope to get out of the day, and credit to Tanya, she knew exactly what she wanted. She gave me a list, with links to examples from other wedding photographers, of exactly the type of shots they want. Armed with this list now, I can make sure we check it off on the big day and ensure we don’t miss anything!

Opera House

Opera House

2. Scope the Location

Even though I’ve shot landscapes from that location before, it was several years ago, and it was at dawn. I wanted to do some reconnaissance of the spot at the same time of day as the wedding will be held (at midday!). So on Wednesday, I took my camera to work and at lunchtime I headed across the bridge and took these practise shots to get a feel for the lighting at that time of day, the location, good spots for poses, good backgrounds, etc.

Some of the results of this practise are in this article. I’ve sent the whole series to Tanya to make sure they’re what she’s expecting and she’s happy with them. A great start. (Just a note, all of the practise shots are unprocessed – they’re just resized for the web).

Tourist and the Opera house

Tourist and the Opera house

3. Meet with the couple

I think it’s important to build some rapport with the bride and groom. Even though I’ve known Tanya for years and we’re friends, I haven’t met Marvin (the groom), and they haven’t met Humayun. So we’re meeting up with Tanya on Tuesday at lunchtime to talk about the wedding, get to know each other a bit, and hopefully we’ll all come away a lot more comfortable and with a much clearer picture in our minds of how the day will run.

Jeffrey St Wharf

Jeffrey St Wharf

4. Triple check the equipment

I’ll be taking my 2 camera bodies (Canon 20D and Canon 350D) and my Sigma 17-70mm lens, and Humayun will also have 2 camera bodies (one of them a Canon 5D Mark II !!) and an excellent selection of L series lenses (primes and zooms). Humayun also has a 420EX external flash (which may not be required).

Of course I’ll make sure all 3 batteries are fully charged, pre-format the 8 gig compact flash card (allows 800+ images in RAW format – should be enough!), and any dust is removed from the sensor and the lenses.

Sydney Harbour Bridge and Wharf

Sydney Harbour Bridge and Wharf

So now I think I’m prepared. But I’m sure something will come up – something always does.

I’m confident though that Humayun and I will have some beautiful pictures for Tanya and Marvin to choose from. One of the most challenging aspects is likely to be the weather, especially if it’s really really hot (as it has been lately), or raining. Being a completely outdoor wedding we’re at the mercy of the elements are you just can’t predict what it’s going to be like on the day.

Fig Tree

Fig Tree

If it’s really bright and sunny, there’ll also be the added challenge of people squinting while being photographed (it’s a midday wedding), as well as bright reflections off the water, harsh shadows etc. 

If it’s raining, there’s the challenge of people and equipment getting wet, not to mention lack of interesting lighting and lack of contrast. Though it’ll help with the squinting 🙂

Opera House and City

Opera House and City

I’m not sure who’ll be more nervous the night before – the bride, or me!! I’ll be sure to post again after the wedding, including some pictures and what I learnt!

Have you ever photographed a wedding as an amateur? What was your first experience like? I’d love to read your thoughts. Please comment below.

Bridge

Bridge

Sydney Harbour Bridge and Wharf from Cope's Lookout

Sydney Harbour Bridge and Wharf from Cope

Thanks for reading.

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