Monday, December 13, 2010

Best way to learn Wedding Photography

Well, since I am not a Wedding Photographer, take this advice with a grain of salt. We all have cameras, and we are all asked at one time or another to shoot a wedding. I shot two this fall as a favor to some friends of mine. At one I set up a photo booth. If you have not tried using a photo booth, I highly recommend using one at a future event, and definitely at your next wedding. See my relatively simple setup here.

The best way to truly learn wedding photography is by doing. Along these lines I would recommend working as an assistant for a wedding photographer for some time before striking out on your own.

If, like most people, you don't have the time to do assistant photographer work, or you just don't have the contacts then there are a few books and videos that are good to learn from.

When I was writing a quick bit on the best way to learn photography, I realized that I forgot to mention some of the wedding photography videos. The first set that I would recommend are by David Ziser.
Wedding Photography - 15 Ways to Improve Your Photography Using On-Camera Flash
Wedding Photography: Stunning Off- Camera Flash Photography Techniques
Wedding Portraits - Classical Lighting and Posing Techniques
Wedding Portraits - Getting the Perfect Shot at Tricky Locations
These are all done by David Ziser for Kelby Training.
These videos are a great way to see how to set up the lighting and shoot many of the posed shots for a wedding. Keep in mind that these are in almost ideal conditions. There is no low-light shots of dancing or any of that type of shooting. That is something that just has to be experienced.

The next set is of some high end wedding photographers. (That is not to say that David Ziser is not high end. What I mean by that is that when you see the weddings shot in the masters series, you will not want to think of letting your daughter see them!)  The videos are from Masters of Wedding Photography. There are two videos which feature high end weddings shot by professional photographers. These will give you a feel for some of the action and stress involved in shooting weddings.

For posing and ideas, I would recommend Contemporary Wedding Photography by Julie Oswin and Steve Walton. This book has some great photos that will give you some ideas for exciting photos of your own. I would also recommend 500 Poses for Photographing Brides by Michelle Perkins. This is another book of ideas.

For some more lighting ideas I would recommend Existing Light Techniques for Wedding and Portrait Photography  and  Master Lighting Guide for Wedding Photographers by Bill Hurter. These two books cover the basics of using natural light to its fullest and adding artificial light when necessary.

I recommend perusing the bridal magazines and the latest wedding photography books in your local bookstore for ideas as well. The bride-to-be will be looking at these as well, so it is good to see what is currently in style.

If you at all intimidated by this list of books and videos, just wait until you see what is out there. Weddings are a big business and it is all about the photos. There are thousands of books and videos out there. I have just attempted to highlight a few that I have learned from from the hundreds that I have read and looked at.

Since I am not a professional wedding photographer, I can't tell you all of the latest or offer expert advice. Most of the shooting I do at weddings is more photojournalistic style. I will say that for me it is all about capturing the moment. I like to get those small pieces of emotion, the uncontrolled movements, gestures, and facial expressions between people that truly express the feelings at specific moments throughout the day. These books and videos show you poses and lighting techniques. What I do is keep all of these things in mind when I position myself, my lens, and my lighting so that I can maximize my potential of getting the shot I want.

My notes to myself of weddings:
- Setup Photo Booth at reception - bring extension cord
- Use flash - but try not to annoy (without flash the colors end up muted)
- Bring umbrellas and stands ready in case of impromptu large group shots later in the evening.

The flash is very necessary to get clean crisp and colorful shots indoors and outdoors, especially later at night. I set my D700 to ISO 1600 and the SB-900 flash on TTL with some exposure compensation dialed in. This gives me light in the background and some fill in flash. I use flash as much as I can, but time my shots to get the right moment. If I blast away like I do at a photo shoot or site survey, they crowd and usually the groom with be ready to kill me after the first few minutes.

About the umbrellas and stands; Several times people have asked me to get a group shot of  "the whole class of ..." or "this whole side of the family..." later on with a few minutes notice, usually later in the evening. With two stands and umbrellas ready to go I can easily accommodate these requests.

Some words of advice I will give are; If you haven't shot a wedding in a while, more recently it is stylish to paint all bars and meeting areas with dark colors instead of  the traditional color white. This can be a nightmare when utilizing a bounce flash. Do the best that you can. One wedding I went to had a glass ceiling and glass walls on 3 sides which was even worse. I really felt for the wedding photographer at that one. Oh and to make matters worse, the fouth wall and the rest of the building had black walls. (It was at the Baltimore Aquarium.)

That's it for now.

Update December 2013 :
How to become a Professional Wedding Photographer is a new DVD from Fstoppers. If you are planning on getting into wedding photography, this thing is full of great tips and advice to get you started. I highly recommend it if you are planning on getting into wedding photography. I have watched all 14 hours and I can assure you that it is current and applicable. Great job guys!

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