Getting ready for the wedding

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This post is the first part of a series by Lincolnshire wedding photographer Chris Marsh.

If you have not already done so you might like to check out my first post Introduction to Wedding Photography

Let’s start by talking about getting ready, not only the coverage of a bride getting ready for her wedding but also what a photographer needs to do before they are ready to photograph a wedding at all. If you are an aspiring professional photographer let me say straight away that wedding photography is not the place to begin. If you don’t know the technical side of photography inside out and backwards then you have no right to charge clients for covering a once in a lifetime event like a wedding. So if you are starting up as a professional photographer go out and get your experience in some other area first – maybe portrait photography, where you can invite the client back for a free sitting if something goes wrong or commercial work when a mistake will only ruin your reputation. To be a wedding photographer you first need to be a really great photographer!

If you are an amateur photographer i.e. photographing friends or family’s wedding for free that is fine but only if you are doing it because they really can’t afford a professional and you have made clear to them that they are taking a risk and things could go wrong!

That said, anyone, amateur or professional might be in the position of photographing their first wedding and good preparation is the key. Make sure that you know exactly where you need to be and when – don’t rely on the satnav if it is somewhere you have not been before, go to http://maps.google.co.uk and print out a route as a back-up.

I am a great believer in having a back-up plan and that goes for equipment too. Of course, as a professional photographer I have spare camera bodies, multiple lenses, spare flash, batteries and memory cards. If you are an amateur ask around to see if you can borrow a camera like yours, so you don’t have to learn to use a different model from scratch or at the very least make sure you have spare batteries. You could maybe even have a small “point and shoot” camera in case all else fails.

I usually start my day by checking out the church and/or wedding reception venue. Nothing beats doing a recce on the day when you can see exactly what flowers are out and have a good idea what the weather will be like and so know if you will need an option for formal interior photos.

It is only after all the above that I get around to starting the photography. This will usually be shots of the bride and bridesmaids as they finish getting ready.

This is an important moment – I know that I am starting to take photographs just when my subjects are at their most nervous. It is vital to be diplomatic and sensitive but also to be confident in order to give everyone else confidence that I know what I am doing. These are the people that I will be working with throughout the wedding day and they need to know that they can trust me.

As well as the obvious people shots I am always looking out for details, shoes, dress hanging up, flowers, even a half eaten sandwich can help tell the story of the nervous last few hours before the wedding ceremony.

I do like to get some photographs as the bride is being helped by her Mum or bridesmaids to fasten her dress. The activity is a distraction and make for more natural pictures and I try to anticipate when the bride’s father sees his daughter in her dress for the first time to be ready for that moment too.

I am sometimes asked to take some photographs of the bride and her parents once they are ready but I am sure not to let this make me late getting to the wedding venue, there are lots of photographs to take at the church or ceremony room before the bride arrives – that will be the subject of my next wedding photography post At the Wedding Venue