First Wedding – Post Thoughts

Posted: August 30, 2010 in Photography

Well, Saturday (08/28/10) was my first wedding shoot, and it was a real eye opener. I never knew there was that much work involved with shooting a wedding.  From the moment I got out of my car, it was go, go, go, go. Next time,  I get there a little earlier and find the wedding planner and see their schedule.  Luckily, Terrilyn is a pro, and she handled it flawlessly! I just followed her wherever she went. Which brings up another thing I never thought about – positioning.

She is the 1st shooter, so she set up the scene, I just followed along and got the pictures from a different angle. The problem with that is, the shots that I thought would be a great angle would put me in her line of fire.  Nothing worse then her getting a perfect shot with me in the background. I had to be aware AT ALL TIMES of where she was at. I had to keep in mind to look out for her, as she is probably not looking out for me.  I also had to be aware of my flash interfering with her shot.  Also, all my shots of the wedding party, they were looking at her, not me, so my shots have everyone looking away. At first I thought this would be kind of cool, but when I got home and started looking at the images, they all seemed to be the same, nothing stood out as a ‘great’ shot.

Weddings are ‘fluid’, or in constant motion. You do not get a 2nd chance for a shot. As a landscape photographer, I always try to picture in my mind what I want the ‘scene’ to look like, position myself for that shot, then take several shots and choose the one I like. In a wedding, you can’t stop the motion, position yourself, take several shots, and pick out the one you like. I spent a good part of my day on Friday imagining what that perfect shot would be without knowing what the ‘lay of the land’ looked like. I knew I would not be the one to get the picture at the alter, so I was relaxed knowing that I could just freelance and be creative. Terrilyn and I talked a little about composition, but you really don’t have time to discuss your game plan when the game is already in the 2nd quarter. For instance, about 10 minutes before the ceremony was to begin, Terrilyn said that she would like for me to get a shot of the bride and her father walking down the aisle from behind. To set it up, there was a little walking bridge about 30 yards back from the aisle. They would walk out of the house and stand at this bridge, kind of like a staging area if you would. They would wait for the wedding planner to signal them to start walking, and away they went. They were about 20 feet from the bridge, so I set up for that shot, and when I looked through my viewfinder, their was Terrilyn on the other side of the bridge ready to get a shot from the front. I couldn’t go to the right as there were bushes, and if I go left, I am looking into the sun. Time to think real fast. Run into the bushes or look into the sun. I took the ‘into the sun’ route, and kept the sun to the right of my viewfinder so as not to get an overexposed image, but this also meant I couldn’t square them up in the frame. I am absolutely obsessed with centering my subject in a shot. Once I got home to look at the pic, I figured I could do some cropping to make it appear that they are centered, but that is when I noticed that one of the folks from the wedding party was dead center in my shot taking a picture.  I don’t know what Terrilyn’s picture looked like, but I can guarantee you that I am not in her picture, and it came out a lot better then mine.

Once the wedding started, I finally got a chance to collect my thought on what had happened in the previous 2 hours, and started to pre-plan for the reception.  I kind of started thinking about the route the bride and groom would take as they are leaving and started mapping out a strategy of where to position myself.  I thought they would come back across that bridge, so I thought now would be a good time to set up with my back to the sun and get a shot of them coming at me. I took a few shots of the bridge and viewed it on my 2″ viewfinder to make sure of the lighting. As the wedding ended, they were coming right at me, but as I got ready to shoot, there was Terrilyn and they stray photographer in my viewfinder. I moved out of her line of fire, keeping the sun at my back, but I couldn’t get the other guy out of my site. I kept moving, and by the time I had a perfect line of sight, the moment was gone as the bride and groom had already moved past the point where I got them from the front. I did get 2 shots as they stopped on the bridge, but the flower on the grooms lapel was hiding her face. It is not like it was a huge flower, but from the angle I was at, it looked like it was swallowing her face. Lesson learned is as the 2nd shooter, you can’t pre-plan a shot. Chances are the primary shooter is already 2 steps ahead of you.

By the time I got into the reception hall, it was already crowded, and I couldn’t move around inside very well. Not to mention the lighting inside wreaked havoc on my pictures. I couldn’t get the correct white balance to save my life. My shots were either over-exposed, blurry, under-exposed, or a combination of all three. I also got pinned against a wall and couldn’t get out.  By the time the bride and groom came in, I was 3 deep against a wall with no way to get around them.

All in all, it was a great learning experience. My next shoot I will go in prepared.  Also, wera comfortable shoes! I was on my feet for 5 hours, and my feet were killing me!


I downloaded my pics as soon as I got home with the memories of that night fresh in my head. I had a few pictures in my mind that I wanted to look at in particular because I thought they had potential. Big difference between a 2″ viewfinder on my camera and my 30″  desktop monitor. Of the 400-500 pictures I took, about 60 were decent shots. But once I blew those 60 shots up on my monitor, maybe 20 were good and crisp. I don’t know what the percentage is for most photographers, but less then 10% isn’t what I would consider a good job. I will admit, it was a little de-moralizing.  When I am out shooting, I would say that I usually keep about 50-60% of my pics. The creative shots, or what I would call ‘Landscape’ shots that I took came out good, and I can turn around a good image with some work in Lightroom and Photoshop. The majority of the shots that I took of the wedding party came out crisp, but they are not looking at me and that kind of takes away the ‘wow’ factor some.

Lessons Learned

I need a better camera then the one I have (I have a Nikon d40), I need some better glass, and I need to take classes in lighting and portrait photography.

Before the first picture is taken, walk around the property of where the shoot is to happen. Maybe go a day before the event and get some ideas of where you want to get your shots from. It is difficult, if not impossible, to do this during the event.  One location maybe looks great at 4:00 PM, but it looks totally different at 7:00 PM.

If the reception is held in-doors, stake out your ground well before people start flooding in. They are hot, tired, and hungry, and they will fill up the room fast. Get to your spot, and try your best not to move. Make sure that spot is close to where the action will be. Get shots of the cake, tables,  guest book, etc. before. If you are the 2nd shooter, you can get these shots during the ceremony when everyone is outside.

I have a lot to learn, but I knew that going in. Time to sign up for some more classes, learn more, and keep practicing.

  1. Great post! This is a great way to gain experience as a photography – a lot less pressure too. Thanks for all the tips you included in this post.

  2. This is the perfect post and may be one that ought to be followed up to see what are the results

    A partner sent this link the other day and I will be desperately waiting your next write-up. Carry on on the extraordinary work.

    • timross13 says:

      Thank you Carlos. Just throwing out some ideas that I hope will help others. It was my first, but not my last wedding. I am really posting it for me, kind of like a diary so I can track my own progress through this crazy obsession I have with photography. I am glad you found my post informative, which means I have helped at least 1 other person. Now that is cool!

  3. timross13 says:

    Thanks for the comments. As I said, it was a real eye opener. As I keep narrowing down the images to keep, I sink further and further. It is a humbling experience to say the least. I am a former baseball coach, and I used to tell the kids all the time….practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. Time for more practice.

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