Jeff Newsom of San Luis Obispo, CA, (jeffnewsom.com) finds that careful lens selection and composition can add interest to a wedding scene that on the surface may appear bland. “I explore a lot at every wedding I shoot,” he says. “I’ve found over time that I favor getting closer with a wider lens than standing back with a telephoto. It gives me a natural sense of being close to the subject.”
This technique gives him a chance to showcase a bride, say, by separating her from the background through defocus or by using a low camera angle to eliminate background clutter. He also prefers strong backlighting to wash out a background.
Seeing the Mise en Scene
Given how much couples (or their parents) usually spend on lighting, flowers, food, music, and all the other expenditures that make up a wedding, the photographer can’t neglect them. You should always capture the venue in wide, establishing shots; get close-ups of table settings, floral arrangements, and the bride’s gown, as well as other macro views.
Ira Lippke approaches the big picture the way a landscape photographer would. “I love landscapes,” he says. “The wide establishing shots of the wedding venue are a critical part of telling the wedding’s story. Personally, my favorite environmental images have people in them, but we get the undisturbed venue before guests arrive, too.”
Technique is crucial, Lippke adds. “There’s an art to bringing out the character and detail of the whole scene in a beautiful way. For me it’s about finding the best camera angle to produce a beautiful composition, and then deciding on the best exposure. I think about whether I want to utilize a slow shutter speed to create some movement blur that would show a human presence without that particular person being distracting, or if I want the entire scene in sharp focus.”
Have an Assistant
Being able to focus on both the big picture and the intimate moments that constantly, yet unpredictably, arise during a typical wedding means that this kind of photography is really a two-person job. Having an assistant isn’t a luxury. For dozens of reasons, it’s a necessity. Almost all the pros shown here work with “a sideman”—their coverage is strictly a tag-team effort.
“Immediately before the ceremony I meet with my associate photographer, and we make our game plan of how we are going to capture the different aspects of the ceremony and how the layout of the scene would be best photographed,” explains Lippke. “Usually one of us stays up front to document what is happening at the altar, while the other works on capturing the big picture view. For the reception and cocktails we take turns covering what is happening while the other photographer spends some time exploring details and the environment.”
Craig Fritz, who with his wife Kitty makes up Twin Lens Images in rural New Mexico (twinlensimages.com), stresses the importance of developing your own, unique pictorial style.
“Lately, we have been making a concerted effort to stay off of wedding blogs and look at fewer wedding magazines,” he says. “Not because we don’t enjoy looking at the great work out there, but because we recognize that when you inundate yourself with that type of imagery, you can begin to see other photographers’ themes, techniques, and photos in the scene you’re attempting to photograph. We very much want to do our own thing, see our own way, and so this is one way we’re attempting to keep ourselves visually fresh.”