Wedding photography is something that scares a lot of people. I mean, I was scared to shoot weddings before I started being asked by brides and grooms and also second shooting for other photographers. I have event experience and can document things like London Fashion Week so why was I scared to document a wedding?
I think it is the fear of it being someones big day and you are creating their memories of that day that they will treasure forever. I think also a lot of people have a fear of needing all kinds of equipment and tools and that the expense adds up and up. You can create wedding photography with very simple tools. You don’t need ALL the gear and you don’t need all expensive gear either.
I personally shoot with 2 camera bodies as each body carries a different lens (a 24-70 and a 35mm for anyone keen to know), but you can do wedding photography with 1 body and you can also do it with CSC’s. I was second shooting weddings with just 1 body and a 50mm for quite a while before I decided to go it alone and build up my own brand.
You also don’t need all kinds of fancy gear to go alongside it. I simply keep in my kit a , a maybe, and a . Sometimes a too. It all depends on the venue of the day as to what I will end up using but a reflector I would say is a must to keep in the kit. I want to explain what I use these pieces of kit for and how simple and multi purpose they all can be too to help you obtain great wedding imagery.
The first simple tool I will say that is a must is your own personality!! You need to be able to get a reaction from people and get big groups of people together for group shots. You need to be able to make people laugh and smile and not look awkward in front of your lens. It is easy to do when it is 1 person, but as soon as you have a big group it is that much harder to keep your eye on every single person. A fun and bubbly personality will help break down everyones fear of being in front of a camera and put them at ease to make your images that much greater and more relaxed. You need a rapport with anyone and everyone at a wedding, especially the bride & groom so be as approachable and friendly as possible and passionate about what you are doing.
Following on from that you also need a good eye for documentation and to be ever vigilant for any moment that would make a good photograph. The simplest tools you can have for wedding photography is yourself in my opinion. Always be switched on and never miss a moment. It means working a wedding is a long and tiring 12 hour day with maybe a small break whilst everyone eats but it ends up being so rewarding to document things that not necessarily everybody sees, let alone the bride and groom.
I mentioned that sometimes it is worthwhile packing a in your gear. A lot of churches don’t allow flash photography, and to be honest I wouldn’t want to in a church or ceremony setting anyway. So if you always carry a monopod (I leave one in my car) then you can be safe knowing you will still get great shots regardless of the lighting situation in the ceremony venue. Some places can be so dark, so a monopod mixed with a higher ISO and lower aperture will give you extra stability to make sure you nail those important moments and still retain focus and sharpness. You don’t want a tripod for this situation at all. A monopod still allows you to move freely and gain various view points of the ceremony (depending on what the ceremony host has allowed you to do, always speak to them regarding photography and movement).
Another great tip for using a monopod is that if you have a camera with wifi, you can get amazing images of the reception venue and table setting from a high viewpoint. You can just extend the monopod and hold it up high safely and still take photos with your phone as wifi in cameras allows you to use your smartphone as a remote control nowadays. Genius. Simple. And an interesting perspective.
I always think a reflector is a must when you shoot portraits, and it is definitely a very simple tool to keep in any photography kit to be honest. It can be used for product shots, portraits, anything where you require light to be kicked back into your subject. I tend to always use the silver side but you can get white and gold sides also and use those.
Using a reflector is perfect for beauty shots of the bride, or for getting some sparkle out of any details in the dress or if there is any sparkle in the hair done by a stylist. Some dresses have some kind of crystals sewn into the fabric and so you can bend the natural light using a reflector to really showcase those off in any close up dress shots that you may do. I also hold it underneath the brides head at an angle to kick light back into their face and avoid any unflattering shadows when shooting beauty portraits of them. You can also use it on products too such as the shoes or the flowers/bouquets. There are all kinds of endless possibilities for using a reflector to get really nice photos during a wedding. It’s probably only the ‘bride getting ready’ stage that I would use one however. It’s not overly possible to use one during couple shots unless you have a massive one and another pair of hands to help with it. The best bit is you can get ones that fold away quite small so they can slip into any camera bag so there is no excuse not to carry one either. TriGrip reflectors also make it even easier for you to hold the reflector as well as shoot using the other hand.
Another use for a reflector that you may not have thought of is to use the white side as a place to lay the flowers/bouquets/accessories/shoes to photograph on if you have no other suitable and nice surface for these shots. If you have one big enough then you can lay a couple of floral arrangements and shoes on to it and photograph them with a nice white surface underneath them. Shoot from the right angle and the whole background will be white. Super simple answer to not having somewhere appropriate and ‘pretty’ to shoot the product flatlays.
I would always recommend using flash for the evening/party photos if you are also shooting that part of the day. I’d always recommend carrying a flashgun anyway as part of your kit regardless and that way if required with the couple shots you can use it as a fill in flash (this is where sometimes I use a tripod to actually put the flashgun on and then I can use my flashgun remotely as a fill in to achieve any results I want. It just gives me more freedom and allows me to achieve the photos I have in my head).
Another simple tool you can add to your kit is a soft box for your speedlite, such as the Ezybox. This can be helpful when using your flash as a fill in as it will distribute a wider and softer light, but also can be good for dancing shots with the flash on top of your camera. The ezybox is still a portable size that means you can use the flash on a hotshoe of a camera and not interfere with any lens you have on the front of your body. It also folds away neatly so can be shoved into any camera bag without a worry about taking up too much space. Using this for evening shots also just gives a softer light as opposed to super harsh direct flash or something. If I don’t carry this with me then I am always bouncing the flash off of the ceiling or a wall. But I much prefer to use the soft box for my flashgun than bounce it as you can’t guarantee how high the ceilings will be etc.
Even with the high ISO’s cameras can do nowadays, I still prefer to get nice shots of the dancing with flash. High speed movement such as dancing is still tricky to catch perfectly and nicely without flash. Nobody really likes an overly blurry photo after all. However, doing candids in low light with no flash is a lot easier and sometimes more aesthetically pleasing as it captures more of the atmosphere of the evening. Also none of the guests really know when you are snapping if you have no flash whilst shooting candidly during the evening. A flash would alert them to photos being taken and some people don’t relax or loosen up if they know they could be snapped.
There are a lot of simple tools you can add to your kit to get great photos at a wedding, but honestly the simplest of all tools I believe you need is not only a camera but an eye for a photo and a passion for photography like no other. Weddings can be long days and it is that passion for creating photographs that spurs you on and drives you and that passion also can be seen in your photographs and that, in my eyes, is what truly makes a great photograph. Whether you are a professional photographer yourself or a novice as a guest at a wedding, the most basic tool you can utilise for great photos is your camera and a burning passion. Building a kit up comes with time and I have explained my simple tools that I use when shooting and hopefully that will spur you on to consider these tools also as part of your kit, but all these tools are nothing without a love for photo taking and even a love for love itself.