6 Tips for Creating Unique and Emotion Filled Wedding Photos

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The best wedding photographers know how to create not only beautifully composed images, but also the moments of emotion and connection at the core of every dynamic wedding story. Focusing on capturing these unique, organic moments allows you to tell a story that’s true to the couple you’re working with. Here are some tips for finding and capturing the images that keep a wedding story dynamic and fresh.

Wedding photography emotion

1. Build the Right Relationship with the Right Client

It’s important to assess whether a client is the right match for your photography style and the stories you’re good at capturing. When you’re consulting with clients, ask questions about what exactly they want, and consider whether you’re prepared to offer the services they want. Once you’ve decided to work with a couple, cultivate a positive, communicative relationship. You don’t have to be best friends with every couple that you shoot, but a basic level of trust helps clients to be themselves on the wedding day. The more comfortable they feel with you, the more moments you’ll be invited to shoot.

2. Be Prepared

To capture unique moments, preparation is essential. Before you show up to shoot a wedding, think through the choices you’ll make about gear, lenses, equipment, and lighting. It’s inevitable that plans will change on the day of the wedding, and that’s okay. Being prepared doesn’t mean you have to be inflexible.

Wedding photography emotion 1

3. Check your Composition

If an image is too soft or technically imperfect, you can’t share it with clients. A poor image of a great moment is essentially the same thing as no image at all. Remind yourself of the basics both before and during a shoot. Be mindful of focusing and recomposing with the f-stops you choose, and make sure your shutter speed correlates with the lens you’re using.

4. Be aware of the Background

Nothing spoils a dynamic image more than a random person wandering through the background or an angle that makes everyone in the room look like they have lampshade hats on. Don’t just focus on the subjects of each image – focus on the entire frame.

Choose backgrounds that either enhance an image or that are clean and simple. For example, you might decide to photograph rings against the background of other sparkly jewellery the bride plans to wear. Or you might decide that it’s better to have a clean, simple background instead.

Wedding photography emotion 2

5. Challenge Yourself

When I’m photographing a wedding, I like to challenge myself to see how many unique moments I can capture in one single frame. This allows me to tell stories that are more complex. I might be able to catch the mother of the bride’s reaction as the bridesmaids help her daughter into her dress, or I might capture the flower girls dancing along to a couple’s first dance.

If you’re telling multiple stories in a single frame, each aspect of the story has to be dynamic and engaged. Make sure everyone in the frame is doing something interesting; no couple wants an image from their wedding day where half the people look bored. Know when to focus on a single, super-impactful image instead.

6. Watch and Wait

Watch for shots that both capture a unique moment and help advance the overall wedding story you’re telling. The balance between patient and proactive can be hard to strike, but it’s important.

Create a calm atmosphere and be a chilled presence – don’t constantly have cameras in people’s faces and shutters consistently going off. When a moment starts developing, be assertive about getting the shot you need, but find a way to do so without being intrusive.

Give the couple space to emote, but also be aware that some people might not be outwardly emotional, and that’s okay too. Capture the couple as they are, without trying to force specific moments, reactions, or feelings.

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Susan Stripling is a world-renowned wedding photographer. She has won some of the photography industry’s most prestigious honors including 1st place in WPPI’s Wedding Photojournalism category and the Grand Award for Photojournalism. Susan has photographed weddings all throughout the US, the Caribbean, South America, Finland, France, and the Bahamas.

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  • Yohann

    “If an image is too soft or technically imperfect, you can’t share it with clients.”

    No, you can’t say that.

    A blurred image of an important moment is better than nothing.
    If we follow your principle, there is no room for a shot at high iso because there is noise and it’s “technically imperfect”.

    Sometimes, we have to understand that part of our job is documenting. We do the best we can to make pictures look great (composition, exposure, sharpness) but when we fail or can’t achieve those guidelines, it’s still photography and worth something.

    A picture is not bad because you see a tiny motion blur when pixel peeping.

  • Nice tips. And the first photograph is such a good one too!

    http://blogs.gonomad.com/traveltalesfromindia/

  • The background tip is so relevant. Try to look 3 dimensionally before taking the shot. It takes experience to take an extra second to have a look behind the subject to see if anything is there to ruin the image.

  • Remembering the basics is very important. I just had a portrait shoot where I had not checked my camera settings from the last time I used my camera. The manual mode settings were just fine for an indoor portrait, which is what I did last, but completely over exposing an outdoor portrait, which is what I was doing. I had a beautiful backdrop of green leaves with some yellow just starting to fill in and a cloudy sky for the moment. By the time I realized why the pictures were so overexposed, the wind had swept away those clouds and exposed the scene to that horrible direct sunlight. While portraits can sometimes be redone, a wedding happens then only. If you miss it, you miss it and will be left kicking yourself for missing the shot. Check those basics before you shoot especially if you are shooting a wedding.

  • Sima

    I am not a professional, but I know people. What can be a great photograph professionally speaking, can be undesirable or even offensive to the subjects, let us say if they feel they do not look their best in the picture. This is a thin line for a photographer to walk on. Many people I know would prefer for their events the posed picture to that great photo taken when they had no control over their appearance or expression. Even if the photographer is sure (and rightly so) it is a great picture, expressive, accurately capturing moments etc.

  • Wow.. Susan. You are my most favorite wedding photographer. I have been following your work and admiring since I was introduced to your work at Sephi’s blog. Thanks for this article. I am glad I got to read something written by you.

    @yohann – you can always give a blurry image to client. However, not many people appreciate a blurry image. As a photographer paid for the job you are supposed to know how to make sharp images even at low light.

  • Henrik B

    Get the groom to relax. If the groom is nervous = no emotion, no smile and a crappy experience for him. Same goes for the bride. Smile at the client.

  • Calin

    Thank you for this article Susan!

    “If it makes you laugh, if it makes you cry, if it rips out your heart, that’s a good picture” Eddie Adams, Pulitzer Price winning photojournalist. Well, most of Susan’s photos are GREAT pictures by Eddie Adam’s definition…

    I was lucky to watch Susan teach and she is simply amazing. Over the picked up so many things from her and her husband, Cliff Mautner a wedding photography giant. You can find free training materials on youtube.

    Calin
    http://www.bycalin.com

  • Emotion-filled photos that are caught in the genuine moment are (in my opinion) the most powerful and most exciting to shoot. I also agree with Sima’s comment that sometimes a great photo can be offensive to the client. I have a perfect example of that here http://elatiweddingphotography.com/portfolio-item/what-is-wedding-photojournalism/ where I got a shot of the bride’s mother-in-law sneaking a flask of whiskey!

  • Lynn Jones

    If you are planning a summer wedding, it is time to get your bridesmaid dresses http://www.bellasdress.com/bridesmaid-dresses-li65958/21/ ordered! When you are shopping for the bridesmaid formal gown design, think as if you are going to wear the dress. If you have a positive and open minded approach, you will end up buying a wonderful and comfortable dress for the bridesmaid.

  • Trifon Anguelov

    I am glad I found this article and agree with the points Susan makes. It’s much more exciting and rewarding to see genuine wedding moments captured, rather than staged and posed moments. True some get exceptionally great at staging shots and posing the clients but how many brides and grooms are skilled and natural in front of the camera.

    It is much harder to capture candid moments, but it is a way to distinguish among the competition. Like a San Francisco Bay Area Wedding Photographer, I made the choice to offer photojournalistic wedding photography style to my clients. It is harder to master and one has to have the eye and patience to know how to capture moments.

    But there is much more to consider. First one has to decide, if he is she is ready to become a wedding photographer in first place. Authored a blog article on this topic: What Does It Take To Be a Wedding Photographer. I have seen many photographers fail simple because they are not mentally ready and committed.

    Hope this info is useful and helpful to everyone who considers to enter the wedding photography business.

    For more wedding photography articles, check Weding Photography Blogger

Some Older Comments

  • Henrik B September 24, 2013 04:32 pm

    Get the groom to relax. If the groom is nervous = no emotion, no smile and a crappy experience for him. Same goes for the bride. Smile at the client.

  • Achyut Hatimuria September 20, 2013 02:03 am

    Wow.. Susan. You are my most favorite wedding photographer. I have been following your work and admiring since I was introduced to your work at Sephi's blog. Thanks for this article. I am glad I got to read something written by you.

    @yohann - you can always give a blurry image to client. However, not many people appreciate a blurry image. As a photographer paid for the job you are supposed to know how to make sharp images even at low light.

  • Sima September 20, 2013 01:43 am

    I am not a professional, but I know people. What can be a great photograph professionally speaking, can be undesirable or even offensive to the subjects, let us say if they feel they do not look their best in the picture. This is a thin line for a photographer to walk on. Many people I know would prefer for their events the posed picture to that great photo taken when they had no control over their appearance or expression. Even if the photographer is sure (and rightly so) it is a great picture, expressive, accurately capturing moments etc.

  • Pocatello Photography, Cramer Imaging September 17, 2013 07:01 am

    Remembering the basics is very important. I just had a portrait shoot where I had not checked my camera settings from the last time I used my camera. The manual mode settings were just fine for an indoor portrait, which is what I did last, but completely over exposing an outdoor portrait, which is what I was doing. I had a beautiful backdrop of green leaves with some yellow just starting to fill in and a cloudy sky for the moment. By the time I realized why the pictures were so overexposed, the wind had swept away those clouds and exposed the scene to that horrible direct sunlight. While portraits can sometimes be redone, a wedding happens then only. If you miss it, you miss it and will be left kicking yourself for missing the shot. Check those basics before you shoot especially if you are shooting a wedding.

  • Sean Gannon - Headshots UK September 17, 2013 06:47 am

    The background tip is so relevant. Try to look 3 dimensionally before taking the shot. It takes experience to take an extra second to have a look behind the subject to see if anything is there to ruin the image.

  • Mridula September 16, 2013 05:56 pm

    Nice tips. And the first photograph is such a good one too!

    http://blogs.gonomad.com/traveltalesfromindia/

  • Yohann September 16, 2013 08:30 am

    "If an image is too soft or technically imperfect, you can’t share it with clients."

    No, you can't say that.

    A blurred image of an important moment is better than nothing.
    If we follow your principle, there is no room for a shot at high iso because there is noise and it's "technically imperfect".

    Sometimes, we have to understand that part of our job is documenting. We do the best we can to make pictures look great (composition, exposure, sharpness) but when we fail or can't achieve those guidelines, it's still photography and worth something.

    A picture is not bad because you see a tiny motion blur when pixel peeping.

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