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Guest Shot

December 7th, 2011  |  Published in Featured, Shoot


If a wedding were a movie, the bride and groom would be starring in the leading roles. They’ll get most of the closeups and the camera will linger on them throughout the day. We’ll also see other supporting members of the cast as they interact the couple or react to the unfolding events. Then there are some people in the movie we’ll barely see at all, but they play important visual role of populating the universe of the film. Without them, the feature film wedding would merely be an short subject elopement. That’s why I often go out of my way to create photos that include wedding guests as part of the composition.

As wedding photographers, we all shoot the guests. We often try to get a shot of as many guests’ faces as possible for the bride and groom. Those shots are important but they’re not quite what I’m getting at now. And to be clear, I’m not also talking about shots like this:

Boston Wedding Photographer

Almost every set of wedding photos has establishing shots like the one above, and they often include guests. Overviews like this have their role to play in setting the scene, but they’re not particularly compelling. I want to include guests in the action, without detracting from the stars. I’m talking more of a shot like the one below:

Boston Wedding Photographer

Although you don’t see a single face, the guests are active participants in this scene and amplify the emotion of the best man’s toast. See how much less interesting the shot would be if it were just the cleanly framed shot of the toast-giver:

Boston Wedding Photographer

There is nothing terribly wrong with the shot of the best man alone and I’ll probably take shots with similar framing, but it’s not very cinematic. During the wedding I look for opportunities I can exploit to bring guests into the action. One of the most common times I find these opportunities is during the ceremony.

Getting these guest shots can be a little counter-intuitive as many of us are trained to look for unobstructed angles on the couple at the alter. Invariably, this means we are in the aisle. Let’s face it, the aisle is great for a couple of reasons: it serves up the action perfectly centered, and we’re not blocking anyone’s view. The shot below is a perfect example.

Boston Wedding Photographer

But what if we leave the comfort of the aisle, move a little to the left, and break out the telephoto? We can often get shots like this:

Boston Wedding Photographer

This angle has the same content as the aisle shot but the feeling is different. From this more voyeuristic angle we see the couple as they’re being watched by the guests. For most people, it’s both rare and uncomfortable to do anything front of an audience and this angle make us more aware of that undertone. Shooting just over the top of the guests’ heads mimics the perspective of a guest in the 4th row, giving the viewer the visceral sense that they too are there in the moment. Is there anything better than having a viewer connect with your photography?

And if you can capture the moment of peak action at an angle which puts the viewer into the scene as a guest, then you may just be rewarded with a shot worthy of your portfolio.

Boston Wedding Photographer

Try incorporating the guests into the action in a few shots at your next wedding!

PS: Share your best guest shot over on ShootStyle’s Facebook page. I’d love to see it!

About Earl Christie

Earl Christie has written 40 post in this blog.

Earl is a Boston wedding photographer who finds love and magic and wonder in everything he shoots.


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