I’ve been to my fair share of weddings over the years, and while I always noticed the photographer moving around throughout, I never really thought about how much work goes into getting the perfect shots.
Until I assisted one.
A few weeks ago I got to spend the day assisting Corey Jackson, one of my favorite wedding photographers. One of the reasons I like Corey’s work is because there’s an element of warmth that he brings to his images-it’s more about the moment that he captures between the couple and friends as opposed to just a “cool shot”. You can tell that he genuinely enjoys what he does. Connecting with your clients to find out what they want conveyed that day makes all the difference in the world (no one likes a beautiful but cold photo). But before I gush on and on about his work, let’s get back to the job.
So, first things first. Wedding photographers don’t just show up to shoot the ceremony and reception. SO much more goes into it. As with most shoots, you should be trying to tell a story with your finished product (in this case your client’s wedding album), so there are certain shots you HAVE to make. HOW you shoot them will obviously be dictated by your personal shooting/editing style, but to make your day go smoothly, it’s best to arrive early and have a timeline.
I met Corey a few hours before the ceremony so that we could scout for photo backdrops, plan out which lens he would use for which shots, and to review the overall timeline of events so that I and his other assistant could help him make sure he checked off everything on his list. Obviously things will never be under your control 100% of the time, but this seriously cut down on him having to run around like a crazy person. During downtime, he took test shots and then gave me tips on composition, lighting, and equipment advice (what my next lens should be!)
Wedding Party Roundup
Once the wedding party arrived, we rounded them up in groups (groomsmen, bridesmaids, etc) and got their shots out of the way. Now some people may wait to do this at the end of the ceremony, but I’d honestly recommend going this route. While it may take a moment to round them all up, getting these images in early ensures you won’t have to worry about making sure everyone is there for the shot later that night, if makeup looks bad, hair has dropped, etc. Everyone is fresh-faced and excited about the wedding and you can capture that in the photos.
Because Corey scouted the venue prior to the ceremony starting, he knew exactly where he needed to be to get the shots he wanted. He was able to seamlessly blend into the background throughout the ceremony and not be a distraction. We had a copy of the wedding program, so at one point I even got to take a few shots of the overall ceremony while he continued with the more detailed ones (I hope they turned out ok!). A lot of times wedding photographers enlist a second shooter to assist with shots like to ensure you don’t miss a thing.
Once the ceremony ended, it was time to pack things up and go to the reception venue. Because he’d already gotten the wedding party shots out of the way, he only needed to get a few of them with the bride and groom, and some additional shots of the bride in her dress with the groom. This was knocked out in about an hour, so for the rest of the night he was able to shoot the party and have a little fun.
Having a timeline and checklist worked wonders-while I can’t say it was stress-free (nothing ever is) it made the day flow so much better. I doubt I’ll be shooting a wedding anytime soon (I know my lane, lol), but I can definitely use what I learned for future editorials that I shoot for the blog and any styling jobs I’m hired for.
If you’re interested in learning about wedding photography, I highly recommend reaching out to someone whose work you admire and finding out if you can assist them one day. It’s not as easy as it looks, and it’s about more than just knowing how to shoot a fancy camera. Assisting someone prior to trying to take on jobs of your own will help you not get in over your head (aka ruin someone’s big day!), and also give you an idea of what you would look for when creating an engagement or wedding album. What I learned was priceless, and I’m truly appreciative of my friends that are an open book.
Are you interested in photography? What’s something you’d like to learn? Comment below!