I have a friend that wants me to take photos at her sisters wedding in the church and at the reception hall. This will be my first wedding shoot. I have no idea what to charge, how many pictures to edit or how many pictures they are expecting. But I will be putting them on a flash drive, my camera is a canon EOS Rebel T5i and I only have two lenses . A 75-300 mm and a 18-55 macro. Is it possible for me to take decent pictures with this equipment?

  • \$\begingroup\$ See also: FWIGTEW and other first wedding acronyms and the fredmiranda board's Wedding FAQ. \$\endgroup\$
    – inkista
    Commented Jun 1, 2015 at 18:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ And there are a half dozen questions about how much to charge: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/7432/… photo.stackexchange.com/questions/30205/… photo.stackexchange.com/questions/39917/… photo.stackexchange.com/questions/13816/… \$\endgroup\$
    – MikeW
    Commented Jun 1, 2015 at 19:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ Your "first" wedding should be as a second shooter for another experienced wedding photographer. If you've never done that you should really reconsider doing your friend's wedding. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 3:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's interesting to see that the title of this question has been edited so that it now IS a duplicate of another title - there is merit in that, but the OP's original question has been subtly overlooked in the process. The other question asks "How do I best prepare for ...". This one asks"Will what I have here be enough?" While the two obviously overlap substantially they are not the same question and the other answers say more (as they should) what you should do rather than what the limitations of the proposal are. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 2:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Russell - Yes I agree; but your point also brings up the fact that this question in that form is far too localized and unlikely to help anyone else in the future. If the question is so specific "I have XYZ camera and XYZ lenses" then who will it ever help? It would get voted to close oblivion for another reason. We already have plenty of Q & A that answers the meat behind this in my opinion. \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 2:24

5 Answers 5


I'll start with a brief* word of advice. (*it grew :-) )

Don't !!!!

If you value the friend's friendship and that of her sister and new husband, then the chances of them being damaged as a result of your endeavours are high enough to not be worthwhile. You MAY turn out to be a born natural wedding photographer and produce astoundingly marvelous results despite your complete lack of experience, equipment limitations and what all too often happens in such situations. BUT what happens all too often is .... do I need to spell it out.

I describe myself when people ask, to provide a label they may understand, as a "semi professional photographer". I'm an EE "by day" but photography is an obsession. It more than pays for my equipment if you count my time at say $1 per hour (or less)(post event editing et takes far more time than the actual photo taking). As a hobby that's great. Most of my photo events are unpaid for. I have photographed stage shows, dancers, 21sts, 1sts (a big thing with some), funerals, receptions, festivals, ...., and weddings.

I have photographed maybe 50 weddings total. Maybe more maybe less. People like my results, they say. I do not advertise and get a slow trickle of requests. AND wedding photography is, in my opinion, the hardest, scariest, most demanding, most real time, most unforgiving type of photography I've met.

A lot of it is standard enough. But 1st kiss, giving of rings, giving away the bride, walk up the aisle with the quick look at a friend or a glance between father and daughter, and similar only happen once. No second chances. No "wouldn't focus", exposure wrong, person in the way, battery flat, memory full, camera "just died" (and yes, I've had that happen), lapse of attention, ... matter afterwards when the special day photos turn out less than ideal or complete. Bad exposure, out of focus, too far away, nasty lighting, bad colour, poor framing, bad background, ... , matter at all afterwards.

I photographed a for-$ 21st birthday a few weeks ago. I had the camera set to "focus priority" rather than "take-the-photo-now-the-focus-is-good-enough-just-do-it" mode. I never usually do this. When the young lady kissed her mother after being given her 21st "key" the camera decided not to focus in time. Very unusual indeed. Very embarrassing. I asked them to do it again and I got 3 good shots. If that had been a wedding and first kiss it would probably have been a permanent missed photo. [And 2 weddings back I had a bride and groom who decided for what ever reason to lean in for one super-super-super fast kiss and that was it. I was ready. If I'd missed it the fact that it was "their fault" would not make up for the missing "essential shot. How well does your system catch that sort of thing. Does it matter to you? Will it matter to them? ]

When you have the guts, nerve, stupidity, gear, experience and more to risk spoiling somebody's special day, give it a go. Until then ... .

I love photographing weddings. I enjoy almost every one immensely. At the end of the day I'm sore (almost agony)(spinal fusion this year helped :-), exhausted - and usually very happy. And almost every time I tell myself that it was too scary at the start and I'll not do any more. Until next time:-).

BUT If you insist:

I do not mean to be rude about the equipment - in many cases it will allow you to get excellent photos and its good enough for many purposes. Assessments below such as "marginal" or "poor" are in a wedding context. Don't feel bad about the lenses for most purposes. (In more relaxed circumstances your 18-55mm lens can do things like this )

  • Your equipment is ultra marginal in this context.
    Lenses are presumably 'kit'.
    "Real time", possibly low-light, demanding focusing, get one shot, fast flash cycling, ... is much much easier and safer with 'good gear'.

  • You do not mention external flash.
    On camera flash is better than none at all, but lacks power when power is needed, cannot "bounce" so must direct illuminate with more risk of harsh and uneven light. On camera flash uses camera-battery energy so you get less shots and need more batteries. You have to take more care not to run out of battery power at critical moments. Flash cycle times get worse with declining state of charge and you have to remember to allow for this so as not to be caught out at crucial moments**.

  • The 75-300 will be too hard to use for various reasons most of the time.
    Presumably the 18-55 is a kit lens.
    Quality will be marginal or worse.
    Low light performance will be poor.
    The master would find it challenging to do a good job with it. You'll find it much harder.

  • Batteries and memory cards matter and must not be limiting factors.

  • Practice as much as possible in realistic circumstances.

  • You MUST have some sort of equipment backup - plan B if gear fails is ESSENTIAL.
    The camera could produce superb results in the hands of a master. Not being a master would make it more challenging.

  • Thinking of charging at this stage is a bad idea.
    If it's not fun enough at this point to do it for free, definitely do not do it.

  • IF you can get several people to work together then you may be luckier with results. Or not.

The urge to do your friend a favour is fine - but the better favour may be to not do it. If genuinely nobody else with more experience and better gear is available and affordable and it's you or the iphones :-( then you may have no choice. But hopefully there is a better way.

Ideally - Dont!.

-Flash batteries**

For flashes that use AA batteries, I use NimH rechargeables when time to change is not utterly crucial. For the key portions of a wedding or eg stage shows where things happen extremely fast and you want to always be ready, I use good quality AA Alkaline batteries. These have the advantage that they can be discarded or dealt with in a minimalist manner. A set of rechargeable batteries that has value and has to be put somewhere safe so they are not lost but also do not get mixed with new batteries can take precious seconds when it really matters. Under very heavy use batteries (either NimH or Alkaline) will come out of the flash so hot they they cannot be handled (somewhere over 60 degrees C!). Not needing to put them somewhere about your person is most welcome.

Raw & JPG: If your camera will shoot Raw & JPG and you never usually use Raw, try to use both. This takes more memory capacity and may slow down per photo write times. You may not use the Raw images most of the time. But, if a crucial shot has exposure or colour balance issues, a Raw image will increase your chances of image recovery.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Excelent! I would just add. Let them hire another photographer. But go to the wedding too as a friend. But forget the dancing, don't even take someone with you. Go to practice and analize, take backup photos, etc. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rafael
    Commented Jun 1, 2015 at 13:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ Agree that if poster's friend's sister wants to have no official photographer, EVERYONE will be happier if it's constructed as a "hey guys, let's have the audience take pictures and gather them all up at the end with Dropbox" than "poster is officially the unofficial photographer". That doesn't stop Virginia G. from going to LensRentals to rent a fancy lens that can take pictures inside the church, but I would suggest NOT CHARGING for the pictures and make sure the expectations are very casual. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael H.
    Commented Jun 1, 2015 at 14:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ Not being the official photographer and "just another guest with a camera" is so relaxing and infinitively forgiving. However, it is understandable that you want to do this for your friend and to gain experience as a photographer. A good compromise would be to offer to work for the hired, pro photographer as an assistant. Hold reflectors, take shots from a second angle, hold flashes,... So much experience to be gained. \$\endgroup\$
    – null
    Commented Jun 1, 2015 at 15:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think this advice is perfect. I did the same thing, photographing my first weeding for a friend without having real experience. Due to tight budget their only option was me or the iphones and in the end they seemed to be genuinely satisfied with the results and for me it was a truly unforgettable experience . However I would NOT do it again as I realised later how lucky I had been to manage to capture those key moments. \$\endgroup\$
    – pangabiMC
    Commented Jun 1, 2015 at 16:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ On two occasions in the now somewhat distant past when I was "fly on the wall" unofficial photographer, something went wrong and my photos were the best available. Nice for you when your photo "save the day". Try hard not to be the photographer who se day is saved. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 1, 2015 at 16:18

You need to get a quality flash, especially for the reception. You should also be skilled with determining exposure in changing situations, especially balancing available light with flash.

Don't expect a ton of opportunities to change lenses unless you have two camera bodies. A second body and an assistant would be wonderful, if its in your budget. Make sure you talk to people (especially the person officiating the wedding) so you can build a plan. Find if you can stand close enough to the ceremony to hopefully use a single lens. Having a good plan will be another factor, equally as important as your equipment.

There are many factors to consider beyond equipment, especially your skill and experience. Since this is your first wedding, your ability to think on your feet will be critical. If you are good at jumping into new things and succeeding, then you will probably do fine.

You need to talk to the bride and groom, and key members of their family, for a list of expected shots. There are standard punch lists for wedding photography that can be used as a starting point.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Using flash correctly (that is, balancing it to available light) is so difficult that 99% of people use flash wrong. "Do not use flash at any cost" gives much better chance of good photos from average Joe. \$\endgroup\$
    – Agent_L
    Commented Jun 1, 2015 at 14:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Agent_L: Can you provide a reference for that statistic? It seems hyperbolic and may be unhelpful to people who are trying to understand the topic. \$\endgroup\$
    – Aaron
    Commented Jun 1, 2015 at 15:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ yes, it is hyperbolic, but it isn't hindering any understanding. I was merely trying to draw attention to the fact that individuals (even pros) may think they know how to use flash - but they don't. Proofs of misuse are easier to come by than good flash examples. There is nothing that can help master it in presumably short time OP has. Especially matching flash color to ambient light requires long practice. Bride can live with photos that looks bad, but she wont accept photos where SHE looks bad - and too much flash guarantees it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Agent_L
    Commented Jun 1, 2015 at 15:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Agent_L there's a simple fix to match flash color with ambient: don't do it in camera. It doesn't matter why the flash color mismatches: due to a mistake (they happen), a lack of understanding/skill, a lack of time to set up correctly or a lack of possibility or practicality to correct it at all ("I need gels on all the windows of the church and I cannot work without them"). The color should be fixable in post processing, which will happen anyway if one is concerned about how the bride looks. The result matters more than the truthfulness of one's estimate of one's flash color matching skill \$\endgroup\$
    – null
    Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 17:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @null What you've said is part of the problem I am describing. Having lights with different colors can't be fixed in postprocessing. I wasn't talking about truthfulness at all, merely about having scene lit consistently. Once the scene becomes Frankenstein's patchwork of different colors it's beyond salvage. Of course, many people don't notice because they use flash as the main source of light - but that's even larger disaster. Which all boils down to my point: unless you have tons of flash experience you're better off without flash at all. Certainly not possible in "get a flash" case. \$\endgroup\$
    – Agent_L
    Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 18:36

You've got some good answers already so here's a slightly different and perhaps more positive take: If you're really prepared to do it, do it on the basis of friendship and for cost. They cover the hire bills etc., you work hard. At the end you'll have had a significant experience that you may want to take up in the future or may never want to go near again.

On this basis if you can split the load with another friend so much the better -- but you have to decide in advance who's first shooter for what. This should also mean less total rental cost.

Do your homework and get your practice in -- there's plenty of advice on this, including doing a portrait session for them well in advance, ideally with the same kit you'll use on the day (which is practice for managing their expectations as well).

I'm assuming here that they're not just taking advantage, that the whole day is under a tight budget. I was second shooter on this basis once in the 35mm days. Nothing went wrong but I'd never do it again, nor would I do anything like portrait work where you only get one chance. I've been the well-placed friend since then a couple of times and that's enough for me.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 even just for portrait session in advance. I like to go for a walk in a park or gardens and find out what they want, how comfortable they are with each other, how comfortable they are with me. Any likes and dislikes. Thoughts on flash, kissing and cuddling - in church and in after wedding photos. ... . | Digital is generally easier than film. You know what you are getting and while volume does not substitute for quality, volume can help quality. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 7:18

If you follow @Russell McMahon's advice given in his great answer and decide to not be the photographer, there is a compromise to just saying "no".

That would be to suggest hiring a professional photographer for the wedding and offering to work for him/her as an assistant.

  • A val (voice activated lightstand) is always an appreciated tool when working with flashes, their modifiers and reflectors.

  • There are backup batteries, backup memory cards, additional lenses, additional cameras (and additional assistants ☺) to be carried around. Two people with alls this stuff will look less bulky as one photographer with a camera store around his neck.

  • A photographer can usually only take one image. Sure, one can setup remote units and fire them at an interval or via a remote control, but the results from those setups are quite limited compared to an additional photographer: you.

  • People can behave in very different ways when a "professional" photographer is around. This often means that they get in the way. You know those people or are at least closer related to them than the hired guy is. You should be the one dealing with things like:

    • People stop using their compact cameras, because they think their images are inferior. Tell them that not taking images themselves is utter nonsense and encourage them to use their cameras (tip: buy disposable cameras and give them to the small children for the possibility of images from very different perspectives (both spatially and mentally) ),

    • Some people want to see "that nice image from the beginning of the ceremony". This is when you swipe on the tablet to the desired image and look at it with them. While looking at the image(s) with them you will hear clicks. These are the clicks of the camera of the hired photographer, taking the images you made possible by showing previous images on a second device instead of the back of the camera that's supposed to take more pictures.

    • Uncle Bob doesn't like the hired photographer. He's a bit grumpy because that "hippie" has a nicer camera than his point & shoot. Uncle Bob is also fat. Now who should tell him that he blocks 3 other people in the group shot and that he should be positioned elsewhere? This is something somebody should do who knows uncle bob for a while.

  • In addition to managing the photographer-guests relationship, there's also a client-photographer relationship. Yes, they hire him, there's not too much you actually do. But to organize that special surprise shooting at some place that the bride and groom will love requires secrecy, yet planning. You can act as a middle man for any surprise moments. Maybe the families have some ideas, too.


Shoot the wedding, but don't ask to be paid. If they insist on giving you money after (they will likely do), take it and say thank you, whatever the amount is. The reason is because they are your friends / family. Otherwise, when your client is not a friend / family, always charge accordingly and never do it for free, even if it's your 1st gig!

You will be fine with your equipment. In my own wedding, I liked photos taken by my friends using a point-and-shoot camera, capturing real moments more than the professional photographer's corny "dramatic shots" that mean nothing. I also hated that he and his crew were "commanding" guests to pose for a photo, interrupting honest moments. Sure the photos look good on his portfolio, but looks rather meaningless in our point of view.

Since he's your friend, you can capitalize on the fact that you know him personally and capture real moments that you know, that he will understand.

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    \$\begingroup\$ -1 for You will be fine with your equipment. Nope. Not at all. Excuse the pun, but just the difference between the pop-up flash of a DSLR and an on camera speedlight is night and day. This is (among others) the difference to point and shoot cameras and the reason why people hire "professional" photographers. The only thing I agree with is that a lack of communication between the photographer and the client can result in undesired pictures and "hated" behavior. The photographer should always be involved in the planning and be told how act during the event. \$\endgroup\$
    – null
    Commented Jun 1, 2015 at 21:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 This is somewhat at variance with my general line of advice BUT also contains some useful comment. Getting photos that the bride & groom like is the aim. Photographers should always determine what the B&G want and also what they will tolerate :-). I dislike situations where photographers spend a lot of the time right up close to the B&G, very much in the awareness of the guests and blocking people's view and dominating the proceedings. Some degree of interference is unavoidable. How much is tolerable to the B&G MUST be known in advance. Same goes for use of flash. AND ... \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 7:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ ... it's very wise to find out what the wedding celebrant thinks. If they have no great "stature" in the B&G's eyes it will still matter somewhat BUT if they are priest or minister of the church and B &/or G are church members the celebrants wishes may dominate. Knowing in advance (as much as possible) what will limit what you can do is very important. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 7:14

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