The Extensive Guide For Wedding Photography
This guide is for those who want to learn more about wedding photography. Both for amateur photographers and wedding photographers that are at the beginning of the journey.
The SEO chapter is intended for experienced wedding photographers as well. For those who wish to increase their visibility in the results of search engines.
Why am I writing this guide? Because the information is fragmented and some key aspects are missing.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Necessary Equipment, Lenses, Dslr Vs. Mirrorless Debate, etc
- How To Book Your First Wedding
- Key Tips To Excel In The Wedding Photography Business
- Start Editing Your Images, Programs And Presets (That Nobody Tells You)
- Online Portfolio, About Sites And Templates
- Fuel Your Online Reach Trough SEO For Photographers
- Common Mistakes You Should Avoid
- Conclusion And Comments
The wedding is a unique moment in the life of each of us (hopefully). Wedding photography has the role of documenting this ancient ritual.
The responsibility on the photographer’s shoulders is high. With high pressure to capture decisive, unique moments. It’s not a job for everyone, being a stressful creative activity. Still, I think it’s worth the effort.
I’ll start with the technical aspect and I’ll continue with the tips to get the most out of your effort. Last but not least I will write about SEO for wedding photographers.
Inevitably, I will also address one of the most difficult aspect of this profession.
Contracting a satisfactory number of weddings to cover the welfare of the photographer.
You can’t photograph a wedding without a camera. It seems natural to start here.
The right choice from the beginning can shorten your path to success. It can be also beneficial for your bank account. If this gear gets you nowhere, the limitation is behind the viewfinder. The limitation is you.
I’m going to stick to the Nikon brand. Spoiler, It’s worth taking into account my subjectivity.
First I will take into consideration cameras and lenses with a good value for money. I will also write about expensive lenses and cameras, the best money can buy.
In 2010 I gathered the information needed to start this business. A creative passion that I wanted to bring an extra income.
The only thing I was interested, at the time, was the lenses and which route to take, Nikon or Canon.
I chosen the dark side. For 4 years I owned a multitude of exotic lenses from the Nikon camp.
Starting with the Nikon 70-200 VR 2 that I found useless from the very beginning. Ending with Nikon 45 PC-E that has extremely limited utility in the wedding photography business.
I stayed faithful to Nikon all this time. I’ve been always aware that on the other side of the fence the grass is just as green.
I’ll tackle the Nikon system, the system I’m familiar with. Both dslr and mirrorless, the new mount that everyone it’s making fuss about it.
Another aspect to consider. I’ll only refer to wedding photography that uses natural light. I use speed-lights only on the dance floor.
NIKON LENSES (VALUE FOR MONEY)
The lenses are the base in the kit of any photographer. New models are developed even once in 20 years. A good quality lens represents a long-term investment.
The following 3 lenses are a wise choice for any wedding photographer using Nikon.
Nikon 28 F1.8G
A fast and lightweight lens with high optical qualities.
Comparing-it to its older brother Nikon 28 1.4 G, has only one relevant drawback. The quality of bokeh at fast aperture. When both lenses are used at F 1.8 the cheaper version has inferior bokeh. Also, the premium lens, logicaly, can go to f1.4.
If you use it at an aperture smaller or equal to 2.8 you won’t notice a difference between them.
A walk-around lens you can use in most scenarios at a wedding.
Nikon 50 F1.8G
Don’t make the mistake of comparing it to the big brother 1.4 G. The nifty fifty is superior.
I’ve used both variants for related wedding photography applications.
Nikon 50 f1.8 G is a superlative lens that can be used without hesitation for wedding photography. Initially purchased purely for back-up purpose, has made it’s way into my main bag.
The notable difference compared to f1.4G consists in the quality of transition from focus to bokeh. The transitions of f1.4G are ugly as hell, unusable at fast aperture.
Nikon 85 F1.8G
The younger brother of 85 f1.4 G. In this case the only difference between the two is the maximum aperture. At f1.8 both lenses perform almost identical. Nikon 85 f1.8G is flawless, a lightweight high quality lens. A perfect match as a short tele to use at a wedding.
NIKON DSLR (VALUE FOR MONEY)
Nikon D750 had and still is a huge success as a wedding camera.
I know many international photographers, Canon shooters, that switched to Nikon because D750. The frustrations with Canon 5d Mark 3 have burst when Nikon launched this camera.
D750 is also a very good choice today, even if you don’t take into consideration the price paid.
Besides the fiasco of countless recalls in service (3) and limitation of the exposure time to 1/4000 there’s nothing to ask more.
PREMIUM NIKON LENSES
I know most of us are looking for excellence. Few search on Google lenses for weddings with good value for money. Most of them are searching for the best.
Below are 100 years of Nikon experience of manufacturing optics for photography.
Nikon 35 f1.4
The bread and butter, this is the main lens used by many wedding photographers, still, most of them overuse this lens. I heard too many times the phrase , if I could choose only one lens to shoot a wedding 35 f1.4 is the one.
It’s a lens with moderate wide field of view , very easy to use, with “bokeh that bites”.
You can tell the story capturing the scene, or get close enough to make beautiful environmental portraits.
NIKON 58 F1.4
This kind of lens gives a more relaxed look to the scene, a field of view compared to the human eye . Pleasing bokeh with context.
All about the bokeh. I shoot over 90% of my images at the maximum aperture , the main reason to buy this lens is to keep it at the maximum aperture.
The bokeh is the best in class, on any full frame dslr, period.
It’s better than Canon 50L and any other lens in this focal length category.
Nikon 58 f1.4 autofocus. The lens is challenging your senses , you gotta be careful, like shooting with a sniper rifle.
The good part, if you miss the focus a little bit, the image is still pleasing, the transitions from focus to blur are butter smooth.
If you like 100% in focus photos you will be disappointed with this lens, don’t buy-it.
Optical qualities. If you are a photographer that looks at 1:1 preview in Lightroom at the majority of the photos you will be disappointing. Images have great balanced contrast but the resolution could be better.
Despite that the way this lens renders is unique, it has character, hard to explain, in my opinion resolution it’s not a benchmark for optical qualities.
When I read prestigious benchmark sites that write : Nikon 58 f1.4 has almost the same resolution compared to the 50 f1.4G, there is no need to spend X amount of cash more, makes me laugh. There is no comparison, the 58 is in another league of its own.
Other things worth mentioning is the lowest vignette compared to the rest in class.
Nikon 85 f1.4
I always hated this focal length, very hard to use other than portraits and too much isolation of the subject, but for some this works.
As a general rule , the longer the focal length , the better the quality of the bokeh.
The 85 is the standard for portrait and studio work.
Other than these three lenses you can experiment and add additional glass according to your taste and budget. A wide lens like the Nikon 24 f1.4 or a telephoto lens like Nikon 105 f1.4.
NIKON PREMIUM DSLR
Nikon D850 represents for many the best camera for wedding photography.
Even putting it to compete with mirrorless, even comparing it to Sony.
If money is no object, D850 represents the excellence in wedding photography.
THE NEW NIKON MIRRORLESS SYSTEM
The opinions are divided.
But at this point the general voice is that the system is inferior to DSLR. At least when it comes to photographing a wedding.
Autofocus lock for moving topics is inferior. The lack of a second card slot for back-up is another pretty serious reason.
Other reasons. Lack of native lenses (3 dull lenses are available for now). Lower performance of autofocus with F mount lenses.
Definitely I see potential in Nikon mirrorless for the future. But for now I don’t feel is the right move to switch.
3.HOW TO BOOK YOUR FIRST WEDDING
Perhaps one of the most difficult steps in wedding photography is to book the very first wedding.
Implementing the following tips will help you break the ice. Tips that can bring you the first wedding in your portfolio.
What is the best method to shoot a wedding alone?
What about the fastest way?
All right, you’ve managed to get together the equipment needed to shoot a wedding.
Depending on how far you’re willing to go, you have one or two solutions.
Wait a minute.
First thing first. You’re not crazy to shoot a wedding without having some experience, do you?
Wake up in the morning to catch the sunrise, take photos and experience the light extensively.
Start with photo sessions of people you know. Create a portfolio with the gear you just bought.
It’s the moment you will find out if you have photographic skills or not. Create a Facebook page and make yourself busy. The more you photograph, the more skilled you become.
There are newly weds looking for a photographer for a photo shoot after the wedding. There’s no pressure if you fail.
You will inevitably need to create a portfolio. Master the technique and only then you can aspire to photograph a wedding.
OPption 1, Become A Assistant Photographer
Now you’ve acquired some experience.
You know too well. No couple looking for a wedding photographer would accept to hire someone like you. A wedding photographer who doesn’t have at least a wedding in his portfolio.
Some photographers are hiring assistants. Apply for that job.
You can start by taking care of logistics and get to shoot parts of the wedding that the main photographer has no access.
You can photograph the groom’s getting ready at a different location, moment that overlaps with the bride’s preparation.
I had requests to hire an assistant, but I refused them all. I’m an introvert, an assistant would get in my way. Other photographers need an assistant and there is definitely a market for this.
Option 2, How Far Are You Willing To Go?
If the answer is yes, keep reading.
Create a paid ad on Facebook offering to photograph a wedding for free.
Explain the situation in detail, explain you have no experience shooting a wedding. Show your solid portfolio with photo sessions. In 24 hours you will book your first wedding. So simple.
You can go farther and even make a selection, you will get more than one request.
4. TIPS TO EXCEL IN WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY
Ideas for not interfering. How to capture the decisive moment, technical tips and business advices. The most complete set of tricks for a wedding photographer prepared for the unpredictable.
Starting with the shooting modes of the camera and ultimately understanding how light influences wedding photography.
How Fit Are You?
The first tip I see in other related articles is the list of frames that you need to take at a wedding.
The most important aspect to consider? A good fitness level and a proper nutrition that prepares you for the wedding marathon.
Can you run three miles without stopping?
If the answer is negative, you will suffer. The quality of your photos will suffer as wel.
Calibrate Your Lenses
Most fast lenses for DSLR need calibration before use.
Yes, even if you buy both components (camera and lens) at the same time, from the same store.
Personally, I’m checking the calibration of my lenses every month or two.
Scout The Wedding Location
The day before I scout the area where the wedding will take place. I will make myself familiar with the venue. I’m also looking for a spot for the photo shoot, a spot near the reception.
I choose the sunset because it lets me see how the light influences the scene. Buildings and landscape can hide areas from the sunset light.
Use Two Cameras
You need diversity, don’t shoot the entire wedding with a single focal length.
Choose one of the following combinations.
Medium wide and normal (like me) 35mm and 58mm.
Medium wide and short telephoto 35mm and 85mm.
Wide and normal 24mm and 58mm.
Use a double strap that allows you to easily shoot in this configuration.
The Backup Equipment Matters
Put yourself in a situation where one lens or a camera breaks down during the wedding.
I’ve lived through both situations and it’s scary. I’ve lived to tell the story. Backup everything, I mirror every piece of equipment in my camera bag with a backup.
I have enough to gear up a second shooter with my spare camera equipment.
There are for sure experienced wedding photographers that don’t fully backup their gear.
Do you identify yourself?
What do you do if the 35mm breaks?
Do you shoot the rest of the wedding with 50, 58 or 85? Pretty scary if you ask me.
Simplify Your Life
Chose two main lenses and stick with them for 90% of the wedding day. You will focus more on the newly weds instead of gear.
Don’t change a lens unless you think it’s really necessary. You can use a longer lens like 135mm if the ceremony will take place outdoors.
Ask The Bride And Groom
A couple will choose you as a photographer for your style.
However, it does not hurt to ask if they have some additional preferences.
Like having an extra attention for their parents. More details, etc.
If you want professional results, the only option is to shoot raw. Jpeg is only for amateurs and experienced journalists.
Inevitably the camera will not record the scene correctly. The raw format will allow you to fix two common camera and user errors. Exposure and white balance.
It will also take your images to the next level trough digital manipulation.
Make Yourself Heard In Critical Situations
The bride is going to walk along the isle? A bridesmaid dressed in red is also eager to capture the moment with her phone? He sits right in front of the isle and more importantly in front of you? Don’t be afraid to address her with authority, while keeping discretion. You are making the rules in situations like this.
Have An Informative Speech Before The Ceremony
Before the ceremony, I’m holding a short speech in front of the guests. I’ll ask them kindly to put down the phones and let me document the moment.
Shoot One Frame At A Time
Don’t use the continuous mode, hoping for the best. Study each frame, one at the time. Use single shot mode. You need more than one frame? Press the shutter button as needed.
Use With Confidence The Different Modes Of Autofocus
During the wedding I’m using 3 modes of focusing.
Manual Focus when photographing close details.
Auto Focus Single (AF-S) in most situations trough the day.
AF-C when I’m dealing with fast moving subjects. On the dance floor I use this mode exclusively.
Look For The Good Light… Continuously
When you have no results and you have the option, change your position.
The scene can change radically in good only by taking two steps in the right direction.
Get close with the 58mm or 85mm. There’s a sense of intimacy, even when the overall scene is not. Get close to the bride’s face, look for facial expressions of the guests in key moments.
Don’t get too close with a 35mm or wider lens.
Capture Everything In The Frame
Diversity is good. Take the opposite approach and move away from the scene. Use with confidence wide lenses, normal or short telephoto.
5. Editing Your Images
What are your options? What software the other wedding photographers are using?
The most used presets in the wedding industry that nobody is talking about.
How to get the most out of digital images trough software manipulation.
Side-note, I personally edit my work on a 13 inch MacBook Pro with TouchBar connected to an external 24 inch monitor.
It is by far the most used program for editing in the wedding photography industry.
The first choice. Fast, with many resources on the Internet.
Huge library with tutorials and presets.
Can only be purchased with an annual subscription.
Alien Skin Exposure
Editing software that was at one point more popular than Lightroom. Perhaps also because in 2005, when Exposure was developed, Lightroom wasn’t born yet.
Greatest advantage over Lightroom? Includes more than 500 presets.
The presets can be subtle, dramatic, surprising or a combination of the 3 elements. They can be also customised to the photographer’s taste for a “unique” signature.
Alien Skin Exposure, subjective, leaves somehow a different signature to the final image.
I consider it superior to Lightroom looking at the end result.
Managing and editing the images is done without the need of a catalog. If time is precious, the initial setup is faster with Exposure.
You can only purchase up front in full, not having the obligation to pay an early subscription is welcomed.
You can also start editing your images in Lightroom and complete the task in Exposure.
VSCO – Visual Supply Company
Most wedding photographers are using VSCO in one form or another.
Most use standard presets that they have customised to their liking. You can choose from a series of packs, which cost pennies. I recommend you the first pack, Modern Films.
Presets derived from VSCO with another label.
One example being DVLOP. Presets made by famous wedding photographers gathered under the same umbrella. I recommend you this category only if you identify to that photographer. The downside, you will be just another copycat following the footsteps of another photographer.
If you want instant magic trough presets, it’s not going to happen. The images from the examples look just as well (if not better) unedited.
If you have low quality images, they’ll be just as bad applying those “filters”.
You got to try harder to get the best results straight out the camera.
6. WEBSITES FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS
How to make a unique website, what are the alternatives. Themes for photographers. The essential guide to websites for wedding photographers.
What are the differences between the various tools? What’s better?
I’ll mention WordPress, ProPhoto theme and other alternatives worth taking into consideration.
By far FloThemes is the most popular theme for you wedding portfolio.
You have a choice of 14 pre made designs, the principle being the same.
You have a series of blocks at your disposal to add content to the site.
- The simplicity you can create a website.
- It looks really good.
- You don’t need coding skills.
- You only pay once.
- Your website is going to look similar to other photographers (I mentioned popularity).
- The 14 templates are in a way similar to each other.
- You get what you see, you won’t be able to make any further changes.
- The code generated by the theme is quite big, It will have small negative implications for speed and SEO ultimately.
This awesome website is built using ProPhoto. ProPhoto works basically the same as FloThemes. Both corporations are in direct competition.
The notable difference lies in the possibility of creating unique templates.
My website has about 30 templates, all being unique.
It’s an extremely powerful tool.
Advantages of ProPhoto
- You can build a custom website with virtually infinite possibilities.
- The generated code is considerably shorter than FloThemes, SEO +.
- You only pay once.
- You need coding skills to take it to the next level.
- The interface is cumbersome and not user friendly.
Squarespace works differently.
It doesn’t require a classic hosting. It’s not a WordPress site like the two mentioned above.
By far the most powerful tool for creating and managing a site. Best house for wedding photography.
Advantages of Squarespace
- By far the most powerful solution.
- Very easy to use with a wide variety of options.
- High quality end result (has something special).
- The galleries (slides) are in another league.
- You don’t have to worry about hosting, installations, security, plugins, etc.
- The most expensive solution of the three.
- WordPress still remains the No. 1 solution from the search engine optimisation standpoint.
7. SEO FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS
Search engine optimisation, SEO for photographers.
How to get in front of other wedding photographers in the search results and be closer to potential clients.
What are the top priorities when you create content for the online environment. What really matters and mistakes to avoid.
How to compete with the big names in the wedding photography business. All this from the comfort of your home through a single WordPress installation.
You will find the answer to these questions in the SEO for photographers article.
8. MISTAKES YOU SHOULD AVOID
There are a number of actions in wedding photography that you shouldn’t be doing.
Starting with improper technique and finishing with your social skills.
Some common mistakes that a wedding photographer is prone doing.
Not Reading The Wedding Schedule
It’s a high priority to know the program and locations of the wedding day.
If the bride has a wedding planner, you will definitely get the list. If not, call the bride before the big day and write on a piece of paper everything.
Not Engaging In The Formal Group Portraits
The formal group shots are part of the wedding photos.
Keep in mind that guests don’t have a mirror in front of them. They don’t know if their posture is awkward.
Guide them. When needed, approach and correct their posture.
Your Way Vs The Bride Way
You have an idea for some awesome images? Did you get a negative answer from the bride?
Stop insisting if the bride or groom said no.
Don’t Forget To Smile
Do you want to receive recommendations from the newly weds and guests?
Be positive and optimistic and you will get more referrals.
You will win both in wedding photography and life in general.
Wedding photography is a discipline that requires a lot of training. With great complexity and competition. A business choice for the passionate.
I missed something, do you have something to add?
You’re free to add an opinion.