Wedding Photography Tips

It is most important that you are well prepared when photographing a wedding; whether as an amateur (one of the guests), or as a professional wedding photographer.

The ceremony and reception afterwards need to be recorded (and recorded well) by the photographer, but this needs to be done without disrupting any of the proceedings. Minimising disruption requires both good planning, preparation and an appropriate attitude on the part of the photographer.

The official photographer should always be given preference over anyone else taking photos and it may help to discuss this with the bride and groom beforehand, however guests are usually careful not impede the work of a professional.

The photographer should meet with the bride and groom before the wedding and discuss the style of photographs required and the most important occasions or moments to be photographed.

Traditional wedding photography rarely uses dramatic angles or anything but mid range lenses. Modern wedding photography however, often utilises wide angle or telephoto lenses and unconventional perspectives to create unique, off beat or even dramatic images.

Whatever approach is taken, always remember where the photos are likely to end up.

Some wedding prints are commonly framed and displayed in the homes of the couple and their parents. Most however are placed in an album; usually in a sequence that provides a visual story - showing step by step what happened at the wedding. As the photos are being taken, it is important to keep these things in mind, to ensure that adequate scope and quality of images is achieved to serve these two purposes. If a modern approach is taken and photos are shot on an angle to create a dramatic affect, remember that if the angle is too great, the photos will be difficult to fit into an album.


Creating Romance

There are various tricks which may be used to make the image appear more beautiful or romantic. These include:

  • Using high speed film or iso on a digital camera and slow shutter speeds in available light (no flash) to create a softer slightly out of focus image. This must be only very slightly out of focus!
  • Try to avoid using full flash if possible (though this might not always be possible). Full flash tends to light up everything, showing all imperfections in the subjects and making oily skin shine. Without full flash it is possible to hide imperfections and/or create mystery in slight shadows.
  • Use flash as a fill-in on one third to one quarter power, so as to maintain some shadows and increase the dramatic affect.
  • Use a mix of light sources if shooting in a studio (or elsewhere under lights), such as tungsten, fluoro, halogen and ambient. Pure fluoro can be acceptable with black and white film but should be avoided with colour due to colour temperature variations.
  • Using a tripod can reduce the need for a flash or lighting; but quick release fittings are important to allow the tripod to be moved and set up again quickly.

Wedding portraits are generally better when you use a tripod to eliminate camera movement.  A camera on a tripod, you can be set up in an exact position; prior to predetermined events; such as the ceremony; the wedding breakfast table; departures and arrivals; then you can examine every tiny part of the photo, at leisure, making sure you have exactly what you want within the photo, and being certain there are no undesirable things in the photo.  

Even changing the direction of the camera just slightly can b often be the difference between a good photo and an outstanding photo. Tripods give you time to reflect on what you are taking before you actually shoot.

Willingness of the Subject

By reading your subjects body language you can often sense if they are feeling uncomfortable and you can make them feel more comfortable by asking them how they feel about your ideas for the photo and getting them to talk about themselves.  In general people feel comfortable talking about themselves and it’s a good way for you to quickly get to know your subject.  The subject will feel more comfortable if they feel you are genuinely interested in them.   Often it helps to offer some personal information about you to gain the trust of the subject. Make sure it’s not too personal so as not to embarrass them or yourself.

When taking a wedding photograph, know the subject. Know the important people at the wedding, not just the bride and groom, and wedding party; but also everyone else in attendance. Know who is important to the bride and groom; who they want photos of and who they want photographed with who. Understand relationships, and be sensitive to negativity, even if subtle. In all families, there are people who don't get on with others, and wedding photos are not a time to reflect negativity.  Although it may be tempting to simply snap your photos and rush on, take time to visually explore the subject and see what appeals to you.  Ask yourself: 'what is the purpose of this photograph?' and 'what is the reaction I want a viewer to have?' 

With wedding photography, you are attempting to photograph the intangible quality of love.  This does not necessarily mean they have to be kissing – it can be a subtle look or hand placement.

You are not only photographing people either. Anything associated with the wedding from the environment to the wedding ring and gifts; are all subjects worthy of an image.

Subject Placement

The placement of your subject in the frame denotes its relevance to the context. The centre of the frame is the weakest place, it's static, dull, and gives no value to the context. The more you move the subject away from the centre, the more relevance you give to the context; so juggle until you get the right balance. When a person moves across your cameras field of view the final image is usually has much more impact when the subject is off centre.  Leave open space in the direction the subject is headed, or if the subject is looking to the side it is best to leave more space in that direction.