Weddings

Unless you are a professional wedding photographer, your attempt to capture the classic collection of images and create an album is a recipe for disaster. Don't try to duplicate the results of photographers who do this for a living.

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Wedding photographers are highly skilled. They've talked with the couple, know what is expected, and have the experience and equipment to create the perfect wedding album.


You have the advantage of enjoying the event and capturing your experience. Not having a specific shooting list of images you have to get is liberating. Just shoot what interests you. If you get photos you like, they make a perfect wedding gift.

I often start the day before. In this case, the bride is well known to me, and we've worked on several projects together. She knows my work and is clear, 

   

        "We don't want a wedding photographer Please join us, have fun, and shoot whatever you like."

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As a photograph, this is a terrible shot. It's poorly framed and there's clutter everywhere. The dialog, however, was precious:


          "We really are going to do this. Right?"


          "Might as well. We've already bought the cake."


And that was the moment it became real.

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At the bride's home, wedding preparations were well underway. So, following that theme, I became a flower photographer. Expect to go with whatever is happening, without any preconceived notions. Delightful surprises await.

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You're capturing your experience, not trying to document the event for all time. So everything and everyone is fair game for your lens. Don't worry about capturing the most important people. They're probably too busy anyhow.

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Find a place where people are coming and going, and are not at all concerned with being photographed. Park there for a while and let the pictures come to you.



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Precious moments abound. Be alert and preserve as many as you can.


I must have captured 30 or 40 images featuring the bride and her father. This one is perfect. I don't know why.

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Every project or activity involving several people is an opportunity to capture relationships in addition to photographing events. Building the altar for the wedding ceremony is a perfect example, but there will be many others to choose from.

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The plan involves the bride to be entering through the alter. Then, after the ceremony, the bride and groom leave by the same altar and return to the house.


Knowing the wedding plan is helpful and leads to many opportunities. But go for your experience, don't try to recreate a travelogue.

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The wedding rehearsal is a golden opportunity for capturing otherwise forgotten moments. But I have no idea what she is practicing here -- probably something to do with cutting a ribbon. The symbolism may be obscure, but the humor is genuine.

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Don't be fixated on the official ceremony alone. Your contribution to the wedding begins when you pick up the camera.


Moments in rehearsal are no less representative. These ideal photo opportunities are not always present later.


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The sit-down-we're-done-with-you practice is an opportunity to include this important event in a relaxed setting. This leaves me free to focus on the bride and groom in the wedding ceremony without trying to include all the details.

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Your event photography will take on a new dimension when you begin seeing a photograph before it happens. Ansel Adams and others call this previsualizationYou don't have to figure this out. It comes naturally when you focus on the event and not just the moment.    

 

        "Would you like to do kiss-the-bride practice?"

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I saw how they looked at each other and immediately moved into position for the shot I knew would happen next. 


Had I just waited for the event to occur before reacting, I would have gotten an OK shot, but not the dramatic angle you see here.

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On the wedding day, I'm standing behind the audience and to the side, not in direct view. A telephoto lens gives me an intimate view without intruding on the scene. The bride will enter from the left and walk through the arch to the altar.

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This intimate closeup photo was taken with a telephoto setting, allowing me to capture this intimate scene without intruding. I also avoid being in direct view of the audience. It helps to remember that you are an observer, not a participant.

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The combination of the prime-time version and the earlier rehearsal kiss preserve memories that neither photography can do alone.


When the ceremony is completed, the couple exit through the arch and returns to the house

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I'm very busy at this time, taking multiple shots of the couple as they leave. I am NOT running along behind them as I shoot. That would be incredibly disruptive. Adjusting my telephoto lens keeps them in the frame, and rapid shooting provides multiple opportunities to select the perfect shot in post-production.

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Shooting multiple images and editing later to select the best shot is often the best way to capture a moving scene that's happening too fast for you to wait for the right moment before pressing the shutter. In this case, my favorite was also their selection thank you cards

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When you're in a group with many people taking photographs, find the person posing everybody and shouting "One Two Three CHEESE" before taking the photo. This amateur technique guarantees frozen smiles and worse.


Discreetly stand to one side, and immediately after the cheese photographer's flash goes off and everybody stops posing and relaxes again, take the perfect shot. It works every time.

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The general theme through this wedding, and my work in general, is photographing people who are doing something else instead of having their picture taken. It's OK, however, to pose a shot now and then. But, when you do, really go for it.


        Yippie!

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Find a reflective surface someplace and shoot a self-portrait as your signature piece to include with your images. It's OK if you look a bit disheveled.

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Parting thoughts...


These suggestions for shooting weddings also work well when covering or documenting other events. For example, the ideal time to shoot a play is during rehearsal. You can be in the thick of things and still not be in the way.


Skip the camera or cell phone flash settings. You might need this for flash-fill in bright sunlight; otherwise, keep it off.


A telephoto lens or zoom setting provide intimate visual contact with your subjects while maintaining physical distance and minimizing intrusion.


If you're asked to take a specific photo, pose the people as expected and shoot. Then immediately take a second, relaxed photo after people are no longer "getting their picture taken." This works almost every time.


Shoot lots of pictures, but don't expect volume alone to get a great shot. The spray & pray technique is tempting because it sometimes works. Be selective, even when shooting fast.


Smile. Don't just say that to your subjects. You smile. Relax. If you're tense when shooting, you will likely get rigid-looking photos. I don't know why this is true, but it is.

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