Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Guest Blog - Shooting Weddings Part I : Introduction & Location

I’d like to introduce you to guest blogger Timothy Lusk who is here to share some of his pearls of wisdom on the subject of Wedding Photography. This is the first of five articles he’ll be sharing on this topic, so I hope you enjoy it – Ron

B&H Wedding Photographers Buyers Guide


This is for everyone who has invested in a DSLR over the past few years and has either thought of shooting weddings or has been asked by a friend or family member due to their thought of either saving money or because the bride or groom isn't aware of what goes into shooting a wedding. There are plenty of questions that should be running through your head and asking not only the bride or groom, but yourself.

  1. Where is the wedding? Is it in a church? Is it an outdoor wedding? If it's outside, is the wedded couple under a trellis or something that will produce shade?
  2. What are the expectations of the photographs? Doe the bride and groom "just" want the typical list? Is there a photographer that they love his or her style, but don't have the budget for them?
  3. What can be expected of the event? Is it a quick ceremony on a beach? Is it a full day from sunrise to sunset and into the night?
  4. What equipment do you have in your bag? Do you need to rent any additional gear?
  5. Are you getting paid for doing this? If so, how much is your time worth to you? Are you thinking of this being a start to your wedding photography business, or is it going to be a one-time only offer?

Asking yourself these questions, can help you decide one of two things. Either you'll move forward and step up to the plate, or you'll play it cool and kindly decline. Due to the details and complexities of shooting a wedding,

For other articles in this series, please follow these links:


CHURCH / If the wedding is in a church, it can be more challenging than shooting a mid-day wedding out on a beach with a constant wind. Churches all have different restrictions on what is allowed during the ceremony. You'll have to be certain that you can respect the church and what is asked of you. Some churches might allow you to move where you wish, and it will be no different than shooting at the nearby park.

Even when you're restricted, you need to make the best of a moment.

I've had the experience of shooting at St. James Cathedral for a wedding. This was a great example of a very strict environment. Not only are you not allowed to use a flash of any sort, you can only move about in certain areas of the church. When the bride enters, you usually follow her down the aisle and then move off to the left or right to let her continue up to the groom. Not in the church. Because the path of the bride is considered sacred, the photographer is to remain on the left or right of the aisle in the back of the church. Beyond that, and once the ceremony starts, the photographer is to choose one location within the church from which to shoot. For this reason, it is not only smart to have a long lens (70-200mm f/2.8), but it is even more beneficial if you have a second shooter with you who can stand on the other side and help capture other angles.

PRIVATE VENUE / If you shoot at a location such as this, you don't have to be so worried about restricted movement during the ceremony. You do have to be worried about lighting. Whether it is the lack of, too much, or the possibility of fluorescent or a mix of different lighting, you’ll want to pay attention to this so you don’t shoot a set of images that result in green skin or something that isn’t flattering for the client. NOTE: I personally shoot in Auto White Balance and RAW (NEF) so that I can make the appropriate choice on lighting in post-production. I will be going over this stuff in a later post as well.

Using an Nikon SB-800 flash, I was able to create motion to better tell the story.

The best way to approach a private venue is to know what you’re getting into. Beyond knowing where the wedding will be, I would recommend (if you haven’t been there before), to just swing by the venue sometime before the wedding to check out the space and what you’ll be working with.

OUTDOOR / Here in Seattle, it might be rare to find an outdoor wedding, but the benefit to Seattle is the common weather patterns that will allow an overcast day—or nature’s diffuser. Because weather is so uncertain here in the northwest, I have had experience with the mid-day wedding (harsh sunlight), the rainy wedding that redirects to a makeshift indoor aisle and ceremony, and the late afternoon “golden hour” wedding, and even snow. With each of these, you need to know what to do to help prepare yourself for the situation at hand.

The Mid-day Sun: Because this light is so harsh you have a few things that are going to be your enemy. First, the sunlight is going to result in some serious shadows that will cause group portraits and detail shots to feel hard and uninviting. The next issue that is going to be your enemy is squinting eyes and/or sunglasses in the portraits. TIP: If your subjects are facing the sunlight, ask them to close their eyes before you take portrait. More often than not, this will result in their eyes being open to their natural pose instead of squinting.

To avoid this situation though, scout out locations with shade. Using a heavily populated tree area will work great. This will not only help diffuse the light, but it can also provide some great textures and lighting effects if the sun is positioned right.

Sometimes the shadows can work to your advantage.

The Rain and Snow: Unless the bride and groom are prepared with a tent setup for the aisle and the seats, expect the unexpected. While a drizzle will probably keep the wedding as planned, the minute a downpour happens, the guests, the wedding party, and your gear are not going to be cooperating with you. When this happens, remember to deal with what you can work with. The groom and especially the bride are going to be scattered and thinking that the event is ruined. Most of the time, if you act calm and collected, it will help the bride not feel flustered.

You’ll need to go with the flow and make the bride feel like nothing has changed (from a photographer’s perspective). What do I mean by this? Remember that you can quickly adjust yourself for the weather with your gear. Lens hoods not only help with the sun, they can protect the lens from rain drops. NOTE: Most camera bodies used by wedding photographers today have a weather seal on them to help with the electronics and ever changing conditions of the climate. This will be covered in further detail during the Gear posting.

Regarding snow, here are a couple things to note. Usually, if snow is in the environment, you'll have one of two things happen. This is because you're mid-winter and it's common, or your clients are bad ass skiers and enjoy the adventure (mine being the latter) in this case. When you're in conditions with snow, you need to be careful with your cameras. Not only can they take a beating due to the snow itself, but extreme temperatures can harm them as well--lithium-ion batteries taking the brunt of it, sometimes reducing their life by half when at certain elevations.

Make sure you can capture the moments that tell the story.

Into the Night: While a lot of weddings these days are timed for a late afternoon or “golden hour” ceremony, this will most certainly bring on the evening hours with the sun setting and no natural light available during the reception. For this reason, there are a couple things you’ll need to be prepared with. Make sure your skilled with using an off-camera flash knowing how to bounce the light and avoid the harsh shadows and overly bright light directly in the eyes of the subjects. Another way to save yourself during an evening wedding is to have studio lighting set up around the dance floor and gathering location(s) of the guests. The final thing to have is “fast glass”. Lenses that offer an aperture of 1.2-2.8 are the norm for wedding photographers these days. There are exceptions, but I can almost bet every serious wedding photographer who runs their own business owns at least one 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. Without one of these three options for evening weddings, or a combination of them, you probably won’t capture the moments you want or you’re going to spend A LOT of time in post-production trying to save the image of the bride dancing with her father.

Using light from the outdoor hot dog vendor to my advantage.

Framing the couple in such a way to work with the late day sun.


Stay tuned for more articles from Timothy Lusk. Next up will be information about the expectations of the bride and groom, their parents and what will happen throughout the day of the event.

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1 comment:

Steven Conway said...

Nice tips. I have been thinking about doing some wedding photography one day so I'm sure this will help. Cheers!

Steven Conway Photography