I thought of taking a break from talking about technology and share my a few wedding photography tips from my years of expereience. These tips can also be useful in other events or photography genres.
1. Arrive an hour before the event starts. Yes, you are not getting paid for it, but that doesn't matter in the long run. It's good to have time to plug in your batteries, get a feel of the venue, catch some extra behind the scenes photos. I will probably repeat this but I always try to give my clients some extras. I know that the money doesn't matter as much as repeat clients and clients who will give you good reviews and recommend you to their friends and family.
2. Dress sharply! It makes feel better and on many occasions I shared shirts, jackets and more with my male clients. In general, I try to feel less like a caterer (I know some photographers dress like that) and more like a party guest. I try to be close to my clients and get excited for them on their special day. Also , my last groom forgot to pack his dress shirt, so that definitely saved the day.
I love this photo of a cute couple and my own jacket :)
3. Know things about your clients, ask them about their hobbies, what they like to do in their spare time, what is their job, etc. You never know when that will come in handy.
4. Tell your clients to do everything slowly, especially ring exchanges and cutting of cake, but also the walk down the isle. Politicians know this, they pose for ever and ever, shaking hands for a couple of minutes, Your bride and groom will probably not know this and being nervous will probably do things on overdrive unless told in advance.
5. Make sure there's enough time for posed shots, in a nice location. Tell them if they just want to do it in the hotel parking lot, or the ugly park nearby, they might regret it.
6. Never argue with the client. If they want a little more photo manipulation, do it. If they say there are not enough photos of anything, even if it's not your fault, agree and try to fix it as much as you can. Sometimes out of focus photos can be salvaged, photos can be cropped to fit a person and you should definitely get the videographer's info, as you might use a photo-shopped video still of some obscure aunt that you might have missed, to save the day.
7. Photoshop is your friend. As a photographer I do wish all my photos were perfect. However, they are not, especially in group photos, where sometimes a person would blink, look aside or lose an adorable smile. Young children and babies are notorious for doing their own thing while everybody else is obediently smiling at the camera. A lot of the times I combine parts of different photos of the same shot.
8. That said you should always strive to make the group photos better. Always make sure that people are looking at the camera. You would be surprised at how many times, even grownups who know what they are there for will stand there with all their friends and family and just look aside, looking lost at thought. I typically just look at the people before putting my eyes on the viewfinder or LCD and make sure everybody realizes what they should be doing.
9. Even if you are testing some people's patience, try to take most photos at different aperture and exposures if possible. I set my aperture at 4 for most shots, cranking it to 5.6 when I have a group of people. Sure, some shots of a single person, or two people when one is out of focus could look very nice at 2.8 or even 1.4 and the shallow depth of field style has been proven quite popular, but I always try to take backup photos at more closed aperture, because there is nothing more annoying than a good shot that is somewhat out of focus, or a shot of more than one person where someone is out of focus.
10. Have fun! Any job in my mind is not worth doing if you don't enjoy it, if you don't like it. Sure, holding a camera and running around might be stressful, even painful at times. The only way in my mind to justify such a vocation is not only liking the results but also enjoying the process, being with people, talking to people, experiencing emotions together with people you don't know and finding the uniqueness in each person.
11. Talk to your clients about alcohol consumption. It's okay if they want to get hammered on their special day but I would recommend to lay off the booze until after the formals or any other posed photos. It makes it incredibly difficult for people to follow even the simplest instruction when they are intoxicated, especially trying to get a lot of people to stand without casting shadows on each other and looking at a camera. Also, some people, especially men gets flustered and their faces turn purple or red. Some people make faces that are decidedly not photogenic.
12. Floral arrangements should need be higher than the people when they are sitting. It makes for awkward compositions and messes with any flash photography or any direct light like that of a sun setting down, creating unwanted shadow. While this should definitely be floral arrangement 101, it doesn't hurt to warn the couple about this at your consultation.