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June 20, 2009 12:02 PM   Subscribe

My dad is going to be the photographer for a family wedding next weekend. He takes great pictures, but he hasn't done a complete wedding before. I've seen some great AskMeFi posts with general advice for this sort of thing, but I'm curious about specific setup shots.

I'm looking for your great ideas about setup shots at weddings.

My dad will be photographing a family wedding next weekend. He has a good eye, and he takes great photos. He's planning to do the basic family shots as well as candids and shots of the locations as time permits.

If you've seen anything outside the usual repertoire of setup shots that has worked well, please tell me about it. Alternatively, if there are any setup shots you'd like to warn against (the one where the photographer wrapped my head and my new husband's head in my veil comes to mind), please let me know about that, too.

A few more details:
- beach wedding
- dinner at a restaurant
- dad won't have an assistant or a second photographer
- dad has a great new camera, but he's still learning about its bells and whistles
posted by TEA to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (18 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Take a look at felixrust.com for some ideas on non traditional wedding photography
posted by Gungho at 12:09 PM on June 20, 2009

Oh, and he should invest in a soft flash filter, extra memory cards, extra battery...Good luck
posted by Gungho at 12:15 PM on June 20, 2009

My sister hired an amateur photographer/friend to do her wedding. He did a fantastic job, but managed to forget to get some essential shots. We all got carried away and didn't realize until the following week. I would suggest your dad bring a list that he reviews with the couple.
posted by funkiwan at 12:15 PM on June 20, 2009

I always like to see over-the-shoulder triplicates, where photographer:

1. takes one image over the shoulder of the father (photographer is facing father's back, but bride's front (face/body)).

2. takes another image, this time bride's back to father's front (his face/body)

3. then moves 90 degrees so they're both in profile, looking at each other, arms extending pre-embrace.

If they're hiring him, I hope he has professional insurance. You're always hearing about photographers getting sued for ruining the brides perfect day, either by incompetence on the day of or by delivering unprofessional photographs of a once-in-lifetime event.

For cover, maybe he should seek out a good book on wedding photography. If it's good, it should have a complete list of traditional setups. He should make sure to capture all of those and then some.
posted by foooooogasm at 12:16 PM on June 20, 2009

Also agree with funkiwan re: bring a list that he reviews with couple beforehand.
posted by foooooogasm at 12:18 PM on June 20, 2009

Look through the wedding photography groups on flickr. There's some good stuff there. It'll help give him an idea of the variety of photos he is likely to take, as well as get him in the mood.
posted by dchrssyr at 12:55 PM on June 20, 2009

Please have him borrow a spare camera from someone.
posted by HuronBob at 1:22 PM on June 20, 2009

It looks like this was pretty well covered previously, not that it can't be covered again. This link from one of the first few comments gives a list of shots/poses.

A few other minor notes from the perspective of someone who has looked at a lot of wedding photos lately, but who has never shot a wedding:
  1. As far as I can tell, weddings can be shot in a more traditional style or a more photojournalist style. To my eye, the traditional style looks really fake ("oh look, the bride is standing alone with some flowers and we've vignetted it..."), but for some reason the sorts of people who plan and pay for weddings seem to really like it. On the other hand, the photojournalist style is also pretty absurd. The sorts of people who take really good photojournalist style pictures tend to be the sort of people who actually are photojournalists, and it feels weird for you to be saying---visually anyway---"my wedding is an important geopolitical event."
  2. At least to my eye, most of the standard shots look pretty cliche and silly. I'm sure if you look at Flickr or wherever you can find pro wedding photos that will quickly introduce you to the standards. That said, do you really want a picture of the flower girl looking curious? A picture of the wedding party jumping? A lone flower on a place setting? That said, maybe other people see these types of shots as novel or exciting or some sort of new traditional style.
  3. If I was shooting a wedding, which I guess I'd be a little hesitant to do, I would have a long conversation (and possibly an initial shoot) with the couple and any other strongly interested parties to find out what they want. There's a lot of room for variance in what people want, what they expect, and what sorts of shots you can do.
Anyway, given all that, I think the important thing is not the shots, but the shots that the people who want the photos want (which is what the conversations and the preliminary shoots tell you).
posted by pbh at 2:04 PM on June 20, 2009

A list of things that need to be taken,
Extra batteries - both for camera and flash.
(extra camera, or someone to call)
A computer to view the photos on quite fast, so there's room to do them again. If it is a newer camera, he can even do some shots "tethered" i. e. from the computer itself.

Remember to take photos both with and without flash, to emphasize the setting, not just the facade.
posted by KimG at 2:17 PM on June 20, 2009

You don't have to do the stock shots. Depends on what the couple likes. And the family, less so. Personally the stock shots are terrible to me. I do them, just to cover the bases, but I try to get them over with.

They are also sort of hard to do initially without practicing them a bunch. They are hard to make look relaxed (although if your dad knows the people that's going to help).

I'd probably have him put his energy towards shooting good candids and simple portraits.

Seriously, think about whether you want to waste all that good eating, drinking and socializing time shooting millions of combinations of bride, groom, grandmother, then grandmother/grandfather, than all grandfathers. Argh. Such a waste. I don't think anyone ends up using those pictures and btw...all your relatives who you never see are there. Don't make the wedding about the photography, make the photography about the wedding.

That's my opinion, obviously. A lot of people want that stuff but I think the best pictures are of family members hanging out and looking nice. A good portrait of the bride and groom just standing there not doing anything stupid is great.

Self linky. My wedding work. Just as an example of what I'm going for. Trying to get interesting things on film...and taking portraits that look natural.
posted by sully75 at 2:47 PM on June 20, 2009

Take lots of images of the parents and of the children, especially if they're related to the bride & groom. Bring a backup camera. Bear in mind that he won't enjoy the wedding - he has to quite emphatically drum it into his head that he's not a guest, but a photographer. It's a full day's work. I do usually manage to get time off to eat though - small mercies!

Umm, lots and lots of memory cards, extra batteries etc. Get an off-camera flash cable if he's intending to use flash, and practise, practise, practise with it. Better to just use ambient light if he can, but without knowing which camera and lens he's using, I have no idea whether that'll be feasible.

Learn the camera, learn the camera, learn the camera. Go and shoot 500 shots a day before the wedding. Just get to grips with it - the last thing you want is technological befuddlement at a wedding.

Have fun if he can, but don't forget to get the important shots. Don't be afraid to get into there and let rip with the motordrive when it's an important moment. They'll thank him for the photos afterwards. Assume a natural authority - he should be decisive.

Try to plan for some portraits of just the bride and groom together in a nice location. Ideally it should be pre-scouted and he should have an idea of how the light's going to fall at various times throughout the day.

Good luck!
posted by Magnakai at 3:36 PM on June 20, 2009

I'm not a professional photographer, but thought I'd share a few thoughts as someone who hired one for my wedding:

-Ask the bride and groom to send you a list of must-have shots (w/parents, cousins, whole family, whatever). Then you can plan ahead and get through these pretty quickly after the ceremony. Do one side and then the other sort of assembly line.

-Ask them if they want to do photos before the ceremony. We opted to, with our wedding party, and it was great. It was fun, relaxed us; we got to go to a beautiful spot a little way from the ceremony/reception spot (w/the GG bridge in the background). The benefits are that you don't keep all your guests waiting around, and depending on the time of day you can get better light before the ceremony. Scope out a good spot nearby. I was surprised and happy to find my photographer had done this, and it all worked out really smoothly. We did some on the beach, and some in the Presidio (SF) in front of a run-down, paint-peeling building. They were awesome.

-Make sure to get candids of the bride and groom together. And them with their siblings, close friends, family. I guess that will be hard without an assistant, but just try to get a wide variety of people. Don't just focus on the cute baby (though one or two of those are good as well).

I don't have any technical advice, obviously, but I do recommend back-up equipment/batteries/whatever.
posted by JenMarie at 5:23 PM on June 20, 2009

Again regarding the shoot list. I did a wedding for a friend (bad idea) and she gave me a list of 20 or so setups she wanted done. Every possible combination of family members. I told her, this is going to take a long time and you are going to have a lot of boring photos...she kept telling me that's what she wanted. I said ok.

Come the day of the wedding...We start doing all the setups. about 4 pictures into it, she says "this is going to take a long time, isn't it?" We ended up doing maybe 10 or so. Which is maybe a good number. I hate these kind of pictures but people like them.

Anyway, I'd be clear...setting these pictures up to look good takes a lot of time. They might not even come out good. So I'd really encourage you to limit the amount of setups you are going to do. Bride and groom portraits are of course great. I love to do a gigantic group shot with everyone at the wedding. Bride and grooms families together. Wedding party, seperately shot where the bride and groom are getting dressed, and then all together right after the ceremony. Everything else...jeesh. I don't know. These pictures tend to be pretty boring. I'd rather spend the time having them get their wedding on and take good pictures doing that.

Good luck!
posted by sully75 at 6:36 PM on June 20, 2009

Y'all rock! Thanks! Keep 'em coming!
posted by TEA at 7:25 PM on June 20, 2009

Don't forget to do ones of just the bride and groom, in a formal full-body pose. We had random friends do our wedding, and there's pictures of us with every possible combination of relatives, but only a few candids of *just* us.
posted by notsnot at 7:48 PM on June 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

Inspiration here and here -- because I think sometimes the best wedding shots capture the feel of the day, not the look of the day.
posted by peagood at 8:19 AM on June 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

Ask the bride and groom if there are specific shots they want. Also, check to see if there are special family members. At a wedding, the whole family is present, dressed up/cleaned up, and it's a great time to get family photos, esp. of the Grammie, great-Gran, Mom, Bride variety. Try to be fast, and allow others to snap the formal shots; it's good backup. Get a shot of the cake, the flowers, and any nifty details.
posted by theora55 at 12:55 PM on June 21, 2009

He takes great pictures ... dad has a great new camera, but he's still learning about its bells and whistles

Sorry to be a buzzkill, but be prepared for failure. A wedding is not a time to be learning a new camera. "Bells and whistles" on a camera are totally useless and if he's still worried about the "bells and whistles" I fear for the final pictures. A couple nikon slr's have a built-in wireless flash sync; that's a whistle that's worth something. Some cameras have a trap-focus function that's useful in making sure a moving baseball thrown directly at the camera is in sharp focus while everything else is not; that's a useful bell, but only in very limited situations. Other than that, all of the other modes and gadgets built into most cameras get in the way of taking a picture properly exposed for the end result. Enough of that rant....

The difference between filling your duty as a wedding photographer and "taking great pictures" is like the difference between being a stand-up comedian and being able to tell a funny story at a party. Regardless of his mood, the mood of his subjects, the lighting indoors, the condition of his equipment (brand new camera that "he's still learning" means if it throws the equivalent of an Err -99 in the middle of the shoot, for instance, he won't know what to do), etc., he needs to be able to take the pictures required and take them well. Sometimes this means familiarity with equipment, sometimes this means persevering through the attitudes of a million people telling him how to take pictures and of whom, sometimes this means dealing with bad weather, etc. And by all of that, I mean that he needs to be able to take fantastic pictures when everything is going wrong around him. Also, he should be prepared to not participate in the wedding at all. In order to take the pictures he needs or that the client wants, he might be hard-pressed to find time for a bathroom break or a snack to keep his energy up. If he's covering the wedding well, he probably won't remember anything that happens in the ceremony, just because he's too busy covering it. Also, he should remember that good pictures happen both when people are busy and when people are not. There's a tendency for beginning photographers to stop taking pictures when the main event appears not to be going on, but it's in those in-between moments when everybody's guard comes down that the true character of the people and their event shine through.

Being able to take a few good pictures does not equal being a good wedding photographer. Rather, like any other photographic job, doing it well means being able to take and deliver pictures in spite of everything that can and will go wrong. He needs a second camera, in case the first fails, for instance. He needs to be prepared to take pictures in a darkened cave (which is what many churches (or, in this case, the restaurant) resemble; lighting tends to be awful, which throws off both the ability to focus and the ability to freeze motion; as the focal length of a lens increases, you need a brighter light source in order to assure a sharp frame, by the way), etc. And then, he's got to make sure he's got enough variety of shots on multiple camera cards in case one becomes corrupted before he gets the pictures off of it. And then, he's got to get the pictures edited/toned/etc. in a reasonable amount of time (a wedding photographer friend of mine recently estimated that she spends upwards of 80 hours of work on a single wedding shoot, from meeting the client to delivering the pictures and products (book, prints, album, etc.)). Remember, with weddings, there are no second chances.

None of this is easy, and that's why wedding photographers get paid a pretty penny.
posted by msbrauer at 1:04 AM on June 23, 2009

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