Monday, 11 October 2010

Putting the 'Professional' Into Wedding Photography

There are a lot of blogs and articles out there devoted to the subject of how to be a great wedding photographer - they talk about lists of 'must-have' shots, how to pose people for formal groups, and where to stand the Bride and Groom to get the 'good light'. Whilst this advice is obviously valid, and very useful to those photographer looking to break into wedding photography, they seem to miss something, and that for me is that you shouldn't just aim to be a 'great wedding photographer', you should aim to be a 'great PROFESSIONAL wedding photographer'.

And by 'professional' I don't just mean being paid (though obviously that is a part of it), I mean someone who exhibits professionalism. Even an amateur photographer who is taking pictures at a friend's wedding can exhibit professionalism if they wish to.

For me, the question of how you go about applying professionalism to wedding photography - being a professional wedding photographer - can be answered in one word...


Preparation is not just about making sure you get the right day, and making sure you pitch up to the right church (though obviously it would be considered unprofessional if you got either of those things wrong!), it means being prepared. For anything.

Here are some of my tips for being prepared, and demonstrating profesionalism in wedding photography:

  • You have to have at least 2 of everything. Two camera bodies, lenses, flashes, and twice as many memory cards and spare batteries as you'll ever need. I have these on my person, rather than in my bag, so that I can get at them without any delay.
  • You need to know your equipment inside out. Being able to change settings without taking your camera down from your eye is key. You'll need to be able to switch from shooting indoor ambient only in a poorly lit church to outdoors in bright sunshine with fill flash in a matter of seconds.
  • You need to know the plan for the day. I meet with the bride and groom a few weeks before the wedding, to go through the day step-by-step. Then, I check through the plan of the day the night before to get everything clear in my head, and try to commit the important names to memory - bridesmaids, flowersgirls and ushers, parents and of course the best man. If this raises any questions I'll address them with the bride whilst getting ready on the morning, but that is only a last resort.
  • You need to keep things moving. Following on from the last point, I know the plan well enough that I am able ensure that things happen to schedule, and am able to get people moving if we're slipping behind. Updates like "30 minutes until the car arrives" or "Sitting down for wedding breakfast in 15 minutes" all give the bride and groom a sense that they are staying on track... though as far as the bride leaving for church on time, I do always say "they aren't going to start without you!".
  • You need to be prepared for misfortune. I keep my camera gear in my bedroom with me the night before a wedding shoot, in case we get burgled. Sounds paranoid, but if it happens I don't want to be caught out and scrambling around trying to find a decent camera shop in the morning.
  • You need to have backups. As soon as I get back from a wedding shoot I immediately download working copies of all my memory cards, and I also create backups of all images. These are stored on a separate drive to the working copies. Once post-processing is complete, I send a DVD with the finished JPEGs to an offsite storage facility for additional protection.
  • You need to be prepared for the weather. I carry several large white umbrellas in case of bad weather - not for me (I have a normal umbrella for me), but for the bride, groom, bridesmaids or anyone else that might need to stay dry but remain in keeping with the 'look' of the day.
  • You need to stay connected. Make sure you get the best man's name and phone number, in case of anything peculiar happening.

These are just a few examples, but they give you an idea of the thinking and planning and preparation that you need to undergo.

In short, you always need to be asking 'what if...' and once you've asked that question, you need to make sure you have a decent answer. What if my sat nav loses signal on the way to the church? What if I drop my camera during the ceremony? What if what if what if...

This is the mentality that separates professionals from non-professionals... it's not when everything is going right - that's easy - but when everything is going wrong, and you have to think on your feet, make something work, and make it look like you're in control.

No-one else spends the entire day with the bride and groom, and you have the power to either re-assure them by acting in a calm professional manner, or to frighten the life out of them by looking like you're out of control and you have no idea what's going on.

Your bride and groom deserve to feel totally relaxed throughout their day, and a big chunk of that is your responsibility. Make sure you take it seriously...

For wedding photography that is professionally prepared and professionally executed, please contact, call  07743 011466 or visit