At a wedding, every little detail is planned. From the guest list to the attire to the fold of the napkins. The planning that goes into most weddings is the culmination of countless decisions and immeasurable effort.
That’s where you come in, the wedding photographer extraordinaire…you get to be the one to document the day as it all comes together. It’s your job to help encapsulate all the tiny little nuances that many, your bride included, may overlook. In this blog post, Mike Duval of LensProToGo will cover the basic details you should be looking for during the wedding and how to capture them.
Communication Is Key
The first step, the one you need to do before you even think about what camera to bring or what lenses to shoot, is “What’s important to my bride & groom?” Open a dialogue with them about what things mean the most. You may be surprised to learn about something obscure that could have been overlooked. You also want to get a feel for just how important the details are to them in the grand scheme of her day. You don’t want to overshoot details and realize you have no personal moments or guest candids. Let the bride and groom be your guide here.
Getting Ready Details
It’s the wedding day and she said “yes” to that dress, so she’ll be super excited to wear it. Start by looking for a safe location to photograph the entire dress and its detailed elements. Some photographers go crazy in their effort to get the “perfect” dress photo. That’s great, but there is something to be said for keeping it simple. It can also look just as elegant hanging in the corner while your bride is having her makeup done.
What compliments the dress? The shoes! She may have tried on 100 pairs before finding the perfect ones. Whether she spent a fortune on them or went simple with basic flats, they complete the look and deserve their own photo.
Next, think about flowers. This is the time to capture the bouquets at their freshest (non-wilted) state. Look for an interesting location or clean backdrop to make them pop. Pay attention to any small details on the bouquet stem that may tribute a loved one or some other important remembrance. Don’t forget to get a photo of the guys’ boutonnieres if you’re joining them later.
Finally, there may be an invitation photograph or jewelry waiting on the dresser. Look for bridesmaid or groomsmen gifts. Or, if you’re at a family member’s home, try finding the family calendar – there could be something fun to capture on the day’s date! Try to cover these little details when you first arrive, because they tend to get lost in the shuffle as crunch time approaches.
Gear wise, most of these details are easiest to capture with an all-around lens like the 24-70mm f/2.8 or a 50mm prime. This lets you switch gears between details and people at a moment’s notice. It can be easy to get sucked in during these shots, so it’s your job to keep an eye and an ear out for what’s going on in the room to keep your coverage balanced.
So many ceremonies these days have fun little details all their own. Depending on your arrival time to the ceremony site, try to grab a wide shot with no guests, to set the scene.
From there, move on to the smaller details. A 70-200mm f/2.8 is your friend for these shots. Maybe there is a handmade Chuppah, or initials carved in a birch bark archway. Perhaps there is a refreshment table with signature drinks for couples to sip on their way to finding a chair. In your quest for details, be sure to track down a ceremony program and find somewhere pretty to place it–a nearby bush, a stained-glass window, or hand one to an usher.
From there, think flowers again. Florists love to dress up the aisle with cute arrangements hanging off the end of the pew. Often, there are large floral arrangements near where the couple will soon say their vows. Just know that everything you capture here will be like the bride is seeing it for the first time–she’ll be so busy trying not to cry as she walks down the aisle to profess her love that it will all be a blur!
The other big shot, besides the kiss, is the ring exchange. If you are outdoors, having a lens with some extra reach like a 300 f/4, Canon 100-400mm or Nikon 200-500mm will get you close without having to be on top of the couple.
- Interior/Exterior of Ceremony Site
- Guest refreshments
- Pew decorations
- Ring exchange
This is where you have to act the fastest–usually, these photos take place right after you’ve finished the couple’s portraits, for the tail end of cocktail hour. You’ll want to grab all the little details of the space. Find the place card table, guest book, and the gift table. Those are the first things guests see upon entering.
Next, think about the room as a whole. This is especially true if you’re working with a coordinator. The full room shot is the culmination of both the bride and the coordinator’s work. This can be a tricky shot to get for several reasons. If it’s a small space, the first trick is just fitting it all into your camera. Use an ultra-wide lens like the Canon 11-24mm f/4 or the Nikon 14-24 f/2.8 here. Otherwise, if you are shooting wide, don’t forget to think about foreground and background in your compositions.
Second, is figuring out your lighting. You’ll want to make sure you capture the natural feel of the room, especially if there is uplighting, then balance or enhance with off camera flash to accentuate certain areas or add drama.
The third is clearing the room to get a clean shot. Sometimes there is staff attending to details right up until the last minute. Ideally, you don’t want them in your shot. This is where you can enlist the help of a coordinator to get the room cleared for a small window. Be respectful of the fact that the venue staff still have a job to do, and limit your shooting to 1-2 minutes tops.
Once you’ve nailed that, start to focus on centerpieces and the place settings. Keep an eye out for personalized favors or custom menu cards.
This is also the time that we shoot the cake–usually, it is alone and set up somewhere pretty…it’s fun to try and line it up with uplighting on the wall or with a window in the background to serve as a frame. Lots of cake companies love to feature your work in their store so remember that these details you are shooting for the couple can also be a good way to make friends with other vendors.
Tip: Once you shoot the important details from the wedding day, utilize wedding photography editing services for consistent images to deliver to your clients.
- Name/table card setup
- Gift table
- Guest Book
- Full Room
- Table setup
- Menu Cards
- Dessert/Sweet Table
Tying it All Together
While these shots are by no means an exhaustive list, they’ll serve as a framework to capturing all the hard work that went into planning for the day. Balancing these images with a mixture of posed and candid moments throughout the day will give you well-rounded coverage that your couple can go back to year after year to relive their memories.
Need to fill some coverage gaps in your gear to be ready for any shooting situation? Head over to our site and rent the gear you need for your next big shoot.
With so many important moments from the wedding day, it’s necessary to understand exactly which ones your couple wants you to capture. Plus, the better you become at shooting details, the more you will have to submit for publishing! Discover additional images you need for the wedding day with our free photography playbook: 127 Essential Wedding Images You Must Capture. Get it today!