Weddings are always great occasions, and everyone will be looking to take a few pictures, and have their photo taken themselves. Even if it’s just with a mobile phone, most people are having a go. At the last wedding I attended, I’ve also seen the point and shoot cameras more likely to appear, as well as those people who own a D-SLR who usually get the camera as well.
When I attended a friend’s wedding in September, I’d actually read an article on thephoblographer.com which is a great resource that I can recommend. The thing that stuck in my mind from that piece was to take one camera and one lens. I did end up breaking that rule slightly, but only because I wanted to take both of my prime lenses, the 35mm and the 50mm, both with f/1.8 as their maximum apertures. I also took a Yongnuo YN-560 III flash, which was actually very useful. All in all, not a whole lot of kit, and it all fit quite nicely into my Lowepro Photo Sport Shoulder 12L.
The most important thing to remember when at a wedding is that you are a guest, not a hired photographer. It can be all to easy to get in the official photographer’s way, and while I was shooting I was very conscious of not annoying the professional photographer.
I started out by actually asking the bride and groom if there was anything that they wanted me to take pictures of. They said no and asked me to just enjoy the day. They said they’d like me to take pictures of the group I was with, as we were a group of about 12 friend from uni. So while we were waiting for the bride and groom to arrive, I took some formal group shots of that group. They turned out pretty nice. Even when I handed the camera over to someone else, my settings were all dialled in and the pictures turned out great.
As the bride and groom had no preference over what I shot, I decided on my own theme for the day. At the ceremony, with everyone shooting the couple and the ceremony, I had the opportunity to choose a different angle. I decided to shoot the details in sharp focus, with the action happening in the background just out of focus. These shots end up being pretty abstract and unique, but it was important to control the depth of field as I wanted to leave the couple in enough detail that you could tell who it was. For this, depending on the focal length, I was shooting at between f/4 and f/8.
Later on, I was doing group shots of my friends and also some nice couples portraits. The bride would sometimes shout over to me and ask to take a picture, which was nice, but again I was making sure they used their professional photographer where he was around. At one point, he kind of stopped shooting. Whether this was because he wanted everyone else to be able to get some pictures or because he had enough pictures of that part to not need anymore pictures, but he seemed to be just standing there. In any case, I took some great group pictures of the bride and groom’s family and they even took some pictures of me with the couple which was great.
At the meal, I focussed on not taking any pictures. Taking pictures of the meal is usually a no no, as people don’t look their most attractive with a mouthful of food. So photographers usually stop and do something else. However, between each course, the bride and groom were up and about delivering flowers to loved ones, and also watching videos that their guests had prepared. At these times, when I wasn’t eating, I got up and shot the reactions of the guests and of the bride and groom. These are always great emotional moments that everyone loves to see. Other than that I didn’t shoot much else.
For the first dance, I shot the couple. I was in the front row and got some nice shots. However, my background was pretty cluttered and I didn’t want to move and get in front of anyone else’s pictures. I probably should have planned that a little better.
Once the party was in full swing, I did some drinking and some dancing, and really enjoyed myself. I pace myself when dancing though because I get tired and bored pretty quick, so when a song came on that I didn’t really want to dance to I went and picked up the camera. I got some nice shots of people at a photo booth the couple had made up, and also of some dancing that people were doing. At about 11pm, the camera was switched off and I didn’t pick it back up.
Overall, I think I balanced the day nicely: I caught up with old friends, stayed out of the photographer’s way, got some nice shots and enjoyed myself. My tip if you want to do the same are:
1. Ask the bride and groom if they have anything in particular they want you to shoot. If they say no, remember that brides usually spend an inordinate amount of time agonising over colours and details. I’m pretty sure they would love you to get some good shots of those.
2. Stay out of the professional’s way. I can’t reiterate this enough. The trick is to quickly identify who the professional is, and then just be very conscious of what he is shooting. You don’t want to be in his way, and try to stay out of his background as well.
3. Remember you’re a guest. I really wanted to respect the bride and groom’s wishes, which was that I enjoyed the day. Therefore, know when to put the camera down. Any time when the camera is stopping you from enjoying the day, the camera must go down.
4. Minimalist kit. My recommendation is one body (ideally your smallest), one prime lens (35 or 50mm), one flash. Even this can be quite overwhelming to some people, and I still looked like a camera snob I’ll bet.
5. Plan ahead. Think about what you want to shoot at each stage, be it details, food, candid shots, group shots, cute couples, flowers etc.