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Get in There!

Years and years ago, I had no confidence when it came to being in front of people at weddings. So, I hid behind my mom’s skirt and used photojournalism as a crutch. I would tell clients that I won’t be in their face, I won’t be obstructive, you won’t even know I’m there. I was afraid of portraits because I didn’t want to be the center of attention for that short 30 minutes or hour of their day. Let me tell you I am SUPER glad I got over myself and manned up! I now see what a disservice that was to my clients as well as to myself.

Here’s the advice I have for doing right by your wedding couples, and in turn, being a better photographer – which equals more clients, which equals more money, and yes I want a commission. This is just my opinion, and yeah yeah, I know others do things their way, but those that are mousy little wallflowers simply need to be told to buck up. So here’s whatcha do :

• Get in closer. CLOSER!
A few times during the day, it’s ok to use a long zoom lens all stealth like. But usually not. During a religious ceremony, is one. Maybe during an intimate moment between the bride and groom when you don’t want to interrupt with shutter clicks. But really, that’s about it.
- Get as close as you can during the ceremony without getting looks from the church lady. If the JOP says you can go wherever you want, go wherever you want! My goal here is to get an angle that the guests can’t from their seats.

- Get right in the middle of the Hora or the Soul Train danceathon. Get right in there with the dancing guests. Sing along if you have to, you’ll feel more like you belong in there. Whatever you do, don’t shoot dancing from a distance. It makes me sad. Using a smaller, wider lens will help you here. Like the 24mm vs the 24-70. You’ll take up less room in the crowded, sweaty group.
- If you have trouble getting in close, or feel like zooming in is your crutch, avoid zoom lenses. I feel they inhibit creativity anyway. A prime makes you walk in closer to zoom, therefore changing your angle and perspective.

Now I’m talking about formals.

• Move into better light.
Your client says they absolutely must have their wedding party photos in front of the shiny, bright, midday sun pool at noon. You’re the professional, you know they’ll be squinting, you know the shadows will be harsh, so tell them bluntly that this is what it will be, and if they still want squints and shadows, awesome. But if they don’t understand that, tell them you are moving them over there, under the cabanas where there is shade and that you can always return to the pool when the light is better. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve heard “But they really wanted this view, and so that’s why they all look like they’re in pain”. It’s your job to tell them it’s not going to work, and move them. Come back later.

• Be a stylist.
Stray hairs in a bride’s eyes, leaves on her wedding dress, the groom’s jacket is bulging out like he’s a football player, the bridesmaid’s dress strap hanger things are sticking out of her dress, mom is holding her camera, dad is holding his beer. This is the time to walk over to the group, speak up, and physically move items into better place. When I was first starting out, I assisted a photographer and he jokingly called me his stylist. I was the one who would walk over and fluff the bride’s gown, and yes… put the bouquets around it. It was 1996, forgive me. But I learned to keep an eye out for the little details that will ruin a good portrait and eat up your time in post.

• Try again.
You’re not feeling a location, the groom needs a drink, the bride is stressed out, the wind is blowing the wrong direction – get out of there. Change the scenery. Tell them it’s not working. Tell them you’re not getting the shots you want, and try again somewhere else, maybe at another time of the day. Don’t push a bad situation in hopes that some miracle will happen.

• And again.
First looks are great, but where I live (on an island with little shade) shooting all the bride/groom portraits at noon does not really appeal to me. Sure some bright light is fun for effect and shadows, I love it in small increments. But to get the mood and look I want, I will always ask for a second portrait break about a half hour prior to sunset. I tell my couples this well in advance and again during the first look. I’ll say “I know you’ll be eating your lobster at 7:30, but I’m pulling you out for some more relaxed portraits with beautiful light then, or after sunset for night shots when you’re less stressed”. They can’t argue with that!

• Move them!
Guests with cameras during formals. Bless their hearts. They just want instant gratification, who can blame them? But it’s not out of place for you to say, “Hey Aunt Jane, take a couple photos real quick and then stand over there. I’ll take it from here”. Don’t be a meanie, just explain that they’re on your toes and no one knows where to look, so no one wins. It’s an annoying situation when this happens but you can’t ignore them and you can’t be pushy. You have to be firm and direct, with a smile. Always with a smile.

• Speak up.
Do you know who Cousin Jennifer on Bill’s side is? No, of course not, but the couple claims she’s the most important guest and she’s traveled from Rio to get here. This is why giving the photographer portrait lists kill me. I always tell my clients to elect a point person to take care of finding these people for me, but when they neglect to I talk to the couple’s parents. Know their names, congratulate and compliment them. Be their friend. They will pay you back by helping you out during formals, if you ask. If they’re stubborn or too shy, find the loudest groomsman or bridesmaid to rally the troops for you. Bonus, they’ll ham it up for you once they loosen up during the reception. Guaranteed.

Being a ninja is one thing. It’s a great thing. I happen to know 5 ninjas, all of them are ShootStyle members. They get the shot through any means. They have balls. And now, I do too. But you can’t be a quiet ninja. You have to vocalize, you have to command, it’s your duty to make the most of the situation politely yet effectively in order to win at the game of wedding photography. Really, what’s the worst that could happen if you are a little bit in their faces during the wedding day? They hired you, they know you’re there. ;)

~ Zofia

About zofia

zofia has written 22 post in this blog.

Zofia is a Nantucket Wedding Photographer who combines style, love and art in everything she creates. She wants to be the girl with the most cake.


arrow4 Responses

  1. Holly
    26 mos, 2 wks ago

    What a great blog!! Something I’ve not heard a lot of photographers talk about! And really helpful to hear that you let them know when things aren’t working….I’m always afraid to say that a location just isn’t working…my fear is that the couple is under the impression that I’m a professional so I should be able to make any situation work! ahhh breath of fresh air! Thank you!

  2. Admin
    26 mos, 2 wks ago

    You’re so welcome! It’s far more professional to admit something isn’t working and move on to another place that suits you all better. Don’t ever be afraid to speak up. :)

  3. 26 mos, 2 wks ago

    Great post. Great great post. I’m usually right in there for the dance stuff (sometimes dangerously so, ha), but I’ve never ventured inside the circle… sage advice, tempted to give it a crack.

  4. 26 mos, 2 wks ago

    Amen to “move into better light.”

    The time when we fit formal photos into the schedule of the wedding day has zero to do with when the light is “right” in front of the ocean. It has everything to do when it’s most convenient to capture fresh makeup, perfect hair and clothes that haven’t been dirtied and wrinkled yet.

    If you want flattering photos right now, the light is really flattering in the shade, under the trees, inside that picture window, on that porch. If you want nice, flattering photos in front of the ocean, meet me back here right before sunset when the light in this spot will be magical.