How do you shoot a wedding by yourself?

wedding shoot

Do you want to capture a wedding ceremony as a solo photographer? At the beginning of the photography career, you may not have an assistant or a team at your back. In this guide, we will share how to shoot a wedding alone without an assistant.

Having a second shooter with you is a great help to take good photos. However, it is possible to shoot a wedding solo. You need to manage your time and photography gear to capture the ceremony as a pro.

One of the most common things that you will find about wedding photographers is that they tend to operate in teams. You see, this allows them the capacity to capture every special moment, and not to miss a single beat. However, there are instances when a photographer has to work alone.

So how does a wedding photographer shoot alone? We are going to be taking a look at the different ways this is possible, and bringing you up to speed on how a solo wedding photographer will work.

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Here are a few points that will help you to shoot a wedding alone:

wedding shoot

Divide Your Tasks

You should manage your time with tasks to get the work done on schedule. When shooting solo, it is important to divide the tasks according to the given time for the ceremony.

We recommend you create a shot list and check them off after taking photos. It will also ensure the couple that you are covering all the guests and family.

Shoot the details like a ring, jewellery, dress and other accessories of the couple before or during the ceremony.

Ask For a Coordinator

A coordinator can be one of the bridesmaids, groomsmen, friends or a family member of the couple. They cannot help you with the camera or shoot, but you’ll get the support in managing people for the wedding photography.

You can talk with the coordinator about your schedule and shots that you planned to capture. The communication between you two will make the solo shoot easy.

Before the ceremony, you should ask a few questions from the client, so both you and the couple will be clear about the shoot.

Check the Venue

It is important for you to check the location of the wedding when shooting solo. You can identify and mark some positions to capture the shots. Take the couple to the venue a day before the wedding and discuss the poses according to the location.

Knowing the venue will help a lot in taking good photos as you would be confident about which place is best for a particular shot.

Be Confident

Take photos as the situation goes. When you are alone in the ceremony, you need to look around and communicate to capture the event. Talk with the guests and ask for the poses.

Make sure that you cover all attendees in the ceremony. You need to ask the couple for formal shots with family and friends. Be bold to ask what you need for the photos.

Camera Settings and Light

Keep the shutter speed high of clicking on the go. You need to take a lot of photos, and to change the settings for each shot may take time. It is recommended to set the manual settings with the light of the venue and shoot the ceremony.

Preparation, Preparation, Preparation

So when you’re the wedding photographer working for somewhere like Wure, and you need to shoot alone, you’ll find that you’re going to want to prepare in advance. This is without a doubt, the best way to ensure success because you’re taking the time to analyse the situation and the venue and the circumstances before anything happens.

This will involve doing things like going to the venue a few days before and taking a look at all the lighting and how everything will look when it’s all been decorated. You’re going to want to stop and think about style and location, as well as how you want to position yourself to capture the very best moments possible.

There’s a lot to take in.

Have a Checklist

When you’re checking things off a list, it becomes a lot easier to provide the quality content that people are looking for.

A lot of wedding photographers who are working solo have a list of shots they have to take, as well as the list of shots they want to take. They tick things off one at a time, and it helps them to move progressively from one point to the next, working with the bride and groom to provide them with the highest level of wedding standards. They don’t have the luxury of an assistant or another team member to work with, so they have to be solely responsible for getting everything.

In this regard, it helps to coordinate with the bride and groom and let them know that you’re working the venue so low, so any and all requests need to be submitted to you, as well as their understanding that you will get everything that you may not do it in the way they initially conceived, or which fits with any conceptions they had about the wedding photography process.

Trust Your Skillset

Taking photos for a wedding by yourself can be quite a challenging experience. Not only is it a test of your abilities, but it’s also a test of your confidence and your ability to work under pressure. You are the only one who can take the shots, and this can naturally create a massive feeling of expectation which can overwhelm less experienced photographers and leave them paralysed with self-doubt.

It’s imperative, therefore that you have faith in your abilities and your capacity to get the job done. You need to remember that whatever you do provide will be of the same exceptional quality that you’ve always created. We understand that it can be a massive struggle. People who are used to working in a team may especially find the transition to solo gigs exceptionally difficult to adjust to.

However, you can do this and you will. But you have to remember that you are just human, and so is everyone else. Get to know the guests and people at the wedding. If you can build a rapport with them and work with them to get these great shots, not only will you feel more confident about what you’re doing, but you also help to create a better atmosphere.

Things to Know Before Shooting Your First Wedding

Gain Second Shooting Experience

If you never have a second shot a wedding with another photographer, you may not be ready to photograph a wedding on your own. Unlike portrait sessions, there is no room for error on a wedding day. You don’t want to be learning for the first time, on the job.

Find a local photographer to the second shoot with to improve your skill.

When reaching out to experienced photographers in your area, it’s important to remember: you are taking time out of their schedule, and they do not have an obligation to help you.

The best chance to score a great relationship with a photographer is to follow what they do online extremely closely! Comment regularly on their blog posts, Instagrams and Facebook posts. Don’t be creepy, but be kind and encouraging. This will help your name to become more familiar to them.

Network with other photographers to expand your skillset

After a few weeks or months of this encouragement, send them an introductory email. Share why you love what they do, who you are, and what you would like.

Keep your email short – nobody wants to read multiple paragraphs.

In the email, offer something to them – perhaps that’s your assistant or second shooting skills for free, maybe that’s lunch at their favourite restaurant at a time convenient for them. Show them you’ve done your research, you respect your time, and you’d be cool to work with.

Keep at it, and eventually, you’ll find you’re ‘in’ with another photographer and gain valuable experience and possibly, a great friendship. Some of my favourite photographers have reached out to me this way! I’m still connected to them!

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Decide On Your Pricing Structure

Before you can set prices for your photography, you need to know your costs. The first step is to make a list of all of the costs associated with your photography business. Think about any current costs you have, monthly or yearly. When you know those costs, you can calculate how much money you need to bring in to break even in your business!

Next, you can set goals for how many weddings you want to shoot per year, and how many portrait sessions. By looking at your costs involved in offering each wedding or portrait collection, you can multiply your profit per job by the number of jobs.

Set Expectations With The Bride And Groom

Before the wedding day, sit down and discuss exactly what is involved in your photography collection—set expectations for delivery of images (how and when) as well as image usage rights.

Set expectations in advance and use contracts to capture the agreement in writing 

Are you allowed to use the images online? (I would recommend always having this in your contract!) Do you require a meal at the reception? Write it all down and review with the client, so there are no surprises.

Scout Locations in Advance

Until you gain a better understanding of the locations and venues in your local market, travel to the locations in advance. Learning to ‘think on your feet’ requires experience; so take the pressure off of yourself. Visit locations in advance!

Walk around the venue or location and brainstorm possible poses for a) bride and groom, b) wedding party and c) family photos. Look for interesting backgrounds, textures and even shade. Visit the locations at the same time of day you’ll be photographing portraits. This way, you’ll know you’re dealing with the same light you will on the day of the wedding.

Create a Shot List & Get Inspired

Shooting weddings is like any other skill, with practice, it gets easier and more natural! But as a beginner, you’re going to want to write down an exact list of shots you want to capture and do your best to memorise the list. With experience, you’ll know when you’re ready to step away from using the list, but it’s so helpful in the beginning.

Stock Your Gear Bag

Backup equipment is very important on a wedding day – it’s not worth the risk to show up with only one camera! I recommend photographers pack the following items in their gear bag:

  • Two full-frame camera bodies
  • 2 or 3 lenses
  • Two camera flashes
  • AA batteries for your flash
  • batteries for your camera
  • memory cards

If you’re starting, you may not have the finances to invest in all of the above equipment right away, but there are many local and online companies you can rent gear from. As you shoot more weddings and your income grows, upgrade your gear as you can.

Craft An Efficient Timeline

When a client first books their wedding day with you, ask for a rough idea of their timeline. What time are their ceremony and reception? Do they want to have a First Look before the ceremony? Do they have any idea of where they want to take wedding portraits? I would draft a sample timeline based on the details provided.

Send a wedding day photography questionnaire.

Going along with the communication you are having with your clients, we also recommend putting together a wedding day questionnaire.

In this, you may cover some things you’ve already discussed before, but it’s the prime opportunity to collect everything you could need so you have all the information in one place.

If you’re unsure where to get started or if you’re even asking for the right things, we recommend getting Signature Edit’s Wedding Timeline Questionnaire. In it, everything you need to get the right questions answered are already put together for you!

Check out our post on What should a wedding video include?

Talk with the wedding coordinator.

If your clients have hired a wedding coordinator, or have one included with their venue package, connect with that person. You can do this either in advanced of the wedding or on the wedding day itself – it will vary depending on the coordinator.

When available and doing their job well, wedding coordinators will make a world of difference for you.

But…what if the couple didn’t hire a wedding coordinator?

In weddings we shoot, we see this more often than not. Wedding coordinators are an added expense – the best of them charging thousands of dollars to support the wedding. Unless your clients have a high budget, a wedding coordinator might not be in the cards.

If you don’t have this extra support during the wedding day, have no fear!

There is a simple alternative solution…

In advance of the big day, have your clients designate someone to assist with coordinating on the day. Most likely, this will be a parent, sibling, or a friend in one of the bridal parties. While they won’t (and shouldn’t) be doing ALL of the daily coordinating, they can help in the more stressful parts of the day.

We use this approach to have an immediate “go-to” person to help us with wrangling up the family for portraits. This is often difficult for us to do on our own as, of course, we don’t know what everyone looks like!

This last tip is easier said than done.

We know it can often be difficult to feel confident, especially when you are still just learning and honing your skills.

For the first few years of our wedding photography business, we felt like we were living the statement: “Fake it ’till you make it!”

There is a lot of truth to be found in that quote. You’re not always going to know what exactly to do. Weddings are constantly evolving environments with a lot of things going on. All you can do is be confident in what you do know and prepared to adapt as much as possible.

With time, as you shoot more and more weddings, we can tell you this:

Wedding photography will get easier.

You will learn the ropes, and it will be easier to adjust to the things happening around you as you start to identify the normal things that happen again-and-again.

As introverted people, we’ve had to grow a lot to take on the social side of wedding photography – making sure we’re communicating effectively, giving a helping hand, and knowing when to say “no” to requests that hinder us from doing our job. But, we wouldn’t trade it for anything. Wedding photography is a whole lot of fun!

To summarise, there are a lot of things which the solo photographer can do to shoot the wedding by themselves. However, it is so important that you have faith in your abilities, and that you understand people are human and do not expect absolute perfection from you, but just what they want. Always remember that you are there at the discretion of the customer and the client and that everything you do should be in pursuit of giving them the best experience. If you can manage that, everything else will fall into place.

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