I have been shooting professional wedding photography. During this time I captured hundreds of weddings, and encountered all sorts of situations. Here are my top tips to help you get better results.
PREPARATION is the foundation of a good day’s shoot. Check your equipment: the batteries are fully-charged, all lenses are clean and free from dust. Check the locations: look for interesting scenes to frame your shots (This is also a good opportunity to pick up some scene shots, building details or anything else of interest – at the wedding you will be fully occupied with capturing people).
BACK UP is vital, because you won’t get second chance on the big day. Always carry spare batteries, memory chip or film, with you. If you don’t have a second camera or flash unit, see if you can borrow them from your friends. Remember, if something can go wrong it will go wrong, so be prepared.
GROUP SHOTS take a bit of organization. Make sure you have a list of all the group shots you need to cover, and tick them off as you complete them.
Firstly you should compose your shot, making sure the bride and groom are centred. Then work your way out, with the tallest people standing beside or behind the happy couple, and the shortest people at the edges. It’s the overall composition you should be thinking about at this stage; try different combinations of people kneeling or sitting.
Once you have your composition, start shooting, giving clear directions, and watch those faces: no one obscured, and all looking at camera!
WWW – Who Where When. You need to talk to the bride and groom and find out exactly who is appearing where, and when. Having done your groundwork (from tip 1) you’ll know exactly where you have to be at any given moment.
BE INVISIBLE. You are there to capture the event, not to be the centre of attention. Apart from when you have to take control for the group shots, it’s best to blend into the background as much as possible.
Most people freeze when they know a camera is pointing them, by being as unobtrusive as possible you can capture more candid and revealing shots.
CHILDREN are notoriously tricky to photograph. Always remember to shoot from a kneeling position, or so you are roughly at their eye level. Capture them as they arrive all smiles and pristine-looking. Photograph them in the service when they are getting bored or crying. And don’t forget to catch them letting off steam at the reception.
THE F STOPS HERE. You’ll need to keep an eye on your depth of field on the day. If your camera is automatic, make sure to set it to aperture priority. For group shots I like to keep a camera aperture at f5.6 or wider, maybe even f8 for large groups. At this setting you only need to focus on the eyes of people in the front row, and the rest will remain pin sharp.
MORE THE BETTER. The more photographs you take, the more chances you have of capturing the perfect picture – so don’t be afraid the keep the camera clicking, you can always edit out the poor shots. This obviously can be expensive for film cameras, but with the advent of digital photography, there really is no excuse, just make sure you have enough memory. As a rule of thumb, I would allow for 150 – 250 shots to cover a wedding.
RELAX – with a little planning and preparation, you’ll know what you need to do, and how you are going achieve it. The secret is to enjoy the big day; if you are relaxed and chatty, your subjects will feel at ease, which results in more natural-looking shots.