Do It Yourself: DIY Digital Camera Wedding Photography
A Guide to Do-It-Yourself Wedding Photography
It's your special day and you want everything just perfect - right down to the wedding favors and a great photographer that can catch your special day on camera. The only thing is that you are on a really tight budget and you have a "family friend" that offers to take your wedding photos with a digital camera. Should you do it? Should you trust your special day to be recorded right without using a professional photographer?
With the availability of digital cameras and many more photographer wannabe's, you need to ask yourself a few questions before making a decision that could make or break your wedding memories for the rest of your life.
Questions to ask yourself before doing DIY wedding photos with a digital camera
It's tempting to have DIY wedding photos done with a digital camera for your wedding day, possibly saving you thousands of dollars, but before agreeing to have a friend or family member be your wedding photographer, there are some important things you need to ask yourself and them. And don't be afraid to ask just because the services may be free. This is, after all, your special day, and these are things you really need to know.
- Does the person offering to do your wedding photos have any photography experience? Maybe they are not employed as a photographer but have a great eye and frequently record family events. In this case, I would ask to look at some of their photography work. Is it clean, crisp and beautiful? What about the layout? Do the photos have nice color and interesting images? Do you enjoy looking at their photos? Do their photos tell a story?
- What kind of camera are they going to use? It's not necessary to have an expensive camera to take wedding photos, but what are the capabilities of the camera they do have? Can they zoom in for some of those important shots? What is the resolution of the camera they have?
It's very important to have a good digital camera with good resolution. The higher the mega-pixels the better the resolution when it's blown up. I use a 14 mega-pixel Olympus Stylus digital camera, and the images are high quality resolution. Any of the photos I take could be blown up into a poster and still look great. I would personally not use any camera under 10 mp for taking wedding photos, anything under that could be iffy for working with. Although I used a 5 mp camera for a couple of years, I find some of these photos to be questionable when it comes to print and web publishing.
Digital cameras have become so reasonable today that you can pick up a decent 14 mp camera for about $100 (I paid $99 for my Olympus Stylus Camera - great investment) If you feel comfortable having a family friend take your photos but they don't have a good camera, by one yourself and let them use it for taking your wedding photos (then you also have a good camera to take on your honeymoon!) You could also "gift" the camera to the photographer as a thank-you for taking the photos for your wedding day (it is a lot of work taking all those photos and making sure that your wedding is recorded properly)
- Very important - do not use a cell phone for taking professional wedding photos! This is OK for the guests who just want some of their own photos of your wedding day, but cameras on cell phones are usually very low resolution. Only take wedding photos with a camera phone as your very very last resort!
- Lastly, and most importantly, how are you going to get your wedding photos from the cameraman (or woman) after the wedding is over? Are they going to burn a CD for you of all the wedding photos? Do they even have the capability to do that? Or are they going to upload them to a website like Flickr or PhotoBucket where you can retrieve them yourself? This is very important to know. I know of least 2 instances where wedding photos got "lost" because the bride and groom never got copies of the photos. Once was because the camera person didn't know how to upload them to a site or burn them on CD, the other time because the camera person just got busy and never got the photos to the married couple. This is really sad because now you don't even have your precious wedding photos to look back on.
Once you have decided to do your own wedding photography
So you have decided to let a family member or friend take your wedding photos and you already have a digital camera, what things should you worry about next? These are other important things to talk about with your wedding photographer.
- Are they going to cover the whole wedding? Will they be there before the wedding and till the end? If not, make sure you have a back-up person to take those other photos that they miss, or you may lose important shots like the bride getting ready, or the decorated car at the end when they leave on their honeymoon .
- Make sure, and this is very important, that the photographers camera is fully charged the day of the wedding. Nothing is worse than going to take the shot and your camera battery is dead! If you use regular batteries, make sure you have brand new extra ones for the day of the wedding. And bring your rechargeable unit if it's a lithium battery.
- Remember that the camera person will need you to be accessible to them during the wedding. Don't get mad if they ask you to pose. They may be doing this for you for free on your special day, so they are not only doing you a huge favor and perhaps saving you thousands of dollars, but chances are they are amateurs so you need to keep their lack of experience in mind. Have fun and work with the camera person!
Tips for the cameraman (or woman) taking wedding photos
- Always allow more space in the photos when shooting. You can always crop the photo later on but you can't add back parts of the photo if you miss something in the original shot!
- Make sure you have your settings right on your digital camera and frequently check throughout the wedding to make sure they are still the same. One change on the settings can cause half your wedding photos to come out dark and/or different. If you are not sure where to keep your settings, set them to automatic as most digital cameras will adjust the color and output to the scene.
- Use photo sharing websites like Flickr, PhotoBucket, Shutterfly or Picasa to upload the wedding photos to. These accounts are free and some of them have photo editing software free to use also. I use PhotoBucket and Picasa to crop, add special effects and store my photos. The good thing about doing this is that you are also storing your photos somewhere safe. If your computer crashes, you will have the photos stored somewhere off-site where you can access your account and photos from another computer. Since I am a graphic designer, I use a lot of the special effects available in these programs to add nice touches to my photos. You can name your albums and share them with other people if you set your album to share.
These are important things and moments: Photos you will want of your wedding day
- Before the wedding, moments when the bridal party is getting dressed.
- Photos of the church, altar, flowers and reception hall before the wedding.
- The bride walking down the aisle.
- The groom waiting at the altar.
- The bride and groom at the altar.
- The exchanging of the rings.
- The wedding kiss.
- Walking down the aisle after the ceremony.
- The whole bridal party after the wedding.
- Separate photos of the bridal wedding party (such as the best man and groom, the bride and her father, the bride and her children, the groomsmen together and the bridesmaids together) Variations of all and any of the bridal party.
- The bride and groom entering the reception hall.
- The bride and groom in the receiving line.
- The bride and groom at the wedding table with the rest of the bridal party.
- The toast.
- The cutting of the cake.
- The first dance (photos of as many of the couples together as you can)
- The money dance (if there is one)
- The groom throwing the garter.
- The bride tossing the bouquet.
- Opening the gifts (if they do this at the reception)
- A full dance floor (these are always great photos to look back on)
- Photos of each table of guests (also great memories)
- The food table.
- The table of gifts.
- The wedding favors.
- The bride and grooms cars decorated.
- The bride and groom getting into the car to leave after the reception.
Other professional shots you can capture of the wedding with a digital camera
To take some special shots of the wedding that will look like a professional wedding photographer took them, try some of these special captures:
- Take notice of the colors used in the wedding. Before the wedding, stage some of the brides and bridegrooms things together like shoes and rings to create one a of kind wedding photos. For my friends wedding which was a purple and gold theme, I took the brides bouquet and flower girls shoes, some material from one of the dresses, and created a backdrop to create some stunning photos. You can use the brides dress, the bridesmaids dresses and decorative tablecloths as a nice background (of course you will want to be very careful not to stain any of these things) You can do similar shots of the flower girls basket, the brides bouquet and ring bearers pillow using those same backdrops.
While the bride and the flower girls are getting dressed, have them pause for just a moment to catch a shot of them getting dressed. Try to have them be as natural as possible. Try not to interrupt the flow but don't be afraid to ask them to pose for you either. A professional photographer would ask them to do this too so don't be afraid to have some semi-staged shots. Be sure to also be on the lookout for those totally natural shots when no one is looking! This might be a smile between the bride and mother, bride and bridesmaid or any other capture that catches those expectant and special moments.
Look around for photo opportunities that may arise during the wedding and reception. Maybe one of the guests in the crowd do something unexpected and impromptu that will be talked about for years to come. Be sure to have the camera on you at all times as these are definitely the special moments you will want to remember! A good photographer looks for these types of memories to capture.
A special shot of the bride and grooms rings
To get a special shot of the brides and grooms rings that will end up being a favorite, find out what verse is being used for the ceremony from the Bible, open the Bible to that page and arrange the rings on top of the pages. You can always crop this photo down so don't worry too much about how much space is showing around the book. Later in your photo software image program you can add a little vintage effect around the whole image, which makes a stunning effect. If scriptures from the Bible are not being used and another faith is being wed, use whatever the bride and groom are using in their wedding ceremony - a special poem, something from their own faith such as a page from the Koran or other religious book.
One of my favorite "artistic" wedding photos
The camera I used for the photos in this article
Photos at your wedding and compensation for a DIY wedding photographer
If you don't have the money in your wedding budget to hire a professional photographer, DIY digital wedding photography can be an excellent way to go. Not only will you save money but you may give a budding photographer a chance at learning more skills. This is another idea for hiring your wedding photographer: Check out local schools and offer someone in photography a chance to photograph your wedding. They can add this to their experience and portfolio. You can pay this person a modest fee for taking the photos for you, or they may do it free just for the experience.
As far as compensation goes for a DIY wedding photographer that is someone you know, I would include the camera person as someone in the bridal party and give them a special gift for being a special part of your wedding day. You can also, as mentioned earlier, gift the digital camera to the camera person. If not a special gift, maybe take them out at a later date for a special lunch or dinner. You can even use this time to look at the wedding photos together.
If you are paying an amateur to take your wedding photos, consider a modest hourly rate and then pay for the CD's to be burned with the photos (you can download your wedding photos from your digital camera at many store like WalMart, Walgreens or Kinkos)
Some cameramen (or women) that are doing your wedding photography will do the wedding photos as their gift to you (I did this when I took my friends photos. I also designed a book on Mixbook for them with a hard cover and glossy pages) If someone does this for you, then a thank you would be in order as with any other gift you receive from your wedding.
If you have a friend or family member do the digital photography for your wedding, try to help them as much as you can by making things easier for them - buy them a camera if you must, help them learn how to transfer images if they don't know how to do this, and most of all, share these important moments with them by having fun on your wedding day!