In this blog series, How to Shoot a Wedding, we’ll be exploring, one by one, all of the “must haves” that need to be captured throughout the wedding day to create a well-rounded shoot. We’ll discuss the reasons each is important, examine some common challenges wedding photographers face in these situations, and provide a few insider tips for how to shoot like a professional. So grab your camera bag and let’s dive in…
Now that we’ve knocked out some great portraits, it’s time to get the bride hidden away and prepare for the ceremony. This is the part of the day everyone’s come for. Right? Not the booze later on; definitely the ceremony.
Either way, the entire wedding day basically boils down to this, so it’s very important to come away with a series of compelling images.
Before we get down to it, I need to mention that there are as many different kinds of wedding ceremonies as there are different kinds of wedding photographers, and your approach is going to vary from ceremony to ceremony. Most notably, shooting a church wedding and shooting an outdoor wedding are two very, very different jobs. We don’t shoot many church weddings here in Colorado (the mountain vistas tend to be quite spiritual in and of themselves), but when we do shoot a church wedding, we start off by talking to the pastor/priest/rabbi/insert religious officiant here to see if he or she has any restrictions for us. This may include not using flash, not standing too close to the stage, not moving about the room during certain portions of the ceremony, etc. The prevailing viewpoint among the clergy is that a wedding is not a photo op, but a religious proceeding. And while I wholeheartedly believe those two things aren’t mutually-exclusive, the last thing I want is for the officiant to stop the ceremony to admonish me in front of the bride and groom. Long story short, I do my best to abide by the rules.
Okay, first thing’s first: anticipation photos. There are tons of great photo ops to be had before the bride even walks down the aisle, so make sure you’re on top of it. Moira usually hangs out with the bride, bridal party and family, while I cruise about the ceremony venue snapping shots of wedding guests mingling and being seated.
Next comes the processional. I’m usually crouched down somewhere in the aisle while Moira hangs back for an alternate angle. When you have a second shooter, you spend much of the day shooting the same thing, so it’s important to shoot that thing differently from one another. Otherwise, what’s the point in having two photographers? At the same time, you need to deftly maneuver yourselves so that you’re not showing up in each other’s images. The last thing you’re going to want to do is spend extra hours removing yourselves in Photoshop later in the week.
If you’re shooting in a church, the processional is the one part of the ceremony that most officiants are cool with you using flash, so go ahead and light it up if you want to, keeping in mind that you’re probably going to have to switch to ambient once everybody sits down.
As I mentioned before, depending on what type of wedding this is, any number of things could happen next. We’ve shot Catholic weddings, Jewish weddings, Greek Orthodox weddings, Hindu weddings, non-religious weddings and just about every other kind of wedding you could think of. Heck, we’ve even shot a traditional Mayan wedding. Long story short, the best thing to do is talk to your bride ahead of time to figure out exactly what will be going down during the ceremony; the minutes of the meeting, if you will. This way, you’ll be able to anticipate what’s coming next and put yourself in the best place to capture everything.
One of the most important things to remember here is to get close enough to get good shots while at the same time remaining as anonymous as possible. But when in doubt, I lean towards getting the shot. Yes, the guests’ view of what’s happening is important, but at the same time, the guests are not your clients. The bride and groom are paying you a lot of money for your eye. Remember, these photos aren’t for you. These photos are for the bride and groom and possibly their future children and grandchildren. They’ll be experiencing the wedding again and again through your camera, so if you happen to get in the way of cousin Julie’s plus one, don’t sweat it.
Keeping in mind that every wedding ceremony is different, here are some things Moira and I try to do at every ceremony in order to create a well-rounded shoot:
We shoot close for intimacy and we shoot wide for a sense of place.
We make sure to not only shoot what’s happening, but also the spectators’ reactions to what’s happening.
And, most importantly, we’re constantly trying to think about how we can push our photos beyond the ordinary; how we can make something unique that isn’t typical of standard wedding photography.
Now for the rings and “the kiss.” When shooting the kiss, I highly recommend shooting in bursts (continuous mode). It’s going to last no more than a few seconds and if you’re re-focusing for each shot, you’re probably only going to come away with one decent photograph. Shooting in burst mode will allow you to nail the kiss and the little moments before and after as well.
After the kiss, the bride and groom will recess, which makes for some of my favorite wedding photos. You’ll have to walk backwards up the aisle, making sure to keep pace in front of the bride and groom. It’s important to be cognizant of what’s behind you, lest you tumble backward into a fountain, along with your $10k in camera gear.
Finally, stay with the bride and groom! It might be tempting to stop and catch your breath right about now, but there are some really great photos to be captured after the newlyweds depart their ceremony. They’ve breathed a huge sigh of relief and are one hundred percent relaxed and in the moment at this point, so make sure to capture it on film.
Now that we’ve nailed the reception, it’s time for every wedding photographer’s favorite part of the wedding day: family photos.