As a photographer, there are both privileges and responsibilities placed on my shoulders. Sometimes, I get to skate around the heavy lifting simply for the fact that I’m holding onto a camera. At other times, I’d rather be taking a nap, but I’ve been volunteered for a photo shoot. Sure, maybe I can do anything in Photoshop. But… on the other hand… now it’s basically common practice to take the group shot for the employees of the family business when several members of the group are missing – with the expectation that I’ll be able to just ‘put them in later’. And, of course, almost anyone will believe anything you say if you add, “-because the light will be better.” That’s power, right there, my friend. Real power. But with great power comes great responsibility, and, of course there is the greatest burden of all: the shoot of a lifetime.
Granted, it might not be /my/ lifetime, but when it’s someone’s wedding – it’s might very well be the pictures they treasure for the rest of their lives.
Ahem. That being said, there was a wedding at the family business this last week, and I’d been volunteered as the photographer for the shindig. I ganged up with a few other photography enthusiasts for the event, but I thought I should bequeath the blogosphere with a few tips for the picture-of-someone-else’s-lifetime type of shots.
- Meter beforehand. Seriously. Throw your camera into manual, get your test shots down pat, and get your settings /set/. Relying on your camera’s presets means that a woman in a white dress will throw off the amount of light it tries to let in. It might mean that walking in a shadow to take a shot will blur /everything/ because you had it on an aperture preset instead of a shutter preset. SET EVERYTHING, and preferably use a high enough quality camera that you can make any corrections in Photoshop. Don’t let your camera dictate whacky saturation or effects – do that afterward with software that was better designed for the task.
- Try to be not in charge of anything else. If you’re the photographer, BE THE PHOTOGRAPHER, and let the coordinator hold the radio, the DJ hold the iPod, and the bride hold the bouquet. It’s not always possible, but if you can delegate any of your responsibilities which don’t include taking awesome photos, then you should. I was given far more tasks than I should have liked for this event last week, and the quality of my pictures suffered. Not so much that anyone would notice, mind, while they were supplemented with the photos of the other two photographers, but my point still stands.
- Get out of the way. No one likes an event where the photographer is in the middle of a party with a strobing flash while yelling, “ONE, TWO, THREE, CHEESE!!!” Stay in the background, stay out of sight if you can, and wait to get your portraits until the main event is over. And for the Love Of Frozen Yogurt, TURN OFF ANY UNNECESSARY BEEPING, CLICKING, or LIGHTS on your camera. You are not the star of the show. Your SLR is not the star of the show. Your new superpower should be invisibility. Now, put that in your tea and sip it.
- Make time for the non-candids. If there are to be proper portraits at this once-in-a-lifetime event, try to arrange them at a time when everyone is expecting there to be proper portraits. Be quick, be efficient, be flattering, and take quick, multiple shots to make sure you get one with eyes open and smiles glowing. The same rules as other portraits/group shots. This is the only time you are allowed to be bossy. Call for them to look at you, smile, smile differently, rearrange themselves, go away, or whatever you need. Then go back to being invisible.
- Get the random bird. Before this wedding, someone joked with me that I ought to take some random nature photos, like a bird on the fence – just to confuse the clients when they were looking at everything later. We laughed. I didn’t do it. But it got me thinking, and I ended up getting my favorite shot of the day by focusing on something that /wasn’t/ the main event. You’ll be tempted to go for the money shot with every click of the shutter, but don’t forget to take in the 360 view. Look for what the client will see, what the client will remember, and try to get a few of the details of the day.
- Capture more than the event. Go ahead and get the shot that captures all the joy, all the grandeur, all the sunlight, all the something! There is a something about everything that happens in this world, and your JOB as a photographer is to find it and show it off to the client.
This was my favorite shot of someone else’s lifetime because I nailed #5.
I like it because it isn’t perfect. It shows the haste and whimsey of the day simultaneously. But it also captures the innocence and sweet optimism of a summer wedding in the country.
Of course, the best shots tend to be the ones you can emotionally invest in. The ones of the people you love. In that regard, the photo shoot I did with my brother and pixie-in-law probably takes the cake.
Good luck to you, dear reader, and your future photographic endeavors!