Whether you’re an established wedding photographer or are just considering leaping lens first into the world of wedding photography, you understand the value of expert advice.
John Nassari is an award-winning London photographer with a diverse career and considerable academic experience. We’ve met up with him to ask for a few lessons in wedding photography.
Meet John, your expert for the next 10 minutes.
1.Turn the camera on yourself
“I think at some point or another, a lot of photographers turn the camera on themselves. Maybe not directly on themselves but on their family. That’s what I did.” John Nassari.
Practice at every possible occasion. Take loads of photographs and get used to shooting people and searching for those decisive, emotional moments.
Emotion is a hard thing to capture and it’s not necessarily about capturing someone laughing. There’s something more than a smile that makes a powerful image. A touch, a look… an isolating moment between the couple as they stand amongst the crowd – that’s how you capture a beautiful moment.
Practice and develop your eye for capturing these moments within your own life.
2.Study other photographers that inspire you
By studying the work of photographers you admire – whether inside or outside of the wedding industry – you challenge yourself to continually improve and you can more easily carve out a style for yourself.
Some of the photographers that inspired John include:
3.Know that wedding photography is different.
If you have experience in photography outside of the wedding industry, prepare for the difference!
When shooting weddings you’re reacting, not planning.
You have to react to the story as it happens and unravels because it’s a live event that you’re there to capture. There’s always a beginning, a middle and an end but it’s always a different story. You don’t know what’s going to happen and that makes wedding photography both fun and challenging. Listen to what’s going on around you and react.
Top tip: Always use multiple backup SD cards – never rely on just one. You can’t ask for a couple to re-enact their wedding – it’s very different to a studio shoot in this way!
4.Become the invisible guest.
When photographing a wedding you become an “intimate stranger”.
“There’s a kind of unspoken agreement that I could block someone’s view but it’s ok because I’m the photographer, and although I don’t know anyone I’m allowed to move around freely.”
Wedding photographers are allowed to have so much power and space.
Attempting to capture all aspects and every moment of the weddings you shoot is a skill in itself. You’ll need to invisibly and seamlessly glide around the ceremonies you shoot and this is something that comes with practice.
“The bombastic, “can we have the bride’s parents now” cliche of a wedding photographer is now a thing of the past. We’re more adept and agile now as photographers.”
Forging a good relationship with the couple you’re shooting is really important as they have to trust you not notice you. If they’re worried about your ability, professionalism and whether you’re capturing everything, you’ll be in their focus.
5.Promote yourself properly
John believes that photographers must embrace blogging to raise awareness of their brand. John himself shares regular news and photography tips on his website and he believes it’s imperative to ensuring one is highly commended within the photographer community and subsequently recommended to newly engaged couples.
Keep your Bridebook profile up to date because this is where your audience is. Be where engaged couples are and make sure the photographs and information you present are relevant, current and representative of how talented you really are.
You will, of course, need a website – but how do you have a website if you’ve never shot a wedding?
“Photograph family and friends…offer to photograph their weddings and if you’re not experienced or confident enough yet, shoot them for free and possibly even in addition to a ‘pro’ wedding photographer.”
You could also try working with venues and doing style shoots for free so that you have industry related work to show.
“Networking is imperative,” says John “and there are different kinds of education when it comes to learning how to be a successful wedding photographer”.
Joining a group of photographers that meet every month and talk about their portfolio is classed as education and development.
You could become part of a community like SNAP Photo Festival which is aimed at wedding and lifestyle photographers and includes workshops and activities which will inspire you and help you to develop your wedding business. This too is education.
Building relationships with other suppliers is important for your professional development and for business.
7.Make the couple feel comfortable
John believes that a pre-wedding shoot is really important in making the couple you’re working with feel comfortable.
“They get to see your style and pictures first hand before their wedding. Plus they have the chance to meet you and have a few practice shots in front of the camera. A relaxed couple that trusts you is so important in wedding photography.”
Meeting a couple when they first book your services and keeping in good contact with them throughout their wedding planning journey is also imperative.
Couples are looking for a sidekick, not a colleague.
8.Tips for shooting in low lighting
It’s impossible to give a one size fits all answer to the problem of low lighting.
Many weddings happen in churches or moodily lit rooms and as a photographer, you’ll need to manage the lighting available to you without the support of flash.
“I go up to ISO 3200 if I really need to but I try to use fast lenses to overcome the issue of low lighting. Obviously, you can’t use flash at weddings so I would say the best advice is to look for low noise, high ISO cameras. If you pick the right camera and invest in fast lenses, you’ll be amazed at the difference in low light photo quality.”
9.Shooting cultural weddings
In 2009, John shot his first Jewish wedding and became slightly stuck on a few references to tradition, such as the use of the word “Bedeken”.
To ensure you’re fully prepared to shoot cultural wedding’s you’re unfamiliar with it’s imperative that you do your research beforehand.
“Just do your due diligence as a photographer. I Googled the term Bedeken and found a resource for Jewish weddings. Then I’d keep in good contact with the couple to make sure I’d interpreted my research correctly and that what I knew about their culture fit the reality of their wedding.”
10.Prepare a winning portfolio
To prepare a winning wedding photography portfolio you have to first identify what it is you want to specialise in and be clear about your photographic style.
Are you a slightly overexposed, ethereal style wedding photographer who specialises in outdoor weddings and posed shots? Or perhaps your style includes shadow and drama, and you specialise in documentary style castle weddings.
Whatever your style and substance, keep pushing your work to the next level. Shoot more weddings and every year, update your portfolio in line with improvements in your work.
“Get rid of last years wedding shots because you should have better samples from this year. Your work is going to get better and better, and you may find that you’re shooting more barn weddings now and therefore that’s what you want to specialise in. Show more of these. And let your style adapt to the jobs you take on.”
Top tip: Keep your Bridebook profile packed full with your most up to date photography. With 1 in 3 couples now planning their wedding with Bridebook, your work is always being seen. You want to make sure that it’s your best and most recent work.
Thanks to John Nassari for his top 10 tips for wedding photographers
If you’d like to learn more from John Nassari, purchase ‘The 10 Essential Steps to Wedding Photography Success‘ – with over two hours of online tutorials, this course offers everything you need to supercharge your wedding photography business. (Full course information in the video below).