You don’t know what you don’t know
I still clearly remember the first wedding I ever photographed. It was November 2019. Most other Auckland wedding photographers that I have me second shot at other weddings to gain experience, but me? Nope. I’d been working as a portrait photographer for a while and was really confident in my ability to capture beautiful photos. I researched what I needed to know, and jumped into the deep end, hoping that I would swim. And when that first wedding day came, I managed to stay afloat, and deliver photos to the couple that they loved. But my work was far from perfect.
Well, I learnt a lot that day, one steep learning curve for sure. All in all I think I did a really good job considering it was my first wedding. But 4 years later I have grown a lot and it is safe to say my approach and my photography has come a long way. But here’s some of the lessons I learnt at that wedding that still hold true today…
8 to 10 Hours is sufficient for Wedding Photography
Firstly, 12 hours is too long for wedding photography. You don’t need that many hours unless you are so rich you don’t care how much it costs. That was the first and last time I ever photographed 12 hours of wedding photography in one day. Most couples will get away with 8 hours of wedding photography, if they plan the timeline in accordance with this 8 hour period. That is one of the reasons why I like to work with my couples now to plan their timeline. This enables them to fit everything important into the photography coverage.
The More You Know, The Better
As the wedding photographer, you have to pre-empt what is coming up in order to not miss a moment. This means knowing the timeline of the day, knowing exactly when the first kiss will be during the ceremony, knowing how much time you have for portraits, etc… That first wedding, I went in blind. Thinking that I could just photograph as everything unfolds. That is a sure recipe to miss something important. This is why pre-communication is such a necessary part of the wedding photography preparation. I send my clients a comprehensive questionnaire now that gets as much necessary information about their wedding day so that I can have a clear idea of what is going to unfold.
The Most Important Wedding Photos
It’s important to capture the main parts of the wedding, like exchanging the rings and the first dance. But what means more to the couple are the interactions, the knowing looks, the subtle little smiles and those times they connect only with their eyes but understand exactly what each other are thinking. Capturing these interactions are priceless and more meaningful than any of the other photos in the gallery. These photos have the power to take the couple back to the exact thoughts and feelings they experienced in that second.
The Hardest Part of Wedding Photography
Rounding people up for photos is hard. This part was harder than I anticipated. Take 100 people who only want to chat, drink, mingle, congratulate the newly married couple and enjoy the sunshine (or keep out of the rain). The last thing they want is for their conversations to be interrupted, to be led 20 meters away to pose for a photo. And then they see someone else they haven’t said ‘hi’ to yet and suddenly they forget where they were needing to be and instead become engrossed in another conversation. It can take 10 minutes to get every person in the right place for this big group photo. I learnt that for this task, I needed a helper (one with a loud and confident voice) and a plan. This makes the whole process so much smoother and faster.
Can everybody “Squish”
People also don’t like to get too close to each other in the photos either. I learnt that the most common word I would say as a wedding photographer wasn’t ‘smile’, but ‘squish’. “Can everybody ’squish’ closer please”. Most of the time, people listen, and they get half a step closer, before I need to repeat the instruction “squish even closer please”. But sometimes, the lads just give me a stern look and stand their ground, which I take to mean there is nothing I can say that will get them any closer, and I just have to work with that. And that’s Ok. At the end of the day, it’s about capturing the essence of the people and who they are. I think I might leave my mark on in the wedding world by being remembered as the Auckland Wedding Photographer who’s favourite word was ‘squish’.
People Are Naturally Awkward In Front of a Camera
Most people don’t know how to stand and pose for a photo in a way that doesn’t make them look awkward. They need a little guidance. Just the smallest of instructions can make the world of difference. Almost everyone stands front ways on their 2 feet, strait up with hands awkwardly placed. But this is the worst way to be photographed. Even those who say they don’t want posed photos, just candid ones, benefit from some subtle cues. I love to help the people I photograph look their best!
The Wedding Photographer is the Most Pedantic About the Photos
I learnt that I cared more about the photos than anyone else. I realised that I don’t have the freedom to take my time with the portraits. It was more about getting them done fast and efficiently than taking my time to get 100 different poses with all the background possibilities like I could have done on a portrait session. The point of the day is for the newly weds to celebrate with each other and their friends and family. So it’s still important to get good photos for the to keep and cherish forever, good enough to have enlarged and framed for their walls. But they also need to get back to their guests and enjoy themselves. Now, I always advocate for good adequate portrait photo time, but ultimately it is up to the couple to decide what they want to spend their wedding day doing. And sometimes, they don’t want the same amount of portrait photos that I want. And that’s totally okay.
The Bride’s Shadow
One of the biggest things I learnt during that first wedding was just how much time I spent with the couple, and specifically with the bride. I started to refer to myself as the bride’s shadow after that, because I generally followed her everywhere for most of the day. This made me see how important it was to create a good relationship with the couples I work with, to enable them to feel at ease around me.
I also learnt that day that I cannot carry around 2 cameras, 6 lenses and 2 flashes all day. So I re-thought about the gear I used and how I stored it during a wedding. Now I carry 2 cameras and 3 lenses. Everything else lives in a bag close by to where I am shooting for easy access. My back and shoulders thanks me for it.
In conclusion, the first wedding I ever photographed was a significant milestone in my journey as an Auckland wedding photographer. It taught me invaluable lessons that have shaped my approach and improved my skills over the years. From realising the optimal duration for wedding photography to the importance of pre-communication and anticipating key moments, each lesson has contributed to my growth in this field.
Reflecting on my experiences, I am grateful for the lessons learned during that first wedding. They have not only improved my technical skills but also deepened my understanding of the importance of human connections and emotions in photography. With each wedding I photograph, I continue to grow, embracing new lessons while staying true to my passion for capturing timeless memories.
If you are keen to see the photography from this wedding I first photographed, head to THIS LINK to see how it I did. I keep it on my website for myself really, to remember where this journey started and how far I have come. Take a look and see what you think.
If you are searching for an Auckland Wedding Photographer, then I’d be happy to chat about your upcoming plans. I’d like you to know that I am relatable, human, learning as I go and growing every day. And my commitment to my clients is my absolute priority.
Love Suzannah Maree xoxo