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Quick tips for the beginner from a pro wedding photographer

Quick tips for the beginner from a pro wedding photographer - Chris Hanley is a professional wedding and portrait photographer who has a few tips for photographers thinking about venturing into wedding photography.

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Portraits and People

Photo of bride and groom by wedding photographer Chris Hanley
Remember, your photographing one of the couples most important days.
If you're thinking about going into the wedding photography business Chris Hanley has one major piece of advice for you: “Think very, very carefully about it. It's very different having a camera at a wedding and playing the role of official photographer. For this, you need to be absolutely on top of your game. Your technique needs to be faultless, you need to understand your equipment, and your people skills need to be exemplary. If you're not 100% confident in your abilities, don't photograph weddings without getting some training and experience.”
Wedding photography carries a huge responsibility. You're photographing a very, very important day and you don't want to run the risk of ruining it. Chris says it's not an avenue to be earning cash from as an amateur but if you do think you've got what it takes, get a second opinion from a pro first. Getting trained and getting experience is the best way to approach a career in wedding photography. By all means, shoot a family wedding but don't do it as the "official photographer" do work experience with a pro for that.
Wedding portrait by Chris Hanley
A pro can teach you to take great looking shots.
You may find you get more success if you approach a wedding photographer that is a county or two away from you. A local pro maybe reluctant to give experience to someone on their patch, who later on may become competition.”
As well as top-notch technique a good wedding photographer needs creativity and people management skills. You need to be approachable, friendly, presentable and most importantly... unflappable.
Having some nerves is good though, as adrenaline can aid creativity and inspiration. Once you get shooting, 10 frames in and the butterflies will have flown away.
Be unobtrusive, work confidently, have a good assistant and make sure you have a good plan  that you stick to. Work through it, tick all the boxes, but also be prepared to be flexible. You may find the weather can change and disrupt the most organised of plans, and it's quite possible that the bride and groom image you wanted to take at lunchtime can't happen because of rain. But Chris says don't worry, if you're working in the summer months, when most weddings are, you can shoot into the early evening when quite often a rainy day ends with clear skies and a nice, evening light.
Groom, best man and dad at wedding by Chris Hanley
What photographs will the couple want to keep and show-off to friends and family?
If you find yourself trying too hard then Chris thinks you need to identify your skills gap and practise, practise, practise!
Having a thorough understanding of light, having a 100% understanding of your camera, and anticipating "the moment" will reward you with excellent images.”
If your worried about what images you should be taking think of the things the couple have spent time and money on as these are the items they want to show off. Full front and back shots of the dress plus details such as flowers, the venue, food, favours, hairstyling, bridesmaid dresses and flower girls are all important shots you don't want to miss.
Imagine the bride going back to work after the wedding and honeymoon. She will be inundated by work colleagues wanting to hear all about the wedding and the details. She will be using your images to tell that story to her work colleagues. Your job is to make sure she can answer all their questions with pictures. Also, if your technique is great, and you have the images the couple have booked you on in the first place, then shoot a few extra frames which demonstrate a more out of the box way of thinking.”
wedding rings by Chris Hanley Bride shoes by Chris Hanley
Rings don't have to be on fingers. Remember to photograph the small items.
As for your equipment, Chris doesn't believe an expensive camera can make a good photographer but investing in the best lenses can help. For Chris, a 24-70mm and a 70-200mm lens covers most needs while lenses which are nice to have but aren't essential are a Fisheye, a Prime 50mm and a macro lens.
An off camera flash gun is a must as too are plenty of fast cards to write to. Other items which are nice but not essential are a good reflector, a video light and some small lightweight stepladders to help with shots.
wedding car by Chris Hanley
Think out of the box for some of your shots.
If you go into wedding photography make sure you enjoy it. Have the right kit, technique, be professional and most importantly...don't upset the mother of the bride!
Chris Hanley runs Cherish the Dress shoots as well as portrait sessions and photographic workshops. For more information visit Chris Hanley's website.

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