Cheat Sheet

Digital Wedding Photography For Dummies

As a wedding photographer, you get a front row seat to some of life’s most beautiful moments, and you have the job of capturing the love story and the feel of the event. To photograph a wedding effectively, a photographer needs a specific set of technical skills and know-how to get the job done, such as techniques for lighting, composition, and shooting scenes and portraits. When you have some experience under your belt, you can increase your business by getting your name out there.

Lighting and Composition Techniques for Digital Wedding Photography

Great wedding photos rely heavily on the photographer’s understanding of lighting and composition. Though a photographer can use lighting and composition creatively, the following basic tips help ensure you take stunning wedding pictures:

  • Get more appealing pictures by using soft light. Soft light, such as light reflected off a wall or the ground in front of your subject, provides a smooth and even look on your subjects. Try to avoid hard light, which creates high contrast and shadows.

  • Use natural light whenever possible. Place your subjects in the shade and use natural reflectors to bounce the light source evenly back toward them.

  • If you can’t use natural light, shoot with an off-camera flash the correct way: with a bounce flash, bounce card, or diffuser to even out the light. Never shoot with a direct off-camera flash.

  • Use the rule of thirds when composing your images. To understand this concept, imagine a tic-tac-toe grid drawn across your viewfinder, breaking your image into thirds horizontally and vertically. Subjects placed on a line or at the intersection of two lines draw your viewer’s attention.

  • Pay attention to your background. Try to place your subjects in front of neutral backgrounds that are free of clutter.

Photographing Scenes to Frame the Wedding Story

One of a wedding photographer’s primary jobs is to tell the story of each individual wedding day. Stay on track by breaking the wedding day down into scenes to build the story, piece by piece:

  • The preparation: In this first scene of the wedding story, you introduce the characters and begin the plot. Focus on creating a mood of excitement by capturing key expressions from the bride and the groom as they get ready, which builds the story’s tension.

  • The ceremony: The wedding day builds up to the vows. When the couple says “I do,” you’ve reached the climax of the wedding story. Focus on photographing little actions during a ceremony scene that you don’t want to miss, from the groom’s expression during the bride’s entrance and the officiant’s exhortation to the couple to the wedding vows and the exchange of rings.

  • The reception: The reception is the release of all the tension of the day. The reception wraps up the plot, and the story moves in a downward arc toward the ending. This scene should have a celebratory feel to it as the newlyweds and their guests feast and dance in honor of the new marriage. You can create the mood in your photographs by focusing on all the happy faces around you.

Preparing for Wedding Portrait Photography

The formal portraits of the bride, the groom, their wedding party, and their families are without a doubt the most hectic part of a wedding day. Navigating the formal portraits requires the ability to stick to an organized plan, think quickly, and keep calm in the midst of chaos. The following tips can help you stay organized when preparing for a wedding’s formal portraits:

  • Set realistic time expectations. Before the wedding day, tell the couple about how long each grouping of pictures will take. They can use that time frame when planning the schedule of the wedding day.

  • Get a schedule and a list of names. Ask the couple in advance for a schedule of the day’s events and a list of names of people to be included in the formal portraits.

  • Bring an assistant. Having someone with you to manage the list and stage the groups while you’re shooting can be invaluable. This assistance keeps the process flowing and well organized. If you don’t have an assistant, you can appoint a wrangler, someone who the couple recommends to help organize the portraits who isn’t in the wedding party.

  • Stay flexible. Even if you’re 100 percent prepared, most likely something won’t go according to plan. And that’s okay! Accept the things that are beyond your control and move forward; don’t let the unexpected induce a “blowing into a paper bag” type of panic.

  • Use your outside voice. For most of the wedding, the photographer is the quiet observer; however, the formal portraits are the exception. During this segment of the day, you’ll need to assume a commanding presence and take charge of the situation. To get the attention of a large group of people, use a loud voice (but don’t scream) and say things like, “Can I get everyone’s attention, please?” or “I need the Smith family front and center!” After you have the group’s attention and begin to give directions, continue speaking loudly enough that everyone can hear you clearly.

Drawing Attention to Your Wedding Photography Business

One of the toughest parts of starting your own wedding photography business is getting your name out to prospective clients. Luckily, you can use a few tactics to bring in new business as a wedding photographer:

  • Utilize social media platforms. Posting your wedding photos on social media platforms such as Facebook, Pinterest, a blog, and Twitter is one of the best ways to draw attention to your photography business. The best part about it? It’s free!

  • Build relationships with other vendors in your area. Get to know other people in the wedding business. If you establish good relationships with other vendors, they may refer you to their own clients.

  • Build and market a website. A website for your wedding photography business gives it credibility and helps potential clients find and evaluate your work. Become familiar with SEO (search engine optimization) tools that can help your website show up in results when people search for wedding photographers online.

  • Get published. Submit your weddings for publication on popular wedding blogs and magazines. If your work is featured, it can be seen by many brides-to-be and may bring in a significant amount of business.

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