Reflections of a First-Time Wedding Photographer

10/10/15.
 十全十美。
Perfect 10. 

There were all kinds of auspicious meanings associated with the 10th of October, particularly in the context of a Chinese wedding. For such occasions, positive meanings and vibes are everything, especially for the older generations (i.e. parents and grandparents). However, the date was actually most significant for the couple in that it was exactly the 10th anniversary when they first got together. 



It was also the same day I worked a full-day as a wedding photographer, specifically, the second or secondary shooter.



Preparation



When I first agreed to be the secondary shooter, it was about 4-5 months away from the actual wedding day so the natural thing to do was practice. The first practice was actually helping out in one of the couple’s casual pre-wedding photoshoots in June. The next logical thing was to practice at other weddings I attended: I actually attended 5 weddings before the 10th of October, so on each occasion I actually brought my camera gear along to practice. 

These practice sessions enabled me to try different camera set ups and to figure out shooting positions (without getting in the way of the actual main photographer, of course) and for the last wedding I attended before 10 October, I tried a two camera set up, the most ideal configuration as there was no need to swap lenses because both cameras (with 35mm & 85mm lenses) could handle wide and tight shots respectively. 



Actual Day (Morning)



The couple decided not to have any gatecrash aka groom and buddies torturing session on the actual wedding day because they “wanted to sleep longer” so there was no need for me to start the day at 5am, which was a relief. So I walked to the groom’s house to get some shots as the main photographer was covering at the bride’s place. After some delay from the bride’s side due to some make-up issues, I followed the groom into his car as he made his way to the bride’s place. 

 That was probably when things got into full-swing as the groom finally meets the bride and soon we went back to the groom’s place for the Chinese tea ceremony, in which the couple would serve tea to their parents and relatives. Then it was a rush to the church for the actual full ceremony. At the church, the bride would be waiting somewhere before the walk-in while the groom was just busy mingling and greeting the guests.

 During the actual wedding service and ceremony, I was basically in my own world and “in the zone”, scrambling for positions to get the best shots and trying to make as little noise as possible. I must have walked around the church sanctuary to and fro at least 10 times. After the service, the main photographer took some massive group shots and then it was time for lunch. 

Actual Day (Evening) 

There was a small pocket of time to relax before beginning work for the wedding banquet in the evening but it was mostly taken up to process the day shots so that we could do up a photo montage for the guests at the banquet. It was comparatively relaxed (although we were quite tired from the day’s work already) and the emphasis was more on the group table shots with the couple, which was taken care of by the main photographer who had an ultra-wide 14mm lens, perfect for table shots with big groups. My first full-day wedding photography coverage ended around 11pm.



Concluding Thoughts



I am not sure when I will have the opportunity to cover a full-day wedding again but it has been an invaluable experience. I think it was also special that the couple were my long time church friends and at some point during the wedding service I could not help but feel emotional, especially when the couple has waited a full decade before their special day.



From a photographer’s standpoint, a wedding is probably one of the most stressful and demanding events one can endeavour in: he/she needs to capture the all the key moments, pay attention to the surroundings and to a certain extent, also have a good rapport with the couple and guests. For church services/ceremonies, flash photography is usually not allowed so the lenses used must perform well in low light conditions (I highly recommend prime lenses) and for indoor shots/group shots/wedding banquets, a flash is a must for even lighting on the subjects. As with any assignments, it is always good to be over prepared: have an extra camera body if possible, charge all your batteries and spares and bring along extra memory cards. 

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