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Luxowell May 28, 2005 6:05 PM

OK, so i am a pretty good amature photographer. Have a decent camera (canon rebel xt), and know the concepts of a good shot. The problem comes when my friend calls me crying because she despises the pro they hired and now wants me to be their photographer. I'm having problems finding any sites that list what type of shot should be taked (bride...groom...bride and groom...rings...etc). Anyone know of any? Also any tips from people who have taken shots at a wedding as the photographer would help. Like I said, I've really been using cameras for a while, but this is a new one for me.


BillDrew May 28, 2005 9:31 PM

The only solution to that situation is to run away to a ashram in India and never come back. An Orthodox monastery on a very isolated island would also work.

My wife has been roped into three weddings and I have gone along as an assitant. Put my foot down after the third one - no fun at all. A very long, high tension day.

atlantagreg May 28, 2005 9:48 PM

I know you're seeking answers and it's frustrating, but honest to god Billdrew is right. Run. Run now, run fast, and do not look back or thou shalt turn into a pillar of film canisters.


I have only done one wedding. N E V E R again. We're talking about a guy here who does his own site on digicams. Owns a 10D and the right lenses and flash units and all that jazz who knows pretty much what he's doing... and no amount of money would make me do a wedding again.

Here's what you have to understand - usually unless the groom is anal as heck, he doesn't really give a rat's butt so long as some decent pics come out and the bride is happy. However, to the bride, this is THE DAY she has been thinking about since she was oh, maybe 12 years old!

This is not the time or place for someone to do a "trial and error" shoot. Trust me, at a time like this until you learn the ropes from EXPERIENCE (not "how to" sites), there will be more errors than trials, too. The bride will expect some top-notch shots. These will be photos she expects to be able to look at when she's 95 years old and the husband is long dead... ANY flaws and she will see them.Take into account too, that there will always be the very uh.. "large" brides maid who gets angry because you don't make her look like a supermodel, and the mother in law who says "your camera" makes her look old.

She will be disappointed, and yes, perhaps a little mad if you say no, but the potential for her to be VERY mad or to even lose a friend is greater when it comes to doing a friend's wedding. Have I scared the heck out of you yet? Gooooood. Now run.

Luxowell May 28, 2005 10:03 PM


well, its pretty much two of my best friends (my wife is actually a bridesmaid, i was going to be in it, but ducked out for family members and to film it for them), and they are the most laid back people I know in the world... so i should only want to kill myself when its over vs. killing myself mid shoot.

I'm gonna explain that I'm going to steal 2 umbrella lights from work, bring my camera and tripod, and after that, what they get is what they get.

eric s May 28, 2005 10:55 PM


Really, you have absolutely no idea of what you're getting into.

Please, please, please.... saving me the trouble of writing on this topic again and just search this site on the word "wedding". The search box is at the top of every page. Make sure you search every forum, as some times I answer this in the Canon forum as well.

Not only do I list some sites that answer your questions (that is the carrot) you'll also see all the reasons why wedding photography is probably the hardest type of photography in existence except war correspondent (that is the stick.)

Come back here and post when you're read those posts and we can talk more.

The umbrella and lights will do you almost no good. The tripod will do you very little good. You won't have time to use them. You can't hold up the event to fumble with lights. This day is all about the bride and groom. You'll get to do some set shots, but they can't wait 15 while you set up.

See the number of posts I've done? That is a big number. I have talked to many wedding photographers, some are my friends. I sell my photos. I've spent more on photo gear than many have on their cars. I take this seriously. Here is my advice: Catch "food poisoning" and be unavailable for the wedding. If you have to, really get it. Sure, throwing up a lot isn't fun... but it's a better way to spend your time than shooting a wedding and as a bonus you'll have more fun.


ps. By the way, atlantagreg is exactly right. You're shots have to be perfect as you are taking pictures of an event that most consider the most important day in their lives, second only to the birth of their first child. Think about that, and the pressure that comes with it.

rob_strain May 29, 2005 2:27 AM

Luxowell wrote:

...she despises the pro they hired and now wants me to be their photographer.
That shows right there that she cares more about the pictures than she lets you know. And like most people who see someone with a DSLR,which is assume that you are a pro, you must be, you have a big expensive camera. We all know what happens when you assume... Let's say you do the wedding, and get every shot but one, you are a dead man. You have just ruined the day for the bride. I have been asked to do weddings, and have always declined because I don't need that kind of pressure and stress.

Steven R May 29, 2005 3:47 PM

Hi Luxowell: I only want to EMPHASIZE that Bill, Greg, Eric, and Rob are 100% correct!!!! Everything they said is so true.

You can't win. Several years ago I was in the same situation, and all it took was justone wedding, done as a favor, to say NEVER AGAIN!!

The shots; yes, they were actually good photos. But the bride will not be pleased. Eithershe thinks you made her nose look too big, or the diamond didn't "sparkle enough, or Aunt Agnes looked funny, etc, etc.

Let me offer 2 suggestions:(1) Re-read the guysexcellent advice above; (2) offer instead to take your video camera, and supplement her official prints with your video footage, taken as a spectator during the wedding.(Add a few still shotsthat you can snap when she's posing for the real wedding photographer). She'll be grateful for your added material, and you won't have to bear the burden of the pro. That has worked for me several times. Leave the photos to a wedding photographer.

Good luck, and shame on you if you don't listen to allthe above guys.

Steven R.

PTB Stalker May 29, 2005 4:18 PM

I`ve done the wedding picthing for friendsa time or two, and I agree completely with all the other posters. It is a no win situation for you. Try to find a pro for your friends. Offer your service as kind of a"back up extra pitcher taker". If a pro is found in time, stay out of the pro`sway! If you can`t escape from the task, at least go to the rehearsel and practice as much as you can there. Good luck to you!

atlantagreg May 29, 2005 7:57 PM

mmmm I'm suddenly hearing the theme songs for every horror movie in my head...


Luxowell May 31, 2005 1:12 AM

ok, i'm now scared sh*$less!

damn... i mean, the poor guys have no money to begin with... the pro was going to do it cheaply as a favor to the brides dad (they know each other), but the guy was such a jerk she said no.

damn damn damn....

aww to hell with it... i'm gonna take them with every warning in the book given.

marokero May 31, 2005 1:57 AM

I concur with the others and I too would advise you to decline this reponsibility. A wedding is a once in a lifetime event (hopefully, statistics don't paint such a great picture), and everything has to flow, not snag. There are things you have to know in advance, like poses for the formals of the couple by themselves, the couple with the bridal party, couple with families, location/time for the shots, positioning to take advantage of available light, etc. And all this in consideration of available time, available weather, and that no major mishaps occur from begining to end. Other things to consider are the unexpected. What if your equipment malfunctions, or you shoot too much and have no more storage space left (and you haven't even gotten to the reception yet), or the weather is really bad on the wedding day, what do you do then? These are most of the reponsabilities and worries of a wedding photographer.

djb May 31, 2005 2:39 PM

ALL of the above!!!!!! been there, done that, and it ain't fun!!!! truly, if you really don't know what kinds of pictures to take, you really shouldn't be doing it. this is not to belittle you or your talent. weddings are a pressure situation and a 1 time only attempt at one of the most memorable times in a couples life.and, i hate to say, the worst part is that they are your friends!!!! kindly bow out and let them find another pro. if you do decide to do it, i suggest, for equipment, have a spare for everything (camera, flash, multiple lenses, many memory cards, etc., etc.) as you never know when something may malfunction. oh, have a spare photographer too!!! just as an assistant to help you and to also grab candid shots and other stuff.


TheGhost Jun 1, 2005 7:12 AM

I've never done weddings, but I've been to a few and it is definitely going to require a ton of work. Taking photos is only going to be one of your requirements. Getting a good angle (which can sometimes be impossible), attention to detail, awareness, digital processing, and photo preparation (herding the family members like cattle to take shots of everyone with multiple permutations) are just to name some. The best part is you only have _one_ chance for everything. At least that's the mindset you should have. All things being equal, that one group shot, that one special moment, that one funny moment, whatever, if there was camera shake, poor exposure, an act of god which somehow influenced poor quality in the end result then you might play a little game called hide and seek. Where of course you hide =) Of course, by then it will be to late and you'll have to face the music.

Now I know there's a lot of frightening posts here, but I wouldn't say all is loss. If you can, get away with just "I'll take photos as a friend/guest, not a professional" so you can at least get some practice without the burden of being the guy in charge. You will most likely get a few good shots so you can show them off later while the professional works his but off shooting/processing hundreds of photos. If that's unsuitable, then between now and the matrimony I would strongly suggest squeezing in some practice time. Call up a few local churches and ask if there are any weddings going on. Attend them and take as many photos as you want. Talk with their professional photographer (assuming they hired one) to get a few tips, or just watch him like a hawk and take notes. And if there are no weddings, practice practice practice! Go into the church or wherever the wedding is being held and take enough photos to understand the lighting requirements. Even attend a mass and take photos of the priests/people from every angle possible while recording the best settings. Basically prepare yourself in advance. Spend upwards to 8-10 hours a practice session going non-stop because time comes the wedding, you'll be the first one there and the last one leaving with a lot of running around in between.

It's also a safe thing to say that as a professional, you'll need professional grade hardware. The XT will suffice, but you should have some fast L series lenses on you. At minimum, especially in a church environment, you'll want an f2.8 lens or better. The EF 50mm f/1.8 I think is a must for portrait style photos.

BillDrew Jun 1, 2005 8:12 AM

Since it sounds like you can't get out of it, work to spread the blame. Find as many other folks as you can to shoot. Hand out disposable cameras to anyone who will take one. That does increase the odds of getting a few good shots as well. Also get some help to set up the shots. Some one who spent time as an army drill sargent to order folks to get over here for the shot, and someone who has a good sense of clothing to do some final arrangements. This kind of thing.

Forget about having a good time at the wedding - you will be working, not partying.

The biggest mistake I made (my wife didn't - my shots were the extra ones) was to cut off feet. Make sure you don't crop to close and cut off feet or the end of the bridal gown.

Good luck.

Ronnie948 Jun 1, 2005 10:02 AM

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Go for it. It can be a lot of just plain fun to shoot weddings and still get paid good $$$$ for doing it. I used to use about 50 pounds of Hasselblad equipment and take a couple of Travler 750 lights and it was work. Now I only use My Nikon D100 with a SB28DX flash attached to a Stroboframe bracket to get the flash high over the lens and the only lens I use is A Nikon 24/120 "VR" zoom F 5,6 @ 120 to F 3.5 @ 24. I use a 1gb CF card and carry another one in my pocket. I carry 4 extra "AA" batterys in the same pocket in case I need them for the flash. The photographs I do with this digital set-up is far better then what I ever did with the Hasselblad equipment in the old days. I can see what I have shot and I also can shoot about 600 pictures to choose from.

Ask the bride exactly what She wants in advance and write it down.

Ask the person performing the ceramony about using flash and what you can get away with as far as position ETC. Important that you go to the rehearsal to see where you will want to be. Even if you don't take pictures at the rehearsal you should at least take some for practice and test lighting etc.

After the ceramony I shoot the complete party first and cut them down until only the Bride & Groom are left.

At the reception I shoot every table at least twice. If someone does not want their picture done I just sneak up and do a candid later when they are not paying attention. You can't be bashful because you have to tell people to look at the camera when shooting tables. Also shoot a picture of the church or wedding building for the beginning of the album.

Introduce your self to the DJ and ask him to inform you of the cake cutting and toast ETC as the DJ is usually the one that times the wedding reception events. He IS the man to know.

Remember, You can't be a guest and shoot good photographs so forget about drinking and dancing and be alert for the cute candid shots that make an album successful.


JimC Jun 1, 2005 10:18 AM

I bookmarked this one a while back:

Here is another page you may find helpful, too (some recommended shots on a Wedding Photographer's web site):

JohnG Jun 1, 2005 12:16 PM

Last point - to backup what Bill was talking about. Remember that wedding photos are often printed in different sizes with different aspect ratios (4x6, 5x7, 8x10,11x14, etc...) - so make sure you compose wide enough so that you can crop specifically to fit print size later on. A full person that fits tightly on a 4x6 won't fit on 8x10. Finally shoot RAW and use the histogram - as long as you're not blowing out details you can recover from a wide variety of exposure situations. And as long as you're framing wide you can fix some composition issues. Just a couple of high-level thoughts :cool:

Ronnie948 Jun 1, 2005 2:50 PM

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JimC gave you excellent advice with those links. Especially about the cost involved.You may spend as much as $200.00 or $300.00 even if you print the pictures your self. All depending on what ink and paper you use. Printing is very time consuming and even if You are sending them out it still requires a great deal of time to get the pictures ready as you would want them to look.

Some weddings I do I just give a CD with all of the pictures on it to the Bride to get printed . I stillwill make sure that all of the pictures are color corrected and I crop each picture to what the Bride wants as a final print. Most of the wedding pictures I do are 5 X 7.

Always make sure to keep an untouched CD or DVD disk of all the pictures you did un-touched as they came out of the camera. DO NOT GIVE IT TO ANYONE. Keep it and if the Bride has problems getting8 X 10 or larger prints you can give Her another CD color corrected and cropped properly to send off.

I shoot aperture prefered with the lens wide open and the flash at TTL. The Camera chooses my shutter speed at 1/60th. With the "VR" lens I still shoot at aperture prefered and let the camera choose the shutter speed at all times. I always use ISO of 800 and I never ever had a noise problem. I like to shoot fine jpg and use Adobe 1998 color profile in the camera and no sharpening.

have fun and enjoy the picture taking because you will not be a guest but a worker at this wedding.

Monza76 Jun 5, 2005 7:54 PM

I have shot many weddings for friends, family and aquiantances on 35mm and simple medium format equipment and it was a nerve wracking experience. I believe that shooting digital would be far more relaxing but still a big job. In my case all I do is take the picture, my wifetakes care ofall of the posing and other artistic issues.

Try reading these articles and

Since there is no way out of this my only advice is listen very carefully to what the bride wants and double check everything since Murphy's Law will be applied with a vengence on a day like this.


ericsvendsen Jun 6, 2005 10:10 AM

You have to start somewhere. I've shot about 12 weddings now, the first one was a real eye opener for me, but it taught me lots about what it takes to do a good job. Lots of thoughts but the one that sticks out in my mind the most is do it, tell them that its a first for you, suggest that they do the formals in studio professionally, and bring back ups of everything + extra batteries. Use flash, take lots of pics, but most importantly, have fun.

CindyS Jun 6, 2005 6:36 PM

I was in the same situation (bride with no money) a friend of my dad's and a friend of mine shot the wedding. My friend's pics look as good as the guy who claimed to be a professional. I'm not picky, I'm happy enough with my pics. But I also didn't pick out china to have it sit a cabinet half my life!!! I'm too practical.

If you are going to shoot - best advice - ask the bride what shots she wants. I had an idea from seeing photos of friend's weddings of the shots I wanted and made a list and had it ready for the photographer.

Good luck!

aladyforty Jun 6, 2005 7:43 PM

Ive done two weddings for friends, lucky for me that they were happy with the results. The reason they were happy was that 1. They could not afford a pro and 2. I warned them before the wedding not to have super high expectations.

Remember to get as many family and friend shots as you can, get a photo of the rings as they exchange them (close up of the hands) the flowers, the cake etc.

Personally if you could get out of it would. If someone has expectations so high that they are not happy with a pro, that rings alarm bells.

Freefly Jun 8, 2005 3:37 PM

I say go for it, but as others have explained, make sure they know you are not the professional!!!!

I broke all the rules at the weekend after being let down by an assistant (actually she wasout of the country so couldnĀ“t be helped) I did the wedding alone!!!! Bad, bad business.

I carried 2 cameras around my neck with speedlights (barely used except for fill in for the bright sunshine), a rucksack, a reflectorand a tripod, which I admit I never used, no time, no help and no room in the TINY church (Held 50 people seating and had 110 guests!!! In Spain...HOT? The vicar had sweat dripping off his chin the whole time! I also had a hunting jacket on with lenses, spare batteries all round, umpteen CF cards and my Flashtrax.

I ended up taking just over 1250 images and am still only half way through processing them. 3 pieces of advice...prepare, prepare and prepare. I did a complete run through of the whole day one day before the wedding so it was fresh in my mind. Prepare.......

Here are a couple so far...

Good luck and have fun.


Alan T Jun 8, 2005 6:24 PM

As everyone has said, avoid it if you can. If you decide to do it, the secret is to have lots of storage space on your memory cards, and use your exposure bracketing facility if you have one, to cover the light & the dark bits. Take lots and lots of shots, and some may be OK.

The groom's dark suit and the brides's white dress are incompatible with simultaneous photography, so it's a miracle that wedding photographers all over the world seem to succeed much of the time.

The best results I've had have been leaving the standard shots to the professional, and taking lots of unposed candid shots which go down very well if you keep your eyes open.

Good Luck!!!!

Alan T

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