This is part 2 of a series of posts on Wedding Day Call Sheets. Check out Part 1 at The Wedding Day Call Sheet: Part 1 – The Morning.
Before the day you’ll need to check with the vicar or registrar to see whether photography during the ceremony is allowed, however most will allow you to shoot a few set up shots of the couple once the register has been signed.
Church and indoor ceremonial establishments tend to be on the dark and under lit side, and as flash is rarely permitted be prepared to push the ISO, use a tripod and/or opt for a fast lens. Capture the bride walking down the aisle and don’t miss people’s reactions – especially that of the groom as he first lays eyes on her.
Record all the obvious, but crucial elements such as: the vows, lighting of the candle, the placing of rings, the kiss and the ‘faux’ signing of the register. Then opt for some more ‘out of the box’ images to flex your creative muscle.
If the wedding is in a church and you have time and permission; arrange the guests at the front under the pulpit. Climb into the pulpit and take a few images from above using the flash if the vicar permits it. This is particularly useful if the weather is rainy as this could be one of your only opportunities to get a group shot of all the guests.
The Group Shots
Photographers vary on their approach to this; some allowing the couple to dictate as many set ups as they want, whereas others restricting it to a shortlist of a dozen or so.
Whether you are at the ceremony or receptions venue; these images should be taken in favourable light where there is enough room to accommodate everyone, which may mean incorporating a tier formation to ensure everyone can be seen and a wide angle lens is vital. This is why a reconnaissance mission a week or so before the big day is a very sensible idea. For group shots its best to employ an aperture of f8 or f11, depending on the number of guests and it’s a good idea to get these captures in the bag before everyone starts drinking.
Ideally it can help if you start with the bride and groom and work in steps to build up the composition. For example start with the bride and groom and then photograph them with: the bridesmaids, the best men and ushers, then both together. Next shoot the couple with his parents, then her parents, then both together. Next take the couple and all of her family and then do the same with his family, then repeat with their friends and then finally invite everyone into the frame. Always review the image after the first shot of each set up is taken or when the light changes. Once you have taken a few formal frames don’t be afraid to get more creative with compositions and let people have a laugh in them.
As well as large groups, if you have the time and the bride and groom the inclination – why not try some smaller group shots around the venue? Get creative in terms of poses and positioning – use elegant set ups such as an ornate staircase – right through to seemingly mundane ones such as a long line in front of a rustic brick wall – but have the people interact with each other for a fun-filled frame.
These are likely to be the images the couple treasure the most so getting the right is crucial. On your pre-wedding day visit to the reception venue isolate several areas (indoors and out) where these can be taking. It doesn’t always have to be a beautiful Japanese garden or sat on a lovers bench surrounded by flowers, it could be stood against a small area of foliage or even a beaten up garage – as long as you make the couple the focus nothing else need matter.
Take the couple away from the main throng of guests to minimise distraction and maximise their comfort. Suggesting poses comes with experience so perhaps take a look online for things you like and want to ‘recreate’. Some simple suggestions include: hand in hand walking away, the bride sat on the grooms lap on a bench, the groom stood behind the bride with his hands around her waist, the groom lifting the gown to reveal the garter and don’t forget lots of images of the couple kissing looking adoringly into each other’s eyes. As well as pulled back wide shots, go in for close ups of the face, rings, bouquet, and play with the aperture to create some creatively selective out-of-focus images.
It’s a good idea to get an idea of timings and the day’s agenda well ahead of time so you can plan when to shoot this part of the wedding. Ideally it’s best to start after the group shots are finished, but before the guests sit down to eat.
Collate as many images of the reception and its decor as you can, this includes: the building and grounds, the reception rooms and dinner hall, the cake, seating chart, place names, party favours, flowers, centre pieces, and anything that the couple has put time and energy into selecting and creating. This is a great opportunity to be creative and don’t forget to catch some images of gifts, balloons and cards left for the couple – in particular anything which includes the new married names of Mr & Mrs Whoever – even its just on a card.
While the light is still soft and useable outdoors and the guests not too tipsy, start claiming some candid captures. Using a fast telephoto lens with vibration reduction technology; act like a ninja and start sniping candids from a distance. Suggestions for this include: the bride and groom interacting with their guests, children running around, groups of people relaxing and laughing, children eagerly eyeing the cake, etc.
UPDATE: Check out part 3 of this mini series – The Wedding Day Call Sheet: The Evening