Wedding Photography: What I’ve Learnt Recently

I recently had the pleasure of taking photos (lots of them!) at 2 friends’ weddings over 3 days. Yep, quite exhausting, but good fun and really good experience. Of course, I wasn’t the main photographer at either of the weddings – not even a ‘second shooter’, as both weddings actually had 2 pros at each. But I was more than happy to take lots of shots without the added pressure of actually having to produce the goods!

At the first wedding I was actually an usher (the ‘photogrusher’), so couldn’t actually take as many as I wanted, as I had other duties to do (it’s actually quite stressful in itself, being an usher!). At the second wedding I was free from any responsibilities and so could take more. Over the two weddings, I shot around 500 photos. Anyway, here are a selection of some of my fave shots, and my thoughts on what I’ve learnt from this experience is at the bottom:

groom laughing

bride in black and white

So, What Did I Learn? A Lot!

Equipment:

Although all of my equipment is pretty budget stuff (i.e. no mega expensive ‘L’ lenses for me, I’m afraid!) I found that it all worked to do the job pretty well. My Canon EF-S 55mm – 250mm zoom (available from Amazon US and UK) was invaluable, especially for the candid shots – it meant I could be at a good distance from my subject, and thus able to take photos unobtrusively, without them knowing I was there. This just wouldn’t really be possible without such a long focal length.

When I bought my 50mm f/1.8 prime, I used it extensively for lowlight photography without a flash, which it excels at, but at the weddings I found its limited focal length rather, well, limiting! It’s much harder to take candid shots when you have to be really quite close to your subject – and people generally stiffen up when they know they’re having their photo taken, losing the great naturalness of candid photography. And as I was sitting quite far back from the couples during the ceremonies – which were both in dimly lit interiors – I found that the 50mm just couldn’t get me close enough to the action. I couldn’t use flash during the ceremony either, so this means I didn’t get any good shots of the vows at all. Luckily I wasn’t the pro! Makes me realise that I’d really need to invest in a constant f/2.8 zoom or something similar (similarly expensive!) if I wanted to take some close up, lowlight photos without flash…

But, talking of flash, I fell in love with my Canon 430 EX ii (available from Amazon US and UK) all over again! Being able to bounce the flash off the ceiling during the receptions meant that I could get some lovely looking – and sharp – shots, even when taking shots from quite far away with the 55 – 250 zoom. It was also great to take some dancing shots.

Technique:

Flash. Bouncing the flash off the ceiling was great for natural-looking shots indoors. By raising the ISO in the camera to around 800 (thus making it more sensitive to light) it meant that my flash didn’t have to work so hard (easier on the flashgun!) and that the light travelled further, so I could take flash shots from across the room. To take some cool dancing shots that included the ambient light, and a sense of movement, I shot in shutter priority mode, and chose a speed of around 1/20th sec – this mean that the flash worked to ‘freeze a moment in time’ – sharply – with the slower shutter speed meaning the ambient light (and thus light trails of the dancing/movement) was also picked up. So much better than those normal flash snaps you see with a pitch black background!

A slow shutter speed and flash was also used to get the shot of the happy couple with the fireworks in the distance.

Shooting Mode. I shot most of the time in Aperture Priority (‘AV’ on Canon cameras, ‘A’ on Nikon), choosing – generally – the lowest f number available to me. This meant that I could put the backgrounds out of focus, which is generally what I wanted for the mainly-candid photography that I did. I wrote a whole post on how to blur the background of your photos, by the way, if you’re interested. Ooh, and angling your camera when taking photos can really add some drama to your shots, I found.

Post Production. I found that Photoshop can indeed be your friend! I used a combination of curves, unsharp mask, black and white conversion and applying a simply vignette over the shots (not everything used in every photo!). When I first got into photography I never thought I’d be interested in the post-production side, but now I absolutely love it – it’s very addictive when you realise the power you have in your hands!

What Do You Think Of My Efforts?

I’d really appreciate any comments/thoughts/advice on how you think I’ve got on – from my technique, to my post-production, to composition – everything, really! I’ve so much to learn, and every comment really helps. Unless it’s a ‘your photos suck’ comment. That probably isn’t too helpful…!


10 comments

  1. I also have a team of Photograpers here in Edmonton Alberta, and we also have the challenge of engaging the client with a lot of low light photography even though we bring our SB900 Speed Lights with us, we never get to use them as they mostly become a bother during receptions & ceremonies a like.

    Currently we might be setting aside some company investment money on getting a 50MM F1.2 to get even deeper into low light photography.

    One other target we are looking to getting is the 14MM-24MM F2.8 Lens for our FX Camera.

    What you might also consider in your future wedding clients is when you have a backup camera you can utilize a remote control setup on camera number 2 which I used for a few of my clients.

    The setup is a Nikon D90 with the kit lens of 18mm – 105mm connected to an ACER Aspire One Netbook & controlled by my IPHONE.

    It is particularly useful when you are alone & at a hard to reach area. Camera number 2 can be set up prior to the Ceremony so that it can be forgotten & used when the time is needed. For the program I used, I didn’t use the cameras sd memory card as it would directly copy itself into the acer laptop. Oh did I forget to tell you that the IPHONE once you have triggered the camera will send you an image directly to your cellphone so you know how that image turned out to be.

    I hope this helps you in the near future… :)

  2. Thanks for your great comment and insight, Christine – that sounds very interesting about the remote setup with the iPhone. Very technical, though, think that may be a little past me at the moment! The 50mm f/1.2 you mention sounds great, but wouldn’t you still suffer from having to be really quite near to the subject when taking the photo? I was thinking that a longer focal length – of around 150mm – would be better, with a large aperture of 1.8 or 2.8 even, but I know that’s gonna be expensive…

  3. My family is having a “Sweet 16” in December, and it’s turning into a Wedding-like production. I am looking forward to taking photos at the party, and I think these tips have already given me some great techniques to use. Thank You. I just found you and your site through Twitter and I’ve already learned a lot in the past two days.

  4. Hi Jorge – thanks for your very kind words, and for taking the time to leave your feedback, much appreciated. I’m glad some of my tips have been helpful – I’m sure you’ll have a great time taking photos at your ‘Sweet 16’ – let me know how you got on!

  5. Susana Ventura /

    I love all your photos and of course the tips are very helpful too, and the way you explain everything is very easy to understand. A month ago I bought my very first camera (Canon Rebel T2i) I love it and I am having a lot of fun! I was also reading your reviews on the books and I have a question in regards to that. A few weeks ago I bought the Canon Rebel T2i for Dummies, and I was just wondering if you have read it and if so, what do you think? I love that book because it’s very easy to understand and I also think that for a beginner like me it’s perfect!

    I truly love your website, and thank you for taking the time to share your experiences! :)

  6. Hi Susana. Thanks very much for leaving a comment, and for your really kind words about LearningTheLight.com – it’s really lovely to hear that you’re finding the site useful! I haven’t got that particular book you mention, but I’ll look into getting it and doing a review sometime, as it sounds very good from your description.

  7. Marwa /

    loved ur shots & ur tips :)

  8. Priscilla /

    I recently bought a CANON Rebel 3Ti and I love the knowledge that I have on your site. I went from a broken Nikon D90 to a Canon because its ease of use and price. I couldnt afford a NIKON again. I really love how informative you are. Thank you so much for your site. Keep up the good work and thank you for your review on the 10 Great Photo Shot with a Canon 3Ti!!!

  9. Priscilla /

    By the way your photos are talented, creative and AWESOME!!!

  10. Thanks so much, Priscilla, that’s really lovely of you to say! :)

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