I went up to Sydney to photograph my little brother's wedding a good while ago now, and in a way I guess this is a short post reminiscing about that day... In another way, this is me trying to help one of you (only one!) out of a spot with a small set of tips that helped me.
Driving up the day before the wedding, a nine hour drive, didn't really allow for any physical location scouting, so it was up at 5am on the day of the wedding to head out around the area and see what was what. Found some nice beaches, a small jetty and some nice looking trees - of course I couldn't account for the light and, at the end of the day, that's what bit me... Damn inability to 100% control the sun! -- When I say I had no way of physical pre-scouting, what I meant was -- Without Google maps, I'd have been flying totally blind... Wandering around the whole place on Google maps long before the wedding day is a good idea! Pinned places I thought would be worth a look and made a note of travel times, too.. The distance between the groom and bride getting ready, where they were going to be married to the reception, etc... All of these little things make it easier on the day.
My new sister-in-law, Kate, had all of her hair, makeup and dressing done up on the hill - You can see the bay in the background. I remembered to photograph shoes and jewelry... As an essential newb with only ten "2nd shooter" weddings under my belt, I had a few key things noted down on a list(s) that I was checking as I went. The pressure of a wedding, and as I mentioned this was my first solo wedding, can make you pretty stressed and, as a result, you tend to rush stuff and rushing leads to massive stuff-ups! -- Make a list, check it twice (or thirty times, thirty times is much better) and you'll do better.
Weddings are stressful, but they don't need to be - as any seasoned wedding photographer will tell you... They're just a portrait shoot, or, 100 portrait shoots all tacked together that you will never get another shot at... In outfits you may not get to use again in a location that will only ever be the same way on that one day, with all those people in that one place. See, no stress at all. This was my little brother getting married to his bride, Kate, and I was stressing - big time. Stress can be good because it makes us (well, some of us) stop and think "how can I make this work" for me, it was a chance to make notes, make plans, make arrangements - don't be afraid to ask your couple to nominate someone that you're able to work with on the day - someone to wrangle guests / family, etc. You can't shoot a wedding on your own and find all of the people. Ask for help.
Gear! here's a tricky one... Take all you have or don't... Carry on restrictions, the absurdity of being gate checked and, in turn, arriving at the other end with a torn sack of tangled camera metal is not very enjoyable... You need to pick and choose what gear you take and, with time, that will get easier! You take a couple of lenses, your creativity and ability is tested and that's great - right? If you're a full time professional wedding photographer, you find ways around this kind of dilemma (Insurance, hardcases, knowledge) ..if you're just starting out and you have no choice, well, you do the best you can. You'll stuff it up a few times, you'll wreck yourself carrying a massive stack of gear around only to arrive home a day later and laugh as you realise you used two lenses and one body - but what is it they say? Better to have and to not want than to want and get slapped by a bride that looks wide when you shoot her at 28mm because you forgot your *insert lens here* ...that's the saying, right? Anyway... This will sort itself given a few goes!
Would a gear list be helpful? probably not... Well, Canon 5Dmk3, mk2, 16-35, 35, 24-70, 50, 85, 100, 70-200... 580 and 430 flash units, triggers, lots of batteries... more batteries... all the cf cards, some sd cards, too! OH and a Sony RX1, I shot a lot of the bride, Kate, getting ready with the RX1. (Fixed 35mm stunning little underrated beast)
So, gear... Yeah, can be challenging.
While we're on gear, lets talk about backups on location... I use WD Passport Pro on location along with my Macbook Air. I have two of the WD drives! I also have a sweet little WD My Passport Wireless as a backup backup. Yep, there's also mostly still a copy on CF as I have enough to shoot all day and not reuse cards, I'm fortunate. Take Shaun and Kate's wedding, 2490 frames... One shot to shoot it, multiple points at which to destroy data and be slapped by my little (muscle bound) brother... Backup Backup Backup. No, really. Don't shake your head and mutter 'it won't happen to me' ...it might, and when it does you will cry.
On with the day....
I had the RX1 on a Peak Design 'Capture' clip and ready to roll all day - 35mm fast lens, full frame, good performance at intermediate iso... What a snazzy little camera... Here's a photo I took of the girls while they were whizzing about, no big cameras getting in the way, a sneaky little RX1 at kidlet height... Always carry a smaller camera along now (The a7)
Skip forward to the ceremony, the official bit... Anyone special you MUST photograph? Where's the bride starting her entrance? Will the groom be standing facing this way or the other way? Introduce yourself to the person marrying your couple (if you've not already done so!) ...also, unless you've already checked (which you should have, right?) make sure you know about any regulations (hard and fast ones) that the venue has in place... Don't be that guy (or girl) that the celebrant stops a wedding for!
If you have a second photographer, and I didn't, it's much easier to focus on the main stuff and have your second run around like an idiot and get all the crowd reactions and side views etc... I kinda like seconding, (Thanks Katie) a bit of creative freedom (though, always work on the premise of "get the shot in the bag and then faff about being arty")
Oh, and remember, is the car special? What about the car? Should you do your best to shoot it at its MOST SPARKLY and make sure your reflection is in the shots? Absolutely! (not, for those of you who have a broken sarcasm warning buzzer)
I added the * as I have a personal (aka my wedding) moment to add here... When we finally received our wedding album, the photographer had missed out on including my wife's father in the photographs... Not cool folks, don't do that! (go back and read the bit I wrote about asking for a nominated person to wrangle the guests, like cows... wrangler-tastic!)
Anyways, you're most likely asleep... This has been part one - the pointy part of the wedding, almost, we've not got to the kiss yet!!
A summary for you...
1. Do an online plan, use Google maps and stuff, mark addresses and make lists.
2. Check your lists a few times, gear lists, shot lists, people lists, contact numbers, locations.
3. Check your lists.
4. Do everything you can to know enough about your bride and groom so you're not totally guessing on the day.
5. Know how your gear works... Check your gear's working...
7. Slow down!
8. Backup backup backup.
9. Check your lists!
Part two coming soon... I hope this helps someone!