I hope you don’t mind me emailing you like this but I’m after a bit of help!
I’ve got a couple of friends who’re getting married later this year - the end of December in fact – and in the interest of keeping costs low (despite the thirteen bridesmaids and 240 guests!) they’ve decided to ask a couple of people they know to act as ‘official’ photographers for the day. I’m one of the two (un)lucky friends. Although I’m hoping I’ve been asked because they think I can take a decent photo or two (and not just because I’m one of the only people they know with a DSLR!) I must admit that I’ve never been put in this position before." David Thorley
My response (I didn't go for 'If you want to make sure of good photography hire a professional' cause that would have been rude and obvious):
It’s difficult to give someone an A,B,C of that relaxed, candid reportage style but here goes….
1.Fast lenses: It helps to have pretty fast lenses as you are often shooting in low light and I like to avoid flash for the reportage shots. The 50mm 1.8 that you say you have is a fantastic lens and will help you to get the crowd shots and general party/guest groups. I use a 24-70 f2.8 and a 70-200 f2.8 on two bodies so that I can keep a constant aperture and shutter speed (around f3.5 at 1/160) without having to ramp up the ISO too high.
2.Be alert: If you are shooting the wedding you can’t be a guest. Step back and watch everything unfold and try to anticipate those moments when someone is going to share a joke or greet with a hug etc.
3.Get a long lens: For those candid headshots you need something around 200mm. Fill the frame with someone and wait for them react to something that is being said – laughing, grimacing, surprised all work well!
4.Watch the kids: Kids always reinvent the spaces they are in. They will guide you to the interesting, fun stuff – and they are cute.
5.Have a vision: Don’t think ‘What do wedding photographs look like?’ and try to take that. Think ‘What shot do I want to make? What interests me?’ then you’ll get a memorable shot.
6.Photograph the details: Time and energy has gone into every detail of the reception, service, dress etc. Shoot all the texture of the day.
7.Use flash ‘off camera’: If you have to use flash (and it’s inevitable) use it off camera via a sync cord or radio trigger (you can get radio triggers from ebay for £20) it stops the harsh shadows associated with on-camera flash. Also, either bounce or diffuse the flash to further stop harsh shadows.
8.Be nice and enjoy the day: Weddings are fun. Join in with the atmosphere and don’t order people to do stuff – particularly to repeat things. If you miss a shot another will be along in a second.
9.Drink water and eat: I’m generally shooting from about 12 till 8/9 pm. Hydrate and try to eat to keep up your blood sugar. It takes a lot of energy to concentrate for that amount of time and not start to flag. Everything matters, don’t miss a moment.
10.Have fun. If you’re keen on photography then it should be fun and not a task – it will show in the final images.
11.Expect to spend as much time editing the shots as you do shooting them. Nothing looks great straight out of the camera. Time spent on a bit of colour correction, contrast and sharpening will be time well spent.
12.Know you camera inside out so that you can make adjustments on the fly as the lighting conditions change.
13.Have enough memory – make sure you have enough memory cards as you don’t want to run out and try to edit down the shots you’ve taken to make more space. You may delete everything.
14.Know when to stop shooting. Have an end point in mind and know when you’ve achieved what you wanted.
15.Get the images out quickly – weddings are exciting, the images from the wedding are exciting but they lose currency and gloss if they arrive 3 or 4 weeks later. Mine are up on the net to be viewed the next day.
Hope this helps and is not too daunting. It’s just my musings and my approach to shooting the day.
Any questions please get back in touch and I’ll try not to take so long to reply.
All the best,