Last week we started looking at the wedding photography business from the very early enquiry stages right the way through to the initial venue visit. Today is all about the wedding day itself – what happens on a ‘typical’ wedding day, how do I spend my time generally and how do I approach the various stages from a technical aspect. This blog is aimed at anyone interested in the ‘behind-the-scenes’ goings on, whether you’re a bride, groom, fellow wedding photographer or just plain interested to know how it works.
There will be some tech speak but I’ll try to keep it mostly to the end! The focus for this blog is bridal preparation.
This is just my way of doing things – every photographer is different, but this is how I capture my images.
A Typical Wedding Photography Day | Bridal Preparation
Before I even get to the bridal prep segment of the day, I’ve already arrived about 45mins-1 hour early (sometimes more) depending on the distance to the venue. This is to give myself time in case of any issues with traffic, diversions, car trouble etc. I then spend the time before starting syncing my cameras up, checking my gear and generally getting ready to go. I carry 3 cameras to the wedding (all Fujifilm X-Pro 2s), which I sync after the wedding in Lightroom. To do this I get each camera out on the wedding day, take a photograph of my phone displaying the time and then use the time displayed in the picture to edit the metadata before I start culling the photographs.
I often start bridal prep 2 hours before the ceremony (sometimes earlier if the ceremony is being held at a different location). I’ll aim to arrive at bridal preparation on time – obviously being late is a no go, but I also think that being too early can put a little more pressure on the bride as it sometimes feels like there’s less time before the ceremony than there actually is. Once I’ve arrived to bridal preparation I get each of the 3 cameras out again, do any final checks for batteries and cards, then get to work. I’ll usually aim to get a shot or two of the whole room before focusing on any of the smaller details. I like to check with the bride if they’re keen on having detail shots of the dress, shoes, flowers etc and if there’s then anything else they’d like as well. After this, it’s just down to watching for the special little moments. I keep my ears open (not to eavesdrop conversations) to catch any laughter or emotional photographs when they arise.
When the time comes for the bride and bridesmaids to get into their dresses I’ll leave the room and usually try to find the registrars (if it’s a civil ceremony as opposed to a religious one) to have a brief conversation about where they’re happy for me to stand in the ceremony. Every registrar is different so I think it’s always worth checking.
After 15 minutes or so, it’s back to the room where I’ll sometimes get a ‘first look’ picture from the family or bridesmaids. At this stage, if timings aren’t running behind it’ll be back to reportage unless the bride has requested portraits before leaving. Usually there’s not long before the bride is called down to see the registrar, and then it’s on to the ceremony!
It’s worth mentioning that not all weddings have bridal preparation, some will have groomsman prep instead and others will have nothing before the ceremony – I’ll always go with the flow for what the bride and groom want. I enjoy the bridal preparation part of the day and think that it often makes for some good pictures but it’s always down to the couple as to what they’d like to happen.
Gear for the Day
My lens line-up consists of 3 Fujifilm prime lenses – 16mm f/1.4, 23mm f/1.4 and 56mm f/1.2. I honestly don’t find myself wanting or needing anything else for the whole day. Primes completely changed the way I shoot – previously I used a Canon 24-105mm with a 5D MkIII but I was often a little bit ‘zoom-happy’. Primes allow me to know exactly what the shot will look like for each lens before I lift the camera to my eye and force me to think much harder about my composition and focal length selection.
To me, each lens has a character. The 16mm is my fun / big group / party / confetti lens. The 23mm is my go-to reportage/documentary lens. The 56mm is my flattering, good compression lens. I’ll shoot 80% of the day with only the 23mm and 56mm. It’s the dream team in my opinion.
Gear for Bridal Preparation
The establishing shots of the room will usually be taken with the 16mm but after that, unless it’s a very small hotel room, I’ll shoot the entirety of bridal prep with the 23mm and perhaps occasionally use the 56mm if there’s a good amount of space. I aim to use solely natural night at this part of the day – it’s nerve wracking enough for the bride pre-ceremony without having a flash going off in her face every other shot. I normally keep the 16mm in (or just on top of) my bag, which can hold all 3 cameras. The other two are either in my hands, sat where I can grab them easily or on my waist with Spider Black-Widow holsters.