I haven’t exactly been quietly spoken about the role wedding photographers play. I’m pretty open about how I believe the most honest, most real images come from photographers who find beauty in what unfolds in front of them, rather than forcing to create it. But candid wedding images aren’t easy to take. In fact, they’re really hard. Learning how to tell a story of an image in one single frame becomes a delicate balance of camera settings, light, right place, right time. But there’s one thing I constantly ask myself that helps to create these images. There’s one thing that I come back to time and time again that tells the story. This mantra is what I ask myself over and over at weddings to create images that feel intimate, real, like you’re there with them. This is my best tip for the candid wedding photographer.
Where is this story unfolding? What is it unfolding into?
Here it is, my secret weapon in the photography industry. This is the #1 question I ask myself every 15 seconds on a wedding day, the question above all else that helps me to be in the right place at the right time for so many images.
What happens next? And where do I want to be when that happens?
It’s a no-brainer, right? You might be thinking, “duh, Makayla, I write a timeline with them. I know what happens next.” But that’s not what I’m referring to.
There are things that unfold at weddings that aren’t on the timeline. There are natural emotional progressions and the “unexpected” and everything else that can’t be put on a timeline. Learning how to anticipate these feelings and where they play out is the key to creating images with intention.
What are they seeing right now? What can I sense they’re feeling?
Reading the room is one of the most important pieces of documentary work. It’s easy to believe that documentary work is all about capturing all the smiles and happy tears and getting into the root of the emotion and that’s partly true – but even more so, it’s about creating space for all the emotions, not just the positive or widely accepted ones.
Who are the key players? What is their relationship with this event? Is the couple staying away from the cocktail hour because they need space? Are they in the center of the dancefloor? How can you frame those stories with composition and intention?
The muscle of anticipating and witnessing takes a long time to tone.
But by practicing and asking yourself these questions over and over, you’ll start to gain a better understanding of what happens next. And that is the key to creating incredible images that go deeper than the ones before it.
Being a successful documentary photographer isn’t just about reacting to what’s happening in the moment. It’s about knowing what’s going to happen next, and being exactly where you want to be for accurately capturing that fleeting second.
Have a tip for the candid wedding photographer to share?
Have you practiced your candid images? Are there questions you’ve learned to ask yourself at these events? Have a tip for the candid wedding photographer to share? Share your insight and tips below!
P.S. Looking for more photography education? I have a whole blog category dedicated to it! Read more in the For Photographers category.