Photographing my first wedding

Prelude: I wrote the basic outline of this blog post several days after the wedding. However, I didn’t complete my thoughts until now, 44 days after the wedding.

Last August, I received an email from Noel Besuzzi[1. I went to school with her brother, PJ.].  She expressed how much she loves my editing style and asked if I’d photograph a wedding with her. For me, it was a no-brainer. I’d get experience, expand my portfolio, and earn some money.

My overall experience was very positive. Everyone was friendly and cooperative. The staff at Black Gold Golf Club (Yorba Linda) was awesome and knew the best locations for the post-ceremony formals. The food was delicious and the music selection brought out the dancers.

Best of all: Noel is easy-going…just like she said she was! She’s receptive to ideas, and I could basically do whatever I want.

Should I talk about the day chronologically? Nah.

Here’s what I learned from the first wedding I’ve photographed:

Get suggestions and inspiration from other wedding photographers

If you haven’t photographed a wedding, you’ll need to know the poses and framing necessary to document a wedding. My friend, Michael Kang (Static Age Photography), directed me to Digital ProTalk (by David Ziser). I also got lens advice from another friend, Jasmine.

Acquire and learn to use an external flash

Thanks to Michael Kang, I tried his Canon Speedlite 580EX II Flash. I used it on-camera and it was clutch! I wouldn’t have been able to get photos from the reception.

I think there were instances that called for flash during the ceremony and for the formals immediately afterward. Fortunately for me, slight silhouettes worked to my advantage.

I bought an 8-pack of AA batteries. Four lasted for over 800 photos, most of which were at 1/2 and 1/4 power.

Learn the interests of the bride and groom

If you’re hanging out with them for several hours before the ceremony, a few nuggets of inside knowledge will help craft better photos. I basically knew nothing about the couple.

When I needed to kill time with the guys before the ceremony and hide them from seeing the bridal party, I struggled to come up with ideas for wacky photos.

I think an oddball questionnaire filled out weeks in advance would help get the creative juices flowing. (Can you think of funky questions that could help create cool poses?)


If you’re dealing with people you’ve never met before, smiling will hopefully relax family, relatives and guests of your presence at the wedding.

Bite your tongue

You’re on the job, so work hard and get the shots you’re paid for. Besides, it’s their party, not yours.

Be in the loop to help anticipate the moments

Know the schedule of the entire wedding. Be in the best location possible with the lenses needed to capture the moment, but don’t forget to…

Compliment the other photographer’s photos

Are you working with another photographer? Get photos that will compliment their photos. Find a different perspective. (Noel learned from me by using a low vantage point – very cool!)

Also, use a different lens than the other photographer at that point in time (not the entire time).

Methodically take a ridiculous amount of photos

What do I mean by that?

There might be some instances where a 3-shot burst might yield one sharp photo. Or, if you’re in a tight situation where can’t change settings freely, try auto exposure bracketing. Just deal with the extra exposures. You can nuke the extraneous ones after the fact, but you can never recreate the same [candid] scene. I think it’s worth it.

Photograph everyone

If you’re the type to give the couple all the photos on a disc, this might mean a lot to someone they know…someday. You just never know.

Additional suggestions

  • Break the rules and experiment – once you have the required photos
  • Focus on the eyes (duh)
  • Use a reflector for tough lighting situations

Now for some photos…


For you stat junkies, here’s what I had after about eight hours:

  • 2,019 photos
    • Tokina 12-24mm f/4 — 768
    • Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM — 168
    • Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM[2. Noel let me try her rental Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM while she tried the Tokina 12-24mm during the reception.] — 83
    • Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM — 330
    • Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM — 261
    • Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM[3. Borrowed from BorrowLenses.] — 409
  • Flash states
    • Did fire — 825
    • Did not fire — 1,194
  • ISO Speeds
    • ISO 200 — 592
    • ISO 400 — 259
    • ISO 800 — 337
    • ISO 1600 — 831

Special thanks

You can see more of my photos from Jason and Stephanie’s wedding at Bryan Villarin Photography or my Flickr account. Noel also has a few photos of the wedding at her blog.

Published by

Bryan Villarin

Bryan works at Automattic. Cat whisperer. Sometimes, a photographer and card magician.

11 thoughts on “Photographing my first wedding”

  1. Your first wedding? You continually blow me away with your talent. If any couple sees this they are going to beat down your door with work. Wow. Amazing stuff Bryan.


  2. Bryan – I was just catching up on my blog reading and came across this post. First, congrats on your first wedding gig! Second, you did an awesome job! I’ve got my first solo gig coming up in May and I think you’ve spelled out a few helpful hints I’ll take into consideration. Thanks!


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