Wedding photography tips: 7 common setbacks and how to overcome them

Find out how to rise above the challenges – old and new – that wedding photographers often face, with tips from Canon Ambassadors Fabio Mirulla and Carmen and Ingo.
Newlyweds hold a sparkler while standing under an umbrella in the rain.

Rain can be viewed as the enemy by wedding photographers but Fabio Mirulla uses a downpour to his advantage in this striking shot of a newlywed couple sheltering under an umbrella. One of Fabio's top wedding photography tips is to embrace unexpected situations and force yourself to think creatively. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM lens at 1/125 sec, f/6.3 and ISO2500. © Fabio Mirulla

Wedding photography is a demanding but hugely rewarding profession. To succeed, you need to be highly skilled at engaging with people, thinking creatively under pressure and ensuring your business stands out from the crowd in a very competitive field.

Fabio Mirulla is one of Italy's most celebrated destination wedding photographers. Born and raised in Tuscany, where he is still based, he travels the world photographing couples in spectacular locations.

Carmen and Ingo are a husband and wife photography team based in Austria. The pair met and fell in love in 2003 and have been photographing weddings across Europe since 2006.

We asked both successful wedding photography businesses to identify the biggest challenges they face, and to explain how those issues can be overcome.

A portrait of newlyweds walking through a cornfield.

Carmen and Ingo shoot weddings in locations all over Europe, so they are often unable to meet a couple in person before the big day. Instead, they use their presentation skills to make a good impression via video calls. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with a Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM lens at 1/2000 sec, f/1.8 and ISO100. © Carmen and Ingo Photography

1. Planning weddings remotely

Being an international wedding photographer can make it difficult to meet prospective clients who might live hundreds of miles away – and government health restrictions in 2020 meant that photographers often couldn't meet clients face-to-face at all. "We've always had prospective clients who live far away, when meeting them personally before the wedding wasn't an option," say Carmen and Ingo. "We've maybe only met 5-10% of couples between the booking and the wedding itself.

"The recent restrictions have made it even more important to sell yourself and look professional online," the couple add. "When hosting Skype or Zoom meetings, don't settle for a mobile phone with bad lighting. For client calls, we use a Canon camera with a good lighting setup, and set the stage with a nice background. If your computer or software isn't supported by your camera, you can use an HDMI to USB converter to ensure you look professional."

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2. Dealing with the unexpected

Weddings are planned months or even years in advance but the big day will often throw up unexpected problems. "Bad weather, poor lighting conditions, an ugly location – sometimes you feel everything is against you. But it's not the conditions that are the problem, it's you," says Fabio. "You need to stop wishing for something else and shoot the story that's actually happening.

"To create striking images, you should look for the possibilities and be prepared to experiment. If you try to work to a formula, within preset limits, you can miss out on a chance to create something great."

A shot taken from a low angle of a newlywed couple leaping over a pile of balloons. The balloons appear much larger as they are so close to the camera.

Fabio has concealed the grazing cows in the background of this image by shooting from ground level using the Canon EOS R's vari-angle screen. Thinking differently has enabled him to create a fun, magical-looking image in which the newlyweds appear to be leaping over giant balloons. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM lens at 1/500 sec, f/16 and ISO2000. © Fabio Mirulla

3. Creating order from chaos

On a wedding day, hectic preparations, crowded scenes and busy backgrounds can be at odds with intimate photography. "It's vital to keep connected to your subject," says Fabio. "I work with Canon prime lenses, mostly 35mm and 85mm, for one reason: they force me to move closer or further away from my subject. This movement forces me to really 'look'.

"In a chaotic room filled with people, such as when the bridal party is getting ready, movement gives me the opportunity to change my point of view," he says. "I change my position and find that interesting points of view present themselves. It's just as important when you're outside. If you're in a city or at a location where there's a fussy background, moving around or shooting from high up or low down can make all the difference. Canon's vari-angle LCD screens are great for this."

A black and white image of a couple embracing in a stable. The pair are observed by two horses in the stalls either side of them.

Fabio prefers photographing smaller wedding parties as the atmosphere is often more intimate and it offers greater opportunities to build relationships with the couple and their guests. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with a Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM lens at 1/80 sec, f/5.6 and ISO1600. © Fabio Mirulla

4. Overcoming the limitations of small weddings

Lockdown restrictions have limited guest numbers at wedding ceremonies – or in some cases meant no guests at all. How can you use that to your advantage? "I've shot some weddings with 600 guests or more but I much prefer smaller, more intimate weddings because I'm treated like a guest," says Fabio. "Sometimes I've even had to act as a witness and sign the wedding certificate.

"With a small wedding, you can get to know people, build a relationship and spend quality time with them. That gives you the opportunity to create some really fabulous photographs. I recently shot a wedding with just six people, and it was one of the best weddings of my career – funny and emotional. The power of the love was so strong and the people had so much more time for each other. You should never be worried about shooting small weddings."

A newlywed couple embracing, with their eyes closed and their foreheads touching. The bride is wearing a flower crown in her hair.

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Newlyweds embracing at sunset, the bride's veil flowing in the breeze.

Carmen and Ingo combine technical skill with creativity, as shown in this atmospheric backlit wedding shot. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with a Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM lens at 1/2000 sec, f/2 and ISO160. © Carmen and Ingo Photography

A portrait, shot from behind, of a bride sat at a decorated top table. Her wedding dress has a deep 'v' at the back.

If you're shooting in low light, such as during the evening reception, fast lenses help you to freeze any movement without having to push your ISO setting too high. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with a Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM lens at 1/160 sec, f/1.8 and ISO3200. © Carmen and Ingo Photography

5. Dealing with technical obstacles

Carmen and Ingo love backlit wedding images, but sometimes autofocus can fail to lock onto subjects when you're shooting into the light. "A simple fix is to raise your hand up to block the sun from shining into the lens," they say. "Activate autofocus and lock the focus position, then simply move your hand before you shoot. Another option is to move slightly sideways so that the person you're shooting blocks the sun. Again, autofocus and lock the focus in place, then move the other way to compose the shot."

Another common problem is shooting certain wedding environments in low light, but choosing the right kit can help with that. "Some people think that f/2.8 is fast glass but it's really not," Carmen and Ingo continue. "Canon makes some fabulous f/1.4 and even f/1.2 L-series lenses but, if you don't have the budget for these, invest in a Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM, Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM or Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM prime lens instead. It's less expensive glass, but still great quality."

A couple in silhouette beneath a one way sign; another couple walk on the pavement, illuminated by street lights.

Wherever you are in the world, or whichever culture you're photographing, Fabio believes it's important to remain true to yourself and to your own distinctive shooting style. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with a Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM lens at 1/80 sec, f/4 and ISO8000. © Fabio Mirulla

A self-portrait of wedding photography duo Carmen and Ingo embracing as the sun sets behind them.

Carmen and Ingo use any downtime to experiment with different ways of shooting. The pair include atmospheric selfies in their marketing material to help show prospective clients the type of look they can achieve. Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM lens at 1/400 sec, f/1.4 and ISO160. © Carmen and Ingo Photography

6. Making the most of downtime

When lockdown restrictions were introduced, Carmen and Ingo advised many of their clients to postpone their wedding plans for a year or two. Keen to put the extra time they suddenly found themselves with to good use, though, they decided to update their marketing materials.

"When you find yourself with gaps in the diary, it's important to stay creative. Getting your personality across is a really important aspect of the marketing process. People aren't buying pictures, they're hiring people to create memories, so you need to build a relationship. A bonus of the vari-angle screens on many Canon cameras is that you can flip them around to take interesting self-portraits.

"We took our EOS R5 and EOS R6 with tripods up to the mountains here in Austria and experimented with different lighting. We had a great time and it's not just about practising new things. You can shoot stills and video where you're interacting with the camera, and create material that you can use very effectively in online marketing."

A bride opening a bottle of champagne with a sword in the late afternoon light. Her new husband stands by her side with his hands over his head.

Fabio believes the key to great wedding photography is to never be afraid to try something different – switching from a DSLR to a mirrorless camera has given him even further opportunities to experiment with shadows and light. Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM lens at 1/2000 sec, f/2 and ISO200. © Fabio Mirulla

7. Beating creative block

Anyone working in a creative profession can suffer from a lack of inspiration. "Being a wedding photographer is a way of life," explains Fabio. "We are so lucky to be able to do this kind of work, but sometimes you can get creative block and that's really hard – it feels like you've lost a part of yourself.

"When you're at a wedding and you can't think of the next step, or the next picture, the answer lies within you. It can help to think back to how you've solved problems in the past, or you could try something different.

"I've found it a real inspiration to change the way I shoot – using a mirrorless camera instead of a DSLR, for instance. For me, it's the natural evolution of photography. With a mirrorless camera, you can see the image even before you shoot. This is incredible because it can help to give you creative ideas, and then enable you to play with how you handle shadows and light to create something beautiful. Canon's mirrorless cameras are an inspiration."

Matthew Richards

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