Shooting your FIRST Wedding - or mine.

A couple weeks ago, I shot my very fir
st wedding. I was nervous, excited - a whole flood of different emotions as the big day approached. I was probably more butterflies than the bride & groom. You don't get to have a do over if you mess this one up and I *really* wanted to give them images that this couple would treasure forever. I thought some might be interested in what all went in to making this happen...

Here's the story.

I had no intention of doing weddings. None! Then I had someone contact me about shooting her wedding and I said, 'thank you. I'm flattered but no thank you.' She persisted and told me that she new I would do great, I had complete creative freedom and please, please, please, please. Well, I'm a complete sucker for a compliment and so I agreed. That wedding is not till November. Asked to do wedding number 2, they offer to fly my to So Cal to shoot it. I wanted to say yes, you can't imagine how bad I wanted to say yes but they had the budget to hire anyone and I just wasn't sure I could meet their expectations. Wedding number 3. This wedding was a backyard, with a smaller budget and in my opinion the perfect way to start!! So, we agreed on a low price with the understanding that the price reflected my lack of experience and the ball began rolling.

First I sent them an information packet. It included my wedding contract, a check list of favorite shots that I compiled using this as a guide, and a detailed timeline form with address and notes for where I was supposed to be through the day starting at our meet spot, to getting ready, ceremony, reception, etc. Then I checked out ever book from the library, read and studied every wedding photographer I knew and next emailed my seasoned photographer friends for advice.

Now it was time to get a second and I know I may not have needed a second but believe me I NEEDED a second! Just the security of knowing that I had someone to back me up, did wonders for my nerves!!! I found Kelli through The NAPCP (Fellow member - networking is fantabulous), saw her site and shot her an email. I knew it was a long shot that she would be available, interested and willing... but I hit the jackpot Kelli Hodges was all three and so much more!!
After talking via email and our cells, we met the day of at Starbucks. We had an hour to get to know each other and become old friends to be ready for our team effort for the wedding. Well it took less than 5 minutes. That was really risky and probably not the best idea (I happen to have hit the jackpot) but because the wedding was about 3 hours from where I live, it had to be this way. Thank goodness Kelli ROCKS!
Kelli was amazing, she made me look good and I can't tell you how wonderful that was, after all it was a first, I was making a ton of it up as I went. Every time I moved forward, she moved back - I went left and she took right. Kelli was always aware of where I was and adapting to be in just the right spot to compliment my shots (but never in my shots).
So if you can find a second shooter like her, you are made!

We arrived to a full house, everyone was working hard to get the last minute details ready. The bride and groom were getting ready as we had changed plans and were now doing the bridal party shots before the ceremony because of a heat wave. I became really concerned that my poor bride and groom would be completely flushed and sweaty after standing in direct sun for the ceremony and then trying to look fresh and beautiful for portraits. So we tried to keep the bride in AC and then we took off to a garden 20 minutes away for formal/fun shots. You know what they say, 'be as prepared as possible and then be ready when it changes'.

Next point worth talking about is the bride. If your a seasoned pro you might be able to handle
what ever mood your bride might be found in, if not- temperament matters! I know the big day is about the bride and the groom but lets face it, it's the bride's day to have all of her childhood dreams come true. She is who you are working the most closely with. Stress can do mean things to an otherwise happy and in love bride-to-be and I was worried that this might happen to mine. Not at all the case. She was AMAZING! Beautiful in front of the camera, pure fun - full of laughter and joy and stress free. It was very important to me that she feel beautiful, sexy and like an absolute princess on her big day, so I did all I could to accomplish this... Even if that meant applying (myself) my entire tube of Channel Red Lip Stick because hers ran out.

The experience was wonderful and I feel so blessed because of it. I know so many do not get to say that for their first. Once the interest of shooting a wedding sparked, I worked hard to find the right one and I really do think that's crucial for your first! Weddings are not for everyone. You have to take charge, be directive and handle pressure well. But if you love new challenges as I do... Shooting a wedding may just be a natural step forward.

If you have any questions, as always - feel free to email me or leave a comment.
To see more images from the wedding click here and here.


  1. We all have to start somewhere Leah and it looks like you have had a very nice start. I was the same way when asked to do my first wedding. Actually, I was PETRIFIED. I worked for a studio for about 3 years. The first 2 years, I was her assistant and then the last year I did the second shooter duties. Let me say that that was all I needed to get hooked. The pressure was there, but at the same time I knew she was covering my behind. So it allowed me to watch and learn.

    I wish you the best with your future will do an awesome job.

  2. that good to be Wedding Photographer.. ;)

  3. amazing work, I am sure the bride will love all of them... I am new to your blog and trying to read ALL of it... thanks so much for documenting your process to your goal... can I ask what equipment you had with you and what you used the most for the shoot--- I have someone begging me to do a wedding- a casual small affair, but I am NO WHERE near ready- and I can't keep saying the same thing- I can't redo a wedding!