If you have a reputation as photographer, even a hobbyist among your Facebook friends, Odds are at some point someone (friends and family members) will ask you to photography their wedding. They seen the shots you post, like your work, and want you to apply your skills for their wedding. Or, maybe you're a budding photographer looking to expand your business and take the big leap into wedding photography.
If you're new to shooting weddings, here are a few tips to help you out as you plan your first one.
1. Shot List
This is immensely important, and will help tremendously on the day of. If you don't create a shot list, you risk forgetting specific shots from the day. This also helps coordinate with the bride and groom on what they want, and what you can cover during the scheduled time. You don't want to start editing photos several days later and realize you forgot the flower girl in the group shots.
2. Photo Coordinator
Following up on creating a shot list, it's a good idea to have someone help you wrangle family members. You'll probably have a list of who needs to be in what group, but do you know who Uncle Ted is? Get the couple to nominate a family member (maybe even one for each side of the family) who can "herd the cats". This will help keep things moving so that you're using your time efficiently, and the happy couple and get back to what they need to do (greet guests, party, eat, etc).
3. Get To The Location Early
Make plans to show up early, even before your contracted time so that you can get familiar with the grounds. You'll want to know where the best locations are, and any variables (such as light, distractions, etc). If possible, you may even want to pay a visit to the venue prior to the wedding, to get a feel for lighting/environment issues at the same time of day.
4. Listen to the Boy Scouts...Be Prepared!
So many things can go wrong on the big day, and can ruin the entire event. Being as prepared as possible can help eliminate many of these issues and cause you less stress. Charge your batteries, have back-ups, test your memories cards, put new batteries in your flashes, clean lenses, etc. Make sure you take a backup of almost everything if you can.
5. Set Goals and Expectations
It's a good idea to meet with the couple prior to the wedding to lay out realistic expectations for you. This helps alleviate any awkward situations on the wedding day, and helps you be more prepared. And, most importantly, put together some sort of agreement (whether you're charging them or not) that everyone agrees to and signs. Make sure that you and the couple are in agreement on time of service, compensation, deliverables, etc.
6. The Devil Is In the Details
One key to wedding photography is telling the story of the day. This includes all the little details, from the shoes, jewelry, centerpieces, cupcakes, and any other special pieces that make up their day.
7. Get Inspired
If you're doing your first wedding, there's a good chance there's something you're overlooking. Take time before to do some research, find examples, and get inspiration from other photographers.
8. Don't Be Afraid To Get the Shot
You're the photographer. Don't be afraid to move around and get in the spaces that you need to get the shots, even if this means standing in front of Uncle Ted. But, don't be intrusive or rude. Everyone will understand that you're the photographer and you need to be front and center for the cake cutting, but try not to disrupt the events. When it comes to formal shots and group shots, remember, you're running the show at this point. Don't be afraid to give direction on what you want/need.
One of the biggest tips pro wedding photographers will tell you, is to take a backup camera. What happens if you get onsite, and you're camera dies, or someone bumps into you causing you to drop and break your camera? If you don't have an extra body, think about renting one, or even hiring a second shooter to help out.
10. Expect Things To Change...Or Go Wrong
You can almost guarantee that the unexpected will happen. The schedule will change, a bridesmaid will be missing at portrait time, the weather will change, and may other things can happen. Do your best in creating a Plan B, but remember, things will happen that are out of your control.
and most of all....
11. Don't Forget to Eat....and Have Fun!
Photographing a wedding is a lot of work, and can be exhausting. Make sure you take a few moments to grab a plate (usually the couple will add you in the count, and you'll eat with staff/etc. after the guests have been fed) and regroup. This also gives you a quick moment to rest your feet, get some water, review shots, and go over your plan to make sure you don't miss anything.
There are plenty more, but I hope these help. Good luck and happy shooting!