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Wedding Photography Starter Kit

Lesson 4 of 11

What Do You Need to Learn About Photography Before Starting


Wedding Photography Starter Kit

Lesson 4 of 11

What Do You Need to Learn About Photography Before Starting


Lesson Info

What Do You Need to Learn About Photography Before Starting

What do you actually need to know about photography before you starting out? Now, we've talked about the gear that you need tohave, and we've talked about getting a computer set up that will allow you to do the work that you need. But what do you need to know about the actual art of taking pictures before you go out and shoot your very first wedding, or even your second wedding or your third wedding? Because, let's, be honest, most people's first weddings are a fluke. You sort of fall into it, someone asks you to do it or you do it as a favor, and then the photography bug sort of catches you and you want to go on from there. So if you've shot your first wedding and you're like, wow, I was not even remotely prepared for shooting my first wedding that's what most of us went through now, the thing that will separate you from other photographers, even hobbyists, is how quickly you realize that you need to stop and actually start learning your skills. So if I was going to give you a very ba...

sic set of photography skills that you needed before going out and shooting professionally, this is what I would recommend the first thing that you need to know is how to achieve a proper exposure. And by proper exposure, I mean, when you come home and you download your card and you look at the picture on the computer, it's not too dark, it's, not too bright, it is the middle bear. It is just right. So the first thing that you need to dio very first thing is you need to learn how to read light and by reading light, I mean, based on the lighting situation that you find yourself in, what do you need to set your camera on for all of your settings to achieve a proper exposure? Now, if you're very brand new and you can't do this in your head yet, that's, our end goal is for you to be able to do all of this in your head. But if you can't do this in your head first, consider buying a light meter and by light meter, I actually do mean the handheld light meter that you go up and put next to your subjects face and click a button, and you look at it and it tells you what settings to use. I used a light meter like that for eighteen months, and it was one of the best invest smith I ever made, and there is absolutely no shame and saying, I need an external light meter to help me get these readings. Dramatic light is different from flat light so when you're looking to achieve a correct exposure being outside on a day that is cloudy where everything is very flat achieving your exposure there is going to be very simple because the light is going to be very even all the way around the scene but if you're outside at one o'clock in the afternoon in the middle of july and the sun is beating down and there's very dark shadows and there is very bright light that is going to be a different lighting scenario and you're going to have to learn how to expose for that which is different flat is different than spiky and crazy and if we're talking about history rams just one of the very first things that photographer's learned to look at is their history graham that little graph that shows you how the light is going in your photograph flat light has a consistent bell curve hissed a gram so it actually swoops up like so you know that perfect bell shaped but if you're outside like I said at one o'clock in july your history ram is going to be very atypical it might look jagged the way I like to shoot is with very bright light it's with very dramatic shadows so if I look at my work it's never going to have a bell shaped history ram it's just not going to do that my history graham actually is frightening it starts way up high on the shadows it dips down for the mid tones and spikes right back up again for the highlights that's not wrong that's just a different type of lighting yes name and for those that just are always in general taught you know have this perfect yes spell shaped history ram I mean, is that not the case? Is that wrong also or it's not wrong it's absolutely not wrong and if you're working with very even light very soft light coming in from a window or an overcast day or you're shooting in the shadows yes that's what your history ram will look like it will be that bell curve but as you develop your skills as you realize hey, I like bright beams of light hey, I like super dark shadows hey, I like great contrast in my lighting scenarios because there's contrast in your lighting scenarios, there will start to be great contrast in your history graham so don't let that freak you out now when you're trying to achieve this proper exposure no matter what you're shooting in whether it's flat light whether it is dramatic light you're going to have to choose the meat oring mode on your camera now there are several different types of meat oring modes to choose from you will eventually find in your own shooting which works best for you what I choose to shoot in is matrix mode and what matrix mode is it's a meat oring mode where the camera looks at the entire frame in front of you and it attempts to choose exposure that balances the entire scene so if you've got a nice even overcast day outside it's going to look at this nice even overcast day and choose an exposure with the whole scene considered now if you're outside and you have bright lights and dark shadows it's going to evaluate the bright lights and evaluate the dark shadows and say ok, all this light is going on in here this is where I think you're exposure should be sometimes it's right sometimes it's wrong if the lightest super crazy it might not know exactly what you're looking for so it might make kind of ah wrong guess but what I found in my own personal fourteen years of shooting is this has been the most reliable metering mode for me but there are other ones that you can choose you can look at center waited metering mode which is where the camera tries to create an exposure for you by looking at the whole frame but it gives extra care to the center of the frame so if your subject is dead on in the center it's going to look at the center of the frame a little more closely than everything else before it makes it suggestions for your settings then you have spot metering in spot me during the camera chooses its exposure based on a tiny area of the frightened and the location for that area depends on where your focus point is and the areas immediately surrounding it. So let's say you focused on something using the center focus point in your camera, your camera's going to say, ok, you've put this focus point right on top of this person's face, you're telling me that this person's face in the area right around it is the most important part of the frame that's what the camera's going to use to tell you what your exposure should be? And then in the newer nikon cameras, they have something called highlight waited and in highlight waited basically what the camera does is it's tryingto create an exposure for you that balances the highlights in your image, and for me that doesn't necessarily work out, because I like very bright dramatic highlights. So when I try to work with very bright light and very dark shadow, my camera gets very freaked out in highlight waited mode. Now, if you are trying to experiment with very dramatic light, you might want to try to go to spot metering because in spot metering, when you put that focus point on your subjects face, it will attempt to give you an exposure for your subjects face so if you've got crazy, bright light going on over here and crazy dark shadows going on over here, but you want that face perfectly exposed spot metering will tell you what to dio for me, I'm trying to evaluate the entire scene, so matrix metering is what works for me and learning your meat oring modes is probably the most important thing that you could do is a new photographer because finding the meat oring mode that works for you well, sort of start you down the path of how you come to the exposures for your image is so I know this sounds crazy, but read your whole camera manual, read it from start to finish and start deciding, okay, I'm going to go outside and I'm going to practice with matrix mode. I'm gonna go outside, I'm gonna practice with spot metering or center waited metering, and eventually you'll figure out based on the way you like shoot which one gives you the most accurate exposures now I realize that was a lot of technical to throw at you right away, but don't worry you're going to get this if you start mastering ah correct exposure right away you are head and shoulders above every other hobbyist photographer out there because the most important thing that I want to do when I go out, I shoot a wedding is nail my exposure every single time and once you learn to nail your exposure every single time, then you can start fine tuning it from there. Then you can start making other decisions about your exposure once you know how to get your bass line, the next thing that you're going to want to do is to choose your correct lynn's based on what situation you're in and remember only talked before about lenses and I said I'm going to stay go back around to those later and talk about what each individual linds will do for you now is that time so this is what I actually use my lenses for my hundred five millimeter macro I use it for detail images and by detail images I mean anything that's smaller than my fist, the bride's ring, the bride and groom's wedding bands, the bride's jewellery maybe the handkerchief that she's carrying down the aisle maybe the fine print on the invitation anything that it's small is what I'm using a macro lens for because that's the speciality of the macro linz is making tiny things fill the frame a little bit more it's a very simple layman's term yes, ma'am, is there a way to do detail images without the macro like just cropping bigger images and making them smaller and that's something that I get asked an awful lot you can't really replicate a macro lens by cropping a shot that you take with another lens first of all, you have to consider let's say use your twenty four to seventy and you shoot a ring the ring is going to be tiny in the frame because you're not going to be able to get super super close to it and then if you crop in so that let's say you have a frame that's this big and the ring takes up this much space when you crop in think of all of the file that you've lost right? You've cropped down to a very small file you're going to start losing detail a little bit you're gonna kind of degrade your file a little bit bye cropping there are so many different options out there for macro lenses that are inexpensive and again you don't need the latest and greatest you don't need the best and brightest you can buy a used linds you khun by an older lens you know, for only a couple hundred dollars you can have a macro that will be workable and you can try really hard to replicate that macro look with another linds but it's never going to be quite the same or with quite the same amount of quality I talked about my eighty five millimeter one four and if you are a cannon shooter, the equivalent to that is the eighty five millimeter one point two cannon doesn't have a one point four they have the one point to which is also very beautiful lens I choose my eighty five millimeter one point four and I shoot it at one point four because I want to have that beautiful blurry background that you get it f one point four that is why I'm going to choose that it's a great linds for low light situations or when you want that very particular background look that one point forgives you yes ma'am, you can't afford the eighty five millimeter one point for your place that with a one point eight I would I very much would a client is not really going to be able to tell the difference between f one point eight and f one point for you will because you're a photographer and you'll you'll know the difference but the eighty five millimeter one eight is so good and so sharp and so fast when you do eventually upgrade to the one point for you'll know what that extra money bought you. It is a very clear difference but it's not such a clear difference that if your brand new you should break the bank for that difference, I would start with the one eight and then moved to the one for when you have the budget for it my twenty four to seventy my twenty eight millimeter and my thirty five millimeter lenses are for a wider angle views you know, when I need to show a whole scene when I need to be up close on something and I couldn't focus with the eighty five I choose the twenty four to seventy twenty eight and the thirty five for things like dancing for things like wide angle, outdoor views for wider views of the ceremony, I'm gonna show you examples from each of these lenses in just a second, the seventy two, two hundred millimeter I use for compressed backgrounds and in very, very simple layman's terms at two hundred millimeters, the background is going to look very close to your subject at twenty four millimeters, your background is going to look like it's far away from your subject. Let me show you some examples one hundred five millimeter macro, as you can see here, is going to let you get close to a detail in a way that no other linds is goingto let you d'oh. As I've mentioned, I used it for detail images such as rings, jewelry, small keepsakes, tiny things. I use it for detail, images at the reception, small flowers, maybe favors that they're giving out to their guests the card table where they put out the little place cards for people so they know where their seat is. Details of flowers and basically, like I said before, anything that's tiny, anything that's smaller than my fist that I want to show it one to one that I want to show a little more life sized, I'm gonna be pulling out the macro, and I'm using it for images like this, the bride's ring with her band and the groom's bans you're not going to be able to get an image that looks like this by shooting it with a twenty four to seventy or a thirty five or in eighty five and cropping down on it. The mackerel ins is one of my favorite lenses absolutely love photographing details there are very meaningful to my clients is very important to them. So it's something that I put a lot of time and effort into making sure is done perfectly if you if you had your chance to just pick one lens, that would be the macro, right? If I for details, it would be the macro. You know, I get asked a lot if you were on a desert island and you could only pick one lends to shoot a wedding with what would it be? My answer would be probably have to be the twenty four to seventy, because it is very versatile. But I would never want to have to make that choice because if I shot a whole wedding with a twenty four to seventy it would kind of have the same look to all of the images because they would be all from the same vantage point you know, part of why I like other lindsey is part of why I like the macro part of why I like the seventy two, two hundred is it varies the look of the images and also varies what I could do with the image itself so I would not I would never want to take away my multiple vantage points please don't make me do that. So talking about the eighty five millimeter one point four and I was talking about getting that very specific background at one point for that's what this looks like the eighty five one point four I used for the bridegroom getting ready I use for a detail images where I want that look of f one point four and that's never going to be rings or as I've mentioned things smaller than my fist but it would be things like shoes or the bride's bouquet or you know, maybe something smaller the basket that the flower girls are going to carry down the aisle things like that I will use it for portrait's of the bride alone at one point four when I want that very deliberate look of one point four I will choose it for low light ceremonies where I can't use a flash that's tricky and I will also use it for low light reception details sometimes choosing one point four is not because I want the look of one point four it's because it is so incredibly dark that I need to be able to shoot wide open at one point four so here are a few examples of what I would use that eighty five one four or also likewise eighty five one two if your cannon or the eighty five one eight would be for images like this for some lovely portrait of the bride by herself elf for images of the bride getting ready for those wonderful journalistic moments while the brides getting ready the groom's getting ready things like that what the one point four will allow you to do is have one very small point in focus and everything else melts away it's a wonderful, wonderful lens we're talking about my if I'm on a desert island and I have to pick on ly one lens the twenty four to seventy millimeter most often for me used at twenty four millimeters why it's the most all purpose linds that I own? I mentioned before that I shoot to camera bodies at a wedding that twenty four to seventy is always on one of those camera bodies because it is so versatile and all purpose we do carry one with us all the time it gets me wider angle views of the scenes that I'm looking at and it's my go to lynn's in a lot of situations, especially for my assistant or for new shooters. If you're just looking for something that can handle most anything twenty four to seventy is a great focal range to work with, and I will use it sometimes for portrait, and I will use it for receptions, and I will use it for entrances with horses, so as you can see, you can kind of use it in any any scenario. I don't want to say that it's not special because it is a very special lens, but it does give it it does limit your viewpoint, it can't get too wide, it can't zoom in too much it's not going to do what a macro khun d'oh, but I know that there is no situation that I'm going to find myself in that I'm going to think I can't at all shoot this with the twenty four to seventy, so if my other camera is somewhere else, if I put it down, if my assistant is holding it, I know I can always throw that twenty four to seventy up to my eyes and make something with it. Now we're talking about my favorite lens which is the seventy two hundred millimeter shot at two hundred millimeters why do I love it? Why is it my favorite of all favor? I'll use it for portrait's of the bride and groom I use it for family formals and images of the bridal party altogether I use it for ceremonies and I actually use it for first dances, parent dances and toasts during the wedding reception so use it for images like this it's a beautiful focal length close to two hundred millimeters is incredibly flattering to bodies and faces it gives you a wonderful relationship between your foreground in your background and I mentioned before that sort of illusion that your background is closer to your subjects when you're shooting with a longer lens. This is a really great image to illustrate that it looks like the crowd is right behind the bride and groom and they weren't they were about twenty feet away so the seventy two, two hundred at two hundred will give you a really wonderful intimate relationship with the background of your image. So those are my sort of favorite lenses the macro, the twenty four to seventy, eighty five one four or one eight or one to whichever way you go about it and the seventy two two hundred which I mostly use close to the two hundred side of things now how to operate a speed light and this is where I know a lot of photographers brains shut off and say, oh, no, this is too hard, and I promise you that the basic operation of a speed light is really not as hard as you think it will be when you turn your speed light on for the very first time, much like when you're shooting your camera and you're trying to figure out what meat oring mode you're going to use to exposure image, you're going to need to choose what mode to put your flash in, and you have multiple different things to choose from. I'm gonna break them down in a way that makes it very simple, your first choice and what a lot of photographers default to right away is tt l now what is teo? What tt l basically means and stick with me here is when you fire your flash when you click your shutter in your flash fires, your flash fires a superfast pre flash and it's so fast that you're not going to see it it's a superfast pre flash, and what it basically does is it measures the scene for you. It takes the light that's reflected back from that pre flash, and it uses it to choose your flash power setting now it's heavily based towards the center of the frame, so let's say, we've got a bridegroom dancing on t tl you fire your camera the flash does that quick pre flash it bounces out it goes okay dark tux dark room bright white dress faces up lights on the wall it bounces back into the camera and it says this is what flash power I need to use so every single time you fire that flash it is rethinking what flash power do I need that to be a what flash power do I need to be at that's? What? Tt l does what auto does in auto mode light is measured in real time by a sensor in the fur flash instead of a pre flash so tt l uses a pre flash and then your camera measures the light that bounces back auto measures that as you're doing it using a sensor in the flash and what basically happens in auto is when you fire that camera when you pressure shudder in your flash fires a circuit inside the flash cuts off the flash when it determines that it's done so you shoot flash outputs light until it doesn't need lightning more and then it stops I find with the nikon speed lights auto is more reliable for me than tt l teach ellis super reliable, but the way I shoot flash when my flashes on my camera I get a better exposure overall when I use auto now there's another mode which is manual and in manual you physically tell the flash how much power you wanted to put out you can say hey, flash, I want you to fire every single time I fired my camera I want you to go at full power or I want you to go in half power or I want you to go in quarter power, so sometimes I'll be in a reception and you'll see this as you start shooting weddings and I don't I mean to scare you with this, but you'll see when you go to weddings, sometimes djs will show up and they'll bring lighting witham and it'll light up the dance floor like you're in a miami nightclub. So if I'm working with t t l r, I'm working with auto my flash or my camera are constantly saying I have no idea what's going on here because there's flashes of light on the dance floor and there's white dresses and there's dark taxes and there's dark walls and then there's light everywhere and it goes this power and sort of spit something out because it doesn't know what's happening. Sometimes I actually find that I need to put my flash on manual to be ableto handle situations like that, but those are very rare instances if you've bought that one speed light and you put it on your camera, I suggest starting with somewhere around t t l or auto and letting your flash think for you and it might seem very daunting, but I promised the more you practice with either tt l or auto, you'll find which one works better for you and what will allow you to get more accurate exposures on your flash based images. So now I know the inevitable next question is tell me more about lighting equipment and how to use it tell me more more, more more because newer photographers or a lot of times photographers to do this is a hobby they think that you need to roll in with this huge kit of lighting equipment every time you shoot something and you don't what I would recommend you do is to go very slowly and stick to the basics at first don't do too much too fast because it could be very easy to become very overwhelmed and this is where people start thinking that lighting is hard because they'll try too much too fast and become very overwhelmed with it. Walk before you run and crawl before you do that start very slowly master every level of working with light before you move on so learn how to use one speed light before you out on a second speed light learn how to use your flash on your camera when you try to take it off of your camera and go for simplicity over complexity if you could do things simply you will eventually learn how to do them in a very complex manner.

Class Description

Are you really prepared to shoot your first wedding? Wedding photography comes with a lot of moving parts and committing to your first paid gig can be intimidating. In Wedding Photography Starter Kit with Susan Stripling, you’ll get the low down on everything you need to know before you head out on your first official wedding-related shoot.

Susan’s wedding photography has earned accolades from around the globe. But her success wasn’t built overnight. In Wedding Photography Starter Kit, she’ll detail every step in the process of starting out. 

You’ll learn about:

  • Transitioning from shooting as a hobby to making it a business
  • The process of getting clients and booking a wedding
  • The gear you need to have on hand
  • How a typical wedding shoot flows

Wedding photography has the potential to be a lucrative profession for any photographer who is willing to work hard and develop the skills. In Wedding Photography Starter Kit, you’ll get advice on starting a photography business from a serious professional who knows exactly what it takes to thrive.


Laura Bellamy

Honestly, I thought this was a great and pretty informative, all-encompassing course. Great for beginners, but even as a slightly more seasoned photographer, I found a lot of this super helpful. Much of it wasn't news to me, but a lot of it I found just hasn't been on my radar recently. I think it's always a good idea to return to basics every now and then. There is always more to learn, and I feel I can definitely learn from someone with a great deal more experience than myself. As soon as I can afford it, I'll be buying more of her courses, I respond to her very well!


Fantastic Course. Susan is well prepared, very informative and very entertaining. She puts it all out there. She is 100% a PRO. She was fun to watch and she makes beautiful images.

Larissa Jean

I honestly love this class. I'm just starting out as a photographer, and like she said, a friend's wedding just sort of fell into my lap. I had no intentions of trying to photograph any weddings this first year of learning, but I was persuaded by the fact that my friend really just wants photos to look back at. This class is helping me get prepared, it's making me feel more confident, and it's teaching me things that I didn't know or was very unsure about. If you are new in your photography venture like I am, I would highly recommend this class!