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Photography Question 
Tamela L. Weese

Shooting My First Wedding and I'm Terrified.

I would just like someone to help me with a few questions on my first wedding. Should I have the couple sign a contract? Where am I allowed to be during the ceremony? Do I need to talk to the minister before the wedding? Just any tips anybody can give me to help me through. Thank You.

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5/19/2004 6:52:22 PM

Kai Eiselein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/21/2003
  First, take a deep breath. Yes, you should have a contract. You might be able to find a simple one online.
ALWAYS talk to the minister. He/she will let you know where you can or cannot be during the ceremony. You also need to find out if you can use your flash during the ceremony. Most allow flash photos of at least the processional and recessional. Others don't allow any photos at all during the ceremony. Always check in advance.
Take at least two cameras, extra batteries, and plenty of film. (I forgot the film once.) Find someone who knows who is who in the families and wedding party. They can be a big help in getting people rounded up for group photos.
Always stay calm, and be prepared for the unexpected.

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5/23/2004 3:21:01 PM

doug Nelson   You are scared because you have normal common sense. You've taken on a serious responsibility. Having said that, as long as you have practiced with your camera and flash, with the subject matter, places, and distances you will be shooting, and your shots look OK, relax and enjoy the shoot.
Color negative film has some latitude if you happen to be a stop or two off. Be SURE the flash synchronization speed is set right in your camera's shutter function. Be SURE the film speed is set right. Kai's suggestion on getting a helper to round up people for groups shots is dead-on.

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5/24/2004 12:18:57 PM

John L. Webb  
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I've shot hundreds of weddings, Just recall that the wedding party will take their cues from you ... as long as you act in control, where appropriate, you will do fine. Keep your disposition sunny and upbeat, and practice in your head and heart BEFORE the shoot. My own style is photojournalistic, so the posed portion makes up not even a third of the total shots. Plan your splits for black and white and color, if any. Have sound contacts for developing your shots if you will not be doing them yourself. And above all, find out what the couple wants! It has been my experience that the images that are most treasured by my clients are the unposed, "as it happens" moments. These allow you to remain in the background observing the moment while not intruding.

I would touch base with whomever is performing the ceremony as well as the wedding planner, if any, and make sure they are aware of what the couple's choices are as far as shooting during the ceremony. I use Leica cameras so this too keeps me in the background and the noise level to a minimum.

Above all, enjoy yourself! You are lucky to cover such an important and blessed event. Open your heart, and your eyes will see what to shoot. Good luck. If I can be of any personal help to you, drop me a line on e-mail and I will reply ASAP.

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5/25/2004 7:01:26 AM


BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/28/2003
  You should have a contract, IMHO. But it can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. I do it a funny way. I check out the couple in my consultation. If the bride is very particular about a lot of things, which is easy to determine, I'll be more definite about things like how many photos they will get, a percentage of black and white vs. color, a percentage of digital, the exact time frame, etc. With other brides, they are more laid-back. With them, my contract is a simple one-pager that describes the general services (photography) and the price for X hours.

Also, both contracts have things about my right to use anything in any manner I choose. I'm not responsible for improper clothing, closed eyes, etc. And that basically, as long as the photography is good, there is no recourse on their part. In addition, I have a clause that states that if for some reason the photos don't turn out (like one time the lab lost an entire roll - luckily, I had the images scanned, so we had those to go from), that I am only liable for the cost of that, less any expenses incurred. Of course, keep in mind that a contract is really only for a mishap. Mostly, you don't need it, and mostly you should be able to resolve any issues through great customer service.

Definitely talk to the minister before the event and ask what's allowed. There are usually two issues: Can you take pics during the ceremony (if not, when can you?) and is flash allowed. Also, ask if you can have some time after the ceremony to take photos of the wedding party in the church (sometimes yes, sometimes no).

To relieve you a little, visit the site beforehand. Take your camera and take a few shots inside and out. Walk the grounds and look at places where you'd like to pose the couple alone, and then good places to take the family. Also, remember, anyone can take nice pictures, the real value of a professional wedding photographer is to capture the moments of the wedding that maybe no one really saw. For instance, everyone saw them standing at the alter ... I mean get those, but remember to turn your camera out to Mom, who's shedding a tear, and Dad, who is a as proud as a dad can be. Remember to shoot all the hugs and kisses. Some family member may be reuniting. I can't tell you how many weddings I shoot where the dad has been out of the picture for a while, or something. Those are precious moments that have to be documented.

The closer you can get to the couple, the more they will tell you about themselves, the more they tell you, the better sense you get of what's important to them. It's an art and a science all rolled into one hugely stressful, but exhillerating day! Enjoy!

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5/25/2004 12:59:39 PM

John L. Webb   Great advice Jerry!


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5/25/2004 1:30:38 PM


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5/25/2004 7:01:41 PM

Tamela L. Weese   Thank You everybody for your help and support and wish me luck.

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5/27/2004 3:33:09 PM

Allan Yates   Hi, Tamela -
I have photographed six weddings, and I have found that you have to shoot about five or six before you can relax and not be scared blind. If you plan on continuing to shoot weddings, it does get easier!

I would advise that you do have a contract and a shot list from the couple so that you don't miss any shots that are important to them (unless you are doing a photojournalism style shoot). Talk to the minister to get an idea of how the wedding ceremony will unfold; also, go to the church beforehand to get an idea of what the facility is like and to scout good vantage pionts to shoot from. Any and all information you can glean beforehand is invaluable.

Ask the couple and minister if there are any special things you should know beforehand about their faith and the ceremony; ask the couple if there are any family situations you should be aware of (you don't want to put family members that have been feuding for years together and ask them to smile for a photo - you don't need people going "Jerry Springer" at the wedding!)

Know your camera and how to operate it; shoot a test roll with flash before the wedding to make sure everything is working correectly. Use a film you know well; use fresh film (no expired date film); put new batteries in everything and have a second set of new batts with you; make sure you have the correct ISO for your film set on your camera AND flash unit, if it has that capability. Lasty, READ - there are many excellent books on wedding photography out, many published by Amphoto.

If you do these things, remember to breathe and at least try to relax, you should have a successful shoot. Best of luck!

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6/7/2004 6:59:14 PM

RoxAnne E. Franklin   Hi there,
you have gotten excellent advise. Pay careful attention to all of it. It's fun shooting weddings and Allan was so correct in saying that after the 5th or 6th one, you actually start having a ball.
I have one piece of advice for you. Pay special attention to the ministers wants and dislikes. And, i've started asking them if they would like a stand alone shot of themselves for their church newsletter, free of course. You wouldnt beleive how many weddings these ministers have referred my way. It pays to be extra nice if you want to do this for a living. it will come back to you in a good way.
good luck and keep us posted on how you did.

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6/8/2004 11:31:55 AM

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