Preparing For My First Wedding

March 8, 2011
A photo from my first "professional" photo shoot.

A photo from my first "professional" photo shoot.

On Saturday, I will shoot my first wedding. Well, to clarify, I will be a Second Shooter on a wedding. Those of you that have been following me for a while may be aware that I have pretty much vowed to never become a wedding photographer, but a friend of mine has booked this wedding and asked for my help. I like the idea of helping out a friend, and any experience I gain can’t be too bad, right?

So, what am I doing to prepare for this event? And what am I hoping to get out of it? Well, read on for the answers to those questions!

What I Did – And Did Not – Buy

The first thing I thought of when it came to shooting an all-day event (we plan on shooting everything from the bride getting ready to the after-party at a local bar) was batteries and memory cards.

I already have two batteries, which I felt was probably enough (and I didn’t feel like buying another one when there’s a good chance I’ll be upgrading my camera within the year anyway). However, I only had two memory cards – an 8GB and 2GB. Since I shoot in RAW, that 2GB wasn’t going to provide enough extra memory for me, so I bought a second 8GB card.

Now, I just mentioned I’m seriously considering upgrading my camera body at some point this year, so you might be wondering why I didn’t take that opportunity to do that now, before the big event. Besides the fact that I like to think long and hard about big purchases like that, the main reason I’m uncomfortable with doing that is that I wouldn’t have had enough time between getting the camera and the day of the wedding to get comfortable using the camera. My current camera is far from top-of-the-line, but I know it like the back of my hand. I’d hate to miss out on a great photo because I couldn’t figure out how to change a setting quickly enough.

Packing My Bag

First I had to make the decision of which bag to pack. I was deciding between my Lowepro SlingShot 200 or my Tamrac Camera/Laptop bag. They actually hold about the same amount of photo gear, but the SlingShot is easier get things in and out of when walking around, because you don’t have to take it off your back. Ultimately, I decided on the Tamrac because I think carrying around my laptop might prove useful. This way, I can set it up somewhere and start backing up the photos on the memory cards midway through the day. Or, if 16GB turns out not to be enough, if I have to, I can always move all the photos from one card onto the computer and format that card. This makes me really nervous, but that’s better than telling the couple that I couldn’t shoot their exit from the reception because I ran out of space on my memory cards.

Another bonus to the laptop bag is that there’s an additional compartment for, well, stuff. It can easily hold my cell phone (which will be on silent, of course, but the GPS might come in handy getting from each location to the next), wallet, a flashlight, a notebook, pen and my lens cleaning supplies.

As for the camera gear itself, as a second shooter, I think it’s even more important for me to bring a variety of lenses, so I’m going to try and stuff in everything I’ve got. In addition, I’ll pack those two memory cards and batteries – throwing in some spare batteries for my flash, too, of course.

Reading over this, I’m sure you’re thinking I’m bringing too much. I’m worried about it myself. But for my first time, I’d rather over-prepare than under-prepare. If I don’t use my wide angle lens, so be it. But I’d hate to get there and find myself positioned up in the balcony of the church and just wishing I could get the entire view in one shot.

The Night Before

I have a checklist of things to do Friday night:

  • Charge both batteries
  • Pack my bag
  • Clean my lenses
  • Put my camera into my “default settings”

It’s pretty obvious why I want to do all these things the night before, though you might wonder what I mean by “default settings” on my camera. Have you ever taken a bunch of photos outside all day only to realize you’ve been at ISO 1600 the whole time? I have. It’s frustrating. I don’t notice it because there’s nothing I can see wrong about the photos, and I usually only mess with my ISO when I have to. So, I’m going to verify I’m not on ISO 1600, make sure I’m in Av Mode, and even though I always have this setting turned off, I’ll still double-check that I have the “beep when focused” turned off. No one wants to hear the photographer’s camera beep while the couple is exchanging their vows.

What I’m Going to Wear

Believe it or not, this might be the thing I put the most amount of thought into! I want to make sure I look nice enough for a wedding, but not stand out. I also want to be comfortable, as might have to get down low or climb on top of things to get a good shot.

My first decision was that I had to wear a black shirt. The honest truth is that I tend to sweat when I’m nervous or stressed. I think that will pretty much sum up the day, and since I’ll have to be lifting my arms up all the time to take a shot, I probably want to hide that as best as possible.

While, in general, I am more comfortable in a skirt than pants, I’ll be sure to wear pants the day of the wedding so I don’t have to worry about crouching down, etc.

Finally – the shoes. A decision I have not yet made, actually. I might have to make a trip to target to find some appropriate slip-on shoes that are comfortable. I am much more “geek” than “girl”, so I don’t have a wide variety of shoes at home to choose from!

Capturing a Moment

Capturing a Moment

My Expectations

I certainly don’t expect to be the next Jasmine Star. I’m trying to set my expectations reasonably, but at the same time, I want to put my best foot forward. I want my friend to think she made a good decision asking me to help her (and I’d like to be asked to help again). I want the couple to have beautiful photos of their wedding day.

I think that’s the toughest hurdle for jumping into wedding photography. At some point, you have to do your first wedding. Chances are pretty high, that wedding won’t be your best one. And hopefully this bride only has one wedding, and I hate the idea of giving a bride photos that aren’t the most beautiful thing in the world for her One Special Day.

And so I have to remind myself how much my friends have appreciated my photos I take at their events. I want to capture the Big Picture of the day – something the bride can look at and remember the day fondly. And, most important, I want to capture the moments – when the bride and groom don’t know the camera is pointed at them – like the photo above taken at the after party of a wedding between the bride and her new husband.

Any Advice?

So. Those of you that have done this before. Any last-minute advice?

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  • Yeah, I am curious too. How did it go?

  • So .... how did it go?

  • Mothman0

    Funny timing, this post... a co-worker of mine just asked me if I'd consider being the photographer for her daughters wedding this summer.

    I've done one other wedding, a few summers ago, when my dad got re-married. Everyone (including myself) was happy with the results, but that was a different situation... it was my dad, and I felt very comfortable that HE felt very comfortable with what I was able to do, or not able to do.

    With this other one though, while I do know the bride, we certainly aren't close, so there's much more concern on my part about fouling things up, and the family being unsatisfied.

    My concern comes not only from my lack of experience, but also my lack of equipment. I really only have 2 lenses I would consider using, a 50mm, and my 17-85 f/4-5.6 IS. The 50 mm is golden, but the zoom lens if far from ideal for something like this.

    I still haven't decided whether to agree to it or not, but I'm very much leaning to saying "sorry, no" (unless they consider having two photographers... I would certainly be happy to act as a second photographer, as then the pressure is so much less).

  • Hey Jen! Good Luck and I'm sure it will be fabulous.

    Tip 1. Don't drink too much.
    Tip 2. Don't forget to set camera in AI mode.
    Tip 3. Relax if you can, it'll help you see stuff. You are second shooter so there's not so much pressure on you.
    Tip 4. I know you're going to take the lot but I reckon like Brian your 50 for indoors and your 24-105 for well lit/everything else. Get the party with the 50, without a flash.

    Finally...I hear you on the new camera this year...thinking of a 7 at all?

  • Wow, congrats on this. I think being a second shooter is a wise choice. I'm sure you can gain some really good experience doing it this way. I haven't done it before but I applaud you for getting out there and giving it a go. I will say that a battery grip is a nice addition to my camera. It holds two batteries and gives you a better grip with a shutter button for portrait shots. Might be something to think about when you get your new camera. I always worry that I'll be fumbling around trying to change my battery and miss something. Make sure you update us to let us know how your experience was.

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