Planning to shoot a wedding? Well, tough assignment to take on. The stakes? Really high! It simply does not matter if you work as a pro or as a newbie. There are some things out there you should know about in order to avoid serious mistakes that could ruin your pictures and in fact, ruin your career.
1. “I’m a PRO”
Lot’s of people turn into photography as a hobby. As the hobby is not a cheap thing, a lot of them want to make a profit out of it. But, please. Be realistic about your skills. Having a decent DSLR and some experience set of gear is surely not enough.
This is the photographer that takes pictures, not the camera. The investment is expensive and it goes to a very competitive market where only those skillful, talented and creative will survive. If you start in the business, be frank about that. Present a realistic picture of your current experience and where you are at your photographic journey, especially when you get paid for the assignment.
2. Sticking tightly to photography trends
Wedding photographers are aware that updating old styles of photographing is immensely important as times, tastes and expectations change. Yet, there is also the other side of the problem, namely falling for photography trends. Wanna shoot a funky image or e.g. do selective color? Fine, but ask yourself a question: “Will it really stand the test of time? “ “Will the image be universal” , “Won’t I be ashamed of this photo later on? “ Bear in mind that some of today’s fads may go out of style.
3. The style of photographs being not cohesive
Especially beginners in wedding photography might have the tendency of trying out different styles both in photography and post-production. That is perfectly understandable since that is called evolution. But you shouldn’t jump from one style to another, especially when doing one wedding. Stick to one classic B&W and Color style plus some delicate vintages as extras only. Delicious Recipes with its streamlined workflow can help find your own style of processing and adjust it fully to you taste. This is immensely important for your photography being consistent in portfolio and gives your clients clear expectations of your style.
Cohesive processing done with Delicious Recipes for Lightroom 4/5 + Color Efex Pro 4
4. “Smile, please!”
Some couples might feel they need to look at the camera all the time and very often instinctively stop what they are doing at the moment. That makes your photos look awkward and unnatural and has nothing to do with photojournalistic shots. Try to stay invisible not to provoke people looking at you and make sure to inform the couple beforehand that you do not expect them to pose.
5. Unsuccessful group photos
Let’s be frank. Group photos is a challenge. The key thing is the arrangement. And it should be logic without forgetting about important relatives. All subjects visible and looking into the camera. Shoot continuously so that everyone is looking at you properly. If necessary, you might always help you out by designating somebody who knows the family and who you trust that could be in charge of organizing everyone for the group portrait so that the process goes smoothly.
6. Neglecting the background
It needs some experience to see naturally background distractions, especially when you have lots of things to operate at the same time- light, settings or poses. However, it is crucial to have a clear background or the one that compliments the subject or gives the context.
You should definitely avoid cluttered backgrounds or elements that distract the viewers attention from the heart of the image. One way to help you out is something already mentioned before- knowing the venue. In this way you have the possibility to find proper background for various needs
7. Forgetting companions
Companions- the couple’s siblings and best friends. Very important for the wedding shots to be complete. So remember to devote a few shots of the bride and groom accompanied by friends.
8. No meeting beforehand
This may seem not so dramatic, but turns out to be fatal in the long run. Meeting the couple beforehand is a key thing. Not only you get to know each other but also your mutual expectations. Be clear of the services you wish to offer just to avoid unnecessary conflicts afterwards because of lack of clarity before striking a deal.
The key thing is to know the venue. Not having any idea of the locale and conditions could have dramatic results. You don’t know what additional gear you should take and how to prepare for your work by e.g. visualizing important shots to take. Such reconnaissance helps you feel more confident about your task to come and at least some big part of possible surprises are ruled out.
10. Disrespecting places of worship
There is nothing more disturbing during the ceremony than a photographer walking around like crazy, firing flashes every few seconds or serving everyone around with the irritating “beep” sound of the camera.
Another thing: the clothes you are wearing that day. Try to look smart and “invisible”. Your shoes should be comfy, so leave your favorite high heels at home for the time being.
Also, talk to the priest/pastor first! Different churches have different policies concerning flashes or the moments or places you are not allowed to shoot. You don’t want the pastor to turn everyone’s attention to you, right?
11. Tons of cute photographs of children
They are sweet, indeed. Especially when kids do silly things. But it is not them who are getting married. Just a few shots would be fine, but the couple may not like hundreds instead of the ceremony.
12. No backup!
“A soldier without weapons is helpless in a war-field”. This saying couldn’t be more true. Ok, some may say, I’ve got a decent DSLR, e set of good lenses, flash, memory cards, batteries. Fine. However, they can never tell when technology will backfire and they’ll be in serious trouble. So, in order to save yourself from the worst scenario full of embarrassment and panicking, always have extras.
Every pro should have spare body, different angle lenses, extra flashes, batteries and memory cards. Another asset of having extra equipment is the fact that you can simply flip from one body to another without bothering about lens change. It may save your time and you don’t risk missing a shot!
13. Not knowing the equipment inside-out
Understanding the manual setting and the knowledge how to shoot in different kinds of lighting is absolutely crucial. What’s more, you need to be aware of all the limitations of your equipment in different conditions so that you wouldn’t spend precious time browsing through the settings or getting incorrect exposure in the end.
14. Lack of computer knowledge
In times of 35 mm film photography the part of the process was to develop a film properly in darkrooms. When photography turned digital, now it is essential to know to develop a RAW file and move in computer graphic programs. One should know how to perform basic face retouching, handle histograms and color temperature or work with curves. If not, hire someone to do it for you as the tools used improperly can do more harm than good to your photos.
Being honest, this is one of the most visible and most frequent wedding photography mistake made, especially by photographers at the beginning of their photographic journey. The digital age of photography give unlimited possibilities as to photo manipulation. And it is where one can go wrong.
I remember my first photos experimenting with skin smoothening tools and the outcome was ridiculous! I made people look like mannequins! J It might be tempting indeed to pick that dodgy PS actions available out there, apply and “Voila”! Yet, some may forget about things like opacity adjustments. Great solution might be Delicious Colors or Delicious Recipes with their natural tones and colors. You may speed up the process of post-production and get subtly-processed images at the same time.
And please, when doing wedding photography forget about overusing of soft glow, heavy vignette, digital blur, fake HDR, artistic filters. Sometimes less is more. The golden rule is” simplicity is elegance”.
16. Forgetting the details
People are the key thing in wedding photography. But nothing complements them best than details. Wedding rings, shoes, flowers, cakes, menus, decorations, little presents- they are probably very important for the couple as they surely had spent a great deal of time choosing or sometimes even making. What’s more, such shots make for wonderful additions to your album.
17. Letting Uncle Bob win
Uncle Bob – a guest, often with DSLR, who decided to be a “non-official” photographer at the wedding. Professional photographers usually don’t mind them as they know how to move around among guests with cameras unless Uncle Bob hops in front of us using his flash and often ruining our shots. We all know how annoying this could be.
So what could we do? I prefer diplomatic measures first and foremost. You can ask him to assist you by e.g. holding a flash for you. Some of them might be really thrilled about the assignment! Or just work things out talking to him about not blocking each other’s ways. If it fails, you can always resort to the clients. However, it is better to have proper points in the Contract with the couple beforehand rather than bothering them on that special day.
18. Poor contract
Sometimes wedding photographers get into serious trouble because they did not sign a contract before or the contract was simple an internet “freebie” and it lacked certain important points. I’ve learned the hard way so now I am very careful about that point and try to evaluate my contract if I see potential problems afterwards. When signing one, photographers should remember about names and contact information about the parties involved, should contain a DETAILED description of what is being offered, e.g. albums, prints- their number and sizes or number of shots uploaded.
All the events should be listed. If there are any “must-have” shots for the couple- these also should be included. Moreover, financial issues should be clear- the precise amount of money, if cash or money transfer is preferable. Clear statement of the delivery dates of final product is crucial. Also, information about “failure to perform” . A good contract also covers issues connected with meals during reception. And of course signatures since without them the contract is not binding. When a contract is written, it is always a good idea to consult it, if possible, with a lawyer – just to be on the safe side.
19. Poor customer service
Wedding photographers should be professional. Always. Not returning phone calls, being late for arrangements, forgetting to reply emails, not caring about delivery dates – these all ruin photographer’s reputation. Make sure they do not relate to you. Bad service equals bad reputation. This is the internet era – nobody wants to have their brand name spoilt as no matter how beautiful pictures we take, some of the things may not be acceptable for the couple.
There are times during the wedding when we get tired or there is simply a quiet moment when there seems to be nothing going on. Let that not mislead you! Precious moments might be happening just around the corner! So never, ever let yourself let loose. Be flexible and stay alert all the time as your best shots might be out there, waiting for you!
21. Neglecting album design
Even the best photos in poorly designed album may look unattractive. Take some time and personalize. Think about which photos complement which and take your time. The effects of such design are way different.
22. Unattractive website.
As I mentioned before, we live in the era of internet. So in order to reach a wider audience, we need to invest in a website. It legitimizes your business. There is nothing more off-putting than a kitschy site – photography is connected to visual arts, right? Make sure then that your own website is stylish and well-designed. Also, your photographs- this is your key advertisement so forget about low resolution or bad quality images. How can a prospective client be sure that his wedding photos will be better?
23. Letting others say how we should feel about our work
I’ve done it. And probably you too. And this is perfectly true, especially at the beginning of our career. “Somebody has THIS camera, somebody took their 516th wedding, somebody travels to photograph here and there…” There is nothing worse for our confidence.
If you feel you have a problem differentiating yourself and your own photography from others, stay away from forums where a lot of competition is going on and join some supporting groups where people criticize not to put you down and discourage but help you see the things sometimes we are not aware of or look at what we do from other perspective. After all, we learn something new every day.