Advice from 6 Top Wedding Photographers About Shooting In Difficult Situations

Everyone’s been there. You’re so excited to be documenting a wonderful couple’s big day, but when you get to the venue it’s… not what you were hoping for. Maybe it’s a dark venue or a less than lovely banquet room or maybe even a slightly awkward couple. Let’s say it again together: Everyone’s been there. All wedding photographers have encountered that knot in their stomach when they’re walking into a difficult shooting situation. You won’t always be in a picture perfect location, so how do you get the perfect picture? We asked 5 top wedding photographers for their best advice and words of wisdom, just for you.

RSVP now for Wedding Photography: Capturing the Story with Rocco Ancora and Ryan Schembri March 14th-15th. 

Advice from 5 Top Wedding Photographers About Shooting In Difficult Situations
Photo: Rocco Ancora and Ryan Schembri

Rocco Ancora and Ryan 

“With every couple being unique and every wedding being individual it is not easy to plan ahead for what you will photograph on any given wedding.  Those varying factors along with the varied homes you might visit and the varied lighting situations you will face ultimately mean you need to be prepared for anything as wedding photographer.”

Advice from 5 Top Wedding Photographers About Shooting In Difficult Situations
Photo: Susan Stripling

Susan Stripling

“If you’re new to weddings and find yourself in a situation that’s difficult – whether it be bad lighting, too much lighting, small rooms, or awkward clients – the most important thing you can do is KEEP CALM.  I know that sounds so easy to do, but I also know how hard it actually is TO do when you’re in a tough spot and all eyes are on you.  You have to remember that your clients hired you for a reason, and they trust you.  Stick with what you know.  When you’re at a wedding, when the stakes are high and the situations seem impossible, don’t try a new trick, something you’ve never done before, or something you’ve always thought about trying but haven’t.  Breathe, proceed with the skills you possess, and learn from it.  Suddenly stumped by a small room?  Do the best you can, then go home and practice!  Over time the situations that stress you out will become less and less.  Experience is an amazing teacher.”

Advice from 5 Top Wedding Photographers About Shooting In Difficult Situations
Photo: Katelyn James

Katelyn James
“Keep it simple! Remember that you could do amazing things with one window in the corner of a room! Don’t give up simply because you’re overwhelmed by the situation. I guarantee that if you take a deep breath and a step back from the situation, you’ll start to see some possibilities. When I’m in situations like this, I look for light first and then plain walls, doors, etc.”

Advice from 5 Top Wedding Photographers About Shooting In Difficult Situations
Photo: Jared Platt

Jared Platt
“Weddings are a high stakes game.  You will run into problems like bad lighting, ugly locations, demanding clients, malfunctioning equipment, you name it, it is going to happen.  As a new or budding wedding photographer, you will make mistakes and you will run into a lot of challenges.

The worst rookie mistake you can make is to assume that you are the only one who has to deal with challenges on a wedding, and allow those challenges to provide the excuse to give up.  We all experience challenges, we all have tough clients, we all wind up in bad lighting, or with late brides and limited portrait time.  Those things happen to the best photographers too.  They may seem bigger to you, because you are new, but the same things happen to experienced photographers.  But the difference is in what they do with the challenges.  Great photographers rise to challenges and make things work.  Poor photographers make excuses to explain their failures.  Don’t let a tight timeline be your excuse for a lack of great images.  Find a way to make it work, dig deep and push yourself to succeed.  And when you fall flat on your face, never blame the timeline, or the stressed out bride, or the bad location.  Put the blame on yourself where it belongs and use that to motivate yourself to do better.

I hear horror stories from photographers all the time about terrible weddings where everything went wrong from beginners and seasoned pros alike, but without exception, the the difference between the two kinds of stories is this: the consummate pro explains how she overcame the problems and the new photographer attempts to justify his defeat.  I suppose this is not a photographer-centric experience.  In every walk of life there are those who rise to conquer all odds and those who surrender to them.  If you are truly serious about being a part of this industry, learn to conquer, because when you allow yourself to be defeated, you bring a hopeful couple’s day down with you.

Education and practice are the keys to being able to take bad situations and turn them around.  You have chosen a stressful job, with events that only happen once.  If you aren’t ready for that pressure, or if you don’t have the skills to Macgyver your way through a disaster, then you really need to get educated and practice.  Find workshops, watch videos, second shoot, assist and carry gear for people who know what they are doing and learn!  Then practice by putting yourself in difficult and challenging situations.  Make impossible assignments for yourself and then succeed.  At my workshops, I assign challenges to my students and force them to think their way through those challenges.  Come up with your own impossible obstacles and then plow through them.  But above all, recognize that the buck stops with you!  Own your performance for good or for bad.  When you succeed, shout it from the roof tops and when you fail, accept the failure as your own.  You will never become anything if you don’t recognize your failures, own them and learn from them.

I wish you the very best as you forge on in your dream to become a photographer.  We were all in your shoes once.  You can get here from there!”

Advice from 5 Top Wedding Photographers About Shooting In Difficult Situations
Photo: Khara Plicanic

Khara Plicanic

“I’d say, find a tool that you love, and master it. You can make up for bad light and a cartoon painted church basement/pre-school room with a simple small backdrop and a small off-camera strobe (see attached image). Even if you don’t end up using them in most situations, knowing that you have them in your back pocket does wonders for your confidence and peace of mind.

Beyond the camera, making sure you get enough sleep the night before, having your bags packed comfortably in advance, and remembering to pack snacks can help curb wedding day jitters.”

Advice from 5 Top Wedding Photographers About Shooting In Difficult Situations
Photo: Vanessa Joy

Vanessa Joy
“Always bring your own light. Even if you’re a natural like photographer, that doesn’t always mean the natural and available light will give you the results that you want. Having a good on or off camera flash system that you’re comfortable using can definitely save you!”

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Lindsey Bluher is the Social Media Specialist at CreativeLive. Enjoy pictures of her dog by following her on twitter or Instagram @lindseyblue