Wedding Photography: few advises for the bride and her photographer friend...
Here's the thing. Millions of articles have been written about the woes and worries of wedding photography. Type the words "Wedding Photography" on any search bar online, and it always speaks more or less the same thing: Finding the right photographer, tips to becoming the perfect wedding photographer, tips on how to create the perfect photos, and even tips for amateur photographers wanting to beef up their wedding photography skills and adding to their portfolio.
Maybe you're a passionate photographer just starting out his career and you have this big shot to shoot your closest friend's wedding day (either out of love or because she's saving big time). Maybe you've photographed weddings before but you're looking to get creative with tips and ideas by reading this article. Or maybe you're a bride-to-be, worrying about the right photographer to choose to capture the best moments of the day.
Here's a tip all the other articles won't tell you: Don't worry about it. Plan, but don't plan too much. Choose wisely, but don't let the choice zap your mood and preoccupy you with more worries before and during the wedding day. It's true-- the prettiest ones are the happiest ones, not the worried ones. This is what weddings are ultimately about: letting the beautiful moments unfold naturally.
If you are any of the aforementioned above, here's what you should do.
First, if you're the bride, recognize during the photography planning stage this: who you will entrust to take the photos for you. You can go about that in either two ways.
1. Hire a professional wedding photographer.
Better safe than sorry, and this would be the best choice (albeit the most expensive one). Wedding photography is a skill and a training that should be learned, and professional wedding photographers have had years to learn it. They have the special equipment (they know which cameras to use for which lighting situations, they understand the technical details: whether it'd be best to use shutter speed, RAW, fill flash or continuous shooting mode); they understand specific elements and know what they have to do in order to translate that experience into an image worth a thousand words. Photography is an art form and the photographer is the medium. It's not merely about pointing and shooting, but about the photographer's vision. His own lens and how he sees things and paints that picture. A professional wedding photographer would understand more of the technical details than anybody else. Chances are, he also has a checklist of what to shoot (the grand gestures and the little details such as the bouquets in the bridesmaids' hands, the bride looking at herself in the mirror, the groom's expression while watching his bride walk down the aisle-- just all the details that a wedding photographer needs to capture; the must-haves for all wedding moments and is familiar with it like it's second skin.
If you decide to take this side of the road, look at your options and each photographer's professional wedding portfolio. Does it connect or relate to you? Is there a story the pictures tell that you believe the photographer can do with your own story? Are you satisfied with how the pictures look? One important thing to look at is consistency. Maybe there are some pictures that are magical, while others are just so-so. What you want is a photographer who can produce good pictures no matter what. Not all the pictures have to be extremely outstanding, but the majority works for you. Find which pictures you fall in love with. Chances are you'll fall in love with the photographer who took them too because of his ability to put himself in a perspective similar to yours.
2. Hire your own personal photographer.
Maybe you're saving. Maybe you want to add a little more personal touch to the photos and you can't think of anyone better but to use your own close friend or relative with enough photography skills to impress you. Maybe you don't want professional photographs in the first place and just want something raw, messy, and beautiful. Candid shots that show truth and beauty in the moment and you think your friend has an eye for capturing them. This is also not a bad choice. If you're the bride and you've decided this option, you can go now. You've chosen your photographer; now let everything be and worry less about this side of the planning. You made your choice, now trust it with all your heart and go!
It is the photographer's turn to worry now (yes, I'm talking to you!).
So, you've been handed the big task of shooting a wedding. If it's your first time, or you seventh time; the number one thing is this: first and foremost, don't panic. Don't worry. If they've hired you, chances are you've impressed them enough with your skill. There obviously is something special about you that the couple sees when you take pictures. Don't doubt yourself and trust your gut. Nobody can tell the story you see, because nobody else sees it the way you do. Let that story show.
Here are tips for "amateur" wedding photographers (yes, you still fit this book):
1. Talk to the couple about their expectations & get their Shot List
A Shot List is the list of expected shots the couple wants to see. This means these are a must in the photo album and you need to be able to deliver. Maybe the couple wants a private shot with great grandfather Ben in the middle. Maybe they want a photo bomb they'll be able to look at in the future and laugh hysterically at. Get this list and check off each one. This is important. This is what the couple is looking for.
2. Be Prepared
When I say prepared, I mean, seriously prepare like the zombie apocalypse is looming and if you don't prepare, you'll die the first second it occurs. This is somebody's wedding. One of those life timeline moments in a person's limited time on earth. Your task is to look at the details and sew them together so that people can look back and remember. Preparation is key.
Go to the location beforehand. Understand the ins and the outs. Get creative ideas on the background and the lighting. Shoot some things and get a glimpse of how the photos will work out. Test some shots with the couple. Have a plan A, a plan B, and a plan F. Batteries, memory cards, extra assistant hands and other photographers to help-- get all those scheduled so that if anything goes wrong, you know what to do. It never hurts to have extra nets to fall onto just in case.
3. Weave the Story together
Capture the little details-- the rings, the table setting, the light through the trees, the expression on the bridesmaids faces showing excitement, the happy and relieved lines on the mother and father's face as they finally watch their last child set off into a new life with another human being, the nervousness and pure joy in the way the bride's head is down as she walks down the aisle-- all grace and beauty and innocence in one setting. The slicing of the cake, the pose by the altar and even after; and the relationships formed in the sea of faces around the ceremony. Capture it all. Consider the backgrounds bust most of all, challenge your perspective. They hired you personally, so see things personally-- like you're in the loop and you know exactly what story they want to remember. Get all the formal wedding group and couple shots but bask in the candidness of life's precious moments unfolding before your very eyes. Let that guide you home.
4. Get creative
Try different things for variation. Try different lighting or shades or even drizzle. Use tilt-shift, or add a little blur as a freeze motion. Try to shoot from different perspectives, like going low nearer the ground, or climbing to higher ground to capture what's taking place below. Try a panorama. Look out for laughter and tears. With so many things that can go on in a wedding, this only means you can come up with several different kinds of pictures that the couple will only appreciate just as much as they see the contrasts of all that occurred that day. It's about taking down the moments and having something to show for it. Take pictures you know the couple will appreciate and the reason why they hired you.
5. Have fun!
Taking wedding pictures can be stressful for a photographer but don't forget to go with the flow. Let everything be natural. Don't put stress into the environment by enforcing certain poses or capturing the same moment over and over again until it's picture perfect. At the end of the day, everybody will sigh with relief that it's over. They'll look at the pictures and remember. That's it. No need for perfection if you're an amateur photographer. Just let life flow imperfectly and let the quality shine through your photographs. After all, isn't that what photographs are about? Shots & memories of moments-- not forced, but simply captured in its rareness and wonder.