How to PHOTOGRAPH a WEDDING

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If you have accepted the responsibility of being THE wedding photographer here are some basic tips.

Apart from the brides mother! The Bride is THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON THERE.

Try to check out the place of marriage and the reception first, look out for attractive features, trees in blossom, statues, fountains, natural stone walls, wooden benches etc. Imagine your subject in these areas, are there any problems? overhead wires, pylons, dumpsters, drain pipes that will appear in the background. If a pre reconnaissance visit is not possible always check the background first before posing your subject. Never have the subject standing against a wall as if they are about to be shot, bring them forward.

Light plays a major factor in a good photo. Bright sunlight bleaches and glares removing all detail and casts ugly shadows. If bright light is the only option use fill in flash to lift the eyes. Preferably if it is not an overcast day look for shady areas as the camera can record much more detail in these conditions.

Sharpness, always focus correctly and where possible use a tripod to remove camera shake. The tripod also stakes your claim to your shooting position and indicates to guests to keep back.

Time management. A wedding is full of stress and some people will cut you little slack, so do not over egg your position. Catch the groom and best man before the wedding likewise the ushers, couples parent(s) and the bridesmaids and page boys. When the bride arrives a couple of shots of her in the car/carriage and with dad helping to disembark. A picture with dad arm in arm and a photo of the bridesmaids 'fussing' about the bride always go down well. Take the bride full length and close up facial shots at this point, take a shot with the veil down as well.

In the church. If you can check prior to the ceremony ask as to what you are allowed to do. Some churches allow photography during the event WITHOUT FLASH.

Try to capture putting on the ring, kissing the bride and of course signing the register(flash usually allowed on the later if mock posed after the signing).

Always take the bride and groom walking down the ISLE (Flash OK). Also take the Bride and Groom in the church doorway (Keep all others out of the shot, if there is another exit, make everyone else leave by it).

Once outside hold on to the bride DO NOT LET HER GO. If the wedding party is large, solicit the help of ushers to control the crowd and to fetch people for the photo's.

MAKE A POINT TO ALL PRESENT THAT A CONFETTI SHOT WILL BE TAKEN AT THE END, SO SAVE THE CONFETTI. This stops little blobs of colour spoiling your posed shots as confetti catches in veils etc. Churches often have rules that confetti is only thrown outside of the church yard.

Traditionally the bride should be on the grooms left (this keeps his right 'sword hand' free to defend her). Take full length shots both frontal and from behind with the pair turned slightly towards each other looking back over their shoulders. Take close ups cheek to cheek, a peck on the cheek and a kiss. Always make sure the dress is spread out evenly and the bouquet is held at waist height and appropriatly to maximise the composition. A close up of the bouquet is also desired.

Add other guests to the bride and groom i.e brides maids etc then Both sets of parents instead, then add grand parents, plus special family and friends, bring back the brides maids and then the whole ensemble, always keep the bride in the centre. Include the Vicar/Priest. Pose big groups in a slight arc and put the men at the back with women and children at the front, don't go too wide as the end result is that faces are very small in the print once you have gone back a distance to get them all in. If there is a higher vantage point such as a wall, window, steps etc shoot down onto the group for the big group shot, then you can have ranks in depth keeping the group square and not wide. If space at the church is restricted is there a village green next door or will the reception venue have better facilities?

There will always be the odd special shot Great Anty Flo, garter shot etc.

NOW DO THE CONFETTI SHOT AT THE GATE/ENTRANCE. Get all of the women gathered around and on 3 get them to throw the confetti up and shower the bride and groom. If you have a motor drive make full use of it here. (By now guests are getting bored and want to get off to the bar, so let them go).

Now you can play around with artistic shots using the bride, bridesmaids etc. Make full use of special features either at the church or usually on the way to or at the reception venue i.e the local park or beauty spot, or even by a local landmark such as the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol. Footbridges over streams, arbors, swings, under a weeping willow, a shot of the bride sitting on the ground with her dress spread out around her etc, just use your imagination.

Take the bride and groom with the car/carriage, holding hands over the bonnet, if an open top standing in the back, if a horse either side of the horses head. Take a picture snuggled together in the back, and also one with the couple looking out of the back.

At the reception record the cake (natural light or bounced flash is best, again for detail) also the toast (posed before the main reception starts), both bride and groom with champagne glasses, and of course the cutting of the cake (pose the picture with the brides hand draped over her husbands (shows off the ring) with a ceremonial sword or large knife resting on the lower tier, getting in as close as you can.

If informal shots are required wait untill a few drinks have been downed as people are more relaxed.

Sometimes fun (cheesy) shots will work ie all the men holding the bride horizontally whilst holding their toppers high in the air (you need to be a good judge of the people in the party as some will love it and some will be offended).

If there are children involved such as in second marriages make sure that they are involved early and made to feel that they are integral to the ceremony.

Up to you how you present the photo's, in a Photo Album , proof sheets or on a CD etc, either way edit your work so that the poor shots are not seen.

Top Tip. Do not pose through the viewfinder, use a tripod and remote release, (only check the initial positioning so that heads are not cut off etc through the lens) this way you have a better chance of spotting the closed eyes, awkward positions and background blemishes.

Now MAKE A WORK LIST, use this guide to plan which shots where and when and also add in your own ideas, Take it with you and discretely refer to it as and when you need to.

Relax and have fun and all will be perfect.

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