There’s clearly an art to capturing informal, spontaneous wedding photos without them looking either too messy or too posed. The very best informal images have a lively or tender “just captured the moment” feel to them. Done badly, it can appear as if the whole thing was staged & people look uncomfortable, or they can look like someone’s just clicked away randomly & there’s no focus to the shot – it isn’t telling a story.
With informal wedding photography becoming increasingly popular, we thought it would be really interesting to ask a professional photographer for their insights and tips on capturing spontaneous wedding photos. We were delighted when blog buddie Marion Frances of Photography by Marion Frances offered to tell us more about the art of spontaneous photography from behind the lens.
Marion Writes …
Informal wedding photography is becoming increasing poplar. More and more couples see it as a way of recording their day without any disruption. Giving them time to enjoy the company of their friends and family. Stimulated by a myriad of great images on Pinterest and other social media sites their expectations are often very high.
So what is the art to capturing these moments in time well, without them looking staged? It is about capturing people unawares but still with a relevance to the story you are telling. It is about producing a great shot that is well composed and does not look like someone has just randomly clicked away with no thought or personal input.
What Makes a Good Spontaneous Image?
Firstly I took a look at others work, on-line website galleries, Pinterest, Facebook and so on. What is it that I liked about the pictures? How have they framed it, what angle have they shot from, what are the subjects doing that makes it a good image? I learned a lot from others work, I’m not saying I tried to copy them but it helped me to understand how to tackle my own work and get good results.
I then needed to think about my equipment. A small camera is going to be best as it will allow you to shoot from the hip; basically carrying it as though you are not using it and getting shots of people without them realising. A telephoto lens is also a must, as it will allow you stand well away from your intended subject and hopefully snap away without them seeing you but still maintain that feeling of intimacy.
A lens with a wide aperture will mean any objects in the foreground will be softly focused and will not draw the eye away from your intended subject. If possible I shoot without using the flash, as this will obviously draw attention to you and what I am doing.
Telling The Story of The Day
When I first started out trying to master the technique I took as many pictures as I could. Trying different viewpoints, positions and compositions. Learning what works and what does not. Slowly but surely I developed my own technique and style. When I was choosing pictures to give to my couple; deciding what is good and what is not then took my time. I looked at the composition and crop if necessary. I removed distracting objects like red litterbins or half a person on the edge of the picture.
Lastly I picked images that help to tell the story of the day, that show people interacting and enjoying themselves. I picked out the ones that show real emotion, the bride looking at her father as she reaches the alter, the groom’s mum shedding a tear and the inevitable embarrassment of the groom during the best man’s speech. I ditched the ones where no one looks engaged and everyone looks miserable.
With a few years experience I am able to use a more targeted approach rather than firing a ‘scatter gun’ and hoping for the best. I walk in to a room or area first, I look at who is sitting where, what they are doing, which way are they facing and seeing if they are key-players in the day for example bridesmaids or the parents.
I look for animated groups or couples and people doing something which totally takes their attention and is interesting. Once I have done this I have an idea who I would like to try to shoot.
The Art of Blending In
Next I to work out where it’s best to stand. If the room is large enough I will use a telephoto lens and stand as far away as possible. I never stare at my intended subjects for too long; that sixth sense always tells them you are there! I look around the room with a cursory glance now and again in their direction. If they look like they have spotted me then I make out like others are my intended target and they soon relax.
Whilst I am doing this I am framing the shot in my head so when everything is perfect then the shot is in the bag! Once I have my picture I move on, if I have been there for a while and the guests are spread out then I will move rooms.
Feeling Comfortable With your Wedding Photographer
Most importantly it is all about your relationship with the couple and the guests. I like to fit in an unobtrusive way. I spend time with my couples before the wedding day, including a pre-wedding shoot. By the time we get to the wedding day I want them to feel totally comfortable with me so much so that they do not actually take any notice of my and what I am doing.
If I have a chance to meet anyone else before the day, for example at the wedding rehearsal then that helps too. During the day I mingle with the guests, chatting with those who want to chat and I love it when the couple tell me having me there was like having another guest.
Capturing a Tender Moment
Having built a good relationship with my couple I have their trust and when I am alone with them for pictures I find a suitable place and I leave them to enjoy each other’s company. I then wander with my telephoto lens and take pictures from different viewpoints. With the bride and groom feeling so comfortable with me it makes for some great candid shots where their attention is focused completely on each other.
All images courtesy of Photography by Marion Frances