Chris Romans is the co-blogger on the photography & business education website Formed From Light and one half of the husband & wife photography duo Hand and Arrow Photography. Chris is dedicated to educating and inspiring new and established photographers to enhance their skill and turn photography into a successful career path. While
his creative focus has been on weddings and portraits, he loves to explore the world through travel and document the beautiful landscapes he encounters in places like Iceland and the Pacific Northwest.
The way I’d describe the first time I photographed a wedding would be with words like “scary”, “stressful”, and “fun”. There is a whole lot that goes into creating excellent wedding photography through every part of the day – from prep photos in the morning to the grand sparkler exit at night.
With over 3 years of wedding photography experience and having shot over 60 weddings along with my partner, I’ve come to really nail down the things that just work to make wedding photography successful.
In this post, I’m going to show you 5 wedding photography hacks that I apply to virtually every wedding I photograph.
Hack #1: Get Organized Before the Wedding
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that wedding photography is just about being good at taking photos. Sure, that is a huge part of it, and at the end of the day – your clients will be paying you to produce great photos. But there is so much more that goes into the process of making great wedding day photos.
I have come to learn that organization makes the day run smoother, makes it less stressful (for everyone), and allows you to better prepare for taking beautiful photos you want.
A few ways to get organized before the wedding include:
- Create a shot list. Shot lists can be useful ways to remind yourself what photos you want and need to take. The most important shot list of the day for me has always been a list of family formal pairings – this has allowed me to call out names and get people grouped together, instead of just trying to wing it.
- Put together a wedding timeline. The wedding timeline is the single most helpful thing I put together. With input from my clients, I’m able to write down the timing of every important event. By putting this schedule together, it helps set expectations of when things will need to happen (like portrait times), and where I need to be for things like the ceremony and start of the reception. I’ve also found that is HUGELY helps reduce stress for my clients too – because they can see their big day laid out in front of them.
- Learn what your client wants. This is not always easy, but it’s hugely important. With some clients, you may be in constant contact through email and text messaging – and they have probably spelled out their wants to you a few times over. With others, they may be super quiet – which can be absolutely fine but lead to missing out on things when the big day comes. To help get clarification easily, send out a questionnaire asking questions like “What are the most important pictures for you to walk away with?” and similar.
Hack #2: Prepare in Advance
Organization is important, and so is preparation.
I promise I’ll get to actual wedding photography tips next!
Being prepared to shoot a wedding early will help you eliminate stress and feeling frazzled. It will also make sure you have all the things you need with you when you arrive to shoot your client’s big day.
For beginner wedding photographers, one of the easiest ways to cool off your nerves is to pay a visit to the wedding venue you will be shooting at. This isn’t always possible due to scheduling and distance, but the first few weddings I shot, I made an effort to do this just to simplify the day in my head. By visiting in advance, you’ll get to see how things are laid out and find a few locations that would suit portraits, First Looks, and so on.
In addition, you should also be sure to prepare your wedding photography gear. I’ve made the mistake of trying to pack on the day – and I do not recommend. Now, I like to make sure my bags are packed and ready to go at least the evening before. This way I can confirm all my batteries are charged, cameras are set up, lenses are where they need to be – and the morning of the wedding, I can just chill until I have to go.
Hack #3: Use the Best Gear You Can
I totally understand that most wedding photographers who are just starting out won’t have that great of gear. If you’re shooting weddings for free or at a super low rate – this won’t be a big problem (most of the time).
With that said – one of the goals that comes from wedding photography is to be able to use images to build a portfolio. If you are just shooting weddings now with a cheap camera and kit lens, but want to end up as a career photographer, you’re not doing yourself any favors.
In the least – I’d suggest purchasing some professional equipment if you can afford it. If you can’t, consider rental options – this is what I did for quite a few weddings while I pinched pennies to afford owning better gear.
A few gear tips to keep in mind:
- Have a backup camera
- Bring a flash for dark indoor locations
- Have enough batteries on hand to last the night
Hack #4: Remember to Always Photograph Things Important to the Bride & Groom
Sometimes as photographers, we can get swept up thinking about what we feel looks good, that we can forget what really matters.
Often, important things will be captured naturally throughout the day. Taking detail shots showing off the bride’s dress, wedding ring, and other jewelry is one example.
But there are times you have to be on the lookout. One thing I’ve started to do during wedding days is take a step back and actually look at who the B&G are interacting with. This can help guide me to finding grandparents in a corner, or friends from college they haven’t seen in a while. Photos with these people in them will be much more satisfying than a bunch of shots of the groom’s stepdad’s new girlfriend who is really photogenic and into my work, but that they actually don’t feel too strongly for.
It’s little considerations like this that end up adding up in a big way when it comes to delivering your final product.
Hack #5: Look for Interesting Compositions to Create More Engaging Photography
The last wedding photography hack – nailing your compositions.
The thing is – wedding photography comes in many different types and styles. I’ve looked at a lot of portfolios in my day, especially when I was planning my own wedding back in 2016, and I’ve seen my share of…not so great wedding photos…
Putting aside things like editing style – which is a pretty seriously subjective quality – the best wedding photographers utilize a mixture of traditional compositions and more experimental ones. By design, photographers should aim to tell the story of the wedding day – and composition is one tool to do that.
One of the composition tips I return to at every wedding I shoot is this: make sure to be capturing energy and interest in the bride & groom.
This manifests itself in a lot of different ways throughout the day.
During the ceremony, this often translates into taking some shots from the center aisle, from a low angle, and with a longer focal length lens and using the people in the pews to help lead the eye to the bride & groom at the front of the scene. This is powerful because it shows there are people here for the B&G, and they are watching this important moment unfold.
I’m sure you could think of other ways this approach can apply throughout the day, too!
Using these wedding photography hacks, you can begin to immediately start being a more effective wedding photographer. Through careful prep work and emphasizing the most important things in your images, you’ll grow your skills in no time!
For more photography advice – check out Formed From Light.