A wedding is a happy and emotional event which only happens once in a lifetime… Well, sometimes twice, not more than three times. Of course, there are some record holders such as the actress Elizabeth Taylor who married 8 times.
Wedding photography is an extremely popular genre across the world. Perhaps the term ‘genre’ is hardly appropriate in this case because it includes many different photography genres – portrait, still life, reportage and even landscape photography. The role of the wedding photographer is a very delicate and responsible one, especially when the bride and groom rely on high-quality photography and professional attitude. Being a time machine on such a day is not an easy task. When you shoot at a studio or for a family session, you can make mistakes which can be corrected later. When you are taking reportage photographs of a public event, any mistakes will only be your loss, because there will be plenty of other photographers there as well. If you are shooting a production process, you could have several repeats of the shoot on different days. Even birthdays happen regularly once a year in more or less the same company. But the wedding between two people is only one day. The bride has been dreaming about this day, sometimes for years, often the atmosphere is tense, people are nervous, you are always short of time and you are the one who should manage to control it, keep it on a tight rein and stop it right when it is needed, as many times as it is needed. This is why a wedding photographer needs to be confident about his skills and his technique, to be a good photographer in all genres, sometimes an animator and quite often a psychologist.
‘Photographing people is 90% psychology and 10% technique’ said one of the most prominent figures in contemporary wedding photography – Annabel Williams, and for a good reason. Photography is 90% psychology, indeed, but let us begin with the other 10%.
- Equipment necessary to shoot a wedding reception:бено тържество :
Although in reality there is an enormous variety of equipment on the market and you can shoot with anything, even your phone, for wedding photography it is a good idea to select more reliable and trust-worthy equipment.
Think security to begin with. There is nothing more important than preserving the memories of the people who trusted you. You must have two cameras and several lenses. Every professional wedding photographer has had the bad luck of having their camera defect right in the middle of a shoot. Do not risk it and never leave it all to chance. As a second aspect of security – your cameras should have two memory card slots and record on both at the same time so that in case of a failure of one of the cards you will have the photos recorded on the other. Almost all modern cameras in the middle and high ranges offer this option. Of course your cameras must have interchangeable lenses – i.e. DSLR or mirrorless models. Over the last 2-3 years wedding photographers have gradually been moving on to mirrorless models for several reasons:
- They are lighter and take up less space. This is especially important when you have 12 hours of active shooting in a day.
- They are less conspicuous and you can be a first person story teller mixing and mingling with the guests at the reception.
- Shooting with a mirrorless camera saves you the trouble of editing later, because you have precise focus across the entire field of the frame and there is no need to reframe in the editing programme. Do not underestimate the eye detection auto focus and the tracking auto focus. They are flawless in the new mirrorless models. You have precise metering with options for quick adjustment using the electronic viewfinder. In this way there will be no need to make exposure adjustments later on.
- A tilt display with a touch focus is an excellent tool which helps you obtain a different vision and point of view.
- Mirrorless cameras are less noisy, the shutter is lighter and has no mechanism for flipping a mirror up and down. Furthermore, they offer the opportunity to work using only the electronic shutter where the camera makes no sound when shooting. This is especially important during the church ritual. You must agree that it is not pleasant to hear the constant clucking of the shutter and the mirror during such a ritual. In most churches the acoustics is excellent and this sound becomes really irritating if heard once too often. There have been cases when priests have started a conflict with photographers shooting with noisy cameras.
- All mirrorless models have inbuilt stabilisation which works with the whole set of lenses, including lenses with good light power and aperture 1.4 or even 1.2. This allows shooting in very poor light conditions, at low shutter speeds and without a flash. Again, a church is a place where the use of flash is not welcome because it disturbs the people.
- The last generation electronic viewfinders are so sensitive that through them you can see scenes and objects in the dark which are invisible to the naked eye.
Single-lens reflex cameras are becoming better and better suited for sports photography, wildlife photography and other situations involving rapid movement, because the optical viewfinder gives you direct contact with the object and there is no element of delay – what you are seeing is happening at the moment you are seeing it. With the electronic viewfinder there is a tiny delay owing to the time it takes to process the image from the sensor and visualise it. In most cases this time lag is negligible, but in some cases, when the movement is very rapid, it could be decisive. Of course, many photographers prefer them for wedding photography as well, also because of the direct visualisation through the lens.
What are the most suitable lenses for wedding photography? You can use absolutely any type of lens – from the ones with the widest angles and fish eye lenses to telephoto ones. Of course, it is not practical to carry around such a set of optics. Realistically speaking, you can cover the entire event with two cameras and two lenses – place a universal zoom lens 24-70/2.8 with good light-gathering power and a portrait lens 85/1.8 or 85/1.4. If the second camera has high resolution – for example 42mp, using a crop button X1.5 your 85/1.4 will easily be made longer up to 130/2 with enough room left for 18mp. You can obtain more interesting results using only prime lenses with good light power. My favourite combination is 24/1.4, 55/1.8, 85/1.4 and a fish-eye 16mm lens. Fish eye lenses are interesting but do not overuse them. You should be well aware when it is appropriate to use them and when not.
2. Psychology of wedding photography
This is a particularly lengthy topic of discussion involving many and varied aspects. Here I will take a look at the main ones while in later chapters I will develop some of the arguments in more detail.
I will start by saying that regardless of what it is that you do for a living, it should bring you pleasure. Money is not a means to an end, it is the result of your growth, attitude and manner of work. Any compromises that you make will be like streams branching off and away from the river of your life. Make too many and sooner or later that river will dry out. As I said earlier, a wedding photographer is not just the man who takes pictures during the wedding. With the help of modern technology, anyone can take photographs with good quality. However, not everyone can be a good story teller. The profession of the ‘scribe’ has long disappeared into oblivion while the profession of the ‘writer’ lives on. In order to survive in this field, you need to be a writer. In order to be a good writer, you should have good general knowledge and be interested in a variety of fields, you should read books, watch movies and visit art galleries… Ansel Adams said that ‘You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.’
In recent years the people who appreciate photography as an art form are the well-educated and intelligent people. Only they would appreciate your skills as a story teller. To be one, you must tell the story from first person singular, to dive into the atmosphere of the event and establish close relations with the people around you and on top of all this to manage to capture all the decisive moments which tell the story in a unique way. The biggest advantage of photography over video is that it can tell stories in less than a second. In a video you need at least 3-4 seconds, sometimes more, in order to show an emotional scene. Viewers will not manage to notice any shorter fragments. Photography freezes 1/100 of the second and in this way it sometimes catches what is impossible to catch. After that viewers can watch that 1/100 sec for hours. ‘Then to the moment I’d dare say: Stay a while! You are so lovely!’ as Goethe’s Faust cried out. You are the wizard who can stop time in the appropriate moment.
Constructing a wedding story is a psychological process with a lot of aspects, similar to the way you construct a literary work – different plot lines, main and supporting characters, symbols and metaphors, action, emotions, plot twists, sad and comic situations… In literature all of the above are the result of the writer’s imagination. When we are talking about an actual event, though, they are real and they need to be found, captured and then presented in an interesting way. Let me illustrate that with some examples:
- Look for symbols and metaphors. Sometimes they are not part of the main action but they are the spice without which the dish simply does not taste right.
- Funny scenes and anecdotes provide a relief within the story and make it more interesting and effective. Children are usually the most common generators of such situations.
Imitating the grown-ups is one thing – interesting and fun. Being pushed and dropping your bottle is another. And it is a story of tragic proportions. These captured moments were awarded at the international wedding photography competition organised by WPJA.
- Do not use the flash during the church ritual. Look for a different point of view, close-ups and wide shots, try to capture the atmosphere, take portraits of the guests but be careful not to miss the main moments of the ritual – the exchange of rings, crowns, sipping from the wine, going around the altar, etc.
Here again children can be at the centre of some interesting stories so keep an eye on them. They also bring life to the story. в разказа :
Sometimes a viewing point from the pulpit is not possible because the priest may object to your presence there. Kindly ask to what extent and where he is willing to let you in, but never be too pertinent. If possible, a viewing point from the pulpit would be interesting.
- The photo session is an almost inevitable part of shooting a wedding. Usually it is the bride who insists more on the staged photography session and wants it to be as long as possible, while the groom often gets bored and wants this ‘torture’ to end quickly so that he could head for the restaurant, the friends and the party. The role of the wedding photographer in this case is to make shooting the session a fun and interesting experience for the couple. The photographer should carefully assess the expectations of the couple and act as a balancing force if there is a disagreement brewing Often the bride wants to include her bridesmaids, the best man, the maid of honour and sometimes even the parents in the photo session. Usually a session lasts not more than an hour and it would be a mistake if you have to pay attention to 10-20 people all the time. Instead, suggest that everyone should participate in the first 15-20 minutes for several shots, while the rest of the time should be reserved for the bride and groom, the best man and the maid of honour. It is a good idea to know the area where the session will take place. Improvisation is fantastic, as long as it is based on prior research. You can take note of a couple of key places – interesting architecture, a place with different reflections, unusual backgrounds, unusual defocus, etc. Do not forget that there is always the chance of a sudden change in the weather – a storm, rain, wind. You should be able to suggest a suitable place for the session under such circumstances. It could be a gallery with free access, a colonnade of a large public building, a subway, an old house, etc. Of course, you should know if shooting is allowed in these places and if yes – under what circumstances. During the preliminary conversation with the bride and groom you must ask them how willing they are to experiment under less favourable weather conditions.
- Decisive moments True reportage photography at a wedding is a challenge. It requires fast reactions, a good eye for detail and a sense of what a decisive moment is. Intelligent people today appreciate more and more a captured candid moment. This type of photography is the true time machine which can later bring you back to the day of the wedding. Candid portraits, situations, actions and fragments of the day together create a unique one-of-a-kind story. A staged session will often include a lot of clichés and will not always be associated with the actual day of the wedding. It can be done at a later time. Only quality reportage photography and a well-told story will evoke genuine emotions in the viewer.
The preparation of the bride is the perfect time to capture interesting emotions, situations, reflections and angles. It is your introduction to the main story and often you have plenty of moments worth freezing.
Key important moments are the emotions and situations related to certain rituals – kicking a pot of water to tell the future, breaking the first bread, releasing wedding doves, etc. For some it is best to shoot in series because the action takes place really fast.
Do not miss the details. Sometimes they are everywhere around us – gifts, small signs, decoration for the ritual, decoration for the restaurant, etc. You should keep in mind that the bride insisted on those details and paid good money to have them produced. If you have to, speak with the wedding decorator or the wedding agent to find out everything you need to know about the decoration and any peculiar details associated with it.
The wedding day ends with a reception in a restaurant or in the open. It is important to have as much information as possible about the place beforehand. If the reception will be indoors, you need to know what the room looks like, how big it is, what the lighting is, if there will be additional stage lighting, etc. All this will help you select your equipment. If there will be some interesting effective light it is possible to shoot without flash in order to capture the spirit and atmosphere of the place. If, however, the lighting is bad with pointed lights from the ceiling which cast unpleasant shadows, it is a good idea to use additional sources of light – a flash. You can limit your equipment to only one flash if you use additional diffusers and modifiers or if there is a white ceiling which you can direct the flash to. A better option is to place 2 or more flashes in the room in order to have a more three-dimensional lighting.
When shooting in the open you cannot use the reflective surfaces of a wall or a ceiling so when the light is very poor, you can shoot with direct flash or several flashes located around the dancing. Modern cameras have high sensitivity and low noise levels which allows you to shoot under very poor light conditions and even garden lamps will do the work in the open.
In the 4 photographs below you see the typical garden/beach party both outdoors and indoors with light coming from the electric garland lights. I shot without flash with lenses with good light power and at high ISO settings – 8000 – 16000.
And now, some final words of wisdom. If you want to work in the field of wedding photography, you must first become a good photographer in all the other various different genres. Do not be tempted to take on such work unless you are expertly familiar with the other photography genres, unless you are confident in your equipment, unless you can communicate with people freely and unless you are a good story teller. The time of the scribes is over. Anyone can write. You must be writers!
Wedding photography, like many other commercial genres of photography, requires a lot of marketing and advertising. This is an extensive topic which we will discuss in additional articles on the site later.
In the video below you can see some educational photographs and thoughts on the topic of wedding photography, backstage footage from the shooting process and more. Enjoy!