I had the pleasure to be asked to shoot my first wedding not too long ago. I have been studying wedding photography ever since I got my degree almost 5 years ago but never got the opportunity to shoot one. I don’t even attend weddings actually, so…
One month in advance, I first asked my friends to go through my work, go through Pinterest as well, and create a board with anything that looked good to them, anything that they’d want me to follow as style, example, “must-have” shots, etc. We then sat down and discussed their ideas, expectations, needs, my ideas, my expectations, my needs. We drank coffee, ate cake, had a great time. And I think this is how any kind of photoshoot should begin, with a nice long and relaxed talk. The relaxation part comes in handy especially for weddings I think. This is a big day for everyone and a good photographer should always be calm and give some kind of assurance that everything will be as alright as possible. Always under-promise, overachieve. Well, if you can.
I prepared myself for every situation I could think of. We all went to the place where the wedding would be taking place and discussed exactly what their expectations were. I have worked alongside a lot of wedding photographers and knew pretty much what the whole package should look like (rehearsals, portraits before the wedding in a nice location, wedding preparations, wedding venue details, bride prep, groom prep, ceremony, individual portraits, group shots, party, lunch/dinner, etc.). We settled on bride prep, venue, ceremony, party, and a few lunch shots (before everyone would start eating – never shoot eating people, never).
Based on all this, I started planning. The bride and groom “must have” list, my own “must have” list based on my expectations, the gear, the lights, the bags, the clothes, everything. So I decided to bring my Sony a77 as main body, the a450 was the backup. I brought along almost all my lenses:
- Rokinon 8mm f/3.5,
- Sony SAM 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6,
- Sony SAL 28mm f/2.8,
- Sony SAL 50mm f/1.4,
- Sony SAL 70-300G SSM f/4.5-5.6,
- Sony SAM 85mm f/2.8
I did not bring my Pentacon 135mm f/2.8 Preset (the “Bokeh Monster”) and the Minolta 500mm f/8. The latter for obvious reasons, the first because it’s a full manual lens and you don’t have time for stuff like that while running around and making each shot count.
On the other hand, I wanted to have the time, especially for the individual portraits, to shoot film. My friends loved my analog work as well so we decided to shoot some Medium Format film portraits. For those, I brought the Bronica GS-1 with the 100mm f/3.5, some Kodak Portra 400 rolls and some Ilford HP5 400.
On the wedding day, I arrived early. The weather was surprisingly perfect (expected rain): bright sun and quite warm. Part of the wedding took place outside (drinks and hors-d’oeuvres), part inside (ceremony and lunch). As I arrived before the bride, I settled my gear in one (secured) room and started walking around with the a77 and GS-1 to shoot some environmental shots (flowers, tables, decorations, arrangements in general). I wanted to be as comfortable with the place as possible, know my way around well enough in case I needed different routes, detours, locations I had not thought of before…
Once the bride arrived, she got ready and the relatives and friends started arriving. While she was getting ready, I shot the wedding dress then got back to her and did some portraits with her relatives and friends. Then, as more people started gathering at the venue (groom included), I began shooting situational portraits. The ceremony room was now all set-up, everyone was getting ready, the bride and her father were almost good to go. We discussed a little (“walk slowly”, “you’ll have to stop here and here”, “I’ll be shooting this and this”) and then, the show was on.
What I found very easy was the mingling. I’ve always been comfortable in a crowd and never had trouble chitchatting when needed, a nice smile here, a polite nod there, always be tactful and thoughtful. Mind your surroundings and anticipate movement. It’s a bit like driving a car really, learn how to read and anticipate people and everything will be easier.
It was a very nice wedding, people were happy and relaxed, a photographer’s dream.
The hardest part, and newest one for me as well, was the “constant vigilance” (yep). Always be focused, always be aware, always anticipate, always walk around, crouch, run, go upstairs, go downstairs, be a contortionist, don’t mind your clothes (too much, you still have to look decent).
Overall, I mostly used the 28mm (48%), the 70-300G (24%), and the 85mm (15%). The remaining pictures were shot with anything I thought would help and with the Bronica.
I only shot two rolls with the GS-1 and kept around 15 shots. Not a bad rate I might say.
Everyone was extremely happy and pleased about the results (including me) and I have to say that I had a lot of fun. And if there should be a take away from all this, I think this is it: Have fun! Enjoy yourself! Otherwise it will show. You might be the most seasoned wedding photographer, if you’re not enjoying this, you’ll end up with the same shots, over and over again, wedding after wedding again. And to me, that’s a desk job. So, no thanks. That’s what I’ve learnt over the years around my friends, and also based on what I shoot the most. If I take a look at my results, and always see the same kind of shot, I will hate it and be disappointed in myself.
Oh, one bit of advice. Always bring headache pills. I use nurofen. It’s strong and fast. Use it.
Here’s a gallery.