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DPChallenge Forums >> Business of Photography >> Your First Wedding: Pride, Pitfalls, Panics?
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05/14/2008 05:21:07 PM · #1
Everyone here (who shoots weddings) has a first time. It would be great for the rest of us to hear what went right, what went wrong, what nearly pushed you off the edge. What advice you could give, from remembering extra batteries, to what shots are a must, do you need a second photographer, did you charge too much or too little.

You might even scare us away from doing it!
05/14/2008 05:48:12 PM · #2
I shot my brother's wedding for free. Overall it went well, but a couple things could've worked better:

I was about to graduate college and got an 85 f/1.8 as my graduation present - I chose it specifically for the wedding as my longest lens at the time was a 70-300 f/4-5.6 that would not be well served in the dim lighting of the church.

Just before the ceremony I was shooting the bride getting ready. When the time came to go upstairs to setup for the ceremony itself I packed up my gear and headed out, forgetting the 85 1.8 on a nearby table. I soon discovered it was missing but when I went back to the prep room, the door was locked. I ended up using the 70-300 for my balcony shots and even with ISO 1600 couldn't get a decent shutter speed (or a decent photo). I got some good shots with my wider, faster lenses but not from that angle.

Following the ceremony I shot the group formals. I was pressed for time and had only about 30 minutes to get them all. Midway through I filled up my second memory card and had to offload one of the cards to a laptop I brought along. I tried to have my parents offload the pictures while I continued shooting but I might as well have been speaking another language. I ended up offloading it myself and ran out of time to get all of the shots I had planned.

Lessons learned:
-Check your gear before you change locations
-Don't depend on computer illiterate parents to offload memory cards
-Bring more memory
05/14/2008 06:00:04 PM · #3
The first wedding I shot was a bit chaotic, and in hindsight I'd say I was not prepared enough for cases of Murphy's law kicking in. Fortunately few did. The worst was probably the first ever Error99 I had seen in my life when we were almost done with the couple's formal pictures. It wouldn't go away for two minutes, but has never reappeared ever since.
In terms of charging, oh my, I could as well have done it for free. 200 for the ceremony, the groupshot and the formals. Considering the amount of work that went into it it was horribly undercharged, but it's allowed me to get the ball rolling.

Lessons learned:
-Bring a backup camera. Especially if you don't think you'll need one.
-Learn names of all important people.
-Having an assistant is very useful, even if it's only to hand you a lens or carry things around.
05/14/2008 06:03:53 PM · #4
Heh, I think I'm the exception rather than the rule here. My first wedding was paid. I prepared for WEEKS (because I worry like that) and the album came out great. B&G still show it off everytime they have a party (they live near me). Second wedding was a referral from the first. Again, prep'd for DAYS and DAYS, cleaned sensors, charged batteries, bought extra mem cards, etc. No worries, the day went very smoothly. Third wedding was a beach one, full sun, 95 degree day, etc..... still no catastrophe. To date, knock on wood, the only problem I've had at a wedding was running out of flash batteries near the end of reception. I just kept throwing the used ones back in the flash until everything was finished. Only missed a few fun moments waiting for near-dead batteries to charge the flash. I take a lot more batteries with me now.

This image from my first wedding still shows on my website and on my studio walls. I get comments on it all the time.
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I'm not saying my wedding work hasn't improved over time, but (again, knock wood) I've yet to blow one.
05/14/2008 06:11:46 PM · #5
My first wedding was the moment I knew this was my career path. The couple knew I had no experience, had never done one and was new to photography. They were desperate for someone to cover it as their photographer changed her mind with one week to go before the wedding.
I loved every part of it even having to deal with a minister that wouldnt let me walk around the church.. she told me to pick a spot and stay there. Funny thing is she let me use flash but wouldnt let me walk....strange now i think about it. lol

I did the wedding with the canon 350 and a kit lens... I did have a flash though. They got married in a church that was quite dark and it was my very first time shooting in raw..

eeeek kinda scary looking at old pics..

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05/14/2008 06:14:34 PM · #6
I learn something from every wedding. Here are a few...

Batteries...never enough of them when you need them. If you have 1 set you need 2. If you have 5 you need 6. Not every wedding, but every once in a while. I had one where I used 5 camera batteries, and another that I ate thru every AA I had and 2 more sets of duracels. (I carry 4 to 5 full sets of AAs and 4 camera batts).
I've a flash act up.
I've had a lens quit focusing.
I've dropped a camera, dropped a lens, left stuff behind (no damage to the gear but the reflector was never found)
I've never run out of memory, but then I carry some 24Gb to weddings.

Things to know - how to pose people, be that one person or a group of 30 to make them look good - that requires posing knowledge and the ability to take charge and still be fun.
Be able to use your camera without looking at it - there isn't time and often not enough light.

Gear matters, and anyone that say different is either a fool or a liar. Most probably they've not used good gear and don't know what a difference it makes. Brides want pictures, not excuses; better gear will get the image when the conditions are tough - and that separates the wanna-be's from the pros. Low noise at higher ISO, low light focus, focus speed, IS, fast lenses etc will make a difference between getting the image and not.

You gotta know flash - on camera and often off camera, second flashes add depth to an image.
Work FAST. I never have enough time to get what's expected let alone get the fun stuff. A list of what to get is a good way to jog your memory as the day goes on, but there isn't much time to stop and look stuff up.
And keep something to eat/drink in your car so that you can top off after the formals.

05/14/2008 06:18:27 PM · #7
Originally posted by Prof_Fate:

......
And keep something to eat/drink in your car so that you can top off after the formals.


Oh heck yeah! I keep some breakfast bars and a cooler of Mt. Dews in my car. B&Gs think providing you with dinner is enough to support you through a 14 hour day LOL
05/14/2008 06:51:27 PM · #8
my first wedding was in a barn.

at night.

with a sony 707.

and I was 7 1/2 months pregnant.

The bride (my husband's cousin) asked on Wednesday before the wedding on Saturday. We were going anyway, so I took my camera and she paid me, but I don't remember how much.

I think I've blocked everything else about the night from my memory. :) :) :)
05/14/2008 07:02:20 PM · #9
Batteries and memory - If you think you have enough, you need more.

You do need a backup camera and a flash at least (no, the little pop-up POS doesn't count).

Using flash should be as easy as scratching your butt. That means how to shoot in M, Av, Tv and for crying out loud learn how to drag the shutter and color balance mixed light sources.

Message edited by author 2008-05-14 19:02:58.
05/14/2008 08:04:38 PM · #10
Sigh

First one this coming sunday, taking one MAYBE two others with me. We don't actually HAVE any backup equipment. One 350, one 20d, (40d if the third comes)

Only two flash units (little sigmas), two mono-pods, two flash diffusers (lightsphere look alikes). 6 sets of batteries for the flashes. My 350 has two batteries in the grip, and the 20d will have two as well. 3 1 gig cf cards 1 2 gig card and two laptops to offload to. Rented 3 lenses...

Bride is completely fried, but so incredibly excited that it's exciting to me too. Wedding is in an open air chapel just before sunset, reception will be dark though. We did a formal bridal shoot in the studio last week, and got some amazing shots of her. Beautiful woman. She's so happy with them I think we could probably blow the rest completely and she'd still feel like she's getting her money's worth.

Charging her a whole $500, Delivering one table top book, and dvd's of the unedited images.
Spent so far. Oh 250 on lenses, 60 on monopods, 60 on diffusers, etc etc etc. Around 600 so far. BUT she works for a florist/wedding planner who is planning on working with us (assuming we produce), and they've signed model releases so we can use all her pictures to advertise :)

Should NOT have read this... maybe I'll come back to it Monday :)

05/14/2008 08:18:49 PM · #11
If you are lucky enough to have an assistant for yourself, that is great...but having one that will be the "family herder" will be even better. Appoint someone from the family early in the day to be "in charge" of gathering the folks you need for formals. Having an "in" really helps things run a bit smoothly.
05/14/2008 09:06:57 PM · #12
My biggest problem is simply absentmindedness. My first wedding this month I managed to leave my tripod behind at the church. Thankfully it was only 5 minutes from where the reception was, but I was kicking myself for having to waste 15 minutes to run back and get it before they locked the place! At this weekend's wedding, I stuck PostIt notes on my car's dashboard to make sure I didn't leave without various things :)

I'm a stickler for having redundancy. I have enough equipment that I could actually shoot 3 weddings simultaneously if I were able to clone myself. I have three good DSLR bodies, multiple lenses in case I drop something, and memory out the wazoo (close to 30GB in cards). As I finish shooting a card, I start making back-ups. At the very least, I back it up to a portable hard drive, and often I'll bring the laptop along so that by the time the night is over, I already have three copies of everything, all in RAW.

And I have more batteries than I'll ever need on hand. Plus, I have battery chargers hooked up in the car, so I can give things a quick refreshing in between events if I want to.

Having the redundancy, tons of memory and batteries has helped me to be pretty confident as I'm shooting. If I can keep from leaving stuff behind, I'll be in good shape!
05/15/2008 07:42:30 AM · #13
I have a friend who did a wedding, and decided to process all his rolls of film (35mm) in one tank. Being cheap, he was trying to get some extra milage out of his fixer and...solarized the -entire- shoot upon opening the tank to put in some photoflo.

Yeah. Talk about a nightmare
05/18/2008 12:37:47 AM · #14
Quinceañera today ---- (coming out party for 15 year old latin girls. so similiar to a wedding in setting) ---- Lens all ok... added an 85mm to our list. (10-22, 16-35, 50mm, 85mm, 70-200)

Problems....

Batteries overheat. Flash stops working when batteries overheat. Took 24, taking 48 to the wedding tomorrow.

Someone helpful turned out ALL the friggen lights for the father daughter dance. Solution for wedding? (discuss with bride and let her know I can't take pictures in the dark, or if I try well they may or may not actually be in focus, since the lenses won't autofocus by the light of a disco ball)

Having kit at one end of the hall and you at the other makes it very hard to change lenses. Solution for wedding, gah I don't know. Little red wagon to carry everything without killing myself????

Result, LOTS of lessons learned, and one beautiful young lady.

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05/18/2008 01:21:16 AM · #15
Get a belt system and wear all your lenses - they're always with you!
Batts overheating? What flash? What batts? I've never had a flash overheat...batts get warm sometimes, especially in the 580EX2.
Consider manual everything - dial in your camera to be a stop or 2 below ambient and put the flash on 1/8 power and see what that does for ya. I was shooting a reception tonite at ISO 1250, 1/15 to 1/40 range and F2.8 to 4 range IS lens helps, but people moving too fast dancing will give blur at 1/15 so you gotta watch.

One shot with the above settings, flash was 'bounced' but most of the light is from a white card I velcro to the flash. VERY VERY dark hall (which is good cause it's a former grocery store and has ugly floor and ceiling)
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05/18/2008 01:28:17 AM · #16
wow Prof, that girl looks tireeeeeeeeeed!!! In that picture she looks likes she has been dancing all day long!!!!
05/18/2008 09:11:00 AM · #17
Originally posted by Prof_Fate:

Get a belt system and wear all your lenses - they're always with you!
Batts overheating? What flash? What batts? I've never had a flash overheat...batts get warm sometimes, especially in the 580EX2.
Consider manual everything - dial in your camera to be a stop or 2 below ambient and put the flash on 1/8 power and see what that does for ya. I was shooting a reception tonite at ISO 1250, 1/15 to 1/40 range and F2.8 to 4 range IS lens helps, but people moving too fast dancing will give blur at 1/15 so you gotta watch.


Both flash units were giving us the same trouble, Sigma 500 and a Sigma 530. You'ld shoot maybe 10-15 minutes, and then poof no more flash or once even every indicator on the 530 just started fast blinking. Checked the batteries (Lithiums, maybe we need to go back to akalines) and they were "Ouch Hot" change them out and the units work again. We shot manual at 100, 11, 400iso, and still have a good bit of noise. We're not selling any prints, just a cd, so I didn't want to have high noise where we'd have to spend days edditing to get them looking halfway decent. We took 450 pictures in the hour we were shooting, I haven't counted but I'm thinking we have maybe half of those that look pretty good without going back in and editing.

Tonight should be easier. Outside chapel at 7 pm. Though the reception is going to be the same issue. oi another day of complete nerves.

Message edited by author 2008-05-18 14:00:52.
05/18/2008 04:25:36 PM · #18
Neat Image can batch process images - an entire folder at different ISOs and all - one click and it's done. Once you get it set up. Back in my 300D/20D days I needed to do that but the 30 was better (up to ISO1000 anyway) and the 40 is clean to 1600 if properly exposed.

I'd suspect it's a lithium thing -why use them? They're great to sit in a drawer for years and still have life in them, but the high drain of a flash isn't for them at all. Get rechargeable Nimh from walmart, etc - $10 for 4 give or take.

1/100 F11? Why on eath F11? Don't you trust your AF at all? The only thing that needs to be in focus is the subject, and F4 is plenty for a reception. I've only ever shot at F8 or more at a wedding once- when they wanted the city in the BG from an overlook and I wanted it all in focus. You're working your flashes WAY too hard! 1/50 and F4 is 3 full stops less work - you'll see some BG in the images to give them depth, get faster recycle time and overall be better off IMO.
Canon flash is designed, so I've read, to work best at ISO 800 - again, a full stop more light. Last night's reception I was shoting at ISO 1250 for most of it to get some BG in the shots and not work my flash to death - I hate it when my flash isn't ready! Me second flash (metz 54 used off camera) lasted all day with one set of batts - outside fill, get ready shots, formals, reception, etc. It was on low power (1/4 to 1/8 manual) though. The on camera flash (580EX2) got a batt change partway into the reception.
05/19/2008 03:14:42 AM · #19
Originally posted by Prof_Fate:

Neat Image can batch process images - an entire folder at different ISOs and all - one click and it's done. Once you get it set up. Back in my 300D/20D days I needed to do that but the 30 was better (up to ISO1000 anyway) and the 40 is clean to 1600 if properly exposed.

I'd suspect it's a lithium thing -why use them? They're great to sit in a drawer for years and still have life in them, but the high drain of a flash isn't for them at all. Get rechargeable Nimh from walmart, etc - $10 for 4 give or take.

1/100 F11? Why on eath F11? Don't you trust your AF at all? The only thing that needs to be in focus is the subject, and F4 is plenty for a reception. I've only ever shot at F8 or more at a wedding once- when they wanted the city in the BG from an overlook and I wanted it all in focus. You're working your flashes WAY too hard! 1/50 and F4 is 3 full stops less work - you'll see some BG in the images to give them depth, get faster recycle time and overall be better off IMO.
Canon flash is designed, so I've read, to work best at ISO 800 - again, a full stop more light. Last night's reception I was shoting at ISO 1250 for most of it to get some BG in the shots and not work my flash to death - I hate it when my flash isn't ready! Me second flash (metz 54 used off camera) lasted all day with one set of batts - outside fill, get ready shots, formals, reception, etc. It was on low power (1/4 to 1/8 manual) though. The on camera flash (580EX2) got a batt change partway into the reception.


today went much better.

As for the F11. No I did NOT trust my autofocus, because... they turned off ALL the lights but a disco ball, there was no autofocus, it just went back and forth whirring.

no overheating today... No completely dark rooms to shoot in. Good bit of wonderful evening light.

Issue tonight was odd. It seems that when I picked up a card that had been used in the 20d and stuck it into my 350, mine changed how it was numbering images and picked up the numbering from where the 20d had left off... so we ended up with the same file name on multiple files (off different cameras taken at different times) Started out with the 350 in the 160s then it just changed to 680s. I still haven't found some of the pictures I KNOW I took, I think copying them off we lost them when skipping on a move because we already had them. Oh well. Good thing having three photographers. We didnt' miss anything :) even if we lost a few shots.
05/19/2008 03:43:14 AM · #20
My first wedding I wound up shooting everything at 3200 ISO in the mid day sun. I forgot to change my ISO back from the night before. Lucky me I just upgraded to a Mark III and it was forgiving enough. That with a touch of Dynamic Skin Softener from Nik Effex 3.o and the photos came out surprisingly beautiful. That was pure LUCK. I now have a check list and shoot list that I stick to religiously. I shot a wedding last night and I think I only deleted 15 shots total out of 450+ I must have done something right finally ;) If I were to give advise... triple check EVERYTHING. Most of all be prepared and have a really good game plan. Know your poses.
05/19/2008 05:51:28 AM · #21
I'll match your pride, pitfalls and panics with a prepare, prepare, prepare.

I'm with idnic. I prepare EVERYthing before. Several times. I go through the entire procedure and plan and jot it down on paper via overhead map and number everything. And I just shoot for free for now.

Prepare your data flow.

Right now I take a pair of 4GB's and I'm planning for a 32GB, but I'm going to be weird and shoot the 32GB as my BACKUP. Run the 4GB's off of a fast photo bank HD thingy, swapping as I go (it takes 12 minutes to rip an entire 4GB card), and DOUBLE CHECK that it copied OK before deleting ANYTHING. I use an AC adaptor because I don't trust the battery enough. My HD is a 120GB western digital which I have fairly good trust in.

If I was big time like the pro's here, I'd have two HD's working as redundancy.

I don't shoot nearly as much as the prof, so I usually only have 3 batteries, but I check them all both the day before the shoot and the day of the shoot. I check them in the charger, not in the camera.

Keep your charger clean. A dirty charger can lead to false positives for your charge status.

Never rest until you are ready for the next thing to happen. Be prepared to prioritize and don't try to do too much. I had to say no to shooting some personality shots of the bridesmaids interacting nervously while waiting for the bride because I knew she was going to come suddenly.

Definitely like the others said, shoot everything manual. AF works nicely, but be familiar enough to know how to turn it off and work with it seamlessly if you need to. I find this comes in handy often with the really crucial shots like the ring and the kiss.

I've not had the guts to do it, but another guy I shot with took a little P&S cam to do the non-formal group shots after the ceremony. The added DOF and good edge quality often works very nicely. He was smart about it though and had his assitant shoot the P&S cam... but he told me that the pics he was going to use were pretty much mostly from the P&S. They end up as 4x6's anyhow... In a pinch, if you don't have a second cam, it's going to be better than nothing.

and prepare!
05/19/2008 08:04:36 AM · #22
i found out i'd be shooting my bro's wedding on the plane over there. I had one lens with me, a 17-50 Tamron f/2.8 thingy so it could have been a lot worse.

It wasn't a churchy thing but in a nice civic hall thing. Great service but not the most photogenic of places ya know? Low cielings and all that stuff, and cos i was using the 400d at about ISO 800/1600 the noise levels were very sucky. Got some decent shots though, got the group shots but wish i was a bit more organised in that and maybe more assertive. The layout of the ppl was crap and you couldn't see certain people, someone was blinking and that kinda thing. They didn't mind, but i did because it wasn't perfect.

I found that burst mode helped a lot because if you get a shutter speed of say 1/30 for a group shot there is a chance you'll probs get motion shake on that so if you take 10 shots in succession then chances are one of them will be perfect.

As for preperations, i always have 4 batteries with me, 2 memory cards, and usually more than one lens! I don't have a spare body but i didn't need one. This was way before my 400d started acting up and it performed perfectly... apart from having turd noise levels of course.

So if i was giving advice to a first timer (and i've only done 1 wedding) i'd say arrive early, scope out the place, look through the viewfinder a lot and pay attention to the background, cars going past in the back looks a bit poor.
05/19/2008 09:48:34 AM · #23
Wow I'm glad I found this thread. Must be fate, because i was going to start my own until I saw this one.

I get to do my first wedding next month. It's one of my best friends weddings and it should be one of the most memorable ones. It's a surprise wedding where the only people that know its actually a wedding are me, her mom, and of course the couple. Everyone else thinks they are showing up for a baby shower...so you can imagine the type of reactions i can capture. I just found out about it a couple of days again and it's early next month. I don't fly in until about 2 days before so i can't really scout the place.....oh and it's at someone's house not a church so I probably won't have as much room to work with either (unless they decide to do it outside). So I need all the advice I can get at this point.

My equipment:
Canon EOS 350D Rebel XT

Lens:
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II
Tamron AF 70-300 Di LD Macro
Canon 18-55 (kit)
2x 2GIG memory cards
Tripod

Of course there will be no 2nd shooter and no extra camera (my PS is broken).

I'm actually doing it for free with their wedding present being the album.

05/19/2008 09:59:18 AM · #24
Originally posted by albc28:

Wow I'm glad I found this thread. Must be fate, because i was going to start my own until I saw this one.

I get to do my first wedding next month. It's one of my best friends weddings and it should be one of the most memorable ones. It's a surprise wedding where the only people that know its actually a wedding are me, her mom, and of course the couple. Everyone else thinks they are showing up for a baby shower...so you can imagine the type of reactions i can capture. I just found out about it a couple of days again and it's early next month. I don't fly in until about 2 days before so i can't really scout the place.....oh and it's at someone's house not a church so I probably won't have as much room to work with either (unless they decide to do it outside). So I need all the advice I can get at this point.

My equipment:
Canon EOS 350D Rebel XT

Lens:
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II
Tamron AF 70-300 Di LD Macro
Canon 18-55 (kit)
2x 2GIG memory cards
Tripod

Of course there will be no 2nd shooter and no extra camera (my PS is broken).

I'm actually doing it for free with their wedding present being the album.


If you're inside, the 50mm will be your friend.

Especially since you don't seem to have a flash.
05/19/2008 10:10:51 AM · #25
Originally posted by albc28:

Wow I'm glad I found this thread. Must be fate, because i was going to start my own until I saw this one.

I get to do my first wedding next month. It's one of my best friends weddings and it should be one of the most memorable ones. It's a surprise wedding where the only people that know its actually a wedding are me, her mom, and of course the couple. Everyone else thinks they are showing up for a baby shower...so you can imagine the type of reactions i can capture. I just found out about it a couple of days again and it's early next month. I don't fly in until about 2 days before so i can't really scout the place.....oh and it's at someone's house not a church so I probably won't have as much room to work with either (unless they decide to do it outside). So I need all the advice I can get at this point.

My equipment:
Canon EOS 350D Rebel XT

Lens:
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II
Tamron AF 70-300 Di LD Macro
Canon 18-55 (kit)
2x 2GIG memory cards
Tripod

Of course there will be no 2nd shooter and no extra camera (my PS is broken).

I'm actually doing it for free with their wedding present being the album.


I'd pick up some extra CF cards and maybe rent a lens and a flash.

Message edited by author 2008-05-19 10:11:07.
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