So, you’ve got the slick website, you’ve perhaps made it on to page one of Google, your Facebook photography page has hundreds of likes. You’ve maybe even got a good number of weddings under your belt. That’s all good and well, but nothing will dent your success more than having clients come to your website only to take one look at your photos and email your competitors instead. With that in mind, here are our top 5 tips to ensure your wedding photos land you more clients:
1. Use Better Lenses
Walking in to a wedding using kit lenses is a recipe for disaster. There’s a reason why the top wedding photographers use fast glass – and it’s not for bragging rights. What’s a fast lens? Anything which opens up to between f/2.8 and f/1.2. Shooting indoors with a lens which maxes out at f/4 or f/5.6 won’t bag you any show-stopping shots. Let me explain. Shooting in an averagely-lit room at an aperture of f/5.6, with ISO on 100 will give you a shutter speed around 1/4s. That’s too slow and is going to result in blurred images. You can’t open your aperture any further, so to increase your shutter speed you have to boost your ISO. Sharp, handheld images will start at about 1/100s and to achieve that with an aperture of f/5.6 you need an ISO of 3200. If you’re shooting an entire wedding at ISO 3200, you’re doing it wrong. So let’s look at shooting an aperture of f/2.8. Suddenly there’s 2-stops more light (4x the amount) coming through the lens compared to at f/5.6. This means you can now achieve a shutter speed of 1/100s at only ISO 640. Another benefit of shooting at wider apertures (lower F numbers) is a shallower depth of field. This is great for making your bridal portraits pop from their background and enhancing the professional look of your images.
I appreciate not everyone has £1,000 lying around to buy a nice f/2.8 zoom or prime lens, but considering you can hire a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens for around £50 per weekend, there’s no excuse not to arm yourself with one at your next wedding.
2. Learn To Use Flash – Properly!
Your aim should be to shoot the majority of a wedding using only natural light. Yes, there are occasions when flash is required, such as with creatively-lit shots, but, if you’re using fill flash for most of your shots throughout the day, again, you’re doing it wrong (and that’s another reason why fast lenses are a must-have). If you are using fill flash, please learn how to bounce it correctly. This means no nasty shadows on the wall behind your subject! If you are using flash creatively, you must get up to speed on the art and science of lighting a scene. Controlling ambient light and flash power separately using just your camera’s aperture, shutter-speed and ISO is just one area you need to master (and that’s a whole other tutorial).
3. Keep Inspired
No matter how good you think you are as a wedding photographer, there are countless better. For every shot of yours you think is amazing, there are many more who have shot it better. For that reason, always take inspiration from others. I admire and follow a number of wedding photographers whose work blows me away. I also spend time flicking through books of wedding poses, bridal portraits, group shots etc. Your own portfolio will only improve if you seek to embrace the work of those who impress you.
4. Learn To Pose Your Subjects
There’s a very thin line between a great pose and a cheesy pose. Posing your subjects is an art and something which takes time to get right. The wrong pose can ruin a shot. There are a number of ways to tackle this hurdle. Spend time with a friend and test out poses as if they were a bride or groom. Find out what looks good and what doesn’t. What’s more, it helps build your confidence in manhandling your subjects on an actual wedding shoot. Again, look at the work of other wedding photographers. If you see a pose which works well, take a photo of the image using your DSLR. That way you have it available to view and refer to any time you need to on the day. The best tip I was given is to always give your subject something to hold. For a bride this normally means the bouquet. It gives them something to do with their hands and makes them feel less exposed in front of the camera.
5. Master Post-Processing
My biggest pet-peeve is seeing a great wedding photo ruined by heavy-handed or garish post-processing. The best wedding photos still look natural after they’ve been retouched. Your editing should be gentle, subtle and simply enhance the image. Things to avoid:
- Adding a blurred or ‘dreamy’ halo around the peripheral of the image.
- Adding a dark vignette to most shots.
- Using a colour select effect (where you turn the image black & white except for one item in the shot)
- Excessive saturation (including unnaturally blue skies)
Again, there are frequent exceptions to this ‘rule’. For instance, there may be certain signature images which look better with more extensive editing and effects. But, you’ve got to be damn sure the end result works.
Every wedding photographer has to start somewhere and landing those first few shoots is a great feeling. Just make sure you appreciate the magnitude of your responsibility and fully embrace the art of wedding photography. Cutting corners isn’t a recipe for success in this incredibly-competitive field.
Author – Oliver Pohlmann
All images by Oliver Pohlmann & Stuart Tree