Wedding season is upon us!
For those not frantically planning a wedding, maybe you're frantically trying to remember all the weddings you've RSVP'd to this summer. More stressful yet, maybe you're like me: intricately planning (i.e. freaking out) about how not to miss a single shot!
Fortunately for myself, Megan & Tyler chose the Omaha Lauritzen Botanical Gardens as their engagement and wedding location and it's a photographer's dream!
But, since even the best locations can't make up for bad technique, I wanted to share the first few peeks of this couples wedding aesthetic while demonstrating 5 Pro Tips on how to avoid missed opportunities, blurry subjects and bland poses.
Here's how to remain in the moment while capturing it!
TIP 1: relax
Maybe, but I promise you need the reminder--I still do. I always start off by telling the couple (and myself) they can relax as I "fine-tune my settings" or "take some test shots." While I usually am doing these things, it's a professional opportunity to give yourself some time.
Remember, you're the professional.
Being confident enough to pause reminds the couple you know what you're doing. It's never supposed to be chaotic or stressful, even when it is. Your clients are always looking to you for guidance, so always remain easy going and give them a basic plan of your ideas. Speak softly, clearly and confidently. Your demeanor is a huge factor in building trust, so be mindful. Being relaxed rubs off so that they can let their guard down a little, be themselves and focus on each other!
TIP 2: no zoom or wide angle lenses
While your 18-55mm kit lens or trusty wide-angle-for-everything lens are reliable for capturing decent shots of a variety of scenes, this shoot has one purpose: beautifully composed stills of a very specific subject. This is no place for a wide angle lens. Moreover, a prime lens will slow you down, make you step back, and force you to really think about composition.
Remember, you're a lifestyle photographer!
You're there to observe and record organic moments, a big part of that is not being an overbearing presence. Choose a lens that lets you to work within the space you're given, but still allows you to take a step back. Let the couple exist within their own cute, lovey bubble. You want to be the fly on the wall, not the one buzzing around their heads!
A longer lens (an 85mm or above) allows the couple room so they can be themselves. Because how else do you capture the unique footprint of a couple in love?
TIP 3: give them something to do
Your subjects aren't models--they are usually not 100% comfortable in front of the camera and every few minutes they need to be distracted. These moments, while they are fixing their jewelry or looking back at their partner as they run down a path, are the ones you want to look for.
Little directions like, "give him a kiss," "tell her you love her," "can you fix her/his hair?" are simple, fast, and just open ended enough to open a world of possibilities for the shot. But stop the instructions there--the rest is in the moment. My philosophy is this:
"You as a photographer want to remain the director of the shoot but you don't want to stifle the personalities of the subjects. Give them simple, one sentence directions and don't be afraid to say, 'okay, we need to do that again!'"
Those moments between the awareness of the camera, while they are focused on the task or each other, are the moments a lifestyle photographer has to become good at not only producing, but recognizing. With that kind of situational awareness and balance of direction vs. passiveness, you can easily get photos like the ones below.
All this motion leads to my next tip--
TIP 4: don't shoot below f/2.8
I know. It's super tempting. Shooting at that f/1.4 or f/1.8 gives that oh-so-dreamy bokeh blur and compensates for a lack of light--but don't. Here's why:
Your subjects--and you--are constantly moving. A wide f-stop means is that your depth of field is narrower the smaller the number gets. While the background blur will be buttery soft, it's really likely that everything else will be too. If you are at f/1.8 you have only a couple inches depth of field (the range of what is in focus), so unless you're shooting flowers on a tripod in a windless greenhouse, this is usually just not enough. That said, don't go above f/5 either; you'll lose light, lens speed and background blur. Between f/2.8 and f/4 is perfect.
"If you're shooting two living subjects, it's likely you'll need a couple feet depth of field to account for both their faces and some room for error as they move around and interact. Remember, if you want organic, you have to give yourself room to move." Check out this cool depth calculator and plan your next shoot!
Now what if you're just trying to compensate for lack of light? Try again. This time, bump your ISO. I know a lot of experienced photographers who just refuse to shoot above ISO 800; they're scared of noise and think its bad practice! I promise you, it's not. Shoot at ISO 2000 if you have to, modern sensors are strong enough to still produce almost no noise at this ISO and even if it does, it will only show in your true blacks. Unless you're shooting in complete darkness, this shouldn't be an issue. Expose for your mid-tones and seriously consider investing in a monopod. It eliminates motion blur in tricky lighting situations. I use this one. It was $20 at Best Buy and seriously was a best damn buy.
TIP 5: incorporate your surroundings
So you spent hours thinking of and scouting out the perfect location for your shoot--but you get home and all your photos are close ups of the couple's faces with no atmospheric texture!
"Don't get so caught up in shooting the couple that you forget to place them in the context of the scene."
Finding angles between fences and water reflections, between flowers, grasses, door frames and windows, will place the subjects in an atmosphere. This takes your photography from simple portraiture to lifestyle magic; it's the framing between blurry petals and leaves that makes photos feel spontaneous and happenstance, like you stumbled upon your subjects accidentally. Intentionally play with depth of field, it adds texture, depth and interest!
And maybe the most important thing to remember is to laugh. Have fun, compliment your clients, interact with them and always remain excited about the shoot. Passion is contagious!