Let me start off by saying, DO NOT try to hijack a wedding from the hired photographer. They are being paid to be there and document the day. Be respectful, be considerate, and if anyone asks you, please put your camera away. Above all else, you should be there to help celebrate the couple and their special day.
Recently I had the chance to get a little wedding photo practice. I wasn’t trying to intervene or undermine the hired photographer. My family knows that I’m actively pursuing photography so they asked if I would bring my camera to the wedding and I did. However, I kept my camera in my vehicle until they asked me to take it out. I figured I’d just share my 2 cents on how to get a little photo practice in at a wedding.
The best way to get practice is to be prepared. Keep a camera on you, nearby, or know how to use your phone to take photos. If you’re going to a small wedding this is the perfect opportunity to snap a few photos (while being respectful and out of the way of course). This will familiarize you with the setup, layout, and flow of a wedding. Pick up on where the lulls are, what the photographer is taking photos of, the positions of the shots and the framing they choose. By simply observing and documenting the photographer, you’ll have a better understanding of what to do when it’s your turn.
Once the ceremony is over and people have left the space, take your own photos of the area. If anyone is left behind, ask them if you can take their photo. Most times, they would love to have their photo taken, and if they say no, then there’s no harm no foul. This is also your chance to get a closer look at the space. Stand where the photographer stood. Frame your shots as they framed theirs. Really get into the groove of things. If you have a subject, practice with them. Remember to always be respectful of any family, cleaning crew, organizers, etc. If they need the space or ask you to leave, please do.
This is only practice. Have fun with it. Experiment. Mess Up. You’re not getting paid and you’re learning. This is where it’s ok to play around with lighting, framing, positioning and anything else. Have your subjects make funny faces or stand certain ways. It’s also a way to experiment with a time limit because if they’re anything like my family, after the wedding, people are trying to make it to the reception so you’ll be limited on time if you plan to show up to the party. When it’s time to edit the photos, experiment there as well. Edit them as if you were getting paid. What would you want your deliverable photos to look like?
Share your experimental practice photos with the people in them, with the wedding couple, with friends and family via social media or your blog or email or however you choose to share photos. Let people know that these were only extracurricular practice photos. If they’re good enough, use them in your portfolio to show potential clients. The point of this exercise is to enjoy the wedding, celebrate the couple, and get a little practice in. As long as you do just that, you’ll succeed.
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