50 wedding photography tips for beginners
A collection of essential wedding photography tips, techniques and tricks for beginners from candid wedding photography to a more classic approachIf youre new to wedding photography, this is the place to start. Whether youre looking to gain some experience as the unofficial photographer on the big day, or simply looking for some pointers for improving your portraits in general, theres lots of great advice on offer here.
General wedding photography tips1 Use a wide apertureThe use of the widest aperture that your lens permits (for a narrow depth of field) can create a very appealing effect for wedding photography, keeping your subject in focus while making the background blurred although you need to be sure you focus accurately.2 Try slow-synch flashIf using flash, try as slow a shutter speed as possible 1/15 to 1/25 second, say to make the most of ambient lighting. Try panning with moving subjects while you fire the flash to freeze the subject and blur a distant background.3 Pose the brideFor flattering images of a bride, make sure she doesnt have her arms bent (a slight bend is best, but not straight) while holding her bouquet. If possible, ask her to create an S bend with her body, similar to the way fashion models pose. Look through womens magazines like Vogue and Cosmopolitan to see how the models pose to get an idea.4 Look for linesTry to make the most of strong architectural lines, such as pillars, for backdrops to your wedding photographs. Remember, if you sort out the background, the foreground falls into place to create the perfect composition. Scout out the venue beforehand to see which architectural elements might work best.5 Use light patterns creativelyIf there are any interesting light patterns outside the church or register office, you can use them to add impact and drama to your images. Be aware, however, that such patterns may come and go as the day progresses, so you may have to work quickly to capture them.6 Frame the coupleWhen taking pictures of the bride and groom with their bridal car, try being creative by using the windows to frame them, or even jump inside the car, if its OK with them.7 Tilt the cameraCamera tilt adds a sense of motion to an image. You dont have to always keep the camera in landscape or portrait format, be adventurous and align the composition lines at diagonals in the image to create impact. As with all techniques dont over do this one or two images is ample.8 Find the shadeIf youre shooting a wedding on a day with very strong sunshine, try to move the couple or group into the shade for a better exposure, or use fill-in, or forced flash to balance the scene. Youll find the fill flash setting by cycling through the cameras flash modes.9 Add some blurTry experimenting with pictures of the first dance using a very slow shutter speed to give your images a sense of movement. Use a combination of flash and a slow shutter speed to freeze the motion of the couple while still capturing ambience and movement. You may need to increase the ISO sensitivity of the camera although noise will become more obvious in darker indoor conditions.10 Use a ash bracketAttach an external flashgun to a flash bracket to lift the flash a few inches above the lens, eliminating shadows on the subject. The best frames works on a hinge mechanism and enable you to move the flash for portrait shots or landscape format shots accordingly.
Candid wedding photography tips11 Look the other wayWeddings dont just happen in front of you. Look around for other photo opportunities that may be behind you. After all, youll be looking at what your subjects can see, so if youre aiming to capture their memories of the day, look at what theyre looking at.12 Pay attention to detailLook for the small stuff as well as the big picture. Often, details may go unnoticed by the wedding guests, and yet when they see a detail shot, memories will come flooding back. So be aware of everything around you and dont be afraid to photograph it.13 Go lowTry shooting from a low vantage point. Avoid crouching on your haunches, however. Such a stance makes you unsteady and you may find your shots ruined by camera shake. If the ground is dry, kneel down, or even lie down, in order to stand a better chance of keeping the camera steady.14 Wait a secondLet other people take their photographs and then capture the subjects as they relax. Formal, posed shots are OK for the record, but when aiming to capture the emotion of the event, people come across better in photos when theyre happy, relaxed and unworried about people taking pictures of them.15 Add grainGrain can add atmosphere and lack of flash can keep attention from you. The last thing you want is for a flash to distract the wedding guests, drawing attention to yourself. The high ISO settings used in low light photography may increase noise a little, but this can give them character.16 Try a telephotoLong lenses keep you out of the action as an observer. They also create interesting perspective effects, which can add drama to photos. Be careful to avoid camera shake that can be induced when wielding such lenses a sturdy tripod is a handy accessory in such situations.17 Make friends with the organisersThey know whats actually happening, as opposed to what should be. The organisers can tip you off about whos going to be where and when, so its wise to consult them in order to be in the right place at the right time.18 Dont be intrusiveIf someone doesnt want their photo taken, leave them alone. Theres little point in taking shots of people who dont like being in front of the lens. Theyll not look comfortable and you could end up causing offence. With experience, youll get to recognise the signals that the camera-shy give out.19 Listen for laughterWeddings are happy occasions, so keep an ear out for laughter. Shots in which people look happy and relaxed work very well, so use your ears as well as your eyes to monitor the dynamic of the wedding party and move in on where the actions taking place.20 Use the windIf its windy, face people into the wind and get lots of movement. The brides dress in particular can look wonderfully dynamic when theres a breeze its lines will flow out with the movement of air. However, if youre changing the lens on a DSLR, get out of the wind to avoid dirt blowing into the camera body.
The considerate wedding photographer21 Consult beforehandAlways have a pre-wedding consultation with the couple to get to know them and find out what they want first. Its their day, not yours, so its wise to have a clear idea of how they envisage the occasion. Be polite and dont promise anything that you cant deliver.22 Smile a lotIf you smile at people, they smile back, so make lots of eye contact. Dont hide behind your camera. Someone with a big lump of technology permanently attached to their face can be off-putting and youll likely end up missing a lot of potentially excellent shots.23 Give the couple spaceAfter the ceremony, give the couple time and space to be congratulated. This helps you when you come to shoot the organised photographs people wont keep coming up and getting in your way as they attempt to pass on their best wishes to the bride and groom.24 Be candidWhile the couple are busy being congratulated, you can go round and get some candid shots of the guests. Theyll be happily distracted and therefore more relaxed than when they feel they have to pose for the camera. The unobtrusive photographer can have some of the best shots of the wedding day.25 Compose subtlyPre-focus and compose your subject through the lens, then get their attention by talking or smiling at them they wont know youre taking the photograph. When they do realise, theyll laugh and you can then take more natural-looking photographs. The more relaxed people are, the better the shots will turn out.26 Go with the flowDont fight the rain, wind, people and time. Theres always a way to get round a problem, so think laterally. As you become more confident and experienced, youll develop numerous ways of making the unexpected play into your hands, so exercise your problem-solving skills to the full.27 Plan for rainIf its raining, use brollies. Its handy to have a white one and a black one in your car. Get the couple walking with them, kissing each other and so on. They make excellent props, and can save your expensive digital camera from a soaking, which is unlikely to do it much good.28 Use the crowdIf people are in the background in public places, just let them be there. Sometimes its good to take pictures of strangers wishing them the best.29 Manage your timeYou should always have enough time. If you dont, you didnt ask the right questions at the consultation. Be aware of the schedule of the day, how youre going to get from A to B and where the wedding party will be and when. The disorganised photographer will miss out on key moments, so dont let it be you.30 Enjoy yourselfWedding photography can be a lot of fun, but not if youre fretting about the camera or the light. Relax and have a good time, just as the rest of the attendees are meant to be doing. You may find that your photography improves as a result.
Reportage wedding photography tips31 Use your inside knowledge of the family to get shotsIf some relatives havent seen each other for 20 years, a shot of when they first meet at the church could be very emotional. Think about the attendees and how they get on, then use that knowledge to plan your shooting schedule.32 Avoid shooting when people are eatingDont take pictures of people eating. They never look good and no one will thank you for it. You may as well pack away the camera during the meal and have some food yourself while you wait for the speeches, which provide far more opportunities for good people shots.33 No chimpingDont chimp after each shot (chimping is looking at the cameras screen to check your pictures). It uses up the batteries and takes your eye off the action. Youre better off reviewing the photos en masse occasionally, being careful to delete only those that you cant feasibly use.34 Bounce the flashWhen shooting indoors, bounce your flash off the ceiling and balance the exposure with the ambient light. Bounced flash is far more diffuse, so you wont end up with those harsh shadows that are characteristic of amateur snaps.35 Tell a storyAdopt a photojournalistic approach look for pictures that tell the story of the day. The classic way is to get three pictures of each moment, not necessarily taken at the same time. For example, a close up of the cake, a medium shot of the couple cutting the cake and then a wide angle of the guests reactions.36 Take your own confettiTo make sure you get a good confetti shot, take your own confetti. Frame the shot and throw the confetti high in the air, not at the couple. Try a small aperture (f/11), slow shutter (1/15 sec) and fill-in flash. Just make sure the wind isnt blowing towards you, or youll look like an idiot.37 Listen for storiesWhen mingling with the guests listen out for someone telling a story. There are typically numerous characters at the wedding, each with something to say, so let them warm up the crowd for you and be ready to capture their reactions.38 Edit ruthlesslyWhen you get back home, edit the pictures then edit them again. Remove any shots in which the bride and groom dont look at their best. Retouch any blemishes from their faces, and so forth. Then edit the pictures again only let people see the best shots, not hundreds of average ones.39 Dont let your camera sharpen the shotsTurn off any automatic in-camera sharpening. This is best done on the computer after youve resized the images. If possible, always shoot RAW format. This transfers the data from the imaging chip directly to memory without compressing it, although the file sizes will be much larger than when shooting JPEGs, so youll need high-capacity memory cards, or a portable storage device to copy your images onto over dinner40 Underexpose in bright lightIn bright sunlight, try to retain the detail in the brides dress by underexposing by 1 EV and then bringing the shot up to the correct exposure on the computer. Digital cameras have excellent dynamic range, so shadow detail should be recoverable its highlights which is where they tend to have problems. Again, shooting in RAW as opposed to JPEG really helps in this situation.
Contemporary wedding photography tips41 Find a positionTry to get a position in the church about 2 or 3 rows back from the altar and to the side of the bride and groom. You can capture some fantastic emotional images throughout the ceremony. And make sure you turn the cameras sound effects off so you dont disturb people seated nearby.42 Plan for key eventsThink beforehand at what points youll be able to capture emotional or funny images for example, during the ceremony itself, and the couples interaction while register is being signed. This is often the rst time theyve spoken together on the day and their reactions can produce some wonderful images.43 Soften your flashNever use direct flash as well as using an off-camera flash bracket, place a diffuser over the flash head.Sto-fenswhite plastic caps are affordable and great for helping flash pictures. They soften the flash, reducing those harsh shadows that can make photographs look amateurish.44 Avoid effectsKeep away from too many digital effects on the camera. If you want to create a sepia print, or even solarize the happy couple, shoot in colour as normal and convert the shot in an image editor later. If you shoot with special effects, youll not be able to turn the image into a standard colour shot afterwards.45 Go wide on architectureUse wideangle lenses to capture interesting graphic shapes. The lines of a churchs interior can look spectacular when wideangle lenses distort them. Just avoid taking portraits with them peoples faces will distort in a strange, bulbous way.46 Go slow indoorsPractice slow-sync ash methods, which can transform interior shots. The cameras flash will fire to illuminate foreground subjects and the shutter will stay open longer so that the backgrounds properly exposed. Rest your camera on a tripod, though, otherwise youll introduce unwanted motion blur.47 Aim highWhere possible, try high angles (or low ones) to get shots that are different from those taken by the rest of the guests. Most people will shoot from head height, so get on a chair, table or windowsill to make your compositions stand out from the rest.48 The best mans speechWatch for reaction from the bride and groom during the best mans speech. This can be the funniest point in the whole day, so keep an eye on their faces as he talks. When the inevitable funny stories start coming out, the couples reactions will be well worth capturing.49 Use exposure lockMake good use of the cameras exposure lock yours may have an AE-L button, or it can be locked by half-depressing the shutter and take spot meter readings from faces to ensure you get the correct exposure. People are automatically drawn to faces in a photo, so you dont want them under- or overexposed50 Use a reflectorTheyre cheap, you can clearly see the effect and its better than flash. The reector helps to reduce the harsh shadows caused by strong, directional light, and is essential when aiming to take flattering portraits.