Photographing Your First Wedding – Preparation & Pre-Wedding (Part 1/2)

Hello and welcome to this 2 part Blog post on planning & photographing your first wedding (AGHHHH!), a terrifying prospect for most photographers, both new and established. I remember Photographing my first Wedding as though it was yesterday, despite it being 7 years ago, there was a grey sky and intermittent rain which is always a great start right?

Get A Wedding Photography Contract & Insurance

First of all please get a Wedding Photography Contract established, this will protect both you and your bride and groom and also help lay out what you will both be expecting. There are hundreds of resources to get a good contract together online, a quick Google search will give you a good idea.

For your side of the contract it will be a case of possibly setting out a minimum number of images you will deliver (personally we guarantee 300+ but normally deliver around the 500 mark) and other details such as when and how you will deliver the final images, what is included with the charge and of course what the charge is. Yes the charge! don’t undersell yourself, a wedding is a very technical and mental challenge for a photographer and giving the service away free of charge should not be an option. By all means start low for your first wedding but if you do it for free it may set a precedent and any follow on work that you may get from that first wedding may expect a very low or free wedding themselves.

Make sure that the contract establishes worst case scenarios on both sides, data loss & issues that may prevent you attending (illness) on the photographers end and a break down of the relationship on the bride & grooms. These are both horrible things that should never be an issue as long as you take steps to protect yourself with the contract. Make sure that you have backup plans for if you are injured or are ill (additional photographers you can call on or there are emergency photography forums set-up for such occurrences) and also a non-refundable retainer if the relationship breaks down or plans change. It’s not a nice thought but it does happen and if you’ve reserved that date then you may be unable to re-book it.

Now let’s put the messy contract legal things aside and move on to the fun stuff, equipment.

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You’ll Need This, This & This But Can Only Afford That?

It’s understandable that a new photographer is a lot like a starving artist, all the fancy equipment is just out of your financial reach. Unfortunately to capture a wedding properly you will need a certain amount of equipment, namely

– A good DSLR & a spare DSLR

– Spare camera batteries

– A good flash gun

– A good quality external hard drive or ideally two (stored in different geographical locations for maximum security), these are not expensive and so there is no excuse (you can also consider Cloud backup in addition which, with Backblaze is around just £3 month)

– Ideally a Wide Angle Lens (in case of close quarter venues), a Short Zoom (a good walk around lens I find is the 17-55mm f/2.8 Canon) & a Telephoto Lens such as a 70-200mm. If possible you’re after 2.8 or faster ‘glass’ (lenses) but these are not cheap and so get the best you can for your money. Also a Macro lens is always handy for ring shots but you’ve probably racked up a few thousand pounds worth of equipment there.

There’s a solution to the lack of money and that’s with sites like LensesForHire and Hireacamera they are setup specifically to allow you short or long term rentals for professional cameras & lenses and are a great resource for those starting out and also professionals looking to try-before-they-buy.

Still on the subject of photographic equipment, memory cards are something that you should never scrimp on. While there are memory cards out there large enough to handle every image you may take at a wedding please don’t get just one memory card. Getting say just one 64gb memory card is like putting all your photographic eggs in one basket and if something goes wrong then you’ll loose the entire wedding. Instead I recommend getting possibly 8 x 8GB memory cards or at a push 4x 16GB memory cards instead, not that good branded memory cards go wrong but all technology can fail and so it’s better to be safe than sorry. Personally we use Transcend and Kingston memory cards, if your DSLR takes SD cards we recommend getting Class 10 ones.

Preparation Is The Key To Success

So you’ve got your wedding photography contract in place, a good selection of equipment and memory cards and you’re ready for the big day, what next?

Ideally we suggest a Venue Visit, this will give you a chance before the wedding to visit the venue and have a good look around to get some ideas of where you can photograph on the big day. We try and arrange our visits to be around 1 month before the big day (to give you an idea of the weather of the season – though being in the UK, this is never predictable) and ideally around the sort of time you’ll be capturing the main set of outdoor photographs (the group shots etc) to give you an idea of the quality of light. At your Venue Visit, take the time to ask your bride and groom why they chose the location and what features do they particularly like about it?, these elements should be captured on the wedding day.

Conducting a Venue Visit also gives you time to come up with a ‘just in case’ plan, ideally a location big enough & dry that can be used for photographs should the weather turn sour on the wedding day.

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We apologise if this article seems to focus a lot on the negative possibilities however these are crucial to keep in mind and prepare for to in ensure that the ‘what if’s’ don’t happen. Part 2 of this article will be live soon with information on what to do on the wedding day itself.


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