Things I’ve Learned when Surprisingly Shooting a Wedding

Herrsching, Germany. 2015.

Some weeks ago, a friend of mine asked me if I’d like to take some pictures at her wedding. I already know working for free is not always the best idea, and, more importantly, attending an event as photographer often means not taking part in the event at all.

However, as I actually enjoy taking photos and really want to learn taking wedding photos, I accepted and found myself not only as “one of the guests that carries a camera” but as “the one who takes photos” – there was no official photographer.

So I did attend and enjoy the event and did some shots during the ceremony and the dinner, which was completely ok with everybody. And, as expected, I learned quite some things.

Gear

For the entire day I only used the Sony A7 with the Sony Zeiss FE 4/24-70 lens. At the evening I added a flash, the Metz MB 44 AF-1.

Observations

Church interiors are dark. The A7 with its high ISO capabilities is great for shooting at ISO 1600 or 3200 with no visible noise. A longer lens (70-200mm) would have been nice for the ceremony, but having the privilege of being allowed to (carefully and respectfully) walk around during service, solved this.

Have a time schedule. It is important to know what is going to happen next, where you need (or want) to be, and what settings and gear you need to prepare.

In spare minutes, scout locations. There were no group shots or couple portraits planned for this wedding at all, but I decided to do both. When suddenly the band announces “now it’s time for a group shot”, you probably want to already know where to take that shot. Also, take lots of group shots, to ensure that all/most guests have an acceptable expression.

During dinner in the wooden barn, the flash solved the very difficult lighting problem (mostly pointed at the ceiling, compensating for the bright purple light setting).

Missing Parts / Improvements

There are some things I’ve learned and could have done better if (!) this was an official assignment (i.e. no participation in the event):

  • An additional telephoto lens (70-200mm?) could have yielded more intimate pictures during the service.
  • For the silent moments in the church, the A7s or A7RII with their “silent shutter” would have been nice.
  • A portrait lens (85mm?) could have enabled much better portraits (however there was no time scheduled for couple / guest portraits at all, so this was not an issue here).
  • A remote flash on a light stand could have improved the dinner / dance / party shots further.

After all, this was a great day, a great party and a really nice opportunity of learning many things without the pressure of being the one, paid, responsible, official wedding photographer.