Learning the Art of Wedding Photography

Getting Started in Wedding Photography

I believe wedding photography is definitely it’s own genre or category of photography, just like portrait, commercial, landscape, aerial,medical photography etc. Although still part of the photography genre, wedding photography requires special knowledge and skills that are necessary to put together a wedding story.

Not just a wedding story but a beautiful story that is unique to each wedding. Not only does the photographer require great skill and knowledge in proper equipment but should also understand at the minimum, the basics of lighting, both in the control of lighting and what to look for when using natural lighting or the combination of flash, tungsten, Fluorescent and LED lighting.

The Early Pioneers of Modern Wedding Photography

I was fortunate to have studied with many of the great wedding photographers that were pioneers in what modern wedding photography is today. Names like Monte Zucker, Bill Stockwell, Rocky Gunn and a few others drastically changed the style of wedding photography from the days of when the Bride & Groom with their wedding party would arrive at a photographer’s studio for some basic formal portraits.

I learned many of their principals and incorporated them into my own style which is a combination of Classic Wedding Portraiture, Wedding Photojournalism and Fashion and Romantic Portraiture. By putting these style together, I feel is the ultimate wedding story that captures not only the wedding day but the romance and feelings that become part of the wedding day and its story. To me this makes the most beautiful and complete wedding album.

Wedding Photography Evolves

I believe many of today’s greatest wedding photographers took what Monte Zucker, Bill Stockwell and Rocky Gunn taught and tweaked it to what it is today. Looking at some of the award winning prints from the PPA (Professional Photographers of America) & WPPI (Wedding & Portrait Photographers International), I see photographers influences in the photojournalistic style of Bill Stockwell. Photographers portraying beauty & elegance in their images, I see the influences of Monte Zucker. Outdoor adventure photographs show a heavy influence of the great Rocky Gunn. Fashion & Glamour images show an influence of legendary photographer Stephen Rudd.

It is always exciting to see what the print competitions bring us every year and see what the new photographers come up with. At these print competitions we get the opportunity to see some of the most beautiful photographs ever created.

When I first started my style was pretty much the wedding portrait style as taught by Monte Zucker. Later I saw and met Denis Reggie and from him I learned the importance of incorporating wedding photojournalism. I also learned what equipment is best when doing wedding photojournalism and the importance of being prepared.

It was Denis Reggie who inspired many wedding photographers to become wedding photojournalists. As a result many photographers started doing weddings in this style. There were many heated debates as to which style is best, Wedding Portraiture or wedding Photojournalism.

Putting Romance into Wedding Photography

Then along came Stephen Rudd. When I first met Stephen, I saw some of the most beautiful wedding images that I have ever seen. His style was very fashion orientated with beautiful poses and he also had a great influence in making wedding photography what it is today.

To me, combining and blending the three styles of wedding portraiture, wedding photojournalism and wedding romantic/fashion photography into my basic style is the best of all worlds. This way the wedding day is documented, the family and wedding party are also captured in beautiful classic formal portraits combined with classic formal and romantic images of the bride and groom. And you end up with a story that has a beginning, middle and a beautiful ending.

In my opinion, doing the portrait style of wedding photography requires the most skill. It requires knowledge in posing, lighting and composition all while trying not to take too much time away from the bride and groom so they can enjoy their special day. And also, trying to be as unobtrusive as possible.

The Wedding Photography Experience

Wedding Photographers, once they gain experience have to become jack of all trades so to speak. They may have to be flexible, adaptable and able to cope with a high pressure situation while appearing calm and in control. This is especially true when a photographer experiences equipment failure, difficult personalities, etc. A good assistant is vital to helping the main photographer concentrate on the emotional end of photography while the assistant can concentrate on the equipment and the mechanics.

In addition and a very important trait to learn after the photographer learns about lighting, posing and the basics of photography is the ability to make an emotional connection with the bride and groom when doing portraiture at the wedding. That’s an important element that is evident in all the greatest and successful portrait as well as wedding photographers.

Building the Foundation

With the advent of digital photography and DSLR cameras many so called amateur photographers have jumped into the ring of wedding photography. If you are one of those my recommendations would be to really get to know your equipment and read and study all you can before putting someone’s once in a lifetime memories in your hands.

We all had to start somewhere and it may be a good idea to offer to do some photographs for a friend or relative as a gift or special price. Make it known that you are just starting out and with a disclaimer that you are not responsible for guaranteed results.

If that scares you may want to consider offering to be an intern for one of the top photographers in your area. You can help with equipment as you assist the photographer. This is the best and quickest way to learn as you experience what a wedding is all about. And if your helping someone that’s at the top of their profession, you’ll learn from one of the best and shouldn’t pick up too many bad habits. Plus, you could gain a great deal of knowledge in a very short time.

When looking for assistants I used this method and found several people who became really great photographers and later became a second shooter for me. On the flip side, I also came across people who thought they wanted a career change and thought wedding photography was it, until they discovered what was all involved and some didn’t like being on their feet all day.

I feel before you get paid for this service you should have enough experience to produce a good album or set of images for the bride and groom. Also, show samples of the current work you have done that reflect your style and are capable of producing similar images.

Start with a good solid foundation of basic photography. Learn about lighting, composition and some basic posing rules for doing the portraits of the bride and groom and their families. Learn also about photojournalism and it’s relation to lenses, shutter speeds, and what effect aperture settings have in creating your photographs.

Learn From The Best

Another great way to get to the top of this profession is to join wedding photography organizations. I highly recommend joining the Wedding and Portrait Photographers International (WPPI) and the Professional Photographers of America (PPA).

Also look into Professional Photographer organizations in your state. Every state has one and they are affiliated with the PPA. You’ll get to know all the great photographers in your state.

I learned so much from these groups and conventions and seminars I attended. I also made a lot of life time friends. This was probably the best education I got. I took many of the best principals that I liked and started using using them in my business.

Like any profession, you get out what you put into it. Once you learn the photography part of it, then it’s time to understand the business of photography. And that’s another interesting and very important part if you want to derive income from the business of photography.