How to take stunning pictures: Celebrations

This content is 14 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Last week I wrote about Channel 5 Broadcasting’s “How To Take Stunning Pictures” series, including a few tips from the first program on portraiture.  That post provoked some comments suggesting that the programme was encouraging a simple, point-and-shoot approach to photography and missing much of what is required in order to create truly artistic images. Whilst that may be true, for many people a camera is just a tool, and all they want is to produce better results without getting hung up in technical intricacies. And, even though I’ve been wielding a camera for something like 30 years, I’ve still learned something from the programmes that have focused on subjects I would normally shy away from.

The second programme in the series concentrated on celebrations, with tips from wedding photographer Emily Quinton.  Channel 5′s website has some tips to go with each programme, but they don’t exactly match up to the advice in the programme itself so, here are the tips from the second episode:

  • Be prepared: if you’re prepared and you know what doing, you’ll get a better picture… and the artistic side of photography can be used to good effect at a wedding.
  • Let the guests relax: stay back and let the bride and groom have time to themselves; move around, look for special moments in the day’s events, use wide shots for atmosphere, and zoom in for a more intimate shot; avoid using flash to stay unnoticed – and natural light photos can look really special.
  • Watch out for special moments: of course there will be classic bride and groom shots but It’s really easy to be so involved in the wedding that you miss the images that capture the atmosphere of the day. Always look to see what else is going on (that’s why many wedding photographers work with an assistant) and watch to see what’s Grandma doing? Is Mum crying? What’s the flowergirl up to (mischief in the aisles?). Listen too – it can help to identify special moments – for example, if someone is being funny, a punchline will usually come, followed by laughter.
  • Include the venue: capture the place and the context as well as the people – and it tells a nice story in the album
  • Be fast and fun: group shots can be tricky – so work quickly to set up the shots, make people laugh and try and take pressure away from the wedding party and their guests by using no more than 3 minutes for each group, with 1 or 2 ideas for settings. Think wide and zoom in too.
  • Make sure you get the definitive shot – often one picture defines the wedding (usually a portrait of the bride and groom) and it can help to take the bride and groom away from crowds of guests in order to capture these shots. One technique is to take pictures as they are walking along - this tends to provoke natural reactions – but consider other approaches too – shoot through flowers for a different angle, or frame the bride and groom with flowers around the edge of the scene – always using different angles to vary shots.

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