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One perfect day – Part I

This post has been in the back of my head ever since my best friend asked me if I could be the wedding photographer for his sister-in-law. Now that I’ve completed my first wedding I can share my experiences from the preparation stage to the point where I can proudly hand over the finished wedding book.

Because this article is rather lengthy I’ll be dividing this post over a couple of weeks.

I. The decision to be a (wedding) photographer
II. Preparations, building up to one perfect day: schedule, shot list & gear.
III. The wedding day
IV. Post processing & the wedding album

I. The decision to be a (wedding) photographer

It’s no secret that I’m a relative newbie when it comes to photography, I purchased my first dSLR in the summer of 2007. When Tinne & Jan asked me for their wedding in 2008 I’d only been taking pictures for as little as a year, I hesitated. The toughest decision was whether to accept or decline the invitation. I asked myself lots of questions and set myself a couple of goals.

Responsibility
There is only one chance of getting it all right. There is no room for screw ups on the couples most important day of their life. The advice I heard: stay away from it, especially for friends. (This could have been a shorter blog post if I declined)

Direction & Passion
Back then I was still undecided over what direction to take with my photography. I have a big admiration for wedding photography, but can I master it and will I like doing it? The best and safest test probably would have been going along on some weddings as a second shooter or assistant *waving to Pieter*.
Will this new direction mean I’m going to try and make my hobby a semi-professional thing?

Personal Goals
I didn’t want to be another “uncle bob” taking pictures at the wedding.
I set myself a couple of goals, I aimed high. If I was to accept this, I was gonna do it properly, I expected my pictures to be of a certain quality, not just snapshots. For me, I set my goals higher, maybe just out of reach, I notice I try harder and I’m less fast content with myself. I’m my worst critic, even if other people love every picture but my gut feeling tells me I could have done better, I’m not a happy camper!
Doing it right meant I wanted to do the Full Monty: from the bride & groom preparing, the pickup, city hall, the official shoot, reception, dinner and the opening dance.
Oh yes, I was gonna do it all with style. (f*ck uncle bob)

Gear
This was an important (financial) factor in the decision, I don’t downtalk any camera or lens. The photographer makes the picture, not the gear. I still believe this even after upgrading my lenses and body (twice). With responsibility came reliability, on a day like that I needed to be able to handle all situations, I needed reliable gear. Having a backup camera is a must, a 2nd body equipped with a different lens is handy so I don’t have to swap lenses and risk missing a magical moment. But most important, and heaven forbid, a camera can break down. If I wanted to deliver on my own expectations I was going to need faster lenses to be able to handle low light situations, lenses that help me focus faster.(I’ll be covering my eventual gear in a later chapter) Lime episode 3 covers a chapter about sharing gear or renting gear, you don’t necessarily have to buy everything (but I guess I wanted to give our economy a boost). Yes I’ve always wanted the ‘better’ gear if I’m honest, but I would never have purchased it if I was only going to use for it nothing more creative. By the time you start investing make sure you have the ‘Direction & Passion’ part figured out properly…

Self-study
Theory means shit in the field but do read some books about the subject. Since I’ve only attended a handful of weddings as a guest myself, these books helped me visualize what “one perfect day” really means.

Two of my recommended books.
The Complete Guide to Professional Wedding photography
Contemporary Wedding Photography

Perhaps, my biggest source of inspiration was the internet, thanks to guys like Pieter (damn this is starting to look like a shrine) you can learn a lot from watching and analyzing some of the most amazing wedding pictures.

Another very helpful item was watching ‘Masters of wedding photography‘, it helped me get insight into the minds of some of the greatest wedding photographers (although I didn’t like all their work and I certainly didn’t agree with them all). It also made me feel all tingly inside, I knew I wanted to be a part of this.

Time
I had enough time to prepare myself, maybe do some 2nd shooter jobs, get some experience in. The wedding I’m preparing for is coming May 2009. Funny enough, a couple of weeks later this was my first encounter with a newly wed couple.

In September 2008, 4 days before their wedding day. I got a call from 2 other friends, Roosje & Jelle …. they needed a photographer. I think they WERE expecting an uncle-Tom to bail them out.

By then, it was too late to get religious

I’ve written this article as a sequence of events of my own experiences, feelings & thoughts.
Therefore there is a lot of ‘I this’ and ‘I that’. I don’t want to sound cocky, it can’t be a definitive guide to help you in your decision but maybe it can be helpful to some.

7 Comments so far  
by One perfect day - Part IV - The wedding album « Tom Leuntjens Photography 02.18.09 6:31 pm

[…] I. The decision to be a (wedding) photographer II. Preparations, building up to one perfect day: schedule, shot list & gear. III. The wedding day IV. Post processing & the wedding album […]

by One perfect day - Part III - The wedding day « Tom Leuntjens Photography 02.13.09 12:40 am

[…] I. The decision to be a (wedding) photographer II. Preparations, building up to one perfect day: schedule, shot list & gear. III. The wedding day IV. Post processing & the wedding album […]

by Frederik 01.17.09 11:49 pm

Tom, thanks for sharing your experiences indeed, and I am dying to read all your other stuff !

by Serge Van Cauwenbergh 01.16.09 9:37 pm

Tom, a question about the dvd you’re talking about: is it helpful in the end, is it really worth buying?

by Jef Janssens 01.14.09 2:48 am

Great article and for someone who just picked up his DSLR summer 2007, I must say: you ‘ve got talent!

by Serge Van Cauwenbergh 01.11.09 1:36 pm

Thanks for sharing your experiences. I’m also looking forward to the upcoming blog posts.

by Sofie 01.09.09 4:56 pm

I’m looking forward to the other blogposts!!