My five favorite lessons from One Real Wedding

This past November we filmed an entire wedding day for members of The Wedding School.  We live-streamed the entire day on my Facebook business page, and then created a 13+ hour final cut for the Learning Library.  The entire day is an incredible resource for any photographer wanting to walk through a whole wedding from start to finish, but five specific lessons really stand out in my mind as huge takeaways from the experience.

Lesson One: Capture beautiful details anywhere.

You can create beautiful detail images anywhere, all you need is a small bit of great light!

Here you can see my assistant and I setting up a simple ottoman in a very tiny patch of direct light.  What looks like nothing suddenly becomes incredible when seen through a macro lens!  Since rings and small details take up such little space, all you need is a little bit of light.  I used to spend tons of time looking for large light sources, since I was used to sourcing that type of light for prep images or portraits.  When I started thinking smaller, I suddenly noticed opportunities everywhere!

Lesson Two: Prep for the wedding processional.

It’s absolutely crucial that you prepare before a wedding processional, especially when you’re in a church with difficult light.  No matter how many weddings I’ve shot, this prep time is essential to surviving these tricky scenarios.

I always take a few minutes to test my settings and take a few sample frames when working with tough church light.  Since we’re not often able to use flash during church ceremonies, I need to make sure that my settings are spot on before the first bridesmaid takes a single step into the aisle!  I always, always test my settings here, because if you miss any of these moments you can’t exactly re-create them later!

Lesson Three: Work the timeline ahead of time.

It is beyond crucial that you work on the timeline with your clients.  It’s even more crucial that you point out any parts that might be difficult, or where you might run into issues. Educating your clients about the timing of the day is one of the most important things that we can do as wedding photographers!

Because this wedding took place in the winter months, the sun set incredibly early.  We only had a small window of time after the ceremony to capture family portraits at the church…and if we missed that window, we’d have missed the golden hour for portraits of the bride and groom together.  It was imperative that I talk through the timeline with my clients and come up with a game plan to ensure that golden hour wasn’t missed.  Just look at what we’d have missed if we had run behind at the church!

Lesson Four: Understand off-camera flash when the sun goes away.

Understanding off-camera flash, video lights, and studio strobes can help you succeed once the sun is gone.

Many photographers claim to be “natural light shooters,” oftentimes packing up their bags or not knowing what to do when the sun is gone.  It’s imperative that you understand how to use artificial light so that you can create images in any situation, at any time of the day or night.  Since this was a winter wedding and the sun did go down early, we still had time outside post-sunset.  Not being able to create portraits was not an option!  Understanding artificial light meant that I was able to keep the portrait session going well after the sun had taken it’s leave.

Lesson Five: Have a game plan for off-camera flash during the reception!

Have a game plan for off-camera flash during the reception!

As you well know, receptions are fast-moving and wait for no one!  I always go over my game plan for off-camera flash with my assistant before the reception really begins.  We talk about where she’s going to stand, where she’s going to place that flash, and what our settings will be.  We often take test shots just to ensure success.  Since this part of the day goes so quickly, there is no time to second-guess yourself or try to re-direct your assistant once the action starts!

Bonus Lesson: Have a pre-wedding day routine.

But wait, didn’t I just say there were only five lessons?  Lesson six is a fun bonus, and it’s this:

Have a pre-wedding routine that makes you happy!

I almost always stop at my local Wawa for a cup of coffee before hitting the road to a wedding.  Its one of my favorite little traditions, and it always helps me start the day off right!



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  1. You enthuse me to try new things and every time I feel a bit jaded about my photography skill-set, I just watch a few of your videos and I can’t wait to try out some of your suggestions.
    Thank you.