Want to become a better photographer? Shoot weddings!

So the title pretty much sums up what I want to say. I'm going to keep this brief, mostly because I was just on my way out the door and then inspiration hit and I have to get this out before my Venti Mocha happens. 

     So if most of you don't know already, I'm a wedding photographer. People usually say one of two things, that's awesome it must be a fun job or I would never do that, i've tried before and it was too stressful. So if you've said either of these things you're both correct.

     This is a fun day, you're spending it with two people on the happiest day of their life; unless of course they have a baby or have just spent way too much at B&H (photographer reference). Everyone's happy on their wedding day despite the hiccups of the day and the hectic nature of the schedule sometimes. The bride and the groom see all their friends and family, get to show off dance skills and force everyone to watch them eat the cake; it's a wonderful time. As the photographer I'm also in a good mood. I've done enough where my day feels like i'm hanging out with new friends and just doing what I love.... taking photos. I get to share this beautiful day with two brand new friends of mine and I get to eat with all the rest of the people. I get unrestricted access to the best photos during the ceremony and reception. I'm not fighting anyone for the best shot of the bride and groom and when the dance floor opens up i've been known to dance with an aunt or grandmother too. At the end of the day I get to thank the bride and groom for inviting me to shoot their wedding by sending a dozen or so shots. It feels good to send those off and see all my photos pop up on their social media (I get tagged and I love it).  So again, to reaffirm, this is fun.

     So the other half of the coin, it's stressful and you don't think you could ever do it. Shooting a wedding is a marathon of photography. Sure you may have done an hour or two shoot before or two portraits in a day but imagine shooting six to twelve hours. When people think that it's going to be the most stressful thing, it's not... maybe the first dozen times. But once you realize that you're the one in control the better off you are. Often times or not my job feels like a photographer / chaperone. I'm typically reaffirming the bride & groom about how the day will unfold throughout the day. Okay, you're getting makeup done and afterwards we're going to take a big group photo, yes, not in your dresses yet or okay directly after the ceremony you'll have the receiving line we're everyone hugs you, shakes your hand and while that's happening i'm going to set up over here and then we can..... You get the point (excuse my run-on sentence), i'm guiding the day and reaffirming their schedule and letting them know if we're good on time or not. 

     So the way weddings make you a better photographer is this, you change settings location wise and on your camera hundreds of time throughout the day. Light changes, difficult people added into the mix, someone doesn't like the way their arms look or you found an amazing location that's a ten minute walk away that you have to convince everyone of. Shooting a wedding will make you a better technical photographer (unless you shoot on Auto). You'll constantly be changing angles, lighting and learning posing. You'll change your settings on your camera non stop and after awhile you can dial in whatever you need at a seconds notice. During the ceremony i'll have on a certain setting but as soon as that announcement happens introducing Mr. & Mrs. Smith i've already shot my few photos and now i'm changing everything on my camera to get those photos of the bride and groom walking up the isle in a bit different lighting situation. 

     The most difficult thing for me is looking at photos i've shot and asked myself why didn't I just drag the shutter a little longer or why didn't I just ask that lady to move out of the photo. So each wedding I improve on all these little details, I know that I'm just going to ask someone to move out of the photo, i'll yell at someone who's mugging too much for the camera. When people are difficult or uncooperative and say something like I don't like photos or are just ruining a group photo I remind them "These photos aren't for you, it's for Mary & Tom". The location's aren't always the same either. You may be shooting at a beautiful hotel in Boston and get to take photos around Boston Commons and some of the urban areas and then the next wedding is at the Elks lodge with a giant parking lot around it. This is a challenge but not unconquerable. You find other locations nearby and suggest that we take a ride up the road to the beautiful lake or go across the street to the bridge or if all else fails, embrace what you have. Take photos of everyone outside in front. Showcase where the bride and groom are, set up some awesome portraits inside, make it fun for everyone.  I also am constantly changing what I bring, some weddings I bring all my super telephoto lenses and others I just bring a few prime lenses. I'm constantly challenging myself, can I shoot a wedding on just a 50mm 1.2, damn right I can. Could I show up to a wedding with a Canon Rebel and kits lens, hell yes and I would have the best photos there. 

     So hopefully you're looking at this in a different light or I just got happy and excited for you for nothing. So to recap, each wedding is a six to twelve hour shoot (I don't put a cap on the time and I don't ask them for more money in the middle of their wedding, they just get extra time, thats it) where you get to shoot the same subject from wherever you want and also the subject is willing to go with any ideas that you put down. Let me rephrase this, imagine doing a photoshoot for two people and having eight hours and not nailing it, it's almost impossible. Regardless of how we all feel about our own work and how judgmental we can feel, the bride and groom are going to love their photos, they're in all of them! So long as you try your hardest and are honest about everything with the bride and groom about what they're getting they'll be happy. 

     Want to get better at photography, shoot weddings.