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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.