At The Church
This is where the real work begins, and you have to know exactly what you need to do and when to do it, because there will be no time for mistakes. As general advice, shoot everything in Raw mode, check your camera settings and the cleanliness of your lens at every opportunity, and take all the important shots at least twice, especially the formal ones with groups of people, because you can guarantee that at least one person will be blinking, sneezing or pulling a silly face in every shot. If you've got three versions of the same picture, you can always do a bit of cut'n'paste in Photoshop to get one picture where everyone is smiling.
There are several shots you need to take while everyone is waiting for the bride to arrive, and you don't have long to do them. Hopefully the groom, the best man and the ushers will already be there by the time you arrive, so quickly grab them, pose them against the church door and take a few photos of them all standing together in their penguin suits. As the guests start to file into the church take a photo of them arriving. Take a shot from the back of the church, with the priest standing at the end of the aisle. This is a traditional shot, but it also gives you one last chance to check the light levels.
Take a few close-ups of the flower arrangements, and try to get some shots of the ushers helping elderly relatives to their seats, before you head back outside to photograph the arrival of the bridal party.
You should already know at which church entrance they will be arriving and the order in which they will be turning up, but generally it will be bride's mother, the bridesmaids, and then the bride. You should also already have scouted out a good vantage point to get some decent shots, but if there are steps at the entrance use these for some posed shots of the bridesmaids. For the bride arriving and getting out of the car, try to get in a little closer so you can catch her face. Take a series of pictures, because it's pretty difficult to take a shot of someone getting out of a car in a long dress and still have them looking elegant. The more you take the better your chances.
Here are the shots you need to get before the ceremony starts:
- A wide shot from the back of the church with the priest at the end of the aisle
- Posed formal shot of he groom, the best man and possibly the head usher outside the church door.
- Close-ups of the flower arrangements in the church
- Shots of the guests arriving and the ushers seating people
- The groom waiting at the altar for the bride
- Bridesmaids arriving
- Bride's mother arriving
- Bridesmaids all together, and with bride's mother
- Bride arriving, getting out of car
Next is one of the most important shots of the day, and also one of the most difficult. You need to get a photo of the bridesmaids, and then the bride escorted by her father, entering the church. In most cases they will enter from the west door, which is different from the one all the guests used. This means they will be coming in from a brightly lit exterior into a poorly lit interior, with the bride wearing a white dress and her father wearing a black suit. It's hard to conceive of a more difficult exposure to get right, and you need to get it perfect first time because you can't ask them to go out and come in again. There are several ways to do it, but the most reliable is to use spot metering, exposure compensation and automatic exposure bracketing, all of which are standard features on any decent DSLR. Spot meter off the front of the wedding dress, and with the exposure compensation set to +3EV bracket the exposure by a stop either way. You should of course be shooting in Raw mode, so this should give you enough exposure latitude to produce a perfect finished shot.