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10 Tips for Contemporary Wedding Photography

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Never before has the genre of wedding photography been more creative or dynamic. Couples today are wanting to step away from the traditionally posed, sepia tinted images so popular decades ago. The aim of this article is to guide you towards a style that is more current, expressive, artistic, and one that will attract the interest of brides-to-be. Let's renew our photography vows and step into 2010 with a new perspective!

1. The Appointment

Once a couple has seen your portfolio and come by to meet you, it's extremely important you show them how excited you are to be working with them. There is a very good chance you might ask your couple to climb an overpass for you on the wedding day, so ideally your couple should feel 100% comfortable and confident with you.

This business is also incredibly competitive and your couple will often be interviewing two or three other photographers, so selling your couple on you, and your style, is incredibly important during the appointment.

2. Equipment Check

Most professional shooters are using full frame camera bodies, and high quality, fast lenses. If you can't afford a full frame body, its no problem to rent this equipment. Your couple want the best, and there is no room for error equipment-wise. Besides, you'll have peace of mind you'll be blown away with the richness of your images during the editing process.

Chromatic aberration, high ISO noise, and steep tonal transitions are generally much smoother with full frame bodies and lenses. Another benefit to renting equipment is that your old camera can be stored away as a backup body.

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3. The Big Picture

Many photographers spend too much time focusing exclusively on the bride or groom and never capture what is happening around them. There is always a great story to be found by simply turning around and capturing emotionally rich images of the friends and family.

Capture the bride or groom's sentimental items to expand your story telling, or try to capture intimate details found nearby. Items such as a copy of the grooms speech, a ring, or notes about the wedding can be great items to photograph in an artistic way, and add chapters to your story telling.

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4. Be Consistent

When looking through portfolios of many top photographers, you will often notice a consistency of style which is a result of the artists unique visual and technical aesthetic. For example, if you are shooting bride prep at f4, stay there, adjust only your shutter speed, or ISO. In doing so you will be able to shoot faster, and achieve a more consistent exposure.

You can apply basic camera raw adjustments to hundreds of photos after fine-tuning the adjustments of one image, and doing so can save you hours of editing time. In addition to saving you time, your images will begin to show your personal look or vision which is what you need in order to distinguish yourself visually.

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5. Color & Reflections

Very often during the bridal preparation, there will be a makeup and hair stylist present with a whole case of colorful makeup items. If possible I always try to use these items as a color block, and practice shooting through colors at a very wide aperture (ex. f1.4-8) for use of expressive in camera color.

The idea here is to create a flattering and harmonious use of blurred color combinations. This technique isn't for everyone, and shouldn't be over-used, but it will add a unique visual dynamic to your coverage.

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6. Capture Everything - Part 1

The bride and groom greatly appreciate it, and generally expect to have all the hand crafted details, and decorations captured, but this doesn't mean you can't add some personal style to the image. Shooting detail shots with a very shallow depth of field is a great way to isolate distracting elements from your focal point.

In the photo of the band, I shot the musicians reflections off a glass window mixed with additional reflections. I like using this technique because you will create a very unique photo in camera, and no two will ever be the same. Photographing people from reflections will always create a moody, and interesting image. Again, it's all about story telling.

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7. Capture Everything - Part 2

Vendors love it when their floral designs, stationary, or the evening meal is photographed well. Not only can you offer these images to them for commercial use, but you can also use these images for editorial and stock use which will bring you extended revenue from your coverage.

Get to know wedding planners, hotel administration, and anyone else working in your industry because these people are fantastic contacts, can offer you special discounts, and simply make working together more pleasant. Above anything else these people can refer you to potential clients, so say thank you, be professional, and always exchange business cards.

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8. Creative Portraits

This is a time when your creative energy should be at it's highest, and is a time when your couple will be looking to you for guidance and inspiration. Couples will generally give back the same enthusiasm you give them, so be confident and provide clear directions.

Every location is different and I recommend scouting out the location and other locations nearby one week prior to shooting the wedding. Also, be prepared to find an alternate location if it rains. Whenever possible take your couple to unique and interesting spots nearby after you get your 'standard' shots.

Areas with colored glass, extreme light and shadow, or an overpass, are generally great areas to bring your wedding party. Try to find a setting where you can set up a romantic visual narrative. Asking couples to do something crazy might sound stressful now, but to make your work stand out from the rest you have to take risks.

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9. The After Party

Once you are home, have backed up your images, and begun editing, surprise your couple with a post on your blog showing a few of the best images, and a warm, short write up about your experience shooting the wedding. The couple will generally be very thankful and share the link with friends and family members, which drives traffic to your site.

Not only have you impressed your couple, but your website and other images may impress any one of their still engaged friends looking for a great photographer.

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10. Post Processing

When I begin editing my photos I very often have 4,000 images to choose from, not to mention the photos taken by my assistant. Ideally I want to deliver around 600+ Photoshopped images to my clients, and from those 600 I want to spend extra time creating 30-40 very unique images.

These are the images that represent the very best frames from the day - the images you really want to work on and make absolutely amazing. These are your portfolio images. I like to call these the 'featured' images, and on the couples disc I give four folders; full sized, web sized, featured large, and featured small.

In my personal workflow I use Photoshop actions to save time editing, and I specifically like using Totally Rad Actions, designed by Doug Boutwell. I use various actions for making quick adjustments that save a few minutes per image, and save hours of time editing a whole wedding.

I can import my images into Lightroom, select and delete, rename, and process most images within 6 hours. I generally spend another half day working on the featured images, but that's me. If you can get yourself into an efficient workflow process you will enjoy editing hundreds of photos, be more productive, and have more time for lunch.

Keep it Fresh and Interesting

I hope this article will help photographers see that wedding photography isn't always traditional and old fashioned. Just because a white dress is involved, doesn't mean you can't take risks with wedding photography.

Getting to know a few new technical tips and a fresh perspective on the genre may be all you need to expand your portfolio, and adapt your style into one that is fun, creative, colorful, and current.

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