Day 79: What You Really Need to Get Started in Wedding Photography

Did I ever tell you about the first wedding I shot by myself? I brought strobe lighting and giant modifiers and light stands that weighed ten pounds each. It was way too much. I basically tried to setup an entire studio around the grand entrance. As the DJ sat staring at me in disbelief, I single-handedly held up the dinner by thirty minutes. Ouch.

The ironic part was, I didn’t ever want weddings to be practice for me. I wanted to have it “down” before ever trying to shoot a wedding. So while I went in confident I had all the right equipment and knowing how to use my camera, I was completely clueless about things like timelines and working with other vendors.

So today I’m going to tell you what I believe to be the bare minimum you need to shoot a wedding.

  1. A professional grade camera
  2. A backup camera
    Sorry, but if your camera breaks mid wedding, you can’t be up a creek.
  3. A portrait lens
    The 50mm 1.4 was what I used for years and years before I was able to buy a 1.2.
  4. A long lens
    The 70-200mm 2.8 is my go-to lens for ceremonies because it allows me to zoom in close without getting all up in the couple’s faces while they’re saying their vows.
  5. Macro rings
    OR a 100mm macro lens. Something to shoot details (mostly rings) up close and get a good quality image. Some of my early ring shots are terrible because I didn’t have something that would allow me to get sharp focus up close.
  6. A wide lens
    Sometimes you’ll need to get a group shot with your back against a wall and the 50mm will be a bit too close. I like my 35mm 1.4. I know a lot of photographers go for the 24-70mm, but I’m a prime girl so most of my lenses are at a fixed focal length.
  7. A rolling camera bag
    It will save your shoulders.
  8. Two flashes
    One for on camera and one for off. I have cheapo Yongnuo Flashes with triggers and they have served me well. You don’t have to get too crazy here.
  9. A light stand
    For that off camera flash
  10. Memory cards and batteries
    For your camera and lights!

Some things to keep in mind as a newbie wedding photog:

• It’s your job to stick to the timeline. The other vendors depend on you to do this so that they can also do their job well. Introduce yourself to the other vendors, let them know you’re here for them and to let you know if they need anything!

• Email the florist a few days early to ask for a few extra flowers for styling your invitations and details.

• Try to create a color story. If their colors are blush and cream, that red rose garden (as pretty as it may be) can break the color story. Or if red is part of their color story, seek out red and use it!

• Keep smiling. Some vendors, I’ve noticed, have to go through some kind of crisis on a wedding day or they seem to think it’s not an official wedding day. Keep a smile on your face, everything is work-through-able. Keep it classy. You don’t want to be known as that photographer who is always in a panic.

• Seek out photographers you admire and ask if you can second shoot for them. Then ask them for feedback on how you can better shoot for them. Having another set of experienced eyes nitpick my work was worth it’s weight in gold!!!

• Email the full galleries to the vendors after the wedding. If you’re a go getter, email them  10-20 images the day after the wedding for social media use!

• Don’t overshoot on a wedding day. Take a moment to think about what you’re shooting. It’s hard but you’re training your eye/brain/body to shoot faster AND better when you do this. Don’t spray and pray… even at the dance shots, choose your subject, compose with intention and shoot.

• Learn from each wedding. Every wedding (especially the first ten or so) should have a massive takeaway that ups your wedding game for the next round! The key is to keep getting better! Learn lessons and be grateful for them!

• You don’t need 150 images from the groom getting ready. I used to think I needed an hour for shooting groom getting ready, an hour for bride getting ready, an hour for couples portraits. No, girl. Go into the grooms suite, introduce yourself, tell them that you’ll be there for ten minutes and then they can get back to their shenanigans. Aim for 20 rockin shots of them hanging out and get out of there! They’ll appreciate it and you will be more wise about how you use your time!

• Add to your gear. While you might not NEED some of these things to start, over the years I’ve added a small step stool, a detail bag, extra chargers, memory card holders, etc to my list of wedding day stuff. Having things like extra chargers makes my life easier the night before the wedding when I’m charging batteries. Having some linen styling boards or vintage postage stamps on hand makes my images look more high end. A small step stool helps me to get a higher vantage point when I need one on a wedding day. While I didn’t start out with all these things, I do like having them available. Keep adding slowly and keep making your wedding days easier and better for yourself and your clients!

Day 98 is currently reserved for any questions you have throughout the 100 days. To submit a question, please click here! If you’re interested in supporting this project, please share, PIN and comment! Any other questions, comments or ideas, please feel free to email me at denise(at)denisekaris(dot)com

Denise Karis is an Arizona photographer who enjoys musicals, Doctor Who and breakfast burritos. IG @denisekaris