Just because you've taken hundreds of party pictures with friends and aced a Photography 101 course in college doesn't mean you know all the secrets to getting the best, most unique photos. We asked the experts to share their wedding-day wisdom by telling us about their favorite cool photo techniques and tools.
Keeping your wedding party standing in a straight line for formal portraits does not always make for the prettiest pictures. Would it hurt to be a little adventurous?
A Must-Have: Variety
To capture a rich variety of colors, textures, and tones, ask your photographer to use a variety of films -- black-and-white and color -- at different speeds. Sometimes certain film types and lighting techniques are more flattering or dramatic than others. Even if you think you'll want only color images, consider adding black-and-white photos to your coverage. Not only is it trendy to have a variety of films, it's also the safest way to ensure all emotions and elements are recorded. In other words, while color is perfect for capturing the true beauty of the weather, your bouquet, and the details in your custom-made tablecloths, black and white will capture the emotion, intimacy, and intensity of your ceremonial kiss, your first dance, and that hug from your grandmother.
There are two techniques topping the charts of cool wedding photography: cross-processing and the use of grainy film. Cross-processing is a technique that heightens the intensity of colors in the images and even tweaks them to be a little off-key... in a good way. (Think Andy Warhol.) It's great for outdoor scenes full of rich color: Since you're aware that the sky is blue and the grass is green, when the sky becomes a rich purply color, you'll know it's not a mistake. Grainy film lets your photographer create artistic photos in low-light situations without having to rely heavily on flash photography. The result is an image where you can literally see the graininess. It works best in black-and-white and ends up looking a little like "old-fashioned photo meets Impressionist painting." You'll want some more traditional images too, so use these alternatives with caution...maybe for just one or two rolls of film.
Ask your photographer to use infrared film to re-create your fairy-tale wedding in your portraits. This film records light waves just below the visible spectrum, which creates an ethereal picture by spreading a white glow over warm areas of a photo. It's best outdoors where steamy sun rays will yield sexy shots. Make sure your photographer snaps one of these hazy pictures if you like a dreamy look. Try something romantic, albeit a tiny bit cheesy: you on a swing hanging from a tree in your parents' backyard; holding hands walking away from the camera in a field full of flowers; running off barefoot into the sunset.
Use the environment. After all, there's a reason you chose to marry where you did. Whether it's a huge oak tree in the courtyard of the fanciest hotel in the city or on the city streets in the bustling downtown area where your childhood church is located, the natural environment and the objects around you -- kids playing hockey in the street, historic statues or bridges, street signs, buses full of tourists -- will create a colorful and playful palette. It's an opportunity to capture the essence of life going on around you on your VID (very important day), something you might miss while caught up in wedding-day doings.
Looking for something to rock your world? Try the tool that music-video directors have been using for years: the fish-eye lens. This wide-angle lens records more than the normal vista, spanning the spectrum from floor to ceiling and everything in between, all in one shot. Because the lens is putting more in the frame, the angle of view is distorted from what our eyes normally see, creating rounding at the corners (sort of liking looking out from a fishbowl). Fish-eye can be really cool in the hands of the right photographer, but we don't recommend using a fish-eye lens for the majority of your photos -- just to spice some of them up a bit.
Get Into the Groove
Don't stop moving -- get those smooth moves on film! Forget about stopping to pose -- just keep moving. A camera set at a low shutter speed, letting the action run by, creates a photo where images are intentionally blurry. This is a definite do, especially when you and your wedding party are giving it your all while doing the cha-cha.
Line it Up
Keeping your wedding party standing in a straight line for formal portraits does not always make for the prettiest pictures. Would it hurt to be a little adventurous? Consider some carefree alternatives where everyone is a little offbeat. Something so simple as the group of guys and gals trotting toward the camera will make great photos. No two people will look alike, and no one is likely to be able to keep a straight face. It's a good way to photograph people's personalities.
Strike a Pose?
If you've hired a photojournalist, don't stop and pose each time you sense a camera pointed your way. The photographer was attracted to whatever you were doing and is trying to capture the true spirit of your day, not a pose. Therefore, it's best to let your families know that you've hired a candid photographer so that they're not constantly asking him or her to take posed photos. A good photographer will capture the dazzling drama on film, whether you are smiling from ear to ear with your wedding party or you're caught smirking in your seat after hearing some embarrassing words from the best man's toast.
On the Horizon
Don't obsess about the background. Lighting is much more important than a backdrop. A photojournalist's look hinges on capturing a natural mood, so natural light is preferred. If there's a portrait shot being taken, the people are the main focus, so sometimes photographers will blur out the background to increase the emotion and interactions between people. Granted, we have seen some fabulous shots marred by the unfortunate position of an exit sign, but let the photographers worry about that -- that's their job.
CONTRIBUTORS: Elizabeth Grubb, E photography, Minneapolis, MN; Dorie Hagler and Guy Ambrosino, shoot-the-cake photography, New York, NY and Santa Fe, NM; Faith West, Faith West Photography, Philadelphia, PA; Cathy Gorey, Images by Cathy, Reston, VA; Willi Wong, Willi Wong Photography, New York, NY; George Fiala, George Fiala Photography, Dallas, TX
Wedding Photo + Wedding Video