The Wedding Photography Business


Last Monday (8th December) I was lucky enough to be invited to another Olympus organised training event; unlike the previous one with Damian McGillicuddy this one didn’t cost me anything – thank you Olympus :).

The event called “The Wedding Photography Business” had another Olympus Ambassador in attendance – Rob Pugh and like Damian was a photographer I wanted to meet. Rob is a nice guy and you can tell that he is really enthused about Wedding Photography as is evidenced by his beautiful pictures and total understanding of what is required to make it in this business.

For me the day started with getting up at 04:30 in the morning and then leaving my house in Lincoln at 05:35 to get to the event in Reading for around 09:00. The journey started well getting through Newark quickly and was OK until I left the A46 and got onto the M1 which after about 10 miles become an exercise in 50MPH-Stop-50-Stop-50-Stop, etc., the whole journey was like this and I eventually got to the venue at 09:20. There was no parking anywhere near the hotel so after much frustration I found a reasonably large car park near the Train Station (cost me £17.25 – and I thought parking in Lincoln was expensive). So after parking up and getting my bearings I ventured towards the hotel arriving just before 10:00.

As I was about to open the main door into the Hotel it was opened by none other than Rob himself and this was a very nice start to the main event of the day – did I say that Rob was a nice guy. I was fortunate to not be the last person to turn up. Once I had sat down I noticed Aiden (from Olympus) was there and he remembered (from the Big Shoot Experience event) that I had asked to try one of his old lenses with MFT adapter which he handed me and I had a go of the lens.

After a quick coffee and the arrival of the final tenth photographer Rob and Claire (from Olympus) started the day off.

Rob went through his business and discussed the gear he used, most of what he used was of no real surprise but he did go through how he carries the Olympus bodies and lenses which was very interesting. Naturally different parts of the wedding required different lenses and presented different lighting challenges.

Rob uses a variety of lighting tools and although he has a number of Olympus FL600R flash guns when he needs to use on camera TTL (for the dancing at the end of the wedding where the subject to flash distance is constantly variable) he also uses a LumoPro LP180 flash inside a medium sized soft-box and fired via a Pocketwizard. He is also a strong advocate of the Westcott “Ice Light” and had a few of these along with some accessories such as the Barndoor set and extended usage power packs; the majority of the lighting during the day was provided using one of the ice lights although he also showed how he used each of the other aforementioned lighting tools too.

Like previous Olympus events they (Olympus) were also on hand to provide the loan of cameras and lenses to the photographers at the event. Unlike my last organised event, most of the photographers were already Olympus users and those that weren’t made use of the loan cameras and lenses during the day. One of the photographers made use of his non mirror-less Olympus four-thirds (FT) DSLR camera during the day and although it did not offer as much functionality as the newer Micro-Four-Thirds (MFT) cameras it did have a full vari-angle rear display which is something none of the current Olympus cameras offer anymore.

There was still no sign of the 1.4x tele-converter at the event but to be fair this is not something you would need for a wedding.

Rob also discussed the required number of shots; he recommends taking between 350 to 400 hundred shots for each wedding form prep to ceremony to group shots to post wedding breakfast meal and final dances. Taking anymore makes choosing the best shots difficult and will take much longer to get the required images – time is literally money here.

Rob also talked about the business side of wedding photography and this was of real interest, there are certain things to avoid and certain things to go for but it does sound a bit complicated and getting the right kind of help upfront would be a good idea. He also covered having a backup photographer in case you cannot make a shoot; the best way is to be each other’s backup. Finally he also talked about having an assistant with you on the shoot as this can make the day easier too, he suggest that all of the photographers (who were all male) hire a female assistant as they can go places the male photographers cannot especially during the bridal prep session. This is something my friend Richard agrees with, his wife is his assistant when he shoots weddings.

So with the business side and the gear side out of the way we went through a few of the essential shots throughout the day:

  • Bridal Prep detail shots
  • Bride Portrait
  • Bride and Groom Portraits
  • Bride and Groom Ceremony
  • Bride and Groom post ceremony shots

The whole pace of the event was very different to the previous event that I went to. Whereas Damian takes as much time as he needs to get the shot and get it right, Rob has to get a large number of shots throughout the day and as soon as the shot he’s going for is taken he moves onto the next. You cannot afford the luxury of taking too long for each shot, the group shots for example should take between 20 and 30 minutes – the wedding guests will actually thank you for this if you manage to achieve this.

Once the presentation was over we went upstairs to one of the bedrooms in the hotel to go for the first shots. We started on one of the detail shots, these are great to use in albums at strategic places to help with the overall day’s experience. We started with the brides shoes:

Here is the bride (a model of course) waiting whilst we took our detail shots, at the right you can see Rob talking about how to use the Ice Light:

Here is the second detail shot, one of the flowers on the bouquet:

We tried some portrait shots of the bride next, we had to crop the left side of the bride’s body to exclude the harsh shadow form the spot light that was being used:

One of the shots with the bide having makeup applied is also another key shot that is required, although this was taken in the darkened environment as is shown here it would have been better to have this take place near the windows of the room as the lighting is much better:

Once the male model/groom showed up we went for the typical fiddling with the cufflinks shot, here you can see the quality of the light coming through the net curtain:

We also took a few shots of the bride and groom together, these are my favourite shots of the day, I love the bride’s cheeky smile in the first photograph:

We left the hotel room and ventured downstairs; to the bottom of the stair case was a black grand piano, the piano had been very well polished and was therefore highly reflective, we all took quite a few shots in black & white as well as colour, Roib gave us a great “Hollywood Black and White” in-camera setting. Although these are edited RAW photographs they are quite similar to the JPEG files that were created:

I took a few bride and groom shots at the piano but they weren’t as good as the bride only shots:

After a break we went over to a small chuch a short distance away, the church was very picturesque. Rob talked the group through a number of shots that are required. As well as taking photographs during the ceremony (within any restrictions that the vicar has) you sometimes have the couple stay behind once the other guests have left tot get the key shots.

Here is Rob talking with the models about the next shot:

I took a number of photographs in the church and must admit that this is where the Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 excels, I had to crop most of shots and a number weren’t very well focused. However this one of the groom came out very well:

We had to keep changing the white balance and Rob showed us how to set a pre-set white balance on the OM-D E-M1 using a white object in the room. Once I had this set I noticed that the colour cast that as affecting some of my images went away.

I managed to get a nice candid shot of the bride whilst the next shot was being set-up:

Rob’s next idea was to have the bride and groom sit in prayer in front of the church’s virgin Mary figurine. The stained glass windows and the blue and gold star wall made the shot. We all made used of Rob’s Pocket Wizard Trigger and Lumopro LP180 light in a softbox light:

Once we were finished in the church we went outside try and see if using some nice colourful bokeh using some inexpensive battery operated fairly lights. Once we had some additional lighting set up we all took our shots and I have to say that I also like this photo too:

The final shot of the day was for the cutting of the cake, unfortunately I only got two photographs, the first is out-of-focus and the second had another photographer in the background so there is no shot here. It’s a good job that this is a mockup wedding :).

Although it was a long day, I had a great time and learned a lot on lighting, white balance settings, compositions, getting the most out of my camera and lots of other stuff besides. I would like to thank Rob and Olympus.

If you get the chance to go to one of the Olympus My Space events – please go they are well worth it and if you want to see more of Rob’s work you can go to his website here.