Shooting the 'First' Wedding

Scott Kelby may have given the best insight when he wrote in his book The Digital Photography Book v1: If you have a long lens, before long, someone you know will get married but they won't have a budget for a professional photographer.  He'll ask "Can you shoot our wedding photos?" 

Well for me it didn't happen quite this way.  I've been working on getting my own photography business going for more then a year now (real business licenses and all).  I've had the intention to start to work towards getting into the wedding photography business.  Now, BEFORE any of you who are reading this who happen to be seasoned wedding photogs, don't start writing your hate emails just yet.  I did not just one day say "oh, I can do that," and I did not just run out to Wal-mart but a digital rebel kit and say "now I'm a Pro."  I've been shooting photos for about 20 years now (I started when I was about 6).  I can use film, and I learned how to develop my own in a real wet chemical darkroom.  I got my first SLR while in high school, and my first D-SLR in 2005.  As far as becoming a pro-photographer, it's been a long time coming, it's a long story, and I'll tell you another time.  But as far as shooting weddings, I've read most of the books out there on the topic, and I've been studying the work of some of the better ones out there, well they at least impressed me with their work (David Ziser, Jasmine Star, and locally Mel Watson and Louis Torres' podcast is pretty cool too).  I've been putting a lot of thought into how I would shoot a wedding and what my style would be like, I've been working up my own confidence, and skills but wasn't feeling like I was 100% ready to shoot a wedding on my own, but then it happened.

A close friend of mine was getting married, I was invited, and one day I was just curious so I asked her who her wedding photographer was going to be and what their website was since I wanted to take a look.  She told me that she was just having some guy she worked with take photos, since he used to own his own studio 20 years ago or something."  With that, I told her I had been thinking of getting into wedding photography, I asked her if she could ask her "Official" photographer if he would mind if I took some photos while I was there.  My friend asked and the other photographer didn't mind, and since my friend really wanted to help me out, she gave me pretty much free reign to shoot anything I needed to build up a portfolio for wedding photography.  I worked out great for me, I got to shoot a wedding, use the pics, and there was a good bit of pressure and stress that was removed from my shoulders since there was another "official" photographer.

Well, I just want to say, I am in no way trying to claim to be the best photog out there, I don't have the best equipment on the market, and I know I'm still working  on developing my skills.  But when I first saw the "official" photographer he was "the guy who got a rebel kit at Wal-mart".  (I had a flashback to David Ziser's blog post here)

I'm going to make this brief, but in short, the "official" photographer has a Digital Rebel, the kit lens, and a 430EXII flash with a Sto-fen bounce.  I don't know if he had extra batteries, flash cards or anything else.  In his defense, he did have a shot list, and he definitely showed he had some experience with setting up group poses.  However, when the bride (My close friend) was getting ready to walk down the aisle, the official photogs camera had some sort of a malfunction, and he quickly asked me to step into his position and get the shots of the bride walking down the aisle.  As the reception was getting underway the bride came up to me and said the official photographer wanted to do a staged exit to get the photos so he could leave, and she asked if I was staying till the end.  I told her I was staying and would take the pictures.  I was having a blast, shooting hundreds of photos at the reception.  The other photographer also came up to me to see if I was staying to get the shots of the bride and groom leaving, I told him I was, and that was the last I saw him.  (I'll add that I don't know what he had agreed to shoot for the bride, or if he had a contract, but, I made the decision that in my business of shooting weddings, I will stay from start to finish).  By the end of the night, both the bride and groom, and several guests were telling me that I saved the wedding, and that I was much better then the other photographer.  I like to think that it says a lot about the amount of work I have put into preparing to shoot weddings.  But it was also a little luck, a little good fortune, and good business.

The morning after, as I was driving back to FL from NC where the wedding was, I got several texts from the bride, thanking me for all I did.  I spent the next 11 days editing photos, since the bride was a close friend, and she was letting me use the photos to promote my own business, I probably spent a lot more time.  on the 10th day, I selected a few of the best photos and made a quick little animoto slide show and posted it to the bride's facebook page for her to get a quick pre-view as soon as she returned from her honeymoon.  By the 12th day after the wedding I had uploaded the best photos 'print ready' to a gallery on my website.  I then made a full-video playable dvd with slide shows, and the image files, I made a custom DVD-case and sent that to the bride and groom.  There is some more stuff I am still working on (My official gift to them will be a printed photo book type album) and I'm still working on some 'Artist Edits'.  This was the first wedding I have ever shot, I left having shot thousands of images.  The photos that accompany this post were all shot at this wedding.  I would welcome comments from other photographers, let me know how you think I did?  Leave me tips for what else I could do, or do better.  Tell me what it was like to shoot your first wedding.  Just remember, everyone has to start somewhere.  And the most important people the bride and groom from my first wedding keep thanking me.

-Pete

Professional Wedding Photographer

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