Beginner wedding photographer mistakes

10 wedding photography mistakes every beginner will make (and how to get better)

By Angela Nicholson

Shooting a wedding is one of the toughest assignments that a photographer can take on, there are lots of potential issues and the stakes are incredibly high. To help out, our head of testing, Angela Nicholson, has compiled a list of the most common wedding photography mistakes that photographers make when starting out shooting weddings, along with some of her best wedding photography tips for how to avoid them.

01 Inexperience

If your family and friends know that you own a DSLR or advanced compact system camera, the chances are pretty high that at some point you will be asked to photograph a wedding.

It’s important to be realistic about your capabilities and experience before you commit to shooting a wedding – especially if you are to be paid to do so.

Be honest with the couple about your experience and don’t allow anyone to bully you into taking on the job to save money if you are not confident.

It’s also important to have the right kit. Ideally you’ll need two decent cameras and a selection of lenses along with a couple of flashguns.

What’s more, it’s absolutely crucial that you know your equipment inside out and are confident in using it. A wedding is not the time to be trying a setting for the first time.

If you decide that being the main photographer at the wedding is too big a step, you could always offer to take on the second photographer duties, shooting from alternative angles, getting background shots and duplicating some of the pro’s shots, it’s all good experience.

If you decide to get serious about shooting weddings the Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers ( and the Guild of Photographers ( have lots of information to offer and it’s worth considering joining.

These organisations’ websites have forums that are a great way of getting to know other photographers, including professionals who maybe looking for a second photographer for a wedding.

02 Poor exposure

The bride’s white dress is one of the most important aspects of many weddings and it can be a real headache to photograph correctly.

Every wedding photographer’s worst nightmare is overexposing it so that it’s turned into a uniform mass of bright white with no detail, but the opposite (underexposure) makes it look grubby and grey.

Fortunately, a little underexposure can be corrected post capture, but it needs to be just a little underexposure to avoid loosing detail in the groom’s dark suit and bringing out noise in the shadows.

Ideally you want to use an exposure that produces an image that has detail throughout the tonal range.

This is one area where digital cameras offer a huge advantage over film cameras, because you can check the exposure immediately after taking a shot and adjust accordingly.

You can also use the camera’s auto exposure bracketing facility to take a sequence of images with different exposures in quick succession without incurring any extra cost.

Activate your camera’s histogram view and aim to produce images that have a peak towards the right end of the scale, but without a huge peak at the very end.

It can also be helpful to turn on your camera’s highlight warning so that burned out areas flash at you once the shot is taken and you can shoot again.

03 Messy background

Most professional wedding photographers usually check out a wedding venue before the big day so that they can identify the perfect location for the essential shots of the couple and their families.

A nice, clean background can make a huge difference to a shot, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that it needs to be plain or uninteresting.

Shooting the couple in the doorway of the church, for example, gives context as well a creating a frame around them and it looks much better than photographing them in front of the hedge in the churchyard.

04 Couple squinting in the sun

If you are able to visit the venue before the wedding it’s well worth doing so at the same time of day as the service as you’ll be able to assess the position of the sun.

It’s all very well identifying a nice background, but the couple won’t thank you if they are squinting into the sun in every shot.

Look for a location that has a nice background and provides some shade – or rope in someone to hold a large diffuser.

As well as avoiding squinting, shooting in softer light produces more flattering shots with less harsh shadows.

05 No eye contact

One of the drawbacks of not being the official photographer is that you don’t have the attention of the happy couple at some key points.

This can produce some near-miss shots that are nicely composed, but without the essential eye contact.

The bride and groom won’t appreciate you calling for them to look at you while the pro is supposed to be getting the shots that they are paying for, so bide your time.

Most pros understand that the family want to get a few shots of each pose and you need to be ready to seize your moment.

If you fit a longish lens you can also snap some intimate moments between the bride and groom when they look at each other rather than the camera.

06 Forgetting a shot

If you’re not the official (or semi-official) photographer this isn’t a major issue, but if the couple is banking on you to shoot their wedding for them then you need to make sure you photograph everyone and everything that they are expecting you to.

Speak to the bride and groom beforehand and draw up a list of guests and groups that they want to be photographed.

It’s also a good idea to get the name of someone who is responsible for rounding up the various relatives for you.

Then, when you are at the wedding, you can work your way methodically through the list and be confident that you’ve photographed everyone.

07 Equipment failure

If you drop a lens at the wedding, or your camera stops working, it doesn’t matter how expensive it is, you have to hold back the tears and carry on shooting.

If the bride and groom are relying on you to photograph their wedding there can be no excuses.

It’s essential to double up on all your kit so that if something breaks or fails you have a back-up.

Having two cameras has the added advantage of allowing you to swap quickly between focal lengths without having to change lens.

Just mount one optic on one camera and another on the other and switch between the two cameras as you want.

If you don’t own two cameras or have sufficient overlap of lens focal length, consider hiring (or borrowing) what you need for the day.

08 Messy group shots

Large group shots aren’t especially easy to arrange, first of all you’ve got to corral all the people you need together (and get rid of any unwanted hangers-on), then you’ve got to make sure that everyone is visible, smiling, looking at the camera and not blinking.

The ushers can usually be relied upon to help find everyone that’s supposed to be in each shot, but it’s up to you to arrange them.

Put the most important people towards the centre of the group around the bride and groom and have the taller one’s towards the back of large groups.

Bring a stepladder and tall tripod, or find a high vantage point for shooting very large groups.

It can be useful to bring something along that makes a bit of noise to attract attention – a whoopee cushion can be relied upon to create a few smiles, but it won’t work more than two or three times.

One way to avoid having people blinking is to get them to close their eyes and open them on the count of three, when you take the shot.

Take a few shots of each group in the hope of getting everyone looking as you want in at least one, but be prepared to do a little post-capture compositing.

09 Forgetting the details

Being free of the official togging duties means that you can focus on getting shots that tell the full story of the day.

If you are there in an official capacity these shots will also be appreciated.

Photograph the incidentals that the bride will have spent a long time choosing; the table decorations, menus, place-names and flowers for example, as well as the wedding cake and the odd glass of champagne.

Try to compose the shots as you would a normal still life or macro shot to create images that the bride and groom will want in their album rather than take straight record shots.

10 Shooting JPEG files

There’s a lot at stake when shooting a wedding and you need to make sure that you have the maximum amount of data available when editing images to correct any issues with exposure, colour and white balance.

This means that it’s important to shoot raw files.

By all means shoot JPEG files at the same time, but shoot raw files to get you out of trouble.


Source Article: Wedding Photographer Mistake



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