Wedding Photography

Scout the location before hand. Go to the rehearsal. Contact church people and wedding coordinator about where cameras can be, ask if there are singers in front or back, what is the length of the service (longer than your tape).

When told what camera people "always do" it may not be the best solution, but listen because there may be good solutions you haven't thought of.

Make and use a check off list!


Church acoustics, are often bad, but get better when full of people. If there is EQ or a feedback eliminator in the sound reinforcement system, the church acoustics may be worst than usual.

Good pictures with bad sound will make a bad tape.

GET THE MICS. AS CLOSE AS POSSIBLE! Within inches if you can.

A radio mic. on the groom is good, but don't trust a groom to worry about turning on your transmitter. Avoid the rustle of the bride's gown. On the minister is also acceptable as he has more to say and might be much more used to it. A mic. on both groom and minister is insurance. Feed their receivers into different cameras. The minister might also have his own radio mic. for the church sound reinforcement system. Be prepared with clips and strong tape (strips of carpet tape on wax paper) to tape off the cable for strain relief. Electronic alligator clips with ends cut off are useful too. Tape over the jaws to protect mic. cables and clothes. (Don't forget to retrieve your mic.) Use fresh batteries. In most transmitters the batteries will last for hours.

Rarely will a camera mic. work very well, but they are good for syncing different camera shots in editing. A camera mic. would do fine in the choir loft to hear an organ and probably the choir. While people are sitting get all the music you can for editing and change tape and battery if you have to before the main event. Don't leave an accessory mic. cable in the mic. jack without a mic. attached. A feed from the sound reinforcement system is OK if possible. But many sound operators are not technicians and can't make adjustments or plug in your stuff. If YOU screw up their sound system, you will not be a hero.

Ear bud earphones are less obtrusive. Two pair will allow two systems to be monitored.

The camera in the loft should have earphones.

If you have to place a mic. to pick up speaker sound, place it close to the speaker to avoid echoes, but not on the speaker cabinet itself. Our ears alone are not a very good judge of sound quality, but the camera mic. and earphones with good outside sound rejection will tell you a lot.

Test your radio mic. for noise and interference at the alter before putting them on the groom and/or minister. (Maybe at rehearsal.) Use a back up short shotgun at the altar if possible. A mic. on the kneeling bench may pick up mechanical noise from the couple. Shotguns are worse in places with bad acoustics. Sometimes a flower arrangement will hide a mic. if you have enough hardware and tape to mount the mic. out of sight and can hide the cable. A selection of colored cable or tape might be wise. Tape down cables and run them along walls. Leave enough extra cable for mic. position changes at the last minute.


House XLR mic cables may be double female (the pins, not shell). Have male gender adapters. Have both style XLR "WYE" adapters. Have XLR to 1/4" adapters, RTS and unbalanced.

Use a true transformer mic. splitter, not "wye" cable if possible. It avoids problems. Test existing systems after hooking in yours in. Be prepared with your own double mic. holder and mic. (SM 58 or equiv.). Mic stand booms will often only handle the weight of one mic. A counterweight might be a considered. A wired or radio lavaliere can be taped on an existing mic with pretty good results.

Listen for hum and noise, try ground lift is you have hum.

Be very careful if you are feeding line or speaker level into your camera. You will need attenuation such as a Beach XLR Adapter or Pro Co A/V adapter.

A separate sound recorder for singers in front is wise. Because you will have to leave it on for the whole event you might need more than 45 minutes of a cassette recorder. You might use an old VCR with sound level meter. Cassette recorders need instant reverse to be useful.

Think a lot about having good sound tracks for your edit. Let cameras roll that might be getting whole songs.


Are there windows behind the bride and groom that could be covered from the outside? How do you attach the cover? Can you? The church representative or wedding coordinator may say yes and the pastor say no.

Will there be light through any windows at the time of the service that is detrimental? Can you do anything about it? (See Sun Position Locating)

See the lights on. The couple will probably be backlit. Check with camera. Do you need to supplement? (Often not possible. Are there lights globes to be replaced, can you balance lighting by turning some lights off? Seen from the rear, the altar should be brighter, but maybe not as much as normal, expose the audience darker except when shooting from the front.

Arrive early to set up and leave time to attend to problems that arise. Wear appropriate clothes.

If you are all set up, don't relax, things change at the last minute. Flowers seem to walk into the middle of your shot. Things get moved. Know were the groom and minister are.


Brides in white and grooms in black are not the most favorable for exposure. If the light is constant and no intermittent clouds passing through, go manual exposure. From the loft the altar will probably be brighter. Let it be and let the audience go darker. There may or may not be the same light on the couple as on the alter.


Keep all cameras on the same side for screen direction in editing. OK in the middle back of the loft. If you have different types of cameras, use the different one in the loft.

Roll tape continuously during the main event to make editing easier.

Start with full tapes, put cut-a-ways on separate tapes and get them before the ceremony if possible. (Lighting candles, candles burning, windows, and symbols, outside shot of church.

During singing and solos get cut-a-ways of minister, audience, couple etc.

Use batteries if possible to avoid hum, ground loop and noise problems.

At the altar, small and light tripods are often enough. If one camera is getting audience long lens shots, a heavier tripod will help. If there is a rug, there will a problem with smooth tele moves. A head with minimum pan resistance is helpful. If a second audience operator is possible, possibly behind a pulpit or on the side, your job will be easier. Use people you can trust and give them instructions.

A camera in the choir loft is great if possible, even if locked off with a wide shot. It can get good organ and choir sound with an on-camera mic. Give good instructions to the operator if you have one. Get wide shots that can be used anywhere. Get close-ups of altar group, singers, audience couples hugging, stained glass, candles, religious symbols, but don't neglect key action shots at altar. Close ups are not often possible because of the distance. The telephoto end of camcorder zoom lenses (and many pro lenses) have a slower "F" stop. Extenders behind lenses reduce exposure a lot, 2 stops for 2X. Many telephoto attachments are not very high quality. If you have to work at high "gain" to get a picture, it may be acceptable for the teary-eyed watchers. Avoid platforms especially if shared by other people.

Tripod in loft should be heavy with a head suitable for the camera weight. Good contact with the is floor necessary. Rugs without pads are too shaky. A pad with small nails through the rug will rest directly on the floor and not do damage. Cups and tie downs are wise. Try prusic knots and bunji to the pads. (See RUG PADS FOR TRIPODS)

If the altar camera position is limited to parallel to the couple and minister, remind the groom to step back a little so the bride can be seen, or visa-versa. Remind them as they settle in if necessary. You shouldn't walk out, but a "psst" and hand signals might work.


If you can get the minister's radio mic. on to the bride and let a camera on a tripod roll for her would be nice for the reception line. Hand held gives more options to see who's in the line and the bride's reactions. To get good sound will be hard especially with music. Having a good track of the band (if there is one) would be good to cut to, as would good church music for people sitting down. An on camera light would be wise. Tape off the room light dimmer to keep a reasonable level for video. Respond with comment about mood lighting and bad video are a bad marriage.

Make notes for the next time.

Additional comments by George Montalvo of Take One Productions of Santa Barbara California, who has shot hundreds of weddings and other events.

Mic. placement. On the groom below the boutonniere about one to two inches on his left lapel for a Christian or Catholic ceremony. This centrally located the mic. between the bride, groom and minister for nearly the whole ceremony. When the bride and groom face each other for vows the minister will still be heard because he usually speaks louder anyway.

Just the opposite for Jewish ceremony because the bride and groom's positions are reversed. If the groom refuses to wear a microphone (rare) it can be placed in an arch. I personally rarely put a mic on the minister because they talk much louder. If that is the only way you can compress the sound in post. For Catholic weddings I use the Azden mic mixer (a palm size passive mixer) in order to have two wireless lavs with the second one on a tall light stand close to the PA speaker in order to pick up people doing readings and when the priest may talk away from the couple's location.

I usually put the mic on 10-15 minutes before the ceremony starts and only after the boutonniere has been put on. Sometimes people will put the boutonniere covering the mic. and you may get rustling noises. You might assure the groom that sound picked up before the ceremony will not be on the finished edited tape. Of course this doesn't apply to an in camera edit. Just plug the wireless in when the ceremony starts. Monitor your headphones prior to the ceremony start for cues it is about to start so you don't get caught off guard.

For two camera shoots, put a wireless at the back camera, short shotgun or second lav at the front camera close to bride and groom. I instruct the back camera operator to frame 4 different shots, WS,MS,CU and ECU and have them locked down with hands off the camera visible to me so I know that I can move camera if necessary and still be covered. Sometimes I record the musician's complete songs before things start to have for the edit. The sound of guests talking quietly is OK.

Reception. I sometimes use a wireless again near the PA to get both music by the band and toasts spoken through the sound system. But lots of times I just use an on camera shotgun to get sound of what the camera is seeing; comments, congratulations, etc. A problem will be that the music will be interrupted if camera isn't on continually. You can get a list of the music the bride and groom have selected and use it later to cover any interrupted shots, but not with different music.

Thanks, George

© Copyright 1999-2004 Ron Dexter. All Rights Reserved.