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I was recently asked to photograph my cousin's wedding - ceremony at the church, some outside shots at the nearby park, maybe some shots at the reception.

Since my photography-related budget is right now quite limited (and all my friends are using Nikons), I'm quite much stuch with what I have right now - which, in terms of equipment, isn't much.

My camera is Canon 350D, with the 50/1.8 lens. I got 2 external flash units (Canon 580 EX and 420 EX), a tripod, a monopod...

I'm wondering if it's even possible to effectivly photograph a wedding with just this - I mostly mean the lens. I almost never miss longer lens - but often I find myself in a situation when I'd kill for some wide ones.

I probably should try to plan some shots for the 50mm lens, but I got no idea how. Those are great for capturing portraits, faces, but - how to get the wedding ceremony spirit?

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34  
If you love your cousin, convince them to hire a professional photographer. –  Alan Sep 23 '10 at 3:44
    
I have to agree with Alan, wedding photography is not an easy thing and you're equipment handicapped to make it even harder. –  John Cavan Sep 23 '10 at 14:09
9  
Once a professional photographer (Radu Grozescu) told me : the easiest way to lose friends is to be their photographer at a wedding. –  Andrei Rinea Oct 18 '11 at 10:05
    
It's quite difficult. Even with two camera bodies and two prime lens', it can pose a challenge. I have tried a few times, but always ended up using one prime lens and another zoom lens, ex: 85mm prime on an APS-C body, and a 25-70mm with a full frame body. –  Doctor Oreo Sep 2 '12 at 18:01

6 Answers 6

up vote 32 down vote accepted

It depends on your and the couple's expectations. No expectations? No problems.

As the main shooter in getting high quality shots? Very difficult. Without experience? Pretty much impossible. Though it depends highly on the venue and how it is orchestrated. Outside before and after shots, pose shots, etc. are no problem, but the ceremony and reception are important. You need to get key moments where you are not in control, and having to run backwards/forwards to get the right framing will cost you (and will also be distracting). It's the same reason why wedding photographers use 2 bodies, so they won't waste time to get the right shot. Wide angles are great for telling the story, be it the Ceremony, the first dance, or subsequent festivities. Even if they are okay with portrait-only shots, you'll still be running around a lot or capturing them with deep DoF and cropping away resolution. In the least, it will be very stressful.

If I had one lens and they asked me to be the main photographer, I would decline and recommend some tips on finding a good budget photographer. I think it's a special day and would not want to capture something less than what I know I could do for someone I know. I've seen some horrible wedding pictures.

If you want to learn to do wedding photography, become a second shooter.

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6  
True that! Every word. –  Rob Clement Sep 23 '10 at 6:07
9  
Shooting groups with 50 mm lens on APS-C body won't be very comfortable. –  che Sep 23 '10 at 8:49
3  
"If you want to learn to do wedding photography, become a second shooter." +1 for this. –  Andrei Rinea Oct 18 '11 at 10:07

The answer to your question depends on what you mean by "photograph a wedding". You can certainly get some beautiful photos at a wedding with that setup, but it would be almost impossible to photograph the wedding in the way most people would expect, a 50mm on a 350D is just not wide enough.

What some people don't realise is that there are couples who simply can't afford a professional wedding photographer, even a cheap one. It may be the couple understands and just wants the former (a few candids and portraits, not a complete account of the day), but it's absolutely essential that they understand 100% what they are getting and are ok with that or you will find yourself in serious trouble! Good luck.

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7  
+1 for this. When we got married, we had no budget for a real pro, and photography was not really a priority, so we went with a friend, and knew exactly what we were risking. I also photographed my cousin-in-law's elopement for free (their whole wedding budget was probably 200$... certainly no room for even the most budget of photographers) and they were really happy with the result. Not all couples are glitter-happy unrealistic fools. –  Bossykena Nov 18 '10 at 16:36

As other commenters suggest, you're in for a world of hurt if you're the primary photographer with no experience. It's not really the equipment that's the problem (you can rent what you need and bill the couple), but rather the fact that wedding photography is hard and there are no do-overs.

I suggest you check out this article over at the LensRentals blog which goes into these issues in more detail (and is also funny).

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3  
God, reading that article... just wow. I was basically someone's apprentice for about a year and a half before I started shooting weddings, but I do have painful memories of the time before... the 'no backup camera' IEFT and the NIVDAR definitely make me wince with embarassment... –  mmr Sep 23 '10 at 16:07
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That was hilarious! 800 frames and wondering where to get them developed due to lack of computer. Oh Lord! –  Rob Clement Sep 23 '10 at 18:22
    
After reading that article, I realize that I might actually consider taking on a wedding. And, well, yes, I haven't shot one professionally, but I have at least 4 weddings which to me count, 2 of which I was the primary photographer (Neither could afford anything, it was literally me or nothing...) –  PearsonArtPhoto Jan 22 '11 at 3:33

I strongly, strongly suggest that you get a zoom lens, something like the 17-50 mm Sigma f/2.8 (or it's older brother, the 18-50mm). I suggest this because you will not have time for recomposition by changing position; a wedding is an event that will happen quickly, and you'll need a tool that will let you get the angles and the shots you need as they happen. Timing is crucial for this kind of photography, and if you see a shot develop, you can't walk backwards 20 feet to get the wide angle-- by then, the shot is gone.

The 50mm will be useful for shots with the bride and groom; but once you start expanding the group to include parents, siblings, relatives, etc, you'll need a wider lens. The ceremony, toasts at dinner, etc-- all of that will require the wide angle to get the surroundings and then the zoom to get close-ups.

I've tried shooting weddings with just a prime. As a second, it's doable (if your primary isn't expecting much from you). As a primary, it would be a nightmare.

I do NOT recommend a super-zoom, like an 18-200mm, with or without VR or IS. These kinds of lenses are jack of all trades, master of none. Your prime lens will give you great quality, a constant-aperture zoom will also give you decent quality (though generally not as good as a prime), and the larger the zoom range, the more quality compromises are made to have the zoom range.

My wedding kit is: 17-55mm f/2.8 85mm f/1.8 (for the ceremony, where I'm typically too far away to get the couple without it) 60mm f/2.8 macro (for details, like rings, etc) sb900

I tried shooting with the 70-200 f/2.8 lens, but it's just too heavy to shoot with for hours.

Good luck! (and make sure the bride gives you a list of the shots she wants)

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5  
+1 for getting the Bride to give you a list of shots. Back when I did weddings, I never showed up without a check list of shots. You need to know that Aunt Lucy is her favorite aunt. Also although you probably aren't trying to sell reprints to them, take lots of pics of the little kids at the reception, these were always my best sellers... –  BillN Sep 23 '10 at 15:19

Don't fret...too much.

Eruditass suggested becoming a second if you want to learn weddings. This is a good suggestion for the long run. I'm guessing that your cousins are on a tight budget, don't want or can't come up with the cash for a pro AND would be "honored" if you shot it for them. Am I right?

Here's the cool part. If you do end up shooting their wedding as the main, you get to learn to swim by jumping in the deep end. What makes weddings difficult to shoot, more than anything, is the emotional value attached to them. If you mess up, there are no do-overs, and it's a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Really the stress and overcoming it remains the largest obstacle.

So let's assume you're indeed the main photog. Convince them to pay for rental equipment. It will be much cheaper than hiring a pro. Get a wide angle. I repeat, get a wide angle. A tele-photo is a "must" at a wedding, but not as much as a wide. Wide allows you to get close. Wide allows drama and story telling. Wide gets the party, the scene, the flowers, the bouquet toss, the food, drunk uncle Mike, Aunt Velma in the ugly dress, the first dance, in essence the jist.

Call your local rental house and get some prices before you approach your cousins. See how much an additional body (another 350D would make things easiest) and tele-photo would cost. If they can fork out the rental cost then you are in business!!! I suggest posting another question after you get your gear in order on what things to look for at a wedding. We'll help you out.

BUT DO NOT SHOW UP AT YOUR LOVED ONES WEDDING WITH ONLY A PRIME!!! THEY WILL HATE YOU!!!

And when the time is right, assist a pro, you'll learn tons! Happy hunting.

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1  
If you're going to rent a gear, let it arrive a few days before the event so you can check it works and get to know it a bit. –  che Sep 23 '10 at 8:54

I went to a friend of mine's wedding and took my 50D with the 18-55mm. While not a great lens for low-light, without the wider angle (18mm) with the built-in flash I wouldn't have gotten some very cool shots of the reception and party afterwards. Group shots in a party environment need a wider angle a lot of the time to capture the "party" vibe.

You could use the 50mm for a lot of the portrait photography outside or in large indoor areas, but you wouldn't be able to capture a lot of the variety which would otherwise make the shoot a success.

Keep in mind, I wasn't the photographer. They had hired a professional (and a videographer as well).

I would recommend they hire a wedding photographer. They'll be happier when they have a full variety of photos.

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