Getting Better Wedding Shots as a Guest
OK, so you’re not a pro. That doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun capturing some shots that will mean the world to you (and the bride and groom) for years to come. In fact, some of my favorite wedding pictures came from friends, not the photographer I hired… perhaps because they knew me better and could anticipate that tear. Or perhaps because they tried some of these tips…
1. Clean your lens.
I once shot the wedding of a friend whose professional photographer had somehow overlooked cleaning his lens. Almost every shot had a big, black smudge in the top left corner. It is true that in this age of digital fixes we can remedy this oversight in post production, but it is much easier simply to clean your lens with an appropriate lens cloth before you shoot!
2. Get to know your camera. Especially the flash.
Do you know how to switch your camera from auto focus to manual? Do you know how to change the ISO (or why you would want to)?! Do you know how to turn the flash to Auto or off? Believe it or not, daytime weddings are often when you will want to use your flash most, especially if you are in bright light, or speckled shade. Otherwise, digital cameras do an amazing job these days of handling low light situations (though not complete dark). Learn how to use yours to your advantage. And remember that flashing in people's faces is quite distracting- especially during a ceremony.
3. Crop IN the camera.
Focus on what is in the frame- all of it. If you want background, use it, but make sure it doesn’t distract from the main subject(s). If you are aiming for a portrait, or close up, put the head at the top of your frame (it is also ok to cut off the top of the head if you are doing an intimate shot of faces). This applies to detail shots, too- pay attention to every corner of your frame; it is easier to do it while shooting, than later on the computer.
4. Take a second seat to the professional.
A good professional photographer shouldn’t mind guests snapping pictures along side him/her; after all, they have the training and equipment that often guests do not have. However, when shooting formal/posed shots, photographers have promised the bride and groom that they will stick to a schedule. They also need room to move. So even though you may want to grab a pose that the photographer has set up of the bride and groom with all of their family, remember that the bride and groom have paid a good amount of time and money choosing this professional for his/her skills. Give the photographer his/her space to do what s/he does best. And don’t ask the subjects to look at your camera until the photographer is done; it is frustrating for the bride and groom to have images of people looking in different directions. Don't forget, too, it is often the candid shots right before or after the posed ones that are the best (they are my favorite, anyway).
5. Shoot with both eyes open.
It is a difficult and learned skill, but I try to anticipate things that may happen while I am shooting: a child running into the picture to hide in the bride’s dress folds, for instance. But sometimes, something happens in my peripheral vision that I would miss were my other eye closed. Keep your camera at the ready!
6. Shoot from the hip.
Ever tried it? It is quite fun, though it takes a bit of practice. The advantage is that your subjects won’t realize you are shooting, and you may capture some candid emotions/activities. What it really does for you, though, is change your perspective. You can do this using your own eyes, of course. Try standing on a chair, or getting down low with your camera (I often shoot on the floor during a dance!). Don’t be scared to tilt the lens, too- just for fun!