Most professional photographers will tell you that the most stressful event you can ever photograph is a wedding. Once in a lifetime for most people, this event cannot be repeated or restaged, so it’s important to get it right. Plan ahead, get your equipment and back up batteries ready and be prepared to be flexible.
Once Upon a Time…
Capture emotions and tell the story to make magical moments last a lifetime. Ultimately as a photographer you need to be observant and present but also inconspicuous. Couples shouldn’t be asked to repeat poses, so be ready to capture small moments showing affection. This wedding photography image shows a groom kissing his brides hand; the large aperture (shallow Depth of Field) of f/5.6 keeps the emphasis on the groom and the hand, but still shows off the bride’s bright smile. For multiple wedding shots use continuous shooting mode and hold down the shutter button as long as you’d like.
Grab the Opportunity
There will be hundreds of special moments on the wedding day that you as the photographer must notice and capture. Certain events, such as the vows and walking down the aisle cannot be repeated, so give yourself a good position in the venue to begin with, but also keep out of the way. A nice effect is to use the slow sync flash mode, so you capture the blur of the couple walking, but the center of the frame stays sharp because the flash freezes it. Turn the mode dial to TV or S (Shutter Priority) mode and use a slow shutter speed of 1/4th of a second. Use either the on-camera flash or a separate one for more power. When you use slow sync, the shutter remains open much longer to allow in more light for your exposure.
Take Unusual Wedding Photos
There will always be time for the formal posed wedding photos with all the friends and family members. The fun, casual moments are sporadic and less predictable. Look out for tender moments where the couple shares a story or a joke. You might capture outright affection or a glancing look they share. Use flash to freeze the moment and a small aperture of f/14 upwards to keep things sharp. Remember to keep the shutter speed at 1/250th of a second and higher as you don’t want to risk any blur. You can also consider using a warming filter, known as the 81A. This has a slight peach tone, but makes the skin glow and look alive.
Capture them Leaving
The classic wedding photograph is the couple leaving the marriage venue, when the guests throw rice or confetti at the couple. Generally this will be in the day time with plenty of light, so choose a large aperture (f/2.8-f/5.6) to keep the couple in focus and the background slightly blurred. Use a shutter speed of 1/125th of a second so you can see some of the confetti in the air. Use flash if you want to guarantee that the image will be sharp. Consider using the continuous shooting mode, so you have a series of shots of the couple leaving while confetti is thrown at them.
Tell the Fairy Tail
When it comes to the formal wedding shots, although most people will want the standard family line up images, remember to be creative. Take your bride and groom away from the commotion and place them indoors by a big window or where there is a sliver of light. The idea is to catch their silhouette, so you need the light source to be behind them. Get the couple to kiss, making sure you include the back of the brides dress and veil for the outline. Remember to turn off the flash and use either spot or multi-zone metering mode. Take a reading of just the bright area and then point your camera at them and shoot! Ideally you should use a tripod for this shot, although handholding at 1/160s should keep things reasonably sharp.
Capture the Fun
Photograph some of the older folks out on the dance floor, or the bridesmaid catching the bouquet thrown by the bride. A wedding is a once in a lifetime event for the couple, and your chance to show off your prowess at photography, so make the best use of this opportunity. The happy couple will thank you for it in the years to come.
It should go without saying, but it’s important to make sure your images are sharp and focused when taking wedding photographs. These images cannot be repeated. Although you can use a tripod for the formal shots, you will need to handhold a lot of indoor, candid photographs so use a flash, wide aperture and high shutter speed if necessary. Use flash if the conditions indoors seem a bit dark, and use it outside on sunny days to light the subject’s faces. Keep the ISO as low as you can, around 100, because wedding photographs are usually later enlarged and a lower ISO gives a finer grain.
When photographing a wedding, always take a spare camera body. Murphy’s Law states that if it can go wrong, it will, so bring a spare camera body in case of any problems. Better yet is having two camera bodies with a different lens on each. For example, a telephoto zoom on one, and a wide-angle lens on the other allow you to quickly switch between the two. Always take extra batteries and use a tripod for formal shots. Separate flash units are more powerful than built-in flashes, so have some of these. You might take some large gold and silver reflectors to add warmth and light to the subject’s faces.
A wedding is supposed to be a once in a lifetime event for the couple, and as a photographer, there is a lot of pressure on your shoulders. You need to be present at all times yet keep out of the way. You need to be creative but formal at the same time. Many photographers will photograph a wedding as an assistant at first before taking on the task on their own since it is a big responsibility. If you are a lead photographer, take some assistants with you so that everything is covered. Remember that these photographs will be cherished for life, so you absolutely must do the best job that you can.