Why Is Wedding Photography So Hard? :: Digital Photo Secrets

Why Is Wedding Photography So Hard?

by David Peterson 7 comments

There’s a reason why so many families are willing to pay for a professional wedding photographer. Wedding photography can pose some serious challenges, even to seasoned photographers. You might think you’ve gotten a nice series of images, but when you see them on your laptop back at home, it can get a little disappointing. Why is wedding photography so hard?

It rained on her wedding, but that didn’t stop this photographer
from snapping this perfectly lit shot.
Photo By Duane Brayboy

There are a number of factors. You’re indoors most of the time, you’ve got family members running in a number of different directions, and you have to be really careful about using flash at the wrong times. Adding to this, you need to find the right times to move around without drawing attention to yourself. Timing and experience are crucial.

I can’t tell you how many rookie mistakes I made during my first wedding shoot. I didn’t research the venue. I didn’t bring enough backup gear. Worst of all, I just assumed that my one digital SLR with its built-in flash would suffice. When most of the pictures came back too dark, I realized just how hard it is to be a good wedding photographer.

1.) You’re indoors

Churches aren’t very well lit. It’s so dark inside that if you try to take pictures without using a flash, there’s a good chance they’ll turn out blurry. So a flash is almost a must. Unfortunately, most flashes that come with a point-and-shoot or basic digital SLR camera aren’t bright enough to illuminate your surroundings properly.

As a result, you end up inching ever closer to the bride and groom. Now when you take the picture, they look like deer in headlights. Most on-camera flashes make the center of the image really bright while the edges remain dark.

Your camera’s built-in flash can make people look bright while the background is completely dark.
Fix it by bouncing the flash off the walls.
Photo By Sherif Salama

The only real solution to this problem is to try and bounce the light from the flash off of something. This will make it less intense, so your pictures look more natural. Once I got more experience, I bought a better flash that hooks into my hotshoe. I then pointed the flash up at the wall, and used the reflected light to take the picture. Trust me, it’s much better than just shooting head on.

People are tough to corral

Everyone wants to visit with everyone else during a wedding. While this is totally understandable, you’ve also got to do your job and get everyone together for all of the important shots. As the photographer, this can be tough to do. People don’t know who you are, so you can come off a little strange asking them to gather for a photo.

I stopped doing that a long time ago. Now I delegate a family member to organize everyone. That way, I can focus on setting up my shots instead of running around all the time. It’s not your job to run around like a chicken with its head cut off.

You have to be a little sneaky

Make sure you establish when it’s okay and not okay to use flash. Everyone is going to have different feelings on this. The truth is that you need a little bit of leverage while the bride and groom are saying their vows. If you don’t have the option to use your flash, you might miss the shot altogether (unless the bride and groom are saying their vows outdoors).

You can’t be afraid to get up close and take some of the more revealing photos.
The bolder the better.
Photo By Eugenijus Barzdzius

You’ll want to get a lot of different angles, and that can mean moving around during some fairly inappropriate times. I find that a lot of beginner photographers are worried about upsetting everyone, so they just stay in the same place during the entire ceremony. Now I’m not advocating making a scene or anything, but an experienced wedding photographer knows the right times to move around without being noticed.

There’s a lot going on at once

Most professional wedding photographers don’t do the entire event on their own. They have an assistant helping them out. During the reception, you can focus on the bride and groom while your assistant gets everyone else having a good time. The extra help makes wedding photography seem like it isn’t such a monumental challenge.

You’re too stressed. Relax and have fun

If you feel nervous and stressed out, other people around you will feel the same. I know I have a problem with just letting go. You have to do it when you’re photographing a wedding. The fact is you’re going to make mistakes and miss shots. But if you let that ruin your entire day, it won’t just show up on the shots you missed. Nobody else will be smiling either.

You’ve gotta be the leader here. Stay positive and upbeat no matter what happens - rain or shine. I can’t tell you how many wedding disasters I’ve seen unfold before me. I always take them in stride because that’s my job as a wedding photographer. I need to be the one to show everyone it’s okay. Your special day can go on, and we can all still have an awesome time.

Now smile for the camera!

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  1. Jerry Hissong says:

    David, I have learned so much about digital photography and about my Canon DSLR camera from you. I think you are the most unselfish pro in the industry. I purchased your Digital Photo Secrets course on DVD and love it. But I have learned a lot of other tips from your FREE advice in newsletters, articles, etc. Most writers charge for everything. They say it will be free, but then when you check in you get the hook. You give so much away, and I really appreciate you. I'm going on a photo safari in a couple of months, and I know my photos will be great because of all that I have learned from you. I'm so glad to be off AUTO, and that's because you made the transition so simple. Thank you for everything!

  2. Lindsey says:

    One more thing I would add is that if you, the photographer, could go visit the venue ahead of time to do some test shots that would be most beneficial. Sometimes some families have it the night before (rehearsal dinner), secure an invitation to this event to acquaint yourself with who is important to be photographed the next day and also get an idea of the sequence of events. It also allows the bride to become comfortable with you therefore producing more natural photos.

  3. andrea says:

    I love your site .David you help me so keep up the good work.Make God Bless you.when i could not down load your book you touch time out to help me, and i thank you . Andrea.

  4. wedding photographers melbourne says:

    This is the first time I've been to your site. Thnx for explaining more details.

  5. Wedding Photographers Melbourne says:

    Nice tips here David. Nothing is easy if you want to success, hard work and determination is the key to master it. Thanks for the sharing anyway!

  6. Ashley Crookes says:

    Great tip once again David, thanks. One EXTREMELY important thing which I would like to impart to anyone who wants to be a wedding photographer - PAY ATTENTION TO THE DRESS CODE ON THE INVITATION! I'm a photographer, have only officially shot 1 wedding, I wasn't told what the dress code was and I was only asked on the day as well, so I dressed up in longs and tie. When I got to the event, everyone was wearing jeans, shorts, t-shirts you name it! (it was one of those "red neck" type weddings in Tennessee, USA) I felt over dressed so took off the tie and snapped away.

    This past weekend I attended my neighbours' wedding (in South Africa) which was to be a formal occasion (she didn't even allow children to attend either). All the guests looked great, ties, jackets etc. I had a good spot in the aisle of the 4th row and was waiting for things to happen. All of a sudden I spied THE PHOTOGRAPHER. Hawaiian board-shorts/surf shorts with the biggest red flowers you can imagine on them, t-shirt, big dark sunglasses and flip flops, strolls up the lawn with his camera swinging around his neck. I almost fell off my chair! I thought this was a joke. He didn't look the slight bit worried about his situation either. I wanted to throw my camera at him and tell him to get lost. Luckily I kept my composure. Unfortunately I was so distracted by him (along with most of the guests) that I only saw half the ceremony. Literally.

    So, please, use your COMMON SENSE and dress accordingly! Thanks

  7. George says:

    Great tip for beginner like me, thank you

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About David Peterson
David Peterson is the creator of Digital Photo Secrets, and the Photography Dash and loves teaching photography to fellow photographers all around the world. You can follow him on Twitter at @dphotosecrets or on Google+.