>> Wedding Photography Tips <<

I have a lot of visitors to my site who are amateur photographers interested in learning wedding photography and want wedding photography tips. I have been surprised at how many wedding photographers have submitted questions in my Wedding Photography Question and Answer section. While I have much to learn, I have been very blessed by a few photographers that helped me out as I was learning - and my goal with this page (and more sections that are to come in the future) is to help aspiring wedding photographers. Parts of this page still refer to film, but I felt it was important to keep those references in because I still have photographers e-mail me that are about to shoot their first wedding: with film.

One of the biggest questions I've wondered is this: why is there such a lack of basic information on how to photograph weddings? Why do all of the wedding photography books I have seem to offer so little on how to actually light and shoot a wedding? Realistic lighting! Not studio lighting. And why is some of the information that is out there SO BAD (how many people have heard about indoor on-camera flash photography with the camera and flash set to F8 or F11 to have sharp focus - with the result being a "black background" and/or "cave photography"??).

My goal is to help provide you practical information! The page is long - don't quit part way through it! I first give basic information, then I answer some general questions, and then some more specific questions. Part way through this page I have a sign-up for additional tips with sample photos...

Some of the questions I have been asked:

  • What equipment should I use to photograph weddings? Or, do you have any 35mm wedding tips?
  • What digital camera do you use to photograph weddings?
  • What exposure should I use for a candlelight wedding? Or, what are wedding low light camera settings?
  • How to photograph a candlelit procession?
  • What are the largest prints that can be made from 35mm film?
  • What lenses work the best for wedding photography?
  • What film do you recommend for photographing weddings?
  • What type of digital camera should I buy?
  • How do I avoid harsh shadows when taking outdoor pictures?
  • What is the best camera for wedding photography?
  • Should I use a filter during wedding photography?
  • What books are best for beginning Wedding Photography?
  • Do you show your digital pictures at the wedding reception, for the guests to choose the photos they want?
  • How many pictures are typically taken at a wedding?
  • Exposure modes (auto vs. manual) and blurry photos.
  • What image editing software do you use?
  • How to take photos with blurred backgrounds.
  • Do you allow other photographers to take pictures at your weddings?
  • Wedding photography book reviews.
  • Links to other wedding photography FAQ's on the web.

However, it seems like the question that sums everything up, is, "My friend has asked me to photograph their wedding, do you have any advice for me?"

I think this is why many professional wedding photographers are "tight" with giving out information. They don't want to inspire a bunch of amateurs to go out and take bad wedding photos - and then get blamed for it. I am of the opinion that everyone has to start out at some point. I also believe that an inspired and skilled amateur who is willing to prepare and work hard is capable of taking better photos than some working "professionals".

The first bit of advice I have for amateurs who have been asked to take wedding photos: hire a skilled, professional wedding photographer. Whether you hire the photographer for the bride and groom, or, give them a monetary gift and recommend several photographers for them to choose from - details don't matter. Just do it. By hiring a good professional you will have:

  • Much less stress in your life
  • Better photos of their wedding day
  • A much more enjoyable wedding day for yourself
  • Many more hours of free time
  • Your friend will remain a friend
  • I think I already mentioned having less stress in your life (trust me, if you're a conscientious person, wedding photography will bring significant stress to your life)
  • And, to top it off, you can watch the professional (from a distance - without getting in the way) at the wedding and learn from them... Who knows, you may even be able to sign on as their assistant for the day.

However, chances are, if you are looking for wedding photography tips, you've already decided to do it and aren't interested in me (a wedding photographer), giving advice that seems somewhat biased.

If that is the case, this page contains my honest advice on how to get the best results taking wedding pictures. You'll need to plan on spending hours upon hours preparing for your first wedding (taking test photos, learning your camera, studying web sites) and I would also suggest you buy a few books (I've written some reviews of wedding photography books that are currently available - and given recommendations on which book I think would be most helpful for you - at the bottom of the page). Don't spend all of your prep time surfing the web and reading. I strongly recommend you spend half of your time researching and learning, and the other half of the time with your camera in hand practicing. If you have never photographed a wedding before, and you spend less than 8 hours (the amount of time you'll probably be taking pictures on wedding day) actually practicing and shooting test photos before the wedding - I don't believe you've done the preparation you should. If you were going to be performing a musical piece, wouldn't you spend hours practicing the song exactly how you'll do perform it? Your preparation for the wedding should be the same: yes, do your research, but make sure you spend time practicing!

You can also receive 8 pages of Wedding Photography tips by signing up for my eBook notification about half-way down the page!

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Help for the Amateur About to Photograph Their First Wedding:

  • Make sure you, and your friend, understand what you are getting into. Not only that, but make sure expectations are VERY, very low. That way, if something goes wrong there will not be hurt feelings. If your photos do not turn out as good as they could have - you will still hopefully have a friend. If they are expecting snap-shot quality images they won't be disappointed in snap shot-quality images, and will be impressed with any shots that are better than average quality!
  • Write up a Letter of Agreement. You must be cognizant of the fact that your friend can sue you if something goes wrong. Once your friend is married, their loyalty will be (and should be) primarily to their spouse. You never know what will happen to a friendship. Take the time to write up a document, title it a "letter of agreement", and clearly spell out the requirements of both parties. Make it as complex or simple as you like, just be sure to include a paragraph that says your friend understands you are not a professional wedding photographer, that you cannot guarantee to provide any specific photo, and that you are not responsible for any loss of coverage for any reason. Even WITH that phrase in the letter that is signed by yourself and your friend you can STILL be sued. However, with that phrase you should be much safer! I'm not a lawyer, and as they always say you should get legal advice from a lawyer, but I definitely encourage you to at least use common sense to handle the legalities.
  • Realize that wedding photography is expensive. Not only will you easily spend 30 hours of time on the project, but several hundred dollars as well. Even if you stick with the basics: fresh batteries for ALL equipment, professional film (if you are still using a film camera) - you can easily spend close to $500. If you purchase books and spend other time practicing - the price goes up. Also, think about the reprints. Who will handle those? If you are shooting film, will the prints be numbered or will you have to do that? Reprints can take a lot of time.
    • This is where digital equipment will save you a lot!
  • You MUST practice your lighting and exposures. You will have a hard time making excuses for bad exposure in the wedding pictures. It won't sound right to simply say "the church was dark", or, "my flash was acting up." Do whatever it takes to go to the venues and take sample photos before the wedding. Write down all your photo exposure information (especially if you are using 35mm equipment to photograph the wedding). If you are using digital the information is usually recorded in the camera. Review all the photos, then WRITE DOWN the settings that work best and take that paper with you to the wedding. Make sure you use those settings.
    • I remember a time when I was just getting started in wedding photography and was using 35mm equipment. I went to the church facility on a Wednesday night to take some test photos. After the film was back, I was shocked to see how dark the stage was. I went back and took another set of test photos and was blown away to realize that: my camera meter, light meter, and eye were ALL somehow off from what the actual images recorded. I am so glad I took the test photos in the first place - and that I went back and did more experimenting when the first batch were off. I had never before, or since then, seem the same situation (where my light meter, camera meter, and eye were all off) and still don't know what in the world happened that caused the photos to be dark (and no, it wasn't the processing - because other images were mixed into that roll that turned out fine, and when I went back for another test shoot I achieved the same results).
    • Even with practice there are still little details that can make or break your exposures. Sunshine streaming through a window or a cloudy day can all make differences. Or, you could experience a slight technical issue with your equipment. A perfect example of that happened to me several years ago. I was photographing the procession from near the front of the church. As the grandparents came in I took their picture, but I didn't think my flash "sounded" or looked like it had fired as much as it should have for the proper exposure. The interesting thing was that it HAD fired. I quickly began troubleshooting and found out the flash shoe had slid back the tiniest bit in its holder and was not fully synchronized with the camera, EVEN though it was still firing. The photo of the grandparents came out underexposed - BUT, because I noticed something was wrong and fixed it, the rest of the wedding procession (including the wedding party) turned out perfect. This is why you must KNOW your equipment.
  • You MUST fully know your equipment and have backup equipment ready to use. One camera is not enough. One lens is not enough. One flash is not enough. Fifteen rolls of film are not enough. 3GB of memory cards are not enough... Surely you get the idea? Simply borrowing, and bringing along with you, a spare camera will not work. You must know how to use it. Make sure all your equipment works and that you have fresh batteries (and lots of spares) on hand. Ask yourself if you would be able to shoot the entire wedding with your backup camera setup - and whether the bride and groom would be pleased with the photos. If you are using film, bring twice as much as you think you will need.
  • If you are shooting film, do NOT have it processed at a drugstore or discount store. Film can be damaged, destroyed, and lost. You need to take the film somewhere (preferably a professional lab) that has a good track record and will lessen the chance of loss. In fact, you should probably shoot with both cameras throughout the day, and process both sets of film at different photo labs to minimize chances of loss. Sounds kind of paranoid, doesn't it? These are all very reasonable precautions to take - and underscore the importance of what you are planning to do. If this sounds like too much work or hassle, please refer to my previous advice and hire a professional. I have had personal, family snapshots lost and damaged at consumer labs, discount stores, and even large discount warehouse stores. Even labs that cost more and have a better track record (semipro stores would be similar to a Wolf Camera) are not as safe as true, professional labs. The drawback to using a safe, professional lab is often the cost, it can easily cost $25-$30 to have a single roll of 35mm processed and printed. However, no one ever said wedding photography was cheap.
  • If you are shooting digital, make sure you handle the memory cards carefully. This goes without saying, but is critically important. I have a small, portable hard drive that my assistant backs up the memory cards to at the wedding. I keep a few empty memory cards in my front right pocket. Completed cards go in the front left. From there they go to my assistant to back up, and then they go into a specific spot in the camera bag. I store the backup hard drive separate from the camera bag, so that if the camera bag was stolen (which is something I guard against during weddings) I would still have a copy of all the images.
    • To give you an idea of how important the memory cards are after a wedding: If I am driving (or flying) cross-country to a wedding I will not transport all copies of the wedding images in the car with me. What if I were involved in a fiery automobile accident? The couple would be left without images. I will bring a small shipping box with me and arrange for a UPS pick-up at the house of the bride or groom's family. After the wedding I put my backup hard drive into the box, seal it shut, and give it to the family to put on their step. That way a copy of the images is transported back separately from me.
    • You can never be too careful with the memory cards and images.
    • When I return from a wedding the first thing I do is to download all the images to my system and then burn a copy of all images to DVD. The DVD's are then stored off-site. This is usually completed that very night.
    • If I have a problem with a corrupt memory card I always move on to the next memory card. I will then use photo-restore software to recover the images on the memory card. I have experienced a few memory card failures over the years (I blame most on my camera or my computer Operating System) and I have always been able to recover all images from the memory card via Photorescue software. However, if I have any questions about a card having a problem I will always move to a fresh card.
    • If you think you've somehow lost a memory-card worth of images you need to be careful. No reason to panic when Photorescue can restore the images. Even if you fill a card with images and then format it - the images are still there! The main danger is if you were to fill a card, format it, and then refill it with new images, in that case you would lose all of the original images. I guard against this by NEVER formatting a card at a wedding. The night before a wedding as I prep my gear I will go through and make sure every card in my bag has been formatted. This way I never have to format a card on wedding day.
    • If you were confident that you lost a memory card of images, the best chance you'll have of redoing the images is at the wedding on wedding day.
  • Spend as much time as possible preparing for, and practicing, before the wedding. Buy books that deal with wedding photography. Take the book out and do practice photo sessions. Not including the time I spent learning photography up to the point of my first wedding, I easily spent 120 hours getting ready for that wedding.
  • Consider having a "backup" photographer taking snap shots throughout the day. This is a touchy bit of advice and must be handled carefully. You don't need several photographers taking hundred's of pictures throughout the day and getting into each other's way. However, it would be nice to know that some images are being captured by someone else throughout the day on a separate camera. Some people might have a friend work as their "assistant" and might loan the friend their "backup" camera to use during the day. Or, you might ask a friend who has a camera to take photos on their camera throughout the day. On the other hand, if you know guests will have cameras and be taking pictures throughout the wedding, you might not need to ask any one in particular to shoot some backup for you.
  • Again, be VERY careful how you track and manage the exposed film and/or digital memory cards. At one of my weddings I changed rolls of film during the procession. When shooting film at a wedding you must constantly watch the film counter and be aware of where you are at. Most rolls of professional 35mm film have 36 exposures. If the procession is about to start and you're on #33 - you are setting yourself up for a problem. As it is, I had been watching my counter and was shooting more than usual for the procession. Since I had attended the rehearsal I knew I had some time in-between the flower girls/ring bearer and the bride. So, during that time I changed film (good thing I had spare film in my pocket - something else that is very important on wedding day: always have spare film and/or memory cards in your pocket, there will be times that you need to change and are away from your camera bag). After changing film and carefully putting the exposed roll into my opposite pocket (for me, unexposed goes in the right pocket, exposed stuff in the left - which is primarily covered by my battery pack - so it's easy to put in but harder to get out), I moved to the back of the church and continued photography. During the ceremony my assistant and I transferred the film to the "exposed" bag and checked our roll numbers. We found a roll of exposed film missing. I knew it was the roll from up front but had no idea what happened to it. I had to keep photographing the wedding ceremony despite being VERY concerned about that roll of film. As soon as the ceremony was over I headed up to the spot I had been at for the procession and didn't see anything. As my heart sank a couple caught my attention and held out a roll of film, saying, "We saw this fall off the chair as you headed for the back and thought you might need it." I thanked them, and breathed a huge sigh of relief.
    • Digital is especially easy to lose because so many images can fit on one card. I've heard of wedding photographers losing ALL of the images from a wedding because their cards were stolen or lost in an airport security checkpoint.
    • After shooting a film wedding, the film doesn't leave my person until I'm safely home. Even then, I treat them like gold. If I stop a restaurant for dinner on the way back from the wedding I will take the memory cards into the restaurant in my pocket; I don't leave them in the car.
    • For digital weddings, I carefully track my exposed memory cards and, as soon as a card is shot, I download the images to a portable hard disk. That way, if my cards were lost or stolen I would still have the images on the portable hard disk.
  • With digital - you don't have to change "film" every 36 exposures. But you DO have to be aware of the buffer. With my D1x, each compressed RAW photo would take 15 seconds to save, and it only had a 6 shot buffer. I could fire off 6 photos very quickly, but would then have almost a minute and a half before I could take another. I couldn't shut the camera off during that time because I would lose the images in the buffer. Cameras are doing better now (and I've had my buffer upgraded on the D1x), but you need to be aware of how many images you have left on your memory card and how full the buffer is. Most cameras, as you near the end of a memory card and fill up the buffer with a number of images, the camera will then lock (not allow you to take any new photos) until it has had a chance to save all the images in the buffer to the now-full memory card.

Enter your e-mail address on the left to receive the tips.You've read this far! I suspect that anyone who is going to wade through this much "text" about wedding photography truly has an interest in learning more. You're about half-way through this page - so don't stop reading now! Not only do I have a bunch more information on this page, but at the very bottom of this page I link to three other web sites that have wedding photography information targeted to amateurs.

In addition to this page of text-tips, I would also like to offer to e-mail you 8 pages of additional tips - and these pages include color photos to go along with them (sample at right)! Because of how many people have been helped by this page of information, I have wanted to create an inexpensive, comprehensive, eBook on wedding photography. To get started, I put together an 8-page PDF of tips.

If you are willing to receive an e-mail announcement from me when I release my eBook (I don't have an ETA for when the book will be ready as I've had to put the project on hold), as a "thank you" I would like to send you the 8 pages of additional wedding photography tips. All you have to do is enter your e-mail address below. I WILL NOT SPAM YOU!!

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NOW - back to the important stuff! Wedding photography....

  • What equipment should I use to photograph weddings?
    • For film, use professional 35mm equipment or better. Make sure you know how to use your equipment. There is no particular brand that is required. The important thing is that you know how to use your gear and can take good pictures with it.
    • When I started photographing weddings I had a Nikon N90s (with the extended grip/battery holder), a SB-26 flash, and a few lenses. I carried an old (but reliable), manual Nikon camera as a backup camera and would put a few rolls of film through that one as well. Over time, I added new lenses, another camera body, another flash unit, and additional wedding photography books (usually a book or two before each wedding).
    • In the modern area of digital cameras, I would recommend a DSLR (the image quality tends to be higher on DSLR's than on point and shoots) that is at least 5 megapixel's.
    • An external flash shoe is required for bounce flash.
  • What digital camera do you use to photograph weddings?
    • I use the Nikon D1x. I went fully digital in March of 2002. The camera does a fantastic job, and I have only discovered a few challenges:
      • No compensation to recover blown highlights (Canon cameras can pull an extra 2 f-stops if the image is overexposed and it was shot in RAW format – Nikon cannot). In fact, this was somewhat misleading when I purchased the camera. I was under the impression that I would be able to recover some of the highlights by using the advanced RAW features in Nikon Capture.
      • Small buffer and slow writes (takes 10-15 seconds to save a compressed RAW image – only has a 6 shot RAW buffer). In order to switch between compressed RAW images (4 megabyte file and 15 seconds to save) and uncompressed RAW images (8 megabyte file size and 5 seconds to save) - there must not be any shots currently in the buffer. I switch back and forth at weddings between compressed and uncompressed and have to think ahead.
      • Since I wrote the review, Nikon came out with a buffer upgrade. I had the buffer upgraded ($250) and it now shoots 21 JPG's or 14 RAW images. My only concern with the increased buffer size is the random memory card error - which, if I didn't notice the buffer was jammed, would cause me to shoot the entire buffer of images and then realize it was jammed and have to lose all the images in the buffer. So far, that has not happened at a wedding and I have appreciated the 14 shot buffer (occasionally maxing it out or coming close to it).
      • Automatic white balance is somewhat spotty (I manually set the WB in all wedding photos after the wedding in Nikon Capture - that takes about 2 hours). If the white balance was more accurate to begin with, I probably wouldn't have to both with that extra step. Also, a lot of photographers don't do much post-wedding image correction until the couple chooses their actual images - if I were to do that it would also save me quite a bit of time.
    • I don't have current recommendations on "best buys" for cameras. I would recommend you visit the following web sites for detailed reviews. In particular, I like the "pro's and con's" that DPReview (when I'm buying a camera I'm as interested in knowing what it DOESN'T do well as what it DOES well - or CLAIMS to do well).
    • I now use a Nikon D200 and am looking at purchasing the Nikon D300.
  • What exposure should I use for a candlelight wedding?
    • Practice, practice, practice. Learn how to use your camera's meter and take a reading to find out the proper exposure. It will vary depending upon how many candles are lit and whether there is any additional ambient light nearby. I can't give you any exact settings that are guaranteed to work. Practice at your own house (or the church) ahead of time. Obviously, an 800 speed film (or equivalent ISO on a DSLR), a good tripod, and a nice lens (with an aperture of at least 2.8, but preferably 1.4) will help.
  • Any tips on photographing a candlelit procession?
    • There almost isn't any way to conveniently get great photos in dim lighting during a candlelit procession. Some ideas for things to try:
      • Sometimes they will have the lights on during the procession and then dim them for the ceremony.
      • You could stand on one side of the aisle, put a 3'x5' sheet of white (glossy) posterboard on the opposite side of the aisle, set your flash to bounce sideways, and hit the posterboard. It'll look odd to have a sheet of posterboard over there, but the results should be beautiful.
      • You could always try a dim available-light shoot (make sure you practice in advance with the same lighting conditions). You might need to bump the ISO as high as possible (even if it's grainy), shoot wide open (perhaps buy a 50mm F1.4 lens - I think they are about $250) and do a natural light shot.
      • If the ceiling is fairly low (and white), you could bounce off of it.
      • You could buy another flash unit and set it up on the opposite side of the aisle and flash with that. You'd have to work to try and avoid harsh lighting and shadows between the two flash units, but that might also look rather nice.
      • If you are shooting a candlelit wedding remember that it is OK for the photos to be a bit dark. Your job is to record the event, and the event will be dim/dark. Don't make it look like daylight!
  • What are the largest prints that can be made from 35mm film?
    • Prints can be made as large you want. However, they will start to be grainy. On the other hand, medium format prints also get grainy when enlarged. I have run 11x14 prints from a cropped 35mm negative and been satisfied with the results (although I now get far better from my digital camera).
  • What lenses work the best for wedding photography?
    • It depends upon your style. A common lens is a 35-70. The biggest issue is often the maximum aperture available on the lens. Try to use lenses that have a max aperture of f2.8 or greater (yes, those lenses ARE more expensive - but they are worth it). A good selection of lenses that has worked well for me: 17-35 f2.8; 35-80 f2.8, and a 80-200 f2.8.
    • The most important part of the lens is the maximum aperture. Professional lenses are usually F2.8. That is a huge advantage when shooting indoor bounce-flash and available light. Consumer lenses are usually F4.5-5.6. If at all possible, get professional lenses.
  • What film do you recommend for photographing weddings?
    • Almost any type should work fine - even consumer grade. However, it would be best to use Professional grade film - preferably Kodak Portra 160 NC or 400 NC, or Fuji NPS and NPH. These films have less contrast and will show more detail in the white wedding dress and black tuxedo than consumer film.
  • What type of digital camera should I buy?
    • If you are serious about photography, try to buy a DSLR. That way you will be able to purchase separate, high quality, lenses. A resolution of at least 6 megapixel is important. That's about all the specific advice I can give. Keep searching the web and make sure to visit dpreview.com for detailed camera reviews.
    • The flash unit is as important, if not more important than the camera. I have a really old Canon Point & Shoot digital camera - but it has an external flash shoe. With it, I can take indoor bounce-flash photos that have incredible lighting; no one would guess they come from an old digital camera.
    • When buying a digital camera, make sure you get a quality external flash that allows you to rotate the flash head vertically and horizontally.
  • How do I avoid harsh shadows when taking outdoor pictures?
    • As your photography improves you will quickly learn that the old adage, "shoot with the sun over your shoulder" is not a good rule to live by. The sun causes harsh shadows and lots of squinting. However, if you are serious about your photography you are going to have to deal with photos that are outdoors in the sun (at times). The best way to deal with that: practice (notice that bit of advice keeps coming up?). Use fill flash, reflectors, any nearby shade, and take a bunch of pictures. Write down your settings and see which ones look the best. Later, go out side and do it all again.
    • When I am outside I try to shoot on cloudy days or when the sun is setting (sunset is a wonderful time to take outdoor wedding portraits).
    • If you are out on a sunny day, most photographers will try to put the subjects into a shady area for photos. You'll have to keep an eye on the background to make sure it's not too bright for the shade you are using for your exposure.
    • Another option is to put the sun behind or perpendicular to your subjects and use fill flash to illuminate them. You might try using you camera in full auto mode while in the sun with -1 or -2 flash compensation. That is often what I'll use when I'm in the sun and experiencing constant light changes.
    • When I am outside in the full sun, I usually shoot with my flash (straight ahead, automatic, -1 to -3 compensation).
  • What is the best camera for wedding photography?
    • This is one of those questions that doesn't have any one "right" answer. The best camera will vary among wedding photographers - though there will be a variety of cameras that are being used at any one time. First issue would likely be what type of film format you are using: medium format, 35mm, or digital. I wrote an article about those different types of cameras for EZineArticles.com.
    • There is always an advantage to owning a camera that a certain manufacturer considers to be "professional". The bodies are usually more rugged (they normally do not have pop-up flashes) and the feature sets are usually going to be more in line with what a professional will need. Granted, any SLR or DSLR will likely be functional - especially if you know how to use it. On the other hand, if you have X dollars available, you might be better off buying two non professional cameras (perhaps $1,000 DSLR's) so you'll have a quality backup camera as opposed to one truly professional camera.

Should I use a filter during wedding photography?

    • I do not use any special effects filters for my wedding photography. I do have UV filters on each of my lenses, though their primary reason is to protect the front lens element on my lenses. In fact, whenever I buy a lens I ALWAYS buy a UV (clear) filter that is instantly put on the lens and never comes off. Filters are easy to replace - scratched lenses aren't.
    • A lot of wedding photography special effects have been overdone in the past: the "soft" focus picture, the "star effect" filter, etc. I shy away from some of those effects - though some people are able to effectively use them.
    • Photographers that use black and white film might want to consider the use of filters. Otherwise, a red flower might appear the exact same shade of gray as the green grass. Filters are used to darken the reds, or the greens, etc. Since I use a digital camera, I capture all data in color, and, later, I am able to selectively convert to black and white. At that time, I will tweak the saturation of reds, greens, and blues, to get a custom black and white file with far more flexibility than if I used film and filters. My "black and white wedding photography" page shows some examples.

What kind of flash do you use, and do you have any lighting tips? (this is a critically important section - for some more tips related to lighting, sign up to be notified about my upcoming ebook - I'll immediately e-mail you a PDF with some extra lighting tips and examples of bounce lighting!)

    • For the portraits, I often used two Nikon SB80-dx's in manual mode (along with the camera being in manual exposure mode). I tried automatic some over the years but would never get consistent lighting (the men, in their tuxedos, always had more flash than the women, in their light colored dresses, did). My second light is usually on a light stand. At the rehearsal night I'll usually setup my lights and do the testing so I know exactly what to do on wedding day (plus, with digital, I can review the images on the screen as I setup).
    • Now, I have purchased White Lightning flash units and have been very pleased with them. I use umbrellas and a sync cord to the camera. No longer do I have to worry about the low power output from my SB80's.
    • For regular indoor (non-ceremony) lighting I use a basic and very gentle lighting approach. If there is one thing I do not like, it's the full blast, F11 flash with the black background and the harsh shadows that so many photographers used to use (and many still do!). I always try to bounce my flash off walls (or, if walls aren't available, ceilings). Otherwise, I'll point the flash head up with a diffuser on it and slow down the shutter speed. Because of the f2.8 lenses I use (often shooting at f2.8) and the D1x camera (which does an incredible job at ISO 400 and 800), I am usually shooting natural light with some fill-flash (though, again, it's never direct fill flash unless I'm outside). In fact, most indoor weddings I'm shooting ISO 400, f2.8, 1/60th with flash bounced off a wall (my Nikon SB80DX).
      • Bouncing off the side walls is probably the key to my unique indoor flash lighting style. I try to only use a little bit of flash and mix it into the scene, and when it comes from the side (instead of straight on) the result is usually beautiful. Anytime I'm taking photojournalistic photos in a building that has light-colored walls I get excited! Even gyms! It's amazing how natural the gentle bounced light ends up looking. I've even stood in such a way as to be able to bounce flash off a white pillar about 5~10 feet away (in an otherwise dark paneled church) to photograph a wedding procession.
    • Make sure you do lots of practice with the lighting - it's a crucial part of the wedding photography.

Wedding Photography Books

  • I recommend you buy at least one new wedding photography book for each wedding. I have setup a wedding photography book review page where link to some of the books I've bought over the years and provide feedback/reviews on which ones I feel are most beneficial.

Do you show your digital pictures at the wedding reception, for the guests to choose the photos they want?

  • I am not the type of photographer that shows or projects my photos at the reception for the guests to order prints. My view is that the reception is to celebrate the wedding, and it is not an opportunity for me to “peddle my wares” and try to make additional sales. On top of that, during the reception I am completely focused on taking additional photos and it’s VERY rare for me to sit down at all (whether it is to eat or rest). If I wanted to begin selling prints to guests I would likely launch an e-commerce application on the web site.

How many pictures are typically taken at a wedding?

Good question… I’ve found that the amount of photos I take varies quite a bit per wedding. The factors seem to be:

  • How long I am at the wedding (I can easily take 100~150 shots per hour; I’ve been at some 10+ hour weddings and my shot count is usually quite high for those; on shorter weddings I’m usually pushing myself harder to make sure I get a good amount of quality images).
  • It’s hard to phrase this one: but, how “scenic” the wedding is, or, how much action is going on. At a wedding involving a couple from large families, with lots of friends and guests, held at a scenic location, with lots of cute kids running around, and a large wedding party, combined with a long wedding service and lots of formal photos ---- I tend to end up with a lot more shots.
  • Whether or not I have an assistant, and my assistant's skill level (my clients don’t get a choice of assistants – but, generally, the ones I’ve been using lately are family and they are skilled). I’ll generally sync all the clocks in the cameras before a wedding. My assistant will usually shoot the backup camera (which saves JPG’s). My camera shoots raw NEF’s. After the wedding, I’ll dump all the photos from both cameras into one folder, sort by time, and rename them with a four-digit number (0001, 0002, 0003, etc.). Then, I sort by file type and pull all the JPG’s out. The raw NEF’s are processed separately. After processing all the NEF’s I’ll have an idea of how the wedding is looking, and whether there are any gaps. I then pull up the assistant’s JPG’s and go through looking for the best shots. The more skilled my assistant, the more images I’ll use. The lower my shot count is, the more I’ll use (assuming there are good ones to choose from). If most of the shots are duplicate’s of my shots, I’ll use less. The larger the wedding, the better the chance the assistant was somewhere different than I was and was getting different images – the more I’ll use. Sometimes I’ll include 20 shots from my assistant, other times 100 or more.
  • The more duplicates and rejects I have – the less photos the couple will see. Although I’ve found myself pulling out less and less images over time. I definitely try to include as many as possible for the couple. At this point, I usually only pull ones that the exposure is way off (and not salvageable), or ones where the person in the photo would be embarrassed (eyes were blinking, head was at a funny angle, mouth was opening to say something, etc.). I’m quicker to pull such shots out when I have another one that is a similar shot but higher quality (for example, I usually notice when my exposure/flash is bad and will try to quickly reshoot).
  • Keep in mind that all of the above represents “me” – not others. Other photographers' shot counts will vary significantly. I know of some that are still shooting medium format (EXPENSIVE to process!) film and only take 300 or 400 shots at a wedding (I couldn’t imagine taking so few). And yet I know of others that shoot more than 2,000 (digital) shots at each wedding (which sounds like a lot to me). Others say that only 100 or so images end up in the wedding album – so why bother shooting lots of images. My thought is: I shoot every single good shot I can, and my goal is to give my clients the best possible 500, 750, or even 1,000 images to choose from when they build their album; but I don’t ever shoot mediocre or bad shots just to try and bump up the shot count – I’m always looking for good compositions/scenes/lighting/moments. My contract gives a low number: stating that I usually deliver 400-500, or more. But I don’t guarantee a specific number.

My current, delivered, shot count for weddings seem to be between 800 and 1,300. My RAW shot count (especially depending upon how many shots my assistant takes on the backup camera) often runs between 1,000 and 1,700.

Question: "My friend is a pro photographer and she only shoots in "P" (auto/program) mode; I like to shoot in "M" (manual) mode, but her pictures come out very nice and my pictures come out very blurry. Do I need to use a tripod?"

Answer:

I’m a little surprised your pro friend only shoots in “P” (program) mode… I’m also surprised you shoot only in “M” (manual) mode. Perhaps you do that because you’ve heard you get better results that way? (which is not necessarily true) Also, blurry results may not be only a result of manual mode. If I set my camera in manual mode with a shutter speed of 1/5000th of a second, it will not be blurry (but it will likely be dark). If I set my camera in Program mode and it selects a shutter speed of 1 second, and I handhold the shot, it WILL be blurry.

Exposure Modes:
I will often shoot manual mode when I know the exposure will be consistent (perhaps during formals, or the wedding ceremony). But I will very rarely ever use “full program” mode. Often, when I want the camera to help with exposure settings it is because I’m in a situation where I don’t have time to be constantly setting the exposure. That includes a lot of my photojournalistic coverage. However, in almost all of those settings, I still want some control. Interestingly enough, the control I usually want is over the shutter speed. As a result of that, I will usually set my camera in “shutter-priority” mode. So, the vast majority of my photojournalistic shots that are indoors with bounced flash, will be with shutter-priority exposure.

Indoors (with bounce-flash), I usually set my ISO to 400 (but will bump it up a bit if the interior is dark), and set the shutter speed to 1/120th. Again, if the facility is dark I’ll slow it down, perhaps all the way to 1/60th  - but I have to be careful for blur when shooting at 1/60th. Another factor is what type of zoom lens I’m using. The greater the zoom, the faster shutter speed I need. Most of my shots are on my 35-70 zoom (which has a 1.5 focal multiplier on my D1x); but I do sometimes go with a wide-angle 17-35 (in which case hand-holding 1/60th isn’t so bad); but when I use my 80-200 I really have to bump the shutter speed up. In these indoor situations, I really don’t care about the f-stop. I would rather let the camera shoot at F2.8 and not have a lot of focus (and have a more natural looking photo with a nicely light background), then shoot at F11 and make it look like we’re in a cave.

If I am out in the mixed sun-and-shade, I might use full-program mode. Or, I might still stick with shutter priority to make sure my shutter speed is as fast as possible.

And, all the time, I’m mixing in manual shots for when I want control over shutter speed and f-stop.

Blurry Photos:
So yes, your blurry photos might be a result of your manual mode – but that is only if you are setting your shutter speed too slow. A good general rule of thumb for hand-held shots is that your shutter speed should never be slower than your focal length. If you are shooting at 50mm, try to be at least 1/50th of a second or faster. If you have a zoom lens that is a 200mm zoom, you’ll want to be at 1/200th of a second (or faster).

But yes, a tripod will help fix blurry photos. It’s just that it is impractical to carry a tripod around all the time. I try to use a tripod whenever I possibly can. At weddings, that would mean the formal photos as well as the ceremony photos. In fact, getting natural-light photos during the ceremony often requires a slow shutter speed (sometimes 1/8th of a second!) – doing those shots handheld would be impossible!

Question: "What image editing software do you use? "

Answer:

  • I use Adobe Photoshop for editing images. It is amazing the difference between a raw, unedited photo, and one that has been properly processed. Setting the White Balance (although I usually set that in Nikon Capture using the eye dropper), rotating to remove any angle (assuming the angle wasn't put in intentionally), cropping for the best possible composition, setting a white and dark point, and then brightening the overall light (very often I am bumping the lighting up a bit), and adding some color so the image "pops" a bit better (without adding any color to the skin tones). Most of the above actions can be done automatically via "Photoshop Actions" (similar to macro's). Sometimes I think that 50% or more of the "final photo" impact is due to Photoshop. If Photoshop is not an option at this point you may consider Paint Shop Pro. It is much less expensive and I have heard it does a lot of what Photoshop does.

As I mentioned, I use Nikon Capture for processing RAW images. Since my D1x doesn't do a perfect job of setting the white balance during the wedding, I'll go back through and open all the photos and set the white balance manually. Sometimes, the ceremony and formal photos will be OK because I am able to set the WB (accurately) in camera for those. For the rest of the day, I usually shoot in auto-WB mode so I don't have to worry about the White Balance.

Question: "I love blurred background images.  If you have any tips to this technique it would be greatly appreciated."

Answer:

  • This is another one of those effects that a lot of amateurs want to learn about (and it is simple to achieve) - but for some reason there doesn't seem to be a lot of helpful information on how to do it!
  • The key is to use a wide-open aperture and/or a large zoom lens.
  • The standard approach is to use a lens with a really low aperture (f2.8, or even f1.8 or f1.4). I have an 80-200 f2.8 lens which I love for that effect. By setting the lens at f2.8 and using the zoom portion of the lens, the background will be beautifully blurred out. Wide angle lenses don’t have the same effect (using an F2.8 lens on a 17mm wide-angle would not result in much background blur). Sometimes I will specifically be set up with my big lens quite a ways from someone (30 or 40 feet) so that I can shoot wide open and blur the background. You need to also make sure the background isn’t close to the people as the distance is what results in the blur.
  • Another option is to try and do the blur in Photoshop. Generally, this doesn't work for background distance blurs (because selecting the background can be very hard). This approach works better for simply blurring the edges to a photo. It can be hard to know how much blur to use so that it doesn’t look too fake. Sometimes I’ll start with a selection right around the people (it has to be a "soft", not a "hard" selection) and blur the outside edges, then I’ll move the selection a ways from them and do another blur, and then again – so that the blur actually gets more obvious as it gets away from the people.
  • I’ve also heard of “Lensbabies” – which are supposed to add options for selective focus, but I have never bought or used them: http://www.lensbabies.com/

Question: Do you allow other photographers to take pictures at the wedding?

Answer: Yes, I do. And I created a separate page to explain to couples my philosophy in allowing other photographers to take pictures.

Also, here is a page which shows a few angles I always try to get at weddings.

Question: Where are some good places to arrange the light units at the ceremony if you only have one softbox and one umbrella?

Answer:

I usually don’t use strobes or artificial lighting during the ceremony. If I had to, I would try and use it from a distance and have it be VERY broad/gentle by the time it hits the front platform/stage. In your example I would probably not use the softbox or umbrella, but would try to simply have the strobes at the very back of the church, shining at the back (hopefully white) wall. If the back wall wasn't white I would probably find a way to attach a posterboard or two back there and have the strobe bounce off of that. The light would be very gentle by the time it hit the front (because the light was reflected off the back wall which would make it a large light source, otherwise, the further an umbrella is from someone the harsher the light becomes because, in essence, the smaller the light source becomes). Actually, I think I’ve done something like that before at one church (using a back wall that was white) – but usually I’ll just use fast lenses (f1.4 or f2.8), a tripod, a high ISO (which does even better with some of the newer cameras, like the D300), and slower shutter speeds (I have successfully shot ceremonies with shutter speeds at 1/15th of a second – but I shoot A LOT of shots because I know that some will be blurred).

If bouncing off the back wall isn’t an option I would try to have the lights set up equidistant from the front on both the left and right side. I would try to get another umbrella and would use two umbrella’s instead of the softbox (the softbox works great for close-up lighting, it doesn’t do very well at distances of 20, 30, or 40 feet).

For lighting the formal photos after the ceremony in the sanctuary I generally set up two umbrellas, large ones that seem to give wide, but gentle, coverage. I try to use as little light from the umbrellas as possible because I’m not usually strobe-lighting the background, and I don’t want a dark background behind the people. Usually a slower shutter speed will help bring up the ambient light in the background, and it isn’t uncommon for me to use a shutter speed of 1/30th during the formals just for that purpose.

Question: is it possible to photograph a wedding without any flash of any sort? I use a Canon Rebel XTi and never use a flash for my personal photos. I see lots of lighting info with flash stuff, but I really don't want to invest in that right now. I could rent them, if needed, but I don't really know how to use them at this point. The bride contacted me a week ago and her wedding is this Saturday (not much time to prep). The wedding is in a well-lit church at 11am, then going directly to reception at a well-lit hotel. Again, small wedding, not requesting many formal shots.

Answer:

Personally, I think it would be tough to shoot a wedding without any flash. I do know of some wedding photographers who used to shoot for newspapers and who prefer to shoot without any flash. Their images have a certain look to them, and they are often shooting with extremely high-speed lenses (F 1.4) and high film ISO’s (800 and higher) in order to get the proper lighting. And so, if your current style of photography involves no-flash lighting and the bride has seen/liked your photos: then it would seem fine to shoot the wedding the same way.

On the other hand, if you find yourself in a situation with some dim lighting (perhaps a hallway) you might be tempted to use the pop-up flash - and that would be a bad thing. As you know from my site, I believe the key to successful flash photography (especially at a wedding) is to make it such that it is impossible to tell a flash was used. And, with a pop-up flash, there is almost no way to hide it (I have seen some diffusers for pop-up flash and you would want one if you HAVE to resort to using one). The only way I have found to effectively "hide" flash is to use a full-size flash and bounce it off a ceiling or wall. If you have been using a pop-up flash up until now it would be tough to suddenly learn bounce flash in time for the wedding. So, I guess, the bottom line is this: if the bride has liked your current photos, you should be fine to shoot the wedding however you are currently shooting your photos. The only concern would be if the bride is expecting something different than what you are currently shooting. And again, for me, I would prefer using no flash (which would likely require nice F 1.4 or F 1.8 lenses) than using a pop-up flash.

Question: I am photographing a wedding this month and will be dealing with divorced parents/step-parents. There is animosity between the divorced parents and the children involved. When doing the formal photos how do you deal with this type of situation. The bride says she only wants a picture of her and her mother. She does not want the mother in the formal family pictures. Suggestions???

Answer:

Divorces are tragic and can result in complications to the wedding photography. That's why I try to map out all the formal photos and groupings ahead of time. This is my philosophy when it comes to the photos and divorce:

  • I'm there for the bride and groom. The parents have made their decisions and have to live with them. If there are hard feelings and the bride/groom don't want photos with a certain relative, I'm not going to force them to.
  • On the other hand, if the bride/groom invite their parents (or the parents' new spouses) to the wedding, I'll usually end up taking pictures of them because they are there.
  • I try to be as conciliatory as possible during the photos. I don't want to be the one making a bad situation worse. I want to be known as the person who tried to make the best of any situation!
  • It has been very common at the weddings I've done which involve divorced parents for the divorced parents to be willing to be in a combined photo with the couple, one on each side.
    • Then, each of the divorced parents will usually ask for a separate photo with the couple and I'll usually do it because it is quick/easy.
  • It helps to know who the divorced parents are so that you don't accidentally ask them to stand together!

As to the specific situation you mentioned when the bride doesn't want the mother in the formal family photo - you'll have to work to make sure that happens without causing a situation. I would be careful to not announce "OK, all the Bride's family come up now" because the mother will likely come at that time. I would specifically call up those that are needed.

Depending upon how obvious you were being with the photography you could call up some, take the shot, then add the mother in and take another shot. The bride could then choose which photo she wanted to have printed later on.

In summary, the key is to know exactly who should be in which photo ahead of time and arrange the group photos so you are adding people to the grouping and taking shots, and then perhaps subtracting people and taking shots.

Wedding Photography Book Reviews

I recommend every beginner buy at least one wedding photography book prior to each wedding they do.

  • My shelf has a variety of wedding photography books that have been very helpful to me in developing my eye and giving me real-world practical advice (although I still have a long ways to go). The books differ somewhat in their approach (as each wedding photographer will), from VERY traditional to VERY photojournalistic. The goal of this section is to provide you reviews and convenient links to the some of the wedding photography books on Amazon.com.
  • I have yet to find a book that targets advice towards beginners, and one that is comprehensive. That's why I'm working on creating an eBook.
  • However, I still believe there is much value in the currently-published wedding photography books. I suggest you buy at least one book before your first wedding. If you continue to photograph weddings, I recommend building the price of each book (they are often about $25, and at Amazon.com you can get free shipping if you spend $25 or more, sometimes these books are available very inexpensively used) into your cost for the wedding. .
  • My original goal was to simply link to the Amazon.com book pages. However, I decided to join their referral program and put any credits to good use. When you click the following links, the book will cost the same amount as if you simply visited Amazon.com and searched for the books, but I will receive a payment (usually 5% of your purchase) from Amazon.com (all referral credits are donated to charity). If you visit Amazon.com from my links they will only give credit if you buy within 24 hours.
    • ANY item you buy from Amazon.com (books, electronics, camera stuff, etc.) within 24 hours of clicking one of the links below will result in Amazon giving me some type of referral payment. If you decide to buy one of these books (or any Amazon.com product) in a month or two, I would be grateful if you came back to my site and re-clicked the link (again, it doesn't cost you anything extra).
    • ALL my Amazon.com referral income is donated to an Overseas Mission Agency. So, by simply clicking any of these links below before you buy ANY product from Amazon.com, you will be, in effect, making a donation.

2nd Edition:
Wedding Photography,
Art, Business & Style,
Steve Sint

cover
Current Price: $16.47

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Wedding Photography,
Art, Business & Style,
1st Edition
(out of print)

cover
Only available used.

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Wedding Photography, Art, Business, & Style, by Steve Sint

  • Steve Sint e-mailed me and let me know his original book is out of print. He released an updated book in the Fall of 2005.
  • I have to confess, I don't have his new book - but I know that his older book was my top recommendation for a "first wedding photography" book because of his very practical advice. I have to assume he has kept the practical posing examples in the book. Oddly enough, I don't care for the photo on the cover of the new book--it looks like the bride is hugging the statue!
  • I'm including a link to the old book below the new book.
  • Here is the information about the first edition of the book:
  • This is my favorite wedding photography book. For many of my first weddings, before each one, I would pull this book out and spend time rereading and memorizing information.
  • Steve starts off with basic business information - how to start a wedding studio or work for a wedding studio as a "hired gun". He talks about the pros and cons of each. Next, he gets into the issues of how to build a wedding repertoire (which is one of the most challenging aspects of wedding photography). He gives a good overview of the different photos that are necessary to learn to take well. He presents the information in an "extended shot-list" type setting. Giving sample images, text, and other information in-between each photo listing. From pre-cemeremony bridals, through the ceremony, and to the reception - it's all listed. He even discusses practical issues such as exposure (the importance of blurring the rice that is thrown at the couple).
  • The next section is probably the best in the entire book: Framing and Posing. Steve worked with a group of models and gives MANY sample photos of how to arrange single, double, triple, and larger groups of people. He'll show good and bad examples, along with a lot of text explanations. I use many of his tips to this very day.
  • Next,he talks about flash. Some good information (though a bit more in regards to COMPLETELY avoiding straight on "blasted" flash would have been good; but he does get into bouncing off the ceiling and using fill flash) is presented.
  • His equipment section is becoming a bit dated since there are so many digital alternatives that are now available. However, he has some reasonable information about film based cameras and flash systems.
  • His final section is on "relating and selling" - another fantastic section for wedding photographers. I include the negatives with my packages and, as a result, don't have to do much selling. However, if you're looking at learning the business, it's important that you know how to sell - and do it well.
  • All in all, if you can only afford one wedding photography book, I encourage you to get this one. I'm including a list of all my other wedding photography books below and will be organizing them and giving better recommendations as time goes by, but, this is the absolute top recommendation. (Again, ANY money I make from people clicking the link and buying the book will be given to charity)
Wedding Photography,
Rick Ferro

cover
New/differen book: $23.07

   

Wedding Photography, by Rick Ferro

  • It looks like the book I have from Rick Ferro is an older version of the book. I updated the link so that it points at the new book, but I haven't looked at the book yet.
  • My review is based upon his older book:
  • A good book with excellent photos. Rick focuses more on traditional photography. He provides illustrations of his lighting on practically EVERY photo throughout the book (which is very helpful information). He provides a shot list at the back of the book - and the entire book focuses on one section of wedding photography at a time (make-up, posing, ceremony, formals). He doesn't discuss the business aspects as much. His work is excellent, and the best way to use the book is to buy it and put it into practice. It hard to find such beautiful locations as he works in, but, get out and try to find a location with some arches. Setup a light (if that's all you have) or two and see how close you can get to his photos.
  • This is my #2 recommendation for a good, general, wedding photography book.

Elegant Black & White Wedding Photography, Sara Frances

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Current Price: $29.95

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Elegant Black & White Wedding Photography, by Sara Frances

  • This book has LOADS of excellent information. It's a shame it's all focused on black and white! I would suggest this book as a number three priority purchase - right after getting a good, all-around wedding photography book or two.
  • Sara goes into lots of good details. Book is broken up into the following sections:
    • Chapter 1 - Style, Pose, & Composition
    • Chapter 2- Format, Film & Equipment
    • Chapter 3 - Exposure and Lighting
    • Chapter 4 - Creative Postproduction
    • Chapter 5 - Client Relations
  • Sara shoots medium format, 35mm, and digital - so the book has a good balance of information relating to those three camera formats. Like me, she can't stand strong "flash shadows" in the background and will retouch them out of photos when they do appear (she works hard to avoid them and often uses several strobes to light weddings).
  • Some of details that she discusses include: photographer attire, vocal authority, working with an assistant, framing and vision paths, preventing equipment failures, special supplies to carry, the zone system, types of light, reflectors, synchro-sun techniques, combating the problems of strobes (namely: harsh, amateurish-looking straight-on illumination and the terrible looking shadows that also show up in the background); dragging the shutter, editing for impact, 19 postprodution steps.
The Art of Wedding Photography,
Bambi Cantrell
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Current Price: $19.77

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The Art of Wedding Photography, by Bambi Cantrell

Whereas the book by Rick Ferro tends to be a bit more traditional, this book is ALL about wedding photojournalism. Bambi does a FANTASTIC job of covering all aspects of a wedding using the photojournalistic (unposed) style - yet she also includes some good information on quick, simple, yet dynamic posing. Practically everyone who claims to be a photojournalistic photographer (myself included) at some point HAS to learn to take posed photos, yet we want something quick that doesn't end up looking like a regular studio print.

This book is probably one of the most "fun" books. The book is filled with photos and is a bit light on text. She doesn't provided detailed lighting diagrams, but almost every photo has exposure information. If you wonder how she lights some of her ceremony shots, you can figure it out by reading a caption: "canon eos 1n, 85mm f1.2 lens @ f2.8, 1/125th of a second, Kodak t-max P3200 film rated at 1600". She does a lot of work with natural light and her photos are stunningly natural. Sure, some are a bit grainy (from the film) and a lot have fairly low depth of field - but it's a look I prefer to having bright "deer in the headlights" lighting that looks like it was taken in a cave.
 

Innovative Techniques for Wedding Photography,
David Neil Arndt


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Current Price: $29.95

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Innovative Techniques for Wedding Photography, by David Neil Arndt

This is a fun book to own - but isn't a "must-buy" book filled with practical suggestions. David has a lot of good images throughout the book - which is divided into logical sections (new vs. traditional styles, new wedding styles, bridal portraiture styles, selecting film, components of the new styles, the details, etc.).

However, he doesn't go into a lot of practical suggestions or exposure information for the images.

Several images in the book show up multiple times. For example, his image on the front cover appears two places in the book (that's a total of three times, if you include the cover).

Again, a fun book that does have some ideas, but, if you are like me when I was just beginning and only have the funds for a book or two, stick with some of the others until later.

Storytelling Wedding Photography,
Barbara Box
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Current Price: $29.95

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Storytelling Wedding Photography, by Barbara Box

Barbara's book is very similar in style to Bambi Cantrell's book (reviewed above). Barbara uses a lot of high speed, black and white images shot in natural light. If you are trying to develop an eye for photojournalism, this is a good book for you.

She shares a lot of philosophy on what she looks for and watches during the day. Little things like the groom helping the bride adjust her earnings, bustling of the wedding gown, any time the bridal bouquet is put down, etc. She has a little extra freedom to pursue those types of "special" and "unique" photojournalistic shots because she works with her husband, who is responsible for more of the traditional photos.

If you are working with an assistant and you want them to try and get some of the extra little photos, this would be a good book to go over with them.

For example, I have found that some of the best people interaction shots can be taken while the main "posed" formals are being taken - but are best taken from a different camera at a side angle. Those are the types of issues mentioned in the book.

 

Capture the Moment - A Brides' and Photographers' Guide to Contemporary Weddings, Stephen Swain

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Current Price: $28.20

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Capture the Moment

  • Capture the Moment is a book written for brides and photographers. It would have been nice if it it had focused primarily on the photographers point of view. However, Stephen has a very good photojournalistic style - and the book has A TON of pictures in it. He has some really good images spread throughout the book. For example, one of the absolute hardest posed/formal photo to achieve is what I call the "relaxed casual group photo." This is where you have a photo of people that were obviously posed together, but they aren't standing and smiling at the camera - one of them is cutting up, or they are pointing at someone, or talking amongst themselves. Stephen has several of these examples in his book and gives information on how he achieved the photo.
  • Stephen appears to be based in the UK - so some of the facilities and styles look a bit different, but, all in all it's a good book. Not an all inclusive "buy-this-book-first" introduction to wedding photography, but definitely above average for a wedding photography book.
  • The book focuses on most aspects of the wedding: from equipment, to selling yourself, to booking a photographer - then the actual wedding itself, followed by a few pages of photos from a number of weddings.
  • Stephen uses 35mm film cameras.
Professional Techniques for the Wedding Photographer, George Schaubcover

Current Price: $16.47

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Professional Techniques for the Wedding Photographer, by George Schaub

It appears that this book has experienced a much needed update. The original version of the book (which I have) is VERY dated (most photos appear to be from the 70's and 80's). However, I bought the book because he does an excellent job of working through a detailed shot list with lost of examples and information. The book is geared towards the traditional photographer, but, even I, as a wedding photojournalistic, started off extensively using lists and making sure I got all the posed images.

The updated book is an improvement over the original, but retains a very heavy emphasis on formal photos while lacking much of the very practical information in Steve Sint's book.

If you click the link to view the book at Amazon - there are several people that have reviewed the book there.

In Association with Amazon.com

 

Links to other wedding photography FAQ's:

  • Ron Hashiro
  • Nick Stubbs
  • Digital Photography School tips
    • (although one of the tips has to do with setting up a photo slide show at the reception. Usually, I'm too busy at receptions to even get a bite to eat, not to mention taking time to set up a photo slideshow of raw, unedited photos... As such, I would recommend that you, as a beginner, focus just on taking pictures - not displaying them to the guests.)
  • Additional from Digital Photography School (photographing a friends wedding)

Don't forget! I have an 8-page PDF of additional tips (with sample photos) that can be downloaded by those that sign up to be notified when my eBook is released (I WILL NOT SPAM YOU!).

 
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