Wedding Photography Secrets from LNP

A couple weeks ago, my friend Matthew Gomez posted on my Facebook wall that he was going to be photographing a wedding! He asked me to share any secrets I had. I was feeling just a little cheeky, so I wrote back:

The truth is, photographing a wedding is a lot of work. Awesome, worthwhile, fun, rewarding work, but work nonetheless. And it takes time and practice! I am not writing a blog post about why you shouldn’t try photographing weddings. And I am definitely not THE go-to expert on the subject–there are many, many photographers out there who all photograph weddings in their own unique, gorgeous style! I’m sure they would come up with a different list, if asked! But, here are my top five tips to photographing your first wedding.


In lieu of listing the technical aspects of photographing a wedding, I will sum it up in a few words: KNOW YOUR EQUIPMENT. And, yes, I do mean equipment–not just your camera. You need to know the in’s and out’s of the specific models you’ll be working with on the big day. This would not be the time to rent the fanicest, newest camera you just read about! You should be able to operate the camera and all of your accessories in the dark, handcuffed, and tied to a tree. Ok, that was an exaggeration, but you get the point.

I will tell you something slightly embarassing. I owned a flash (the Nikon SB-600 to be exact) for approximately 6 months before I learned how to use Nikon’s Creative Lighting System. Do you know how ridiculous that is?? I knew my camera and flash were able to connect and fire wirelessly, but I just didn’t take the time to figure it out for months. Yes, MONTHS! In fact, (and even more embarassing) in the meantime, I had purchased a flash synchro cable so that I could stand there with my camera in one hand and flash in the other, firing as if it weren’t connected. Can you say useless?!

Plus, don’t even get me started on the whole “you take good pictures because you have a good camera” thing. Because it’s crap. And I’ll leave it at that.


Lists. Make them. Have your couple make them. Take them with you. Use them.

What am I talking about? Well, lots of things. For one, make sure you get a shot list from the bride or groom that explicitly lists the names of the people they want in their formal family portraits. Why? Because it’s a wedding day. And it goes by quickly! And you don’t want to hear about poor old Aunt Betty, who cried her eyes out when she realized you didn’t take a single photo of her during the entire day. But, here’s the thing: How do you know the difference between Aunt Betty and Wedding Crasher McGee? Yeah, you don’t. So get that list. And follow it.

Another list that you should consider taking is a list of shots that you want to make sure you capture on your couple’s wedding day. This can include specific details (What’s that? Your bride just told you that her mom hand-sewed a piece of her grandma’s wedding dress into her corset? Take note!), specific poses you want to try, and just general ideas of what you want to accomplish. Keep in mind that sometimes, some photos just don’t work out, so don’t be afraid to try one, see that it’s not working, and move on. But you have to ensure you capture what’s important to the couple, their family, and you.

Some photographers even have packing lists for weddings, so they make sure all of the important equipment is with them on the big day. I personally haven’t done this, but it’s a great idea if you tend to be forgetful or if you anticipate being really nervous (who isn’t?!). Nerves sometimes get the best of us, and you want to make sure you’re ready to rock when you arrive on the wedding day!


Sleep. Yes, you heard me. Get some sleep the night before the wedding. It sounds simple, but it’s really important. You’re going to be on your feet for most of the day, running around like a crazy person. Hopefully, you’ll be able to hide the crazy, but it will still be there. Trust me. Having a good night’s rest will help keep you grounded and thinking clearly. You’re going to need it.


Pack an emergency kit. This kit should contain a variety of items. The most obvious ones are back-up equipment, such as extra batteries, chargers, memory cards, lens cleaner… You get the point. The emergency kit will vary from person to person. For example, I always carry three granola bars on me. I learned early on that packing food on a wedding day is a good idea (things can run behind, you know) but it’s especially important for me to pack some personal fuel in case my bloodsugar wants to take a nosedive, which it has. The granola bars literally save me. The ones I take are small, easy to digest, and moderately discreet. I can stuff about half of one in my face, chew, and stuff the other half in while fumbling around in my camera bag or changing a lens, and no one ever knows. Bonus.


Don’t freak out. Yeah, this is a big one. Do your research, plan ahead, and go with the flow. It’s a wedding for cheese sake! Not everything is going to go as planned, but that doesn’t mean you can’t maintain composure and continue to work just as hard as when you started. Get used to thinking fast, becoming a problem solver, and carrying on! It’s part of the excitement of the wedding day!

So, there you have it! Those were my top 5 tips to photographing a wedding!

Do you have a tip you’d like to share?? Please leave it in the comments below! I’d love to hear from both sides: photographers and recently- (or soon-to-be-) married couples!


p.s. Here’s a bonus one. I meant what I said in my response to Matthew about catching reactions! Did the father of the bride just crack a hilarious joke during the toasts? Capture a photo of him, pan to Mom and click again! Did the groom’s nephew just run up to the alter during the vows to give his uncle a hug? Click, pan to the groom’s brother and sister-in-law, and click again! Make sense? Get good at catching reactions and your brides and grooms–and their families–will love you forever.

Photosanity – Winter 2012

Do you remember my post about Photosanity a while back? Or catch my interview on the NestingNYC blog earlier this week?

Well, I’m really happy to let you know that I’ll be mentoring a local San Diego group of Photosanity participants with the Winter 2012 round of Photosanity! This time, the workshop is broken into a 4-week Intro to Photosanity course and an 8-week follow-up course called More Photosanity. The Intro class starts on January 31 and finishes up on February 21, so it’s a great way to kick-start your resolution to take more (and better!) photos in 2012! The More course will take place March 6 through April 24.

Photo by Photosanity Fall 2011 member Sarah Vos

With the Intro course, you will learn what to look for to get the best photos, get tips on how to get your children to cooperate, understand how to look for the best light for photos, know how to make the most of low light situations, and start a photo-a-day project! For more information on this course, click here: Intro to Photosanity.

Photo by Photosanity Fall 2011 member Natalie Silverstein

The More Photosanity course will help you learn all about ISO, aperture and shutter speed, give you easy photo editing tips, help you set up a photo organization system, help you create a beautiful portrait wall gallery using your photos, learn about photo prints and products to share your photos with family and friends, and continue your photo-a-day project. For more information on this course, click here: More Photosanity.

If you’re ready for the time of your life, go ahead and sign up for both the Intro to Photosanity AND the More Photosanity courses by clicking here: The Photosanity Bundle. By purchasing the bundle up front, you’ll save $90!

So where do I come in? I will be the mentor for the San Diego local group, which means I’ll be moderating and commenting on all photos posted to a specific Facebook group just for participating photographers in San Diego! (Ok, it’s not limited to those of us in the San Diego area, but most group members will be in or around here!) If you’re a follower of mine from afar, don’t fret! Photosanity will have also groups in Austin, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City.  AND if you’re not in or near any of those cities, you can join any of the groups you wish! For more information on how the city groups will work, check out this page on the Photosanity website.


Sign up now and use my discount code “LNP20” to save 20% on the already-discounted price of the Photosanity Bundle! Act now–this code is only good through January 31!

I hope to see you there!


Are you in need of Photosanity?

Hey everyone!

I’m really excited to let you know about a new workshop I’m going to be helping with!

Do you love taking photos of your kids but are frustrated with the results? Do you have thousands of photos on your hard drive but don’t know what to do with them? Frustrated and overwhelmed with all your photos? Take the online Photosanity workshop for parents!

The Photosanity workshop is an amazing, online workshop for parents that will help you take better photos AND get a handle on organizing, editing and sharing them too! The next 12-week course will begin soon–on September 13!

The workshop is taught by NYC family photographer and mom Alethea Cheng Fitzpatrick. And guess what? I have just been brought on board to be one of the mentors! I am really excited about helping parents get a grasp on using their camera to create priceless memories of their children, so I would love to have some of you join me! I will be helping you get the most out of the workshop by personally reviewing your images and giving suggestions on how you can make them better! If you’re not ready to start so soon, the next workshop will be starting late October–I’ll keep you posted!

For more information, please take a look at the Photosanity workshop website at

**Use discount code LNP20 at checkout for a 20% discount on the fall workshop which starts on September 13th.**

You can also sign up for a FREE webinar recording ( on Alethea’s top 5 tips for taking better photos of your kids, and organizing and sharing your photos too! Whether or not you’re interested in signing up for the workshop, the free webinar is a great opportunity to pick up a few tips that can make a difference in your photography right away.

I hope to see you there!


Happy Tails for JJ

Hey Everyone!

I hope you’re having a wonderful summer so far! It’s actually been on the warmer side of things here in SoCal, and I’ve been soaking it up as much as possible!

I wanted to let you know about an awesome fundraiser that Angela of Powell Woulfe Photography is organizing for a military family.

JJ Proffitt is an adorable three-year-old who was diagnosed with autism just under a year ago. In addition to showing communication symptoms, JJ exhibits concerning behaviors such as throwing himself off furniture and escaping from the family’s home. JJ’s mother, Kristin, discovered Autism Service Dogs of America (ASDA) earlier this year and immediately applied for a service dog for JJ. The Proffitt family has been approved for a service dog, and is now in the process of raising the $13,500 it will take to raise and train the dog to suit JJ’s needs. Kristin believes that the service dog may provide JJ a sense of security and a measure of safety. You can read testimonials from families who were recipients of ASDA dogs here.

Joshua, JJ’s father, is serving as an active-duty Sergeant in the United States Army. With a year-long deployment in the near future, the Proffitt family is hoping to obtain the service dog prior to Joshua’s departure. There’s no question that deployments cause an immeasurable about of stress on family members left behind, and I’m certain that having a service dog will help JJ thrive during his daddy’s next tour.

This is where Angela’s fundraiser comes to play. :)

On Sunday, July 24, Angela is gathering a group of photographers (including myself) to donate their time and take affordable, professional portraits of families at the Orange County Photography Center in Brea, CA. Clients will recieve a mini-session (15 minutes in length) for up to 4 people, with a suggested donation of $25. After the event, the photographers will choose 5 photographs of each family to upload to an online viewing gallery, with the option of purchasing affordably-priced prints and downloads. We’ll be shooting from 10am until 5pm, and you can reserve a spot by calling Angela at 760-317-9752.

What: Happy Tails for JJ – A Portrait Benefit Event
When: 10am – 5pm on Sunday, July 24
Where: The Orange County Photography Center, 590 W. Central Avenue, Suite A, Brea, CA 92821
Want more info?
Click here to download the event flyer.
You can read more about JJ’s story here and the Proffitt family here.
And feel free to check out this article!


I hope to see you there!


Auto vs Manual Exposure

Alright, everyone. A question: How many of you own a DSLR? Ok, now, of those of you who said yes or raised a hand, how many of you put it on auto mode and fire away, hoping for good results? I bet more than half of your would also answer yes to the second question.

Here’s some food for thought.

As you know, I was in Texas last weekend for my birthday. Sunday night, my parents cooked up some dinner and we celebrated with a homemade cake. (It was delicious by the way!) My lovely Aunt Margaret offered to take a shot of me and my BFF, Madelyn (whom I’ve known since kindergarten!) as the cake was aflame. Since I was holding said flaming cake, I put my camera on P mode before handing it over. (Sidenote: in the Nikon world, P stands for “Program,” which is the “professional” word for Auto mode.) Here’s what we got:

Total yikes, right??

The camera saw the flames on the candles and was confused by how bright they were in comparison to the rest of the room, which was dark (especially in comparison to the candles). Good thing I asked to check on the exposure!

I quickly decided it would be better for me to expose manually in this situation. I put the camera back into manual mode, pointed it toward my aunt and uncle who were sitting across the table, and exposed for the ambient light. I passed the camera back to Margaret, and this is what she captured:

MUCH better!! I took the image into Lightroom, adjusted for the funky white balance (FYI: compact fluorescent light bulbs produce just as nasty light as regular fluorescent bulbs), bumped up the contrast and brightness, and was able to pull this out:

Yahoo! :)

So, what’s the big deal? Well, here’s the thing. When your camera is in auto mode, it’s doing all the thinking for you. It is a machine after all. When your camera is in manual mode, you are the one doing the thinking. It’s the difference between taking a picture and making a picture. Pretty awesome, right? Yeah, I think so!

“You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” –Ansel Adams



p.s. Another good thing about shooting in manual mode is that, since you are doing the thinking instead of your camera, your camera is able to process the information–and the images–more quickly. This may or may not be important if you are photographing landscapes or still objects, but I sure as heck don’t want a slow camera on my hands if I’m photographing a major event! *cough, cough, weddings! The more settings you input manually (including white balance, ISO, etc), the faster your camera will process the data. Cool, huh?

p.p.s. Scared?? It’s ok–I was too! I’ve owned an SLR since I was in high school, but it wasn’t until I took a real photography class a few years ago that I began shooting in manual mode. But, once I did, a whole new world opened up! Trust me when I say that, if you try it, you will fall in love with photography in a totally new way! Now, get out there and make some pictures! I’d love to hear how it goes! Leave me a note in the comments below if you have questions, are feeling inspired, or just want to chat! Keep in touch! <3