So you're gonna shoot your first wedding. Congratulations, you brave soul! For the hours you're covering the event, you'll literally be holding the happy couple's memories in your hands. No pressure. Uh hem- UNBELIEVABLE PRESSURE!
My first time was nothing like I dreamt it would be. It ended up being a tremendous honor and a valuable learning experience! I was anxious, manic even, before the event, but once I got there, I found my groove. So, if you are trembling with fear and wondering why you said, "Yes," take a deep breath. There's only one way to find out if wedding photography is for you. Do it.
1. Get there at least 30 minutes early to warm up. Even if you did your homework and scouted the location, be there early. Find parking. Make sure you have all the equipment you think you packed. This time buffer can save you if you need to make a quick trip to get memory cards. Hopefully you are well stocked and over-prepared. Use the extra time to warm up. Walk the grounds. Re-scout the location with the decor and details in place. Take some shots. Capture the details. This is your time to get in the zone, get comfortable with your camera's settings, and loosen up.
2. Gently direct people. You may be shooting a to-do list of must-get shots. The couple may be telling you exactly what they want and with whom. Still - you can see what everything looks like - so DIRECT THEM. If you see better light a few feet away, ask them to scoot over. If poses seem forced and unnatural, suggest the couple dance or kick or shimmy or kiss. Anything to break the awkwardness. Ask others to step away. Fix hair. Adjust jewelry. Be firm and kind with your direction. Trust your aesthetic. Get beautiful shots.
3. Don't be rude, but GET THE SHOT. Move around the ceremony like a ninja. Be respectful. Be quiet. But always get the shot. Don't feel like you have to freeze. I'd rather be asked nicely by someone to scooch and get an amazing capture than feel stuck. A telephoto/zoom lens can work great and let you be further from the action, but if you're working with other lenses, move around and get the shots you need.
4. Capture details. Notice what the guests notice: the bouquet at the receiving table, the guest book, the way the ceremony space is dressed. You'll want to present the couple with the details they may have missed from their perspective. Don't forget to capture wide shots and close-ups of details, too.
5. Take care of yourself. It's easy to get caught up in capturing all the details and moments of the couple's big day, but that doesn't mean you have to suffer. You can't be your most professional & creative self if your needs aren't being met. You'll be running on adrenaline in the beginning, but eventually you'll need some water and calories! Stay hydrated. Pack your own water bottle and refill it. Eat something. If you're vegan and they're serving brisket and shrimp cocktail- pack your own snacks. You camera bag can hold these survival essentials.