Lessons Learned from Shooting My First Wedding

Allen Mowery
June 15, 2010

As the wise, idolatrous, and promiscuous King Solomon penned, to everything there is a season, so I figured I would take him up on his offer. This past Saturday was my first time to photograph a wedding…all me…just me… Granted, I had an assistant (Thank God! Let’s send a shout-out to my favorite brother, Caleb!), but I was the only shooter. The week prior to the wedding I was extremely nervous and anxietous, thinking of all of the worst-case scenarios…even having nightmares about the entire day falling apart. But when the day finally arrived, I was surprised by how well it went. It was a tremendous learning experience, and, as promised, I’m sharing that with you.

Location: Antique Automobile Club of America Museum, Hershey, PA – www.aacamuseum.org
Ceremony Time: 6:00 pm
Total Shots Taken: 860
Assistant: Caleb

What I Learned

    • Wedding photography (like most things in life) is a heckuva lot harder and more complicated than it looks.
    • Organization plays just as large a role in the overall outcome as creativity.

    • Regardless of how empowered a camera makes be feel, I am still human.
    • As noted above, I am still human and, therefore, cannot be in more than one place at a time.
    • Know your equipment! There’s no substitute for it. Many of the most important shots (i.e. the ones during the ceremony) only happen once, and you merely have a slim window of time in which to capture them. Fiddling with your camera is not an option. Fortunately, I consider myself to be pretty competent with my equipment, often changing settings without pulling away from the viewfinder. But, regardless, you need that familiarity…
    • Make sure to have fresh batteries in your flash before all major happenings. After the last of the bridal party and come through I was fumbling to change my flash batteries before the bride entered.
    • If possible, use an assistant. This was my first wedding, and I am so thankful that I opted to hire an assistant. In retrospect, there’s no way in heck that I would have it any other way. He was a lifesaver, allowing me to focus on what I needed to without worrying about where my equipment was, where my lights were, etc. Actually, I’m afraid I ran him a little too hard…

FOTO NOTE: I used a rather simple lighting setup for all of the “roving,” non-ceremony shots. I attached my Promaster 7000m (complete with my own “FrankenFoto” $.30 DIY Gary Fong Lightsphere) to a wireless receiver (a cheap eBay purchase…that works very well) and mounted both on top of a monopod. This allowed Caleb to extend the height as needed and provide a nice, diffused, elevated light source. Overall, it worked pretty well.

  • Have a good chat with the bride and groom beforehand. Unfortunately, I was asked to photograph the wedding less than a month prior to the actual event. This (and various schedule conflicts) greatly limited the time that I had for clear communication with both the bride and groom. We made it through just fine, but it definitely would have helped.

What Went Right

  • I had an assistant.
  • There were no equipment malfunctions or breakdowns.
  • I tried to be as organized as possible (from equipment lists and shots lists to photography itineraries), especially considering the shortened length of time I had to prepare…and it paid off!
  • The venue staff was amazing to work with! (Shout-out to the wedding coordinator, Melissa!)
  • The bridal party was a lot of fun throughout the entire gig.
  • I had a great time!

What I Would Do Differently

  • As mentioned above, I would definitely sit down with the bride and groom, face-to-face, to discuss the entire itinerary for the day, the schedule of photographs, and share what I needed to have happen in order to capture the images they wanted. Like I said, we made it through fine, but as mentioned above, I cannot be in two places at one time.
  • While my FrankenFoto Lightsphere worked pretty well, I would probably use a different light modifier for the majority of the shots. That is why I created my own FrankenFoto reflective umbrella last night (works great!) to not only use for portraits but to mount to the roving monopod as well. (Will post when I finish the mounting bracket.)
  • I would take charge to a greater degree. No, I wouldn’t be bossy, rude, or generally obnoxious, but I would command a little more authority. I’m being hired for a specific purpose, and I want to do my best to get them the results they desire and deserve.

And, for those of you who are wondering, I will be posting the wedding set here once I finish the post-production and upload the photos to Flickr. But right now, I’m still sorting through the images…

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