Wedding Portraits – 5 Tips for Getting Out of a Creative Rut

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As a professional photographer, it is normal to take a fair amount of pride in your work. In an ideal world, everyone would take pride in their work; but photographers in particular are usually people who own their business, who are doing something they love and who are creative by nature.

It can be particularly frustrating when you feel that you aren’t doing your very best work. Even if the customer is happy, you want to keep doing your best and you want to keep growing and learning in your craft. Getting compliments or rave reviews are great, but that feeling when you take your latest and best image is unforgettable.

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Wedding portraits is something that is particularly challenging in this regard. Your job is to capture the newlywed couple on the happiest day of their lives, which usually means photographing them face-on while they grin into the camera. Maybe you’ll ask them to embrace, to hold hands, or to stand in front of one another. But ultimately, you’re essentially doing the same thing in every photo. There is less freedom to be creative and to have a vision; which makes it easy to get into a creative rut.

How can you grow and expand when all these photos are essentially the same thing? As they say, the devil is in the details. Actually, it is precisely the limitations that this type of photography places on you that will allow you to challenge yourself to become even more creative.

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Here are five pointers that will help you get out of that creative rut and take some truly memorable wedding portraits.

#1 – Look for Inspiration

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Tip number one is to look for inspiration on the web. Social media like Instagram and Pinterest are excellent for this. Just take a look at the ways in which other photographers have handled their wedding portraits and see if there is anything you can learn or borrow from them.

As Steve Jobs famously said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” Don’t be afraid to try and improve on what has come before you. Save some screenshots on your phone, or print out a list or shots you’d like to go for. Trying something brand new usually means failing a few times, but that’s what makes it an adventure!

#2 – Get a Second Shooter

Our second tip is to find a second shooter. If you feel that your creative juices are running a little dry, then how about inviting another cameraman along for the day? Get them to have a go at the same shots and you might find that they give you some fresh ideas that you can try. Even if you don’t end up taking their advice directly, this will help you to step out of your comfort zone and that’s when new ideas start flowing!

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Ask your second shooter for some advice on locations. Try and find someone familiar with the venue, or maybe a photographer that has some ideas about great locations to shoot. Let him take the lead, and if you see him start something, see if you have a finishing flourish to take your portraits to the next level.

#3 – Remember the Basics

When you’ve been doing this gig for a long time, it’s easy to forget the most basic aspects; things like composition, framing, and lighting. Our third tip encourages you to bring it back to basics and remember some of the tips you learned when you were first starting out. You’ll often find you can inject fresh inspiration into your shoots.

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Try going for a classic or timeless look. Forget the props, crazy locations, special effects, and confetti canons. Try and see what you can do with your best lens, and most basic posing. You may find yourself asking why you’re trying to take the same photo that’s been taken by every wedding photographer before you. And the answer may just astound you!

#4 – Work With Your Resources

For our fourth tip, let’s talk about your environment. Every wedding is different, whether that is because of the weather, the dress code, color scheme, or the crowd around you. Don’t fight it – work with it! Rain or clouds can be a dramatic backdrop for a photoshoot for example. A big crowd of onlookers can make for an interesting new perspective.

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But the biggest resource you have at your disposal during your wedding sessions is the couple! No doubt they have a lot of ideas and suggestions for their photos – after all, they’re the ones paying the bills. Don’t be the snobbish professional who knows best. Listen to your customers and you may just find they can teach you something. At the very least, it may bring some fresh new ideas to the table.

#5 – Leave Your Ego at the Door

This final tip is really the point you need to focus on here; your job is to make the subjects of your photos happy. You might be tired of taking the same old shots over and over again but if that’s what the couple wants, then it doesn’t really matter.

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It’s an easy mistake to think that you need to be more creative and dramatic with your photography, while forgetting that the customer actually just wants a nice picture that will look good on their bedside table.

Your creativity here should serve a purpose, and that purpose is to make your customers happy. Forget about showing off what an original and inventive photographer you are – at least for the portraits. If you want to be creative, then you can always get in a few artsy shots of the bride’s shoes and the wedding rings. Letting go, and giving the client what they want should always come first.

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Closing Comments

So there you have it – five tips that can help you rediscover the fun and creativity for your wedding portraits; look for inspiration, get a second shooter, get back to basics, use what you have, and focus on the customer. Let us know in the comments below what you do when you find your creative juices are running dry.

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Michael David Reichmann is the Director of Photography and Partner with Andre Reichmann Photography, a father and son company with the experience of hundreds of weddings, and more than 100 awards and publications. See their work on Vimeo and their website.

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