Spring and summer are the high season for weddings, and if you’re like most people, you’ll be invited to one. God forbid you’re asked to take the wedding photos, as this tends to produce high anxiety in most people–leave that to the pros. However, you might want to just take some snapshots of your own! The bride and groom will enjoy seeing informal snapshots of the day. In fact, they often place disposable cameras at each table at the reception to encourage people to do this!
Practice with your Digital Camera
You can shoot weddings with your point-and-shoot digital camera, but you should really practice ahead of time. Take pictures of your friends, and get good at being quick-on-the-draw. The action at weddings (and especially receptions) happens quickly and you need to be ready. You can easily miss that once-in-a-lifetime moment if you’re busy fumbling trying to get the red-eye reduction to turn off (and just flash, darn it!). This happened to a friend of mine who missed the moment his son was handed his high school diploma on stage! So if you don’t agree with author Salman Rushdie that it cleanses the soul to accept defeat, better learn how to use that camera!
Positioning yourself for the Optimal Photograph
A key element in getting a great photo is timing. Whether you want candid or posed photos, the advantage is yours if you know ahead of time what events will take place and when. You can then physically position yourself for a good shot of people walking down the aisle, cutting the cake, etc. It’s also good practice to realize that there may be solemn moments (signing the katubah, exchanging vows) when you should keep your camera off! Many times the professional wedding photographer will reenact certain scenes with the participants after the ceremony. This is a great time for the novice photographer to hang out, get some photos, and learn a few things about positioning, lighting, and the equipment involved in the real deal.
No camera is smart enough to take great pictures under all conditions. All automatic cameras take great photos outdoors in the bright sunlight. The wheels fall off when the light becomes more challenging, i.e., when it is relatively dim, like in a church or synagogue. That being the case, you must decide whether you want to use flash or make available-light photographs. Flash is best for natural-looking illumination and stopping action, but it may be a no-no during the ceremony. You should check with the celebrants beforehand. Available-light photography demands high light sensitivity (camera with ISO settings upwards of 1600) and white balance control. Most cameras can adjust white balance for fluorescent or tungsten light (to avoid the respective greenish and orangey hues).
Most digital point-and-shoots have a high ISO limit of 400. Also, these cameras tend to produce noisy mottled images at high ISO settings. Here’s an example of an available-light photo made with a point-and-shoot camera. Just not sensitive enough to bring out much detail in this dimly-lit scene at left. You could do some work on it in a photo-editing program and make it look better (at right), but do you really want to be bothered with all that post-processing work?
What kind of camera is best for wedding photography?
A digital SLR would be best because of its high ISO (light sensitivity of 1600 or 3200), and better image quality at high ISO settings. The drawback with a DSLR is that you can’t really have much more than what amounts to maybe a X4 zoom. Still, some form of image stabilization is preferred. Point-and-shoot cameras boast X10 zooms, but as you’ll see, there are drawbacks.
Zoom in for detail!
Everyone loves to do this since we can’t always be where the action is. However, a X10 zoom requires some sort of image stabilization in the camera. Otherwise, your available-light images can easily be blurred. You’ll always get a better shot if you just walk right up to the person or object and shoot without using the zoom.
Catching the Action at Weddings
Under available light, you’re much better off with a DSLR. At a high ISO setting, you can shoot with aperture wide open and relatively fast shutter speed, say 1/125 second. If you can use flash, point-and-shoots work fine, providing you know how to use the different flash modes. One way to make the most of the “walking down the aisle” action is to shoot the procession head-on. Motion is stopped much easier if the person is walking toward you than across your field of vision.
Outdoor Wedding Photography
In the spring and summer, there’s generally lots of sunlight, so the amateur wedding photographer is in much better shape lighting-wise. Still, there are a few things to keep in mind– unless you’re in the open sunlight, whites will look blue in the shade, and you may still need to shoot at as high an ISO. Also, as you can see that this photo (w10) would have been better if some fill-flash had been used. Post-wedding photos are often shot outdoors in some park. While the professional wedding photographer is positioning people and shooting away, feel free to shoot the scenes from behind the pro. That person is doing a lot of the work for you, but do stay out of the way—someone’s paying the photographer a lot of money by the hour!
Don’t be shy or self-conscious about taking pictures at a wedding. Everyone expects to be photographed!