5 Wedding Photography Composition Tips

5 Wedding Photography Composition Tips

Daniel Lowe and his wife Cindy photograph weddings as Orange Turtle Photography in sunny San Diego. Check out more of their work at their blog.

Get the first kiss. The first dance is coming up. How do I pose the couple so they don’t look so awkward? What should I set my aperture at for group photos? All of these thoughts and more run through my mind when shooting a wedding. With so many things to think about, it’s easy to forget about composition.

Composition is the core of any photo and should never be forgotten even when you’re struggling to get a clean shot of the first kiss or trying to deal with 30 family members waiting for a group photo. We talk about composition quite a bit when it comes to photography, but it’s difficult to bring composition into a real fast paced wedding. Here are a few easy ways to get great composition while at a wedding.

1. Shove ‘em to the side

We all know the rule of thirds right? At a wedding it’s so fast paced that we often don’t have time to perfectly compose each shot for the rule of thirds. So what can we do? Just don’t compose in the center! Throw the bride and groom during the first dance on one side of the frame. The groom is putting on his tie? Put him in the corner of photo. Bride looking into the mirror? Put her at the bottom. Don’t worry about hitting the third of the frame exactly, just don’t put them somewhere other than the center.


2. Follow the lines

If you see a bunch of lines going in the same direction, follow them. There’s usually something good to shoot at the end of those lines. If you’re posing the couple, put the couple right at the end of those lines. The center aisle is always a converging line leading to the couple. Use those lines.


3. Shoot wide open

It can be dangerous to shoot wide open all the time, but it can also help you with your composition. Why? If you have an SLR and are able to turn your aperture all the to the lowest F-number possible, you will get more blur in your photos. Whatever you focus on will be clear, but everything else will be blurry. The best part is that you can just set your camera for f2.8 or even f1.4 and then just focus on hitting the shot. You cannot see the cluttered ballroom in this photo:


4. Peek a boo shoot!

Hide in the bushes and shoot. Peek around a corner and take your shot. Peer over someone’s shoulder and take the shot. By doing this you frame your photo and give it depth and mystery. It’s sometimes difficult to find depth in a hectic wedding, so create it. Jump behind something and shoot away! I took this shot through some branches giving it a third dimension and some magic.


5. Two people one portrait

Give your portraits context by including a bit of another person in the photo. This is especially true for bride and grooms. Take a photo of the bride while her face is leaning on the groom’s chest. Weddings are all about the relationships and it’s great when we can show the relationship in the portrait even when we’re taking a portrait of just one person.

For example, in this photo, the subject is the groom, but I’ve sliced off a bit of the bride to give him some context.


Each one of these composition tips takes some practice and getting used to, but once you’ve mastered them, you’ll find yourself doing them naturally. You’ll probably still worry about missing the first kiss, but at least you won’t have to worry about framing it correctly.

See more of Daniel’s wedding photography at his blog.

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Some Older Comments

  • Andrea March 2, 2013 06:03 am

    Thanks, beautiful tips for a beginner enthusiastic!

  • Indianapolis Photographer January 27, 2013 04:20 am

    These are great photography composition tips. I would add one here, and that is to use a wider lens. While it's a safe bet to capture moments with a 70-200 lens, going to 35 or even 24 mm can reward you with images that are different from the mainstream. There are far more things to consider in the composition, so it can be more challenging. But, it gives an entirely different perspective in that it places the couple into their environment. I call it adding context, or widening the story. Closeup pictures pull us in, giving us the inside story, while going wide gives us the bigger picture of other people's reactions or a beautiful sunset. But, it is risky in that we are shifting the point of interest from just the couple to many things that are now in the frame. The couple now looks smaller. I myself will avoid going wide if I'm in "safe" mode, where there are time constraints or the environment is overly chaotic. It takes a lot of practice. Also, camera placement becomes more critical in that things near the edge become enlarged. This edge enlargement, when purposefully done, turns ordinary objects like a fence, chirch pews, sidewalk grates, or a brick wall into leading lines. Shooting at low angles, which is a no-no with closeup lenses, now becomes an attractive option with wide lenses because it makes the couple stand out more without the issue of looking up their chin. The other tip I would add with going wide is to get closer. This keeps the focus on the couple while still pulling in other elements of the story.

  • metric photography September 3, 2011 01:26 pm

    I agree that #3 is not the best advice. I took some portraits of a woman and her mother with a wide open aperture and the mother was in focus, but the woman slightly behind her was not. I had to do masking and sharpening in photoshop to fix this and it really took too much time in the pp stages.

  • k/d/morris August 27, 2011 04:36 am

    This site validates and informs my 30 years in the craft.

  • Galen Herrington July 6, 2011 10:28 pm

    Love the last tip especially, I've done the head on the chest shot but realize now that I can do a lot more with that same style. It has a bonus of just recomposing the shot within a pose to get multiple shots. Thanks for the tips.

  • Nick Karvounis April 24, 2011 05:23 am

    Great compositions! If believe that it's very important to create extraordinary images with special backgrounds!
    Here's a sample of my beach wedding photography from Skiathos Greece.[eimg url='http://28.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_liv9hnlr2i1qzzvlho1_500.jpg' title='tumblr_liv9hnlr2i1qzzvlho1_500.jpg']

  • New Jersey wedding photographer October 20, 2010 02:22 pm

    Composition comes with experiences. Alot of time the moments happened so fast that capturing it (rather than composing) comes first. That being said, with experience and shooting in similar situations, you will have more chance to be creative.

  • Saud Tushar August 30, 2010 08:44 am

    Great Post.....:-)

  • geri-Jean July 1, 2010 10:14 am

    I am thankful for this site. It has helped me IMMENSLEY and I have suggested it highly to beginner photographers that I know. I also agree, if you want to be listened to especially when you come off as that you know it all, it would be a good idea to show your work. That was the first thing I do when I read someones advice, I look at their work and see if they actually have work that I would be inspired by!
    By the way Bobby, I love your work and thanks for sharing : )

  • Memphis Wedding Photography April 19, 2010 12:01 am

    I think its always important to think critically after each photography session and examine our photographs to see how they could be improved. Wonderful suggestions..I've always been a fan of pictures that include the bride and groom with one as the definitive subject.

  • Corinnaleesphotos March 20, 2010 03:22 am

    I loved these! Thank you for clearing up the typo in the off centered :)

  • Ray December 29, 2009 08:36 pm

    I meant to write Tool" :-)

  • Ray December 29, 2009 08:34 pm

    PS" The Camera is not just a Toll. It is an extension of your creative talented Mind...

  • Jen G. December 29, 2009 01:58 am

    Great article. Whether you agree or not, I think #3 is important to note. As I've noticed in doing some live music photography, lots of beginners tend to rely on big hot shoe flash units + kit lenses where a fast (larger aperture) lens would have sufficed. And the depth of field issue is huge -- a photo can be properly exposed but lack impact if EVERYTHING is in focus.

  • stan_cwc September 26, 2009 03:01 am

    Hi Nicole, I think your comment on adding a repertoire is spot on but I disagree on the camera/people generalization which is unfortunate.
    I think Kathi's style and Bob's style is different and interestingly-- seems to corresponds to their gender!
    Kathi's style generally looks very painted delicately-decidedly feminine while Bobby's look very dynamic and bold. Bobby-your Shangri-la Fijian wedding pictures look fantastic. Wild colour or no colour, selective DOF, ...

    Cindy and Daniel thank for writing the article and providing a little more repertoire for those who care to learn more or even brush up like myself.

  • Nicole September 13, 2009 09:32 pm

    Fantastic article!!! Great photos!!! Probably one of the first post I have read here that I can say that about ... so kudos. Now for my input whatever value it may have. #3 and #5 are spot on advice and are all too often not included in wedding photography. Perhaps that controversial #3 isn't entirely accurate for the non-seasoned pro and Paul provides a valuable incite on that, I definitely believe that Cindy didn't manipulate the image in photoshop and it was clearly the combination of a low light situation, a telephoto lens, a wide-open aperture and the requisite distance between the subject and background ... not everything in Photography is a scientific/mathematical equation Paul and to the author blatantly setting your aperture wide open and hoping for the best isn't solid advice, but suggesting that you give it a go and manipulate it to work for you and add to your repertoire which is most likely what you were going for is great advice. Paul and Bob are obviously equipment oriented photographers - probably shoot with a Nikon {at least Bob} and think that the camera makes the photographer. You could have given Man Ray a Kodak disposable and he would still create amazing photographs ... it is about talent in the end! If you want to see a great wedding photographer who uses a Canon 5D check out www.kathilittwin.com her work is spot on and a masters lesson in composition.

  • Joyce van Dijk May 30, 2009 10:46 pm

    Or do what I did, study 4 years long Graphic Design - where I learned ALL about composition and image balance, what is all the same in photography!

    Then studied 4 years Design and Multimedia - Advertising. Learned how to design my work / photos and everything else, learned how to SELL my work and to run a business.

    1. Be an ARTIST!
    The camera is JUST A TOOL. If you haven;t got ART in your heart you will be second class, copying what others do.

    2. Become good in what you do and like best.

    3. Become PASSIONATE about what you like.
    4. EAT BREATH AND SLEEP what you like best
    5. and then learn to use a camera.
    6. have a VERY VERY VERY UNDERSTANDING PARTNER lol who is willing to put up with your OBESESSION

    Have FUN

  • Ray May 21, 2009 12:12 am

    Hi everyone"
    Ok" Honesty first. I am about to start two wedding shoots by the end of this year" I have been doing photography as an interest and hobby on and off for many years. I had thought about the idea of doing Weddings but was too scared to carry this big responsibility. My Friends who have seen my Landscape Photography. Many of them that have been posted on the Panoramio site. Here is a link to it.
    I have been encouraged to take the step and try Wedding Photography. Eventually I did. I did lot of further studying, but still learning of course. :-) Preperations and basiacly taking what ever i can about my venture.
    Purchasing and investing in good Camera gear was also an essential neccessity.
    One thing i always had is; PASSION!!!! I don't need to be a professional to stress that passion in being a very important part or you should not be doing it in the first place. Then there is passion versus making money. Unfortunately i do see passion go out of the Window with some Peoples will compromise their work ethics for Money. Some of the reasons may be because they just get too busy and just don't have the time anymore. I just hope that this will not happen to me. My work ethics and passion would be in great conflic on this. Besides" I would not want to increase the chances of an unsatisfied Customers hence reflecting on me.
    How to balance this? I'll work on that when i get there. My first two Wedding shoots will be for FREE. This is to build my Portfolio. So" Of course they will be very important first two wedding shoot experiences and i know i will be under pressure to get what ever i can get as best as i can. I have confidence in my abilities and i reckon i will do pretty good considering what i already know and have in experience. Weddings are more spontanious, fast paced at times and one needs to be on the ball, contrary to Landscape Photography where one has the time do work the shot. My syle will be more evolved around what my Customers want. I will just add my own and recommend that variety of shots would be a good idea as well as they can pick out later in what they like out of them.
    Wide open Lense f 1.4 or f2.8 Photography? Nothing wrong with either. It all depends what you want to achieve. Some times i like to bring out a nice Head shot that looks nice, detailed and sharp. It depends on the Person i do the Portrait of. If she or he is suited for this type of shot. Other People look better with a more softer look and a little more deph is required to cover perhaps certain asspects of their facial features.
    Further softening can be done later on as well. I think Photographer would do better to share what worked for them. Show examples of itand we all will learn more of each other.
    Thank you everyone for sharing their experiences and thoughs. In life" We all learn from one another.
    So" I will drop by every now and then an have a peek. :-)
    By they way. Here is a question for you all. How much of your Wedding Photography is done using the Automatic setting. How much do you do in using your skills and use manual settings and where do you apply thse. I know my own answer. Just curious of others and see what works for them.
    Cheers" Ray

  • Nick G April 10, 2009 11:35 am

    Love this forum.... as an enthusiastic amateur, other peoples comments and experiences are truly invaluable. If I may, I would like to just comment on the little 'spat' that was occurring on here between Paul and Bobby. It is my understanding that all the rules re: photography are there to be broken, nothing hard and fast, so I would think that whilst Paul might be correct in his remark that to achieve a great photo using f1.2 etc etc is difficult and shouldn't be done that way, he isn't necessarily right in assuming that everybody should agree with him. After all, he started the hissy fit really by stating, and I quote... "That shot above would have required you to get in close to the subjects to create the amount of blur (or it is produced in post-processing which is my feeling) seen in that background." Now he intimated that he is the far more experienced photographer over Bobby, but it was interesting to see that Cindy Lowe, who took the shot, politely corrected him and explained just how she achieved the picture. So for starters, Paul who somewhat arrogantly tried to put Bobby down, was in fact wrong. So much for the 'expert' opinion. Maybe Bobby has less experience than Paul... who knows, who cares... I just think that Paul comes across as a bit of an egotist and arrogant type. There was no need for him to try and belittle Bobby as he so obviously did.
    Other than that, I think this forum has to be the most instructive and informative website going.
    Thanks for everything.

  • Norm Levin March 25, 2009 03:42 am

    Been away from this board for a few days. Catching up with the back and forth has been a hoot. I do have to agree with Bobby. Paul likes to blow a lot of smoke on other perfectly valid posts. Never having a 1.2, or 1.4 lens to luxuriate with, I can only comment that shooting wide open, especially with a tele of any length can create some marvelously artistic or at least non-distracting backgrounds. Even a concrete block wall can look somewhat dreamy under certain lighting situations.

    Paul's jab at my post about "leaving room to crop later" is not only incorrect, but impractical. When you're in the midst of a shoot, I don't care whether is a wedding or a war, you don't know what the final product will be. Does the bride want a 5x7 or an 8x10? Does the magazine editor have the space for exactly your in-camera composition. Having shot for both brides and editors, I can say that if you don't leave a little wiggle room for the customer to finesse, you're risking a sale. That doesn't mean not composing at all, Paul, something I never said or intended. I'm offering a bit of advice for a novice shooter who may try too hard to get it perfect in the viewfinder. That's not always possible in a fast paced environment. Or even desirable.

    You said it rather well yourself: 1. Shoot safe - if you are going to shoot a wedding keep within your comfort zone and build up the artistic style over time. There is nothing worse for self-doubt and confidence than screwing up someone’s big day.

    Now go out and have a big day yourself.

  • Victor March 23, 2009 03:59 pm

    Very nice and interesting ideas. It's original and fresh for me. Do author want to print photos on canvas with us?

  • Bobby Earle March 18, 2009 05:34 pm

    Not exactly sure where I've come off as a "pompous blow hard" ;) I've never once said I'm a great photographer or hinted that I'm world famous :D I simply wanted people to be able to verify that what I am saying is coming from a WORKING wedding photographer - in hopes to prove what I know - that Paul is not.

    Honestly, I probably got a bit too involved. I know Daniel and Cindy really well. They are great, established, WORKING wedding photographers - and when a guy who refuses to verify himself comes along and begins with "Shoot wide open, even at f1.4? What a load of rubbish." - when I know that this is factually an incorrect statement - as it works great for myself, Daniel and Cindy here, Mike Colon, Jessica Claire, Jasmine Star, Josh Newton, Jeff Ascough, Becker, John Mireles... Well I think that's enough to prove it isn't rubbish - that's all I'm saying ;)

    Really, I'll try to be a little more controlled :) But it is a bit interesting to have my posts asked to be deleted by the person that calls me a pompous blow hard :P But if I had it coming, fair enough :D


    p.s. Still waiting for Paul to show himself. I HAD to say it :P

  • Jon March 18, 2009 05:18 pm

    Seriously... I thought a nice little discussion was going on here until Bobby chimed in like a pompus blow hard... Paul had a point... forgot it now trying to take cover from all the pissing going on.

    Sime - Delete them both... and I could care less about THIER work, I'm here to improve mine, not gaze endless at theirs.

    To the actual subject at hand...

    Is there no way to edit the original post to remove the word don't from the line "just don’t put them somewhere other than the center".

    As for shooting wide open, it's more about shooting at the right DOF, which often is wide open, but often is not either. I think the intent was clear "use DOF to control your backgrounds", do we really need to nitpick the heck out of how the writer made the point?

    I think this is particularly useful advice to many new/amature/inexperienced wedding shooters who are often shooting a friend's low budget wedding for free. The kind of low budget wedding that also entails limited decorations and negligible backgrounds. Now a $10k a day pro offer some advice on how to make a cheap wedding not look it, that would be valuable advice. I laugh when I see wedding shots in castles or in vinyards or hawaiian beaches with captions offering advice to the poor guy roped into shooting thier friends wedding in another friends backyard without even a canopy to frame the ceremony or a backdrop to block the stucco wall.

    I've taken a serious liking to decapitating extras in photos lately. Which is how I think of tip #5. It's a nice technique to bring focus to individuals or details of the costumery.

    Thanks to Daniel and Cindy!

  • Sime March 17, 2009 08:47 am

    Paul, Bobby - Enough... This pathetic back and forth isn't going to get either of you anywhere (aside of deleted by me)

    You're wasting everyone else's time...

    If someone shoots at f1.4 they're going to find out the hard way that sure, sometimes with the right distance to subject that they are going to miss sharp focus on pretty much everything outside of the 3cm mark... (Took my fave portrait in Cuba at 1.8 and sure, he was sharp in the eyes - his nose a blur) Also - totally agree, framing / get it right in camera is always better, BUT, not always possible. (As you pointed out, this forum is mainly learners) So, Paul, I know what you're saying - said...

    Bobby, sometimes there is no point arguing - thanks for your input.

    Now fellas... move on, Paul - time to front up and show us your work??

    Sime (who will still shoot at 1.4 and learn the hard way, sometimes)

  • Paul March 16, 2009 06:31 pm

    "p.s. I’m only calling you out"

    Grow up. Are you still at school? In fact, have you ever finished your education?

    There is not one serious professional who would entertain your comments, let alone lower to the standards you're trying to set. I have taken another long look at your website and it is apparent to me that you are not, in fact, a very good photographer. You look like a good salesman and a decent Photoshop artist. Each and everyone of your images look recovered. Bad, bad form and the sole reason why people shouldn't really listen to you. I would suggest anyone reading this go to these two websites to view excellent wedding and social photography.

    Both are 'international' social photographers of great standing. I think the difference is plainly obvious.



    The only reason you get away with your bravado Bob is because this very good blog is largely frequented by beginners looking for advice. I can assure you, the reception you'd get at the BIPP, EPUK or AOP would be rather different. But I'd guess you don't frequent those types of website or expose yourself to the rigours of the AD when showing your book.

    I came by this blog while researching for a piece I am co-writing on digital photography and its impact. What I have found in pretty much each and every case where someone has posted their website for all to view or railed against someone who might dare to contradict a piece, is that it is nothing short of self-promotion. Where I have seen advice from 'proper' pro's they have done nothing of the sort. Speaks volumes in my humble opinion.

    There is advice here that is just plain wrong for people starting out and to be perfectly honest isn't really insightful. Shoot-wide and leave plenty of room to crop. I'll counter that with the following for all those people starting out and wanting to become better photographers.

    1. Shoot safe - if you are going to shoot a wedding keep within your comfort zone and build up the artistic style over time. There is nothing worse for self-doubt and confidence than screwing up someone's big day.

    2. Try to get it right in camera everytime and don't rely on post-processing to recover bad images as can be seen in some of the links in this thread.

    3. Consider investing some serious time in formal training. Not a three day 'Become a Wedding Pro' course, but a proper investment in time. Learn your craft and the skill and art will come.

    When you look at the stylised shots so prevalent today I would guarantee that nearly every one was shot as near to perfect exposure and framing as possible. Those beginning in photography can see this in action for themsleves. Go shoot a perfectly exposed and framed image. Shoot it again badly exposed and framed. Take both into Photoshop and run your favourite routines for the effects you like. See which is better. If you were shooting film you'd get it right in camera.

    Why wouldn't you when shooting digital?

  • Bobby Earle March 15, 2009 07:52 pm


    Thanks again for not verifying your arrogant posts ;) I don't really care what you think about my photography. I know that there are people that don't like it. No problem there. Can't please 'em all. The point of challenging you to show proof of your work is so that people can know whether or not you should be listened to because you are in fact a working wedding pro. On the flip side, they can also decide that you are simply just another internet warrior who enjoys their own reflection and likes thinking that people are listening to him. Again, you say you don't need to show off your work - but you've got no problem implying you're world famous and that you shoot in far away places. Wow. You've traveled a bit...

    Pay attention to the article. It says to shoot WIDE OPEN - not at f/1.2. It clearly states 2.8 and even 1.4 on the prime end. Guess what? A 50mm f/1.4 is easily purchased used for about $300.

    The article is not written for beginner photographers - people who own kit lenses and rebels (nothing wrong with those people as we were all one at one point). This article is for WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHERS. Most people start out in photography, get an idea of what they are doing, and then venture into the world of wedding photography - which encounters some issues that are somewhat unique to wedding photography.

    You've gone off on tangents that have little to do with anything - specifically the actual article. Again, you are seeming like the guy who likes to feel like people are listening to him. I posted my site to let people judge for themselves whether or not I'm a valid source in totally disagreeing with you. I've challenged you to verify your position - and have a feeling you won't. You have chosen to say you're a world famous photographer, that we've likely seen your work, and that you travel. Fair enough. I think most will assume what I'm assuming.


    p.s. I'm only calling you out because I am sick of people giving bad advice. It's not fair to anybody. You countered great advice and I want people to hear from other valid sources - or mediocre sources in some minds - that your counter was lame.

  • Paul March 15, 2009 08:41 am


    No one is suggesting shooting wide open is rubbish, but you're on a forum for people just getting into photography. How many do you think can afford 1.2 lenses? How many will be able to be effective at that ap? Get real will you, or get over yourself. You're just showing off. I guess a lot of them will have gone off and found out that a decent 1.2 lens costs a couple of grand. You remind me of those guys who drive big cars, if you get my drift. Tailor your postings to something suitable for beginners.

    As for your site, not bad, but it's just run of the mill magazine style wedding photography seen everywhere these days. Uninspiring really, and that's a shame as I was so wanting to be wowed. You do have your pricing right though, but I personally don't think your work is as good as $10K. But that's what wedding photography is all about these days, isn't it. The 'sell'. You just need to be a good salesman first and as long as you can schmooz your way through it all you can dish up mediocre work. I'm sorry, I don't consider that truly 'pro' photography other than one makes their living from it.

    When I look at Zach Golds work I see $10K of photography. I'll carry on shooting editorial and documentary in far away places. Far more interesting and 'proper snapping' ;o)) I don't need to point you to my work Bob, you've probably seen it here and there ;o)

    Now, have a nice day and don't forget to say 'cheese'.

  • jupiter March 15, 2009 08:38 am

    thank you for sharing your knowledge and X-perience with us!

  • Bobby Earle March 15, 2009 08:04 am

    Paul, it seems like you're enjoying sounding like the expert here. Here's a link to my site for verification of my wedding experience...


    It'd be nice if people so vocal - like yourself - would provide a link to their work so that readers can get an idea of who's saying what.

    Now, as a full-time, working pro, I can say that shooting wide open is HARDLY rubbish. I do it. Shoot the majority of my shots at f/1.2. To suggest this as rubbish is in fact a load of rubbish. Jessica Claire, Becker, Jasmine Star, Josh Newton, Jeff Ascough... there's a list of great photographers - some friends of mine - who apparently shoot rubbish.

    And it's not that difficult to shoot wide open, either. Just use your AF and shoot multiple shots to ensure you got the shot. With time, you'll be able to shoot less shots.

    Bobby Earle

  • Cindy March 14, 2009 04:47 pm

    Love shooting at f1.4. It's certainly not for everyone and not everyone can pull it off but I love the look of it! :)

    @ Paul - "That shot above would have required you to get in close to the subjects to create the amount of blur (or it is produced in post-processing which is my feeling) seen in that background."

    BTW for those who are interested, that shot (#3) was taken by me using 70-200 on a 5D, at 200mm f2.8. The blur was not produced in post-processing nor was I close to the subject. The blur was the natural bokeh produced by shooting wide open at f2.8. :)

    Hope that helps! :)

  • Paul March 13, 2009 05:55 pm


    f1.4 is an aperture setting that is about as wide as it gets (there are f1.2 lenses out there). That means a very big hole to let light in to the camera. That f1.4 hole is absolutely fantastic for shooting in low light conditions or creating images with very shallow depth of field, or in other terms, the portion of the image that is in sharp focus. Good f1.4 lenses cost a ot of money too.

    Let's assume you were shooting with a Canon 50D and you had the lens set at a focal distance of 50mm and you were 2 meters away from the subject - the depth of field, or amout of the image in sharp focus would be about 8cm. Now imagine you focus on the subjects eyes in a 3/4 angled shot, the ear nearest the camera would be out of focus and quite possibly the other ear too. Attractive, not - and not even for one moment arty, just poor technigue. If you have a full-frame sensor (Canon 5D MkII is an example) then that DoF will increase to about 13cm that's getting acceptable, though I am assuming as this forum is for those starting out that the majority of the visitors are on smaller sensor cameras.

    f1.4 will work if your taking an image that is side on, but even then it requires impeccible focus technique. That shot above would have required you to get in close to the subjects to create the amount of blur (or it is produced in post-processing which is my feeling) seen in that background. The closer you get to a subject, the shallower that plane of focus becomes - the harder it is to get it spot on.

    There is a great online calculator here: DOF Calculator that will help you work out depth of field for a given camera, focal length and aperture (f-stop). An invaluable tool. Copy the address to your mobile phone browser and you'll have a ready calculator wherever you are.

  • Paul March 13, 2009 05:15 pm

    "Try to leave room for later cropping for maximum impact in composition."

    That is one of the worst bits of advice I have heard offered to people starting out in photography.

    ALWAYS, and yes, I'll emphasis it again, ALWAYS try to frame your shots in camera. To rely on post-editing crops is poor form. Crops should be happy accidents rather than your stock shooting style.

    Get it right in camera as best you can. That's everything, not just the framing. The less you have to do in post-processing the better. Remember, nearly everything you do in post degrades the digital image.

  • Norm Levin March 13, 2009 06:49 am

    Good tips. The last photo where the bride's hand is resting on groom's shoulder could be read by some sensitive types as the beginnings of a controlling marriage. Hmmm... or is that personal experience speaking!

    I have only done a few wedding so far and being in California that includes boy-girl, boy-boy and girl-girl. So you can say I have a wide range of experience.

    No matter, it's important event that contains many micro-events. I try to keep moving around, looking for those little human interactions that posing can't create. If it's indoors, I mainly use an 18-50; outdoors 50-200, or both. Try to leave room for later cropping for maximum impact in composition.

  • nadine March 13, 2009 04:16 am

    I do not understand what Paul means that by shooting at f1.4, the depth of field will be 8 cm. Please explain

  • buck nelson March 13, 2009 02:38 am

    Thank you for sharing, good tips, my number one rule is make the bride happy, take lots of photographs, make the bride happy. I ask the bride to make a list of the photos of the folks she wants shots of and to deligate a person who knows these folks to help me gather them for the shot after the formals are done.

  • Oliver Kilayko March 13, 2009 02:23 am

    Thanks for the tips! I'm always looking for ideas that could help me shoot better wedding photos. In the brisk pace of the shoot sometimes we can't find the time to do more creative poses.

  • TinaRawatta March 11, 2009 08:12 pm

    Great article, thanks for sharing it. Your pictures are beautifull. I like the last tip most. I always try to find a position to shoot from that allowes to do that.

  • Paul March 10, 2009 10:43 pm

    Paul Saulnier - Spot On fella!

  • Paul March 10, 2009 10:41 pm

    Mr Saulnier - SPOT ON Sir!

  • Paul Saulnier March 10, 2009 12:45 pm

    all i can say is some of it is good ....some real good ...and also it depends on what kind of wedding your doing ...im more of a organic ...i dont do the cheesy stuff ..i cant ...its blahhhh ...but ..it was still great suggestions ...and also....how many couples really take out the album often to look at it ....its all fake ...look at the fun shots ...people having a great time ...thats a wedding album ...not the posing with the rings ...and the bouquet with the hands touching ...people are bored of that ....start doing more photojournalism stuff ...i did a few ...and they all said the same ...its fun to look at ....the real stuff ...ya i did a cheesy wedding once ...the way they wanted ...and to make it real cheesy ...it was mid evil ..omg ...so passe ...but they where happy ...god knows why...so ...maybe you could tell us more about that kind of stuff ....the wedding pics are going out of style ...maybe you could help us get with the times

  • Paul March 9, 2009 05:18 am

    Shoot wide open, even at f1.4? What a load of rubbish. Do you know what DOF you'll have at 2 metres?

    Let's say we're at 50mm with a 50D, you'll have about 8cm of DOF. Yes, 8cm! At 3m you'll have about 12cm! If you're going to write an article, please offer advice that's useful.

    "you'll not even see the clutter in the ballroom". Ah yes, I can just hear it now. Focus on the eyes dammit. Sadly, the ears and nose will be out of focus - lololol

    Arty, maybe. Useful, not.

  • Tanya Plonka March 9, 2009 03:35 am

    Don't forget to focus on the details! Her shoes, the rings, the flowers... get in close, because they spent a lot of money on these things! You don't have to be taking off their accessories either... get your portrait of the groom, then zoom in to his lapel.

  • Ben Jamieson March 8, 2009 01:46 pm

    These are some great tips - as someone just breaking in to wedding photography, advice like this helps you make the most of the limited time you have in a live shoot!

  • Blue March 7, 2009 05:30 pm

    good example photographs too, really helped exemplify the points.

  • Blue March 7, 2009 05:29 pm

    sweet. good tips written in a friendly way.

  • Brandon Mulnix March 7, 2009 12:58 pm

    Great article that teaches the basics of composition. Since many photographers are skipping art school, these lessons in composition are incredibly important. I think it really separates the pros from the "moms or dads" with a camera! Thanks for sharing such a great article.

  • MeiTeng March 7, 2009 11:16 am

    I love the last photo! Great composition.

  • Debby March 7, 2009 10:35 am

    Great tips!
    I especially like the last one, certainly something I need to try at my next wedding

  • hoppy kindanda March 7, 2009 09:48 am

    @Rick Hanzlik :
    Just forget about the "don't "... I think that he wanted to say : Just put them somewhere other than the center.



  • the_wolf_brigade March 7, 2009 08:37 am

    I could have used this advice last weekend...no harm done, I have another coming up where I can put this advice to good use :)

  • Pat Marie March 7, 2009 07:18 am

    I took the line "just don’t put them somewhere other than the center," to mean then you can crop the photo in your SW, off the the side. If the shot is off to the side and wrong, you would have no room for editing the shot. Shoot them in the center and you have a lot of options for a creative crop/photo.

  • Kim March 7, 2009 06:39 am

    Cool tips and reminder on composition Daniel ! I'm sure photographers - especially for newbies - will appreciate it.

  • Bobby Earle March 7, 2009 06:09 am

    These are AWESOME tips! I love you guys' work. OT is the best!!!

  • Alan Nielsen March 7, 2009 04:48 am

    These are some great tips to remember! Don't forget to shoot lots!

    Concerning the "Shove ‘em to the side", I agree. We often times try to put the couple in the middle of the shot. We all default back to this.

  • Josenivaldo Benito March 7, 2009 03:48 am


    I am not a native English but when he said "[...] somewhere other THAN the center.", to me, sounds like anyplace that is not center of the frame. I already read constructions like "[...] somewhere else BUT the center.". What, for me, sounds more difficult to understand like "off center" expression. Anyway, this is because in a literal translation to Portuguese this "but" sounds very strange and the "than" expression literal translation sounds as a comparison and, in Portuguese, makes more sense. I have no idea if one or other is right or wrong way to write...

    IMHO, it is clear that phrase you quoted is say to put the subject "off center". Maybe I understood wrongly. Let's wait for Daniel's comment or someone else opinion to solve it.


  • daniel March 7, 2009 03:48 am

    Sorry about that. It should read, "just put them somewhere other than the center."

  • randu March 7, 2009 01:39 am

    Also, be careful shooting wide open. I have some great formals that have the bride's eyes sharply in focus, unfortunately, the parent standing six inches in front of her, isn't. :(

  • Rick Hanzlik March 7, 2009 01:32 am

    I have always said I would never shoot another wedding. Especially after the last one I shot 20 years ago. But after reading these tips It puts the wedding photography more in line with the type of portraits I like to do. I do have one question though, In suggestion one, you say to move the subject to one side but the last liine seems to be saying to put thewm in the center;

    "Don’t worry about hitting the third of the frame exactly, just don’t put them somewhere other than the center."

    Am I not understanding this statement?


  • Ilan March 7, 2009 12:34 am

    Don't forget to take photos of the bride and groom's parents :D
    Happened once, won't happen again :)

    Here is an example of mine - http://www.ilanbresler.com/2008/07/spring.html