I was recently asked this question:
Hi I was wondering if you might be able to help me I'm doing the photography for a friends upcoming wedding because she cannot afford to hire a photographer & I love taking pictures but have never done something like this before. Would you by any chance have a few tips for me? Should I use the flash during the wedding or should I do it without so I don't disrupt the wedding & if I do it without would the pictures turn out right? If you could help me in any way it would be much appreciated.
So I thought I would share my response.
I'm trying to think of the best way to help you out. Wedding photography is one of the most difficult. Mainly you have a long day of shooting and the changes in location and lighting elements always adds a continual surprise through the day.
I would first tell you that you should meet with your friend and get some things straight. These types of things can ruin a relationship fast if not talked openly about. You should express to her that you have not shot something like this before and she has to be ready to accept that she could end up with Zero images from the wedding. (This is a total worst case apocalyptic type ending). If she's willing to accept that, then move forward.
You should go to the church, take someone with you to pose where you think the bride will walk, where she will stand. You should meet with the clergy member and ask them what the rules are about flash photography during the ceremony. Ask them where you are allowed to stand, walk and be during all this. Every place has their own defined rules on this matter and you should know what they are. The more information you have the better off you will be. While you are there, shoot your companion with flash, without flash and write down what looks best. A lot will depend on what your camera is capable of in low light situations as well as what external flash unit you have available as well as what type of lens you are using. All of these things combined with the amount of ambient light will play a factor in determining what you should be shooting at.
The next advice I would offer you is to prepare for this the day before. Batteries, charger, flash, extra memory cards. Everything you have should be clean, charged and you should have a backup with you if you have one. Don't forget extra memory cards. You can't have too much.
The next thing I would suggest is depending on when your friends wedding is, start helping someone out at other weddings. Offer to second shoot for free or to help assist. Practice. Practice indoors, practice outdoors but practice.
The day of, dress nice. Just because she is your friend, you should still dress better then 50% of the people there. WIth the trend I've noticed with weddings that isn't hard at all. With a pair of khaki pants and a dress shirt will be fine.
If you are taking on this role of photographer, you are no longer a formal guest. Sure, you can eat and drink but you are taking on the responsibility of capturing their marriage ceremony and these will be images they will want and images their kids and grand kids will want to see for years. So as tempting as it is to relax and be friends for the day you owe it to you and you owe it to her not to do that.
The next thing I would tell you, and I mean it in the nicest way possible. Don't shoot it. Ask her to find the way to hire someone. If she can't do it, that happens, then ask her about having someone there for just the wedding ceremony itself, for an hour. Just so there are two sets of cameras trying to capture the same thing. Two are better then one.
That should be within her budget, $100-$200 is worth having someone there that's done it before even just for an hour or so to make sure they have good images.
Now all of this is not meant to sound horrifying or scary or persuade you not to do it. I do not know what skills you have with a camera, what you have or haven't shot. These are only my thoughts on the matter and should be taken as much. I photographed my first wedding in 1998 with 8 rolls of film in my bag and I sweated the whole time and missed the horse and carriage ride the bride and groom took.
Anyone can do anything if they put their mind to it. If you really want to do this you can. And the more the do the better you will get at it.
So I hope this helps somewhat on your adventure. Best of luck to you!!!