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Photography Question 
Teresa Nowak

Wedding Photography: Getting Started

My sister just asked me to take her wedding pictures. And I always wanted to get into taking pictures, so I guess this is as good an opportunity as any? I was wondering what are two good camras to start out with?
Thank you

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1/21/2005 9:05:05 PM

Maynard  McKillen   Dear Teresa:
Yikes! That's quite a responsibility! Tell her to set the wedding date for sometime in 2007, to give you some time to practice.
All joking aside, I have a few things for you to consider. One of the biggest dangers you face is trusting the automatic exposure settings on the late-model cameras. Time and time again, I have spoken to novice wedding photographers who have quivering voices and shaking hands because they just finished looking at proofs from a wedding, and some important photos that can't be re-created. Of course, they have to break the news to the newlyweds, and that's a situation no one wants to face.
Successful photographers, no matter which specialty they favor, practice their craft thoroughly before they offer their services to the public. They are so familiar with their equipment that they don't have to look at the owner's manual to confirm how to do something.
If you want to photograph your sister's wedding, your sharp, beautifully lit, expressive, and well-composed photos will be the best gift she and her husband receive. This gift to them will cost you more than the camera equipment you buy, and more than the film and developing costs. It will cost you a commitment of your time and energy. It will take you away from doing other more fun things, because you will be practicing composition, learning about lighting, reading, reading, and reading, looking at photos in bridal magazines and photo magazines, finding pictures you like and re-creating them with your camera and equipment, talking to other wedding photographers, watching them as they work (which means going to weddings to "shadow" the photographer) ... get the picture?
You won't be working just on her wedding day, you'll be working for a long time before that, shooting dozens of rolls of film, noting what works and what doesn't, planning which camera settings to use at each location, practicing, practicing, and practicing; learning, learning and learning; reading, reading and reading.
Now, I suspect you are considering this because it sounds exciting and interesting. It is. It's fun, too. What a gift to give your sister. A word of caution: Don't let your sister's wedding be the event that makes you learn a great deal about photography, especially about things you should not do! When the wedding day arrives, be the experienced, calm, flexible professional who captures the magic and creates images that hang on walls for generations to come.
I hope you have a sense of the commitment you are considering. If you accept it, it will change you, and I suspect you will like the change.
Nikon, Canon, Minolta, and Pentax all make film and digital SLR cameras that work well for wedding photography. The lens you get with it should be researched and considered carefully. Avoid off-brand lenses. Get the best lens you can afford. Consider buying used equipment. Adventure approaching ...

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1/22/2005 9:49:51 AM

Michael Kettler   Hello Teresa. Last year while living in Montana I was asked to photograph a friends wedding. I had been shooting landscapes, wildlife, and still life for nearly two years before this and was still very unsure about my ability to provide great results. Both the bride and groom, from viewing my collection, were confident I could meet their expectations so......I did it. What an experience it was. The only recomendations I have for you is know your equipment, discover all that is expected from bride and groom and be confident in your self. Every wedding I shoot I learn more and more. I manually expose every shot(exposure compensation) and shoot fuji slide and print films. Wish you the best! M. Kettler

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1/25/2005 11:16:11 AM

BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/18/2004

you could also search some professional wedding photographers and simply email them w/your questions, explaining that you're a novice and would like some helpful tips! i'm sure you'll quickly find that they're more than happy to do so!

: )

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1/25/2005 6:11:50 PM

Maria Melnyk   Dear Maynard,
This is, absolutely the best answer there could ever be to Teresa's questions! I give you high praise for your remarks.
Teresa, the only thing I can add to that to help give you a quick start is -- can you do this? -- find a "bride and groom" and a priest or minister (a real one) that you can hire for 1/2 a day and go through the entire wedding. At a church. And the bride must wear a gown and veil. Yes, you must pay them (especially the priest), unless you have a couple that won't take the money. (Your sister perhaps?) Believe me, that is the fastest way to learn wedding photography. With one huge exception. You must be guided by a knowledgable photographer throughout the "pretend" wedding. Someone who is willing to do this for you as well (with pay, of course.) Unless you already know what you're doing, then you can use this as very valuable practice. This is how my partner and I learned. However, we were already well-trained on the technical aspects of photography (exposure, composition, etc.). We merely learned how the day flows, what shots to take, and how to pose the couple and how to arrange the train.
Good luck, and congratulations to your sister!

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1/25/2005 6:13:04 PM

Gregg    Your question is too vague for a really good response. We need to know what cameras you have currently, what expereince you have, what amount you can spend, how much time to prepare before the wedding, and most important, what flash do you have. Answer these questions and re-sumit the question.

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1/25/2005 7:44:06 PM

John P.A. Van den Dries   Dear Teresa.

All the responders to your question so far are absolutely right and you do well to consider what they have suggested, Maynard in particular. I noticed that none of them really gave you a direct answer to your question with regard to the equipment. This is understandable since there is such enormous choice and there is no telling where your interest may lead you, a few years from now.
However, I will try to make an honest attempt. First of all, stick to the known camera brands. Second, if you have a computer at your disposal, go digital. You get instant results for comparison and you save (a lot of) money on all those rolls of film and prints learning how to work the equipment.
I would suggest a 4 megapixel or better model. 6 - 8 megapixel is better for larger prints, but 8" by 10" prints of a 4 MP original looks just about OK.
The lens should have an optical (forget the digital capacity) zoom capacity of 35 - 150 mm (compared to a 35 mm film camera, the actual focal length on a digital camera will most likely be shorter). This zoom range will give you ample room to work with.
Also, get a good Flashlight guidenumber 30 or so (35mm, 100 ISO, in meters) , preferably of the same brand of the camera. The build-in flash usually works up to 10'. And last but not least, plenty of memory capacity. My 8 MP camera takes about 40 shots at the highest quality (RAW) on a 512 MB memory card. I reckon you should count on anything between 200 and 400 shots, depending on the program of the day, out of which you might select 40 to 80 shots for the Photo album. More is not necessarily better.
Make certain that you have plenty of spare batteries, both for the camera as well as the Flashlight and other equipment that runs on batteries like mass storage devices, if you chose to use them.
Should you decide for a film SLR, my suggestions with regard to the brands of camera, the focal lengths and the Flashlight remains the same. You may need 2 bodies with 2 zoomlenses to cover the range. Switching lenses during the heat of the shoot can be very, very awkward and so can be re-loading the camera.
For starters: Check the articles on this website, begin with the top 10 tips and take it up from there. Get to learn to work the equipment and when the day comes, be prepared. Know exactly when you want to do what and how to do it.
Feel free to contact me for any further questions you might have. I know how intimidating all of this can be sometimes.

John van den Dries.

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1/25/2005 7:51:02 PM

Victor J.    Teresa, Maynard and John said it best.
If your sister is getting married in 6 months or so and as you say "what camera to start out with". Do your sister a favor and don't do the wedding. Your lack of experience will not do the B & G justice. You may be embarrassed to no end. Vic

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1/25/2005 8:11:39 PM

Mark O'Brien   Wedding photography is a very specialized field. The people that are good at it, usually demand prices that will raise eyebrows. However, if your sister wants quality work, that's the route to go. If you are doing the photography, you will not be able to fully participate in all the events, conversations, and "the day" becuase you will be behind the camera. This is not a trivial commitment. If you are inexperienced in photography, I would not use this as the impetus to learn something that takes some time to really be good at. Instead, offer to take candid photos, but leave formal wedding shots to someone that's been doing it for a while.

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1/26/2005 5:58:04 AM

Maria Melnyk   Theresa and Mark, this is something I had forgotten about. I photographed my parents' 50th Anniversary, and I'm not in any of the photos because I was behind the camera the whole time! The only pictures I'm in are the ones that amateurs took with their cameras. I even took a large family photo, and I forgot to get in it! Plus, I wasn't that good yet back then. Don't make this mistake. I get a lump in my throat every time I look back at those photos. Hire another photographer, a professional. After all, don't you want to be in the photographs? Don't you want top-quality photos? Don't you want to be a part of the celebration? You will loose so much of this special day if you are concentrating on photography the entire time. Perhaps your sister wasn't thinking about these things either. If you want to be a wedding photographer, go ahead and practice with all of the above suggestions until you're confident enough to be able to work professionally on your own; just leave the camera work to someone else for family events. Professionals don't photograph their own family events either. Not even the candids.

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1/26/2005 9:42:45 AM

Kerry L. Walker   Theresa, as a wedding photographer, I will make a suggestion. Actually, it is similar to the suggestion others are making. Don't take the job as the MAIN photographer. Let her hire a professional. However, do take your camera and FIRE AWAY. Just don't get in the way of the professional and don't shoot until he says it is OK. Leave the formal shots to the pro. Don't try to duplicate his work. After all, he is going through the effort of posing everyone so let him do job. However, watch what he is doing and learn from it. Shoot plenty of pictures before and after the ceremony. You may get a great shot the professional misses and your shots will complement (not compliment) his. As to what camera you should use, use what you have. Do this same thing for several weddings. Once you are ready to turn pro, you will probably have a good idea of what type of cameras you want. If not, come back and ask for more suggestions. You will get plenty of answers. Some people prefer digital. Others use 35mm. I use a Pentax 645N (medium format.)

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1/26/2005 1:21:18 PM

Kerry L. Walker   One thing to add - If the pro blows the assignment, your sister will be mad at him (or her, as the case may be. After all, women makes great photographers too). If she is mad at him, they can fight all they want. At least it won't be in the family. If the pro does blow the assignment, your pictures may make up for his shortcomings. However, if YOU take the assignment and blow it, it will be a long time before there is peace in the family.

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1/26/2005 1:25:20 PM

Suzanne    TERESA, DON'T DO IT!!!!! I shoot sports like high school football and baseball. I shoot candids at get-togethers and of course, I don't show my BAD stuff. I only show the best shots I have. So all of my friends think I can do weddings. WRONG! I did do favors for some friends in a money pinch and a time pinch. I hated it. They knew I hated it while I was doing it and I am my own worst critic, but I don't know Jack about posing, lighting, etc.

I shot candids at a friends reception and popped off a few during the ceremony without the flash (didn't want to get in the hired photographer's way). My reception shots turned out awesome, but I love capturing moments, I hate posed stuff. I got stuff their photographer didn't have time to get.

I know how my camera works and I can do it if I have to, but there's alot that goes into a wedding. I was reading and making notes on the answers above and I am overwhelmed. If you don't do it for a living, then leave it to someone who does.

Shadow your sisters photographer or get stuff her photographer doesn't get. But, honey, hire somebody. It's your sisters wedding. Enjoy it with your sister, shooting it is ALOT of work.

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1/26/2005 5:59:54 PM

Gregg    So Theresa, what's the verdict? Are you going to do it or not? We are all curious. The only other idea is that if your sister wasn't going to pay the big $$$ in the first place for a professional but rather a budget amateur, than perhaps maybe you are the right choice.

Please let us know.

This is a very interesting thread.

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1/26/2005 8:09:22 PM

John P.A. Van den Dries   Dear Teresa,

It seems that the cons outnumber the proís, therefore a word of encouragement: No doubt, the pictures taken by a pro will be technically better than yours. However, since beauty is (and always will be) in the eyes of the beholder, your sister and her husband to be may well favour yours, simply because they are yours.

Assuming that you are willing to do what it takes to master the craft to the point that you will allow yourself to embark on such an endeavour, also assuming that both the bride and the groom as well as yourself have the confidence that you are up to the job when the time comes, there is no reason why you could not do it.

To do what it takes in my mind very much means everything and more that is suggested above. If you have a few months and an awful lot of time, on top of the will and the dedication, you may just pull it of. Remember, it is a lot of hard work from the moment Go, on top of which you just have to be your own worst critic!! But if you finally decide to go for it, you will have an edge that the hired pro doesnít: intimate knowledge of many of the family member and guests, which may just give you the advantage to make those few extra special shots.

To give you a basic idea what you are up against, the following plan of action might give you something to go by:

-1. Select and buy your equipment. With regard to the time you have, assuming you have access to a computer, I already suggested to go digital. Check the Article Buying a Digital Camera on this website;
-2. Get to know your equipment, make lots and lots of pictures to the point that you control the camera and not the other way around. Donít get confused and certainly donít let yourself be guided by the many Menu Options and Automatic Settings that modern Digital Cameraís have nowadays. Follow the suggestions in the Articles Top Ten Tips and Rule of Thirds on this website, but donít try too much at once and donít lose yourself in the manual either;
-3. Get 1 or 2 good books (out of the hundreds available) on the subject of Wedding Photography. Check out or another book site. You will find more on the subject there, and readily available than in an average bookshop anywhere. For this purpose, I personally like the top 3 on, the one by George Schaub & Kenneth Sklute in particular.
-4. While practising and getting to learn and master your equipment, study the book(s). Try to understand why the examples in the book(s) are so appealing. Wedding Pictures and Portraits more than other pictures I would say, are highly suggestive and intend to invoke something of an emotional reaction to the viewers, particularly if the viewer has some kind of relationship with the subject(s). Try to find and to some extend, master a few of the techniques used. Again, donít try too much at once, donít try to get too deep into the technical stuff too soon;
-5. Up to here, you can very much go it alone. Once you reached the point that you trust yourself with your equipment (being able to operate it blindfolded so to speak) and you are confident enough to make halfway decent pictures, being your own worst critic, find a pro who is willing to let you tag along on assignments and learn from him/her. Meanwhile continue to practice and practice and practice and study and study and study. After all you have limited time.
-6. Donít try to duplicate the work of others, other than for learning purposes. Try to figure out why a particular shot is as good as it is and use the elements that make it so to compose your own.
-7. Test yourself along the way, give yourself assignments. Suggestions of which you might find in the contest categories of this website and in the literature you will be studying. For outside critiques, post your pictures on this website. I am certain the participants to this discussion are willing to give you tips and suggestions of how to improve yourself.

Having gone through all this, having done all that, also accepting that after all that work preparing yourself, you will not participate in your sisters wedding other than in the capacity of the photographer, I truly think it is possible for you to reach the point that you actually trust yourself to do the job and to do it well. And in Maynardís words: What a gift to give your sister and her future husband.

A final word of advice: Once you accepted the challenge and made the Wedding Series, make the final selection for your presentation yourself. Select a Final Series that tell the story of the day for the album and also a Selection out of the posed shots to hang on the wall. Donít select too many, just enough. Let the pictures tell the story. Donít let anybody else near your work. After all, you and only you know how you want your work to represent the events of the day, you are the skilled one. Thrust yourself and stick by it.

Good luck.

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1/27/2005 2:34:32 PM

Andrew Laverghetta
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/13/2004
  Hey, I've just been reading the answers to this question and since people have been talking about everything other than the camera, I thought I'd mention that I like Canon's a lot.

I like the Canon Elan 7N 35mm SLR

That site has a list of all the canon cameras. You can read a little on them and then maybe check out for some prices on them.
Take a trip to Borders where you can find various books on wedding photography and lighting. I know some books that are black and white may not look interesting, but they often CAN have more info than just books that have color pictures that other people have taken. Check out some books on flash photography.
You're best bet is to probably go into a local camera shop and get there right as they open or sometime when they might not be as busy. They will give you better ideas on actual equipment than you will probably find just starting out on here since you will have instant feedback since you're talking directly to another person. Go into a portrait studio and ask them about the topic.
Anyway, when you go in, ask about digital and if you can pay that much, go with it (assuming you have a good computer and know how to use it). Ask the shop about easy to use SLR cameras but one's that will have some decent features. Also, ask them about "hot shoe flashes" as the on camera flash (if the camera has one) won't be enough for many shots. Ask them about flash photography and low light photography. Good luck! Takes lots of pictures and experiment!

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1/27/2005 7:17:20 PM

Gregg    When is the wedding? Reply and I'll shoot the wedding and you can learn from watching. I have 27 years of experience.

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1/27/2005 7:26:10 PM

Marty    Teresa,
What happened with the wedding?

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8/29/2005 3:49:57 AM

Victor J.    Teresa, Teresa- - - The qustion is still there. What happened with the wedding? Victor J.

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8/30/2005 5:57:26 PM

BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/7/2005

I haven't had the time to read all the replies, but if you don't have the experience, or at least a camera now, then don't do it.

If you want to do, then don't expect to enjoy your sisters wedding, you will be THE MOST BUSIEST person at the wedding, and won't get to suck in all the fun and enjoyment of the day the same way as you would as a guest.

Anyhow - being the sister and all, wouldn't you be a bridesmaid???

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8/30/2005 6:44:43 PM

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