Wedding Photography - 5 tips for the Speeches

Wedding Photography – 5 tips for the Speeches

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The speeches are one of my most favorite parts of a wedding. Everyone has eaten beautiful food and had a chance to talk, laugh and have a glass of wine. There are laughs, tears and generally completely absorbed guests, dedicated to the moment. This leads to some of my favourite shots and last weekend’s wedding was by far the best so far. It was also the first wedding with a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens (ya know…the ‘big boy’ white one) and it proved to be an absolute win during the speeches. Here are my 5 tips for capturing beautiful shots of the speeches:

  1. I use a long lens to zoom in from around the edges of the crowd. This is a time where I try to stay out of guest view as much as possible to as not to distract from the moment. I walk around the edges of the room and not amongst the tables (if I can help it). I shoot wide open to keep everyone blurry, except for the face I’m focusing on.
  2. Find a few guests who have great expressions. Do you have a perfect view of a laugher? Hold steady on him/her and wait until the speaker says something funny. Laughs are pretty much a guarantee during the best man speech. Tears happen often during the father of the bride speech.
  3. During the speeches, it’s your job as the photographer to capture moments that the bride, groom & their family are missing. Who’s laughing, who’s crying? What did the bride look like as her father was speaking? How was she looking at her new husband while he was declaring his love for her? Make sure that you know who the immediate family are and get shots of them enjoying this moment. This is the only time I will sneak in amongst the tables if necessary to get a view of one of the parents.
  4. Black and white is my favorite for wedding photos. It’s been said that when you photograph people in color, you take a picture of their clothes but when you photograph in B&W, you photograph their souls. I find that the expressions make a much bolder statement when rendered in B&W.
  5. Tell a story by putting appropriate images together in a collage. I love doing this because it makes the moment come alive. Place them in a way that keeps the eyes and expressions aimed towards the speaker. See the example below with everyone looking at the groom.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Elizabeth Halford is a photographer and advertising creative producer in Orlando, FL. She wrote her first article for dPS in 2010. Her most popular one racked up over 100k shares!

Some Older Comments

  • LINDA MILLER March 22, 2013 03:06 pm

    Very good points. Now all I need to do is remember them. Thank you.

  • Jacqui Smith Watson August 25, 2011 01:42 pm

    Once again Elizabeth, you are smashing! Love all the tips, advice and your obvious love of the business!

  • ofori June 20, 2011 06:12 pm

    Will adopt this new tips and tricks for wedding photography. this is really perfect. thanks for that byeeeee.

  • Steve G June 1, 2011 08:18 am

    ooopps.... I meant EF85mm 1.8 which would give me 136mm on a crop!

  • Steve G June 1, 2011 08:05 am

    Hi,

    Great article, fantastic images and well timed! I have a wedding to shoot in July and have been debating over whether to go for a Canon 70-200f 2.8. I shoot with 1.6 crop sensors and at present have the 17-55mm (EFS) f2.8, EF80mm 1.8 and EF 50mm 1.8. The 80mm effectively gives me 128mm on the crop but of course it is fixed focal length so I potentially miss out on the versatility of a fast telephoto zoom like the 70-200 f2.8........... thing is would it be too long for a crop? I would have 2 crop bodies with me but would want to avoid changing lenses if at all poss.

  • Singapore Wedding Photography May 30, 2011 07:23 pm

    I absolutely agree with this statement:
    Make sure that you know who the immediate family are and get shots of them enjoying this moment.

    Although i would really love colour much more then BnW. It's a personal preference I supposed, but The colour often gives me the red flushng of the face then comes with intense emotions like crying or laughing.

  • vivek purandare May 30, 2011 01:09 am

    I read your tips.I would like to share some marriage photos which I have taken. Indian marriage [maharashtrian ] . Please give some tips on it

  • Peter Sanders May 28, 2011 08:54 pm

    Hi

    Lots of good advice :)

    A long fast lens is the way to go :)

    Erik, nice photo of the dog, but the depth of field is a little too shallow. The dogs nose and whiskers need to be sharp for greater impact.

    kind regards

    Peter

  • Paul May 28, 2011 06:12 am

    Thanks for posting this, I liked the collage tip! :)

  • Brian Harte May 28, 2011 04:51 am

    Part of the fun is trying to guess when the best man's punchlines will come so that I can get the photos of the guests rolling around on the floor laughing. I think there is a lot of psychology in pre-empting the shots for the speeches and in general.

    +1 for the 70-200 f2.8 IS

  • Damian White May 27, 2011 09:13 pm

    The 70-200 2.8 is certainly a heavy bit of gear; throw in the full-frame body, flash and battery grip and you're getting a good workout! I use a monopod where I can (certainly for the speeches) but it can be a little cumbersome in a crowded church. The monopod is an easy rest, allowing me to wait patiently for the right expressions. I also have a BlackRapid strap that has made all the difference from an ergonomic point of view across a long day's shoot.

    The deep bokeh, intimate perspective and quality of the glass (precise focus, faster shutter) make it magic across almost the whole day's moments. I generally work with another photographer who'll tend to shoot the wider, formal shots (24-70 2.8) so I can run through and 'single out' the individuals and couples.

  • Gary May 27, 2011 09:09 pm

    Sounds like you are doing well and have some great gear. Listen and practice is my words of wisdom. If at first what you hear sounds crazy...try it anyway. When I heard from a pro that they would shoot at 1/20 shutter speed I thought they were crazy. One trick to make this work is to shoot a burst of 3-5 shots. I have been amazed at what can be done at low speed.

    Basically this is just one example of the bag of tricks a photographer should have. Knowing, or just experimenting to see what works for you in the specific situation.

    I rarely use a tripod or monopod, just a solid holding stance. My wife loves the 70-200 lens with our monodod with the tri-pod option (the monopod that has the three small feet).

    I have the 2x extender though you need more light to use it.

    Cheers,
    gary

  • Kevin Jordan May 27, 2011 12:37 pm

    I enjoyed this article as well as lots of others before this one. they remind me how much I have to learn. I shoot once a year or so at a wedding, (amateur only ) I have a Canon 5D MK II and I bought several lenses. I have 3 "L" series a 16-35 f2.8 a 24-70 f2.8 & a 70-200 f2.8 with a 2X doubler. I also have 3 primes & a speedlight 580 EX II I am a bit surprised about several of you using the 70-200 at a wedding. I know i'm new at this but it never occurred to me. I have shot a few pic's with it and its great but hard to steady. when you use do you use something like a monopod? I haven't played much with the speedlight but I have found the lenses I have shoot great pic's inside without a flash most of the time until it gets too dark or too much distance. Last year I shot a lot at a relatives wedding and my pic's rivaled the shots by the hired pro. I was just having fun. anyway this is my 1st post. keep the great articles coming!!! kevin

  • Gary May 27, 2011 11:02 am

    Oh gotta mention one more thing. Bought Radio Popper flash triggers about a year ago. I set up two auxillary flashes and it really opens up great shots. Especially for the large groups and the bouquet and garder tosses. Makes taking multiple flash shots during time critical moments much quicker as well.

    Cheers,
    gary

  • Gary May 27, 2011 10:58 am

    Great article and photos!!! I agree with everything in the article and the 70-200 f2.8 IS. I use it on our Canon 5D Mark II and it AWESOME!!! Gives you a good workout becasue of the weight but is my all around favorite (have 2 other f2.8 and one f1.4, but this is my favorite lens).

    Thanks for the article and suggestions.

    gary

  • Matt May 27, 2011 09:32 am

    I've been photographing weddings for awhile and just got my 70-200 2.8 for the most recent one as well. Expensive, but so worth the money. Rent if you need to--it's so much better than even the second-tier zooms (I never used the 55-250--skipped straight ahead to the next level, but they really don't compare). It's amazing for the speeches, with or without a flash (I've got a 580 ii, so even at 200 I have enough power to bounce it nicely). If you're going to be doing weddings, you really owe it to yourself to get one. A flash and flash bracket would be the other way to go--I'd never shoot a wedding without either a flash+bracket or a few pieces of really fast glass (I also run the 50 1.4 and a 17-50 2.8, and I really want the 24 1.4 and 35 1.4. At f3.5 or beyond you're going to need a nice flash bounced unless you are outdoors. Unless you can push the ISO into the current professional range--and even then you'd want faster glass.

  • Salt Lake City Photographer May 27, 2011 09:28 am

    Great article! I've been debating adding a 70-200 f/2.8 to my quiver. After seeing these images, I think it would be worth the investment. Thanks for the tips!

  • Steve May 27, 2011 08:42 am

    Wow.. im so glad i stumbled upon your site... having messed with Photography back in the 80s and now a New Student(at 54 years of age) of Digital Photography and Photo Manipulation im so hungry to learn all over again... ive been out doing some AFL football photos and had a crack at some VERY ordinary home studio photos and Even created a website(which is under construction).
    This tutorial is absolutely fantastic as i have actually been asked to do a wedding in August.... i have all the gear i need (Nikon D3 pro Cam and Lenses/flashes and Canon 40D and Flashes/Lenses etc but im wondering in your opinion which would be the better of the 2 Cameras to use for the Wedding??
    The ideas of staying out of the way and using a long lens are brilliant... what would you suggest for the actual wedding service? i have 2 wideangle lenses for each camera and tele lenses as well..im guessing that its probably a good idea to be "in the background at the actual wedding too"?
    Love this site and must say what a fantastic concept for Total Amateurs like myself that are getting back into Photography in the digital world.
    Many Thanks

  • Jeruel May 27, 2011 08:09 am

    Thank you for the tips. Well written article. I like all the ideas mentioned, and I can't wait until I try this out this coming Sunday, May 29 wedding.

    Jeruel
    Jeruel Ibanez Photography

  • Gary May 27, 2011 06:12 am

    I faced the same dilemma around lens choice. There's just no getting round it; that f2.8 is what all the wedding pros use. I love mine, got it used for a grand. Also remember that IS will help with camera shake but is absolutely no use at freezing motion. Aim to expose well and dont be afraid of pushing your ISO UP to keep a shutter of at least 1/60th to be sure of stopping any motion. At 200mm, movement is exaggerated..

    Get one as soon as you can and never look back :-)

    Good luck!
    GD

  • Angie J May 27, 2011 03:43 am

    WOW!
    First off -LOVED this post/article!! I, too, will shoot my first "official" wedding next month so these are fantastic tips.
    @Andrew - all of your questions, were questions that ran through my head as well so thanks for asking!
    @Brian and Erik - your responses were priceless and greatly appreciated!!! @ Brian - I'm in the DFW area too. The place to rent the lens - are you referring to Competitive Cameras? I know they rent -although I've never rented. If not, can you let me know who you rent from?

  • Cape Town Wedding Photographer May 25, 2011 03:43 pm

    Very informative! Tx!

  • Melissa May 25, 2011 10:31 am

    Great advice everyone! @Brian : Where can you rent the 70-200 for $40 in DFW? I have my first wedding coming up also and would love to find that place :) Thanks!

  • Peterborugh Photography Weddings May 25, 2011 09:55 am

    I always use a nice long zoom lens, F2.8 is so I can sit out of the way and not be in anyones face.

  • Andrew MacDonald May 25, 2011 03:21 am

    @Celesta,

    Thanks a lot for the advice. I have been wanting to buy a 50mm 1.8 Prime lens before the wedding simply because of its speed and the fact it will give a lovely depth of field. Id like to think I'll use that for a lot of the official photos of just the bride and groom. As for the evening, I take all of your advice, especially with regards to the fact a larger lens will get heavy, and that it could turn out a little dark, maybe my best bet is to stick to my 24-55mm for the speeches and evening reception. Maybe that is a happy medium between lighter and sharper pictures than darker pictures with the fatigue factor of the weight of the lens.

  • Celesta May 25, 2011 01:55 am

    A very nice article. I love how the photographs illustrate the point that b&w portraiture is very forgiving and highlights people's souls.

  • Celesta May 25, 2011 01:53 am

    Andrew, I second Erik and Brian - if you are betting on using f/4+ lenses indoors, especially zooms and especially at night, be aware that many photographs may turn out blurred or "shaky". 55-250 is one of my most handy lenses and I learned its limits :) That said, 70-200 f/2.8 is heavy like a mortal sin and if you plan to shoot hand-held (which you most likely will), you can grow weary very fast! Try fast zooms from other brands such as a smaller and lighter Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 and see if you will find your next favorite zoom lens.
    RAW is definitely the way to go given that you will be dealing with varying lights, zoom distances and potentially a lot of color correction including b&w rendering. Set your camera to shoot in RAW only, don't try to write both RAW and JPG, and you will save a lot of space on your memory cards.
    Best of luck with your first wedding project!

  • Andrew MacDonald May 24, 2011 08:54 am

    @Erik

    Many thanks for the clarification there. I will definitely look into and actively start using RAW then. It sounds like it's the way forward in terms of keeping your options open, and in my book, options are good!!

  • Erik Kerstenbeck May 24, 2011 08:33 am

    @ Andrew

    RAW shooting allows you to manipulate the image in Post Production for things like Exposure Compensation, White Balance etc. When you shoot JPG you are "locked in" with what your camera was set at. Everytime you manipulate a JPG, you are recompressing and litterally detraoying the image for later use. JPG is Ok for Email or Facebook, but if you want to reprint one day, always soot and store RAW!

    Cheers, Erik
    www.kerstenbeck.com

  • Andrew MacDonald May 24, 2011 08:03 am

    Thanks for the feedback Erik. I'll be honest, I haven't shot in RAW yet - I've read about it, just not tried it. I think I will definitely do a bit of raw shooting this week though so that I know exactly how to use my camera in that mode on the day.

    In your opinion, does shooting in RAW mean you have to alter your use of the camera, it's settings, etc? Or is it just like shooting in JPEG?

    P.S. Thats an awesome picture of the dog. Beautiful, love how the edges are faded with the face of the dog in perfect focus. Think you go the aperture perfect for that shot.

  • Erik Kerstenbeck May 24, 2011 06:10 am

    Hi

    I would suggest to shoot RAW and use a lens like a 70-200mm f2.8. It allows for many options that are not intrusive and when you shoot wide open it makes for wonderful blurred background. These lenses are very expensive (~$2400US) BUT you can always rent! I had a chance to try one out several weeks ago, not at a Wedding, but on Catalina Island, California during a family Portrait Shoot.

    I know this is a picture of an Australian Shepherd, but the point is that I was 20 feet away, f2.8 and the background is completely gone....I plan to buy such a lens for my future Wedding Bookings. It Rocks!
    This will be fantastic for any Wedding or Portrait Session. The rental was ~$130 for 1 week...not bad!

    http://kerstenbeckphotoart.wordpress.com/2011/05/14/just-call-me-shep/

  • Damian White May 24, 2011 04:50 am

    The speeches is the one part if the night where the 70-200 2.8 (I use the Sony G) is irreplaceable. I can get in nice and close for an intimate expression and have far fewer cases of speaker movement that leads to unflattering facial distortions. In fact that lens would be on my camera for perhaps 60% of the day: it's a beast, but it's priceless!

  • Andrew MacDonald May 23, 2011 11:29 pm

    @Brian

    Thank you for the advice sir. I do have the option of setting up a couple of soft boxes which ill trigger wirelessly - in an ideal world id like to use them but I did go down to the function room at the same sort of time of night as the event will go on, and tried out both the kit and the zoom, and whilst it's definitely a little lighter with the smaller lens, the zoom pictures came out quite nice.

    With regards to hiring, what I was planning to do rather than keep swapping between by kit and zoom lens on the day, is to hire a Canon 24-105mm f4.0 which would set me back around $50 for three days - what would you recommend? Would that be a good enough lens for a wedding?

  • Brian Fuller May 23, 2011 11:21 pm

    @Andrew MacDonald,

    It's going to be very difficult to get good pictures indoors with that zoom. Unless the room is blazing bright with tons of lights, you may have to stick with the kits lens up close with a bounce flash. You should test to see what you can do with that lens first in a similarly lighted room. An option I would suggest is renting a lens for the weekend. A Canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS lens in my area (DFW) would rent for $40 for the weekend. That would give you as much as 2 stops of light (on the long end) plus image stabilization. That's 4x the light reaching the sensor. (correct me if I'm wrong - I'm still learning as well).

  • bycostello May 23, 2011 06:55 pm

    nice tips.. lovely images...

  • Edit wizard May 23, 2011 07:11 am

    It's very difficult to get good pictures of people while they're talking. I find that shooting in a continuous shutter mode in bursts let's you pick out the frame where they look the most natural while speaking. It's sorta like shots of people eating - faces look totally freaky when you freeze them in a photo.

    Also I totally agree about the b&w.

  • Niki Jones May 23, 2011 05:39 am

    Some great tips, especially liked the montage. Personally I'm less of a fan of the speeches part of a shoot, people pull the darndest facial expressions when they're talking. The majority if my trash can is from this part of the day.

  • Andrew MacDonald May 23, 2011 05:08 am

    Im doing my very first wedding next month, and I only have two lenses. A 24-55mm kit lens, and a 55-250mm Canon Zoom, and I was wondering whether I should stick to the edges of the room during the speeches with my zoom, or get in amongst the crowd a little with my kit lens - I was leaning more towards the zoom, and this article has only enforced that so thank you very much.

    P.S. Your photos are awesome. Loved your idea about adding the images in a collage too. I am creating a wedding album for the couple, and want to have it in story-form-documentary type layout, but I never thought about using the collage technique you mentioned above. Ill certainly keep that in mind.

  • Alexander May 23, 2011 02:59 am

    I especially like tip no. 1, not being a distraction myself is something always at the back of my mind, and perhaps I miss a few "in the midst of the action" opportunities as a result.