Whatever is your wedding photography style, inevitably, a part of your final gallery will be filled with photos of guests. So, how can we make them less dull and repetitive? How can we "wow" our clients?
Sorry to break it to you, but if you went into wedding photography because you like creating and sharing breathtaking couples' portraits, a large chunk of your shooting time will be spent capturing guests instead. Even if your approach is more traditional, end of the day, each wedding is a celebration and thus it's not solely about the couple, it's just as much about the people who are celebrating alongside the newlyweds. Without the guests, it wouldn't be a wedding, it would be an elopement at best. So, how can we add something special to our guest candids to truly show to our couples our skill as an observer and an artist? How can we create something more dynamic out of a very simple situation and setup?
Notably, this will depend on the venue, but if you can get higher, you will see a completely different scene. Your couple will remember their wedding day as meeting and greeting people within their eye level. Seeing their guests photographed as a whole from higher up or a group of them will add another dimension to the final gallery. I always tend to think that wedding guests themselves are perfectly capable of shooting decent images of each other because our smartphones are only getting better and better, and some of the guests will bring their own cameras, too. Our job is to deliver something that is different, and therefore, we can't include only candids that are shot eye-level, our job is to show a completely different side of the wedding.
This is by far my favorite method to add an extra layer to guest images. Firstly, it's likely that there will be children attending the wedding. What better way to capture them than to get low ourselves and photograph them in the world as they see it? Sure, it may feel like a workout by the time you finish the wedding, but it's definitely worth it. Getting low, especially with a wide lens, will give you a completely new perspective on the scene. Children and animals are perfect for this type of framing, but so are people who are sat down, guests in wheelchairs, and so forth. Not only that, if you want to photograph people's shoes or legs, it looks more natural and interesting if you shoot it from down low as opposed from standing up and facing your camera down, which then creates an odd and unflattering angle if it's not done correctly.
The beauty of shooting low is adding drama to the scene. Everything in the frame looks more dynamic than if you were to shoot at eye level, and that's very important for me as a documentary wedding photographer, because our job is to make something special out of the ordinary. Simple things such as walking or people standing in a group together will appear more dramatic if shot from down low. And certainly, don't worry about the common misconception that you can't photograph people like this; you are not shooting up guests' faces and distorting them, because most likely, you won't even be close enough for that to happen!
Admittedly, it's not something all wedding photographers want to do, but getting close to the action can really add drama to whatever is going on. With a long lens, it won't necessarily have the same effect as it would with wide, but both are doable. I prefer a wide lens for something like this, because I want my images to give a feeling of being there the moment you look at them. I want my couples to immerse themselves in the photographs and make them feel they are a part of it, even if they aren't in the photograph. Getting very close to the scene and your subjects is something that may take a little bit more courage and confidence for some, but the more you practice, the better you'll get at recognizing these scenes and immediately focusing on them. You don't want to poke your camera and lens into people's faces, so it all comes down to recognizing a potential shot coming up and being fast enough to react to it.
What I mean by layering is creating compositions where the obvious focus of the photograph is placed in an unexpected place and the rest of the image comes together by having additional subjects around them. Focusing on a certain guest or guests in the background and creating a composition that places them in a place you normally wouldn't will add interest to the image. You don't always have to focus on what is right in front of you; instead, try changing your focus points and see how it alters the feel of the image. It could be all too easy to simply focus on the main subject and subjects and exclude everyone around them, but shooting in a way that has several layers to the image will make the couples take that extra second to view the photograph and look through it.
Even if some guests aren't in focus, the couple will recognize them. Don't worry about cutting off certain parts, whether it's legs or heads, because all of your images won't be like this and just adding a few will break up the gallery. The last thing you want for your couples to do is to quickly run through the wedding gallery without stopping at a single image to look at it more in detail; the odd unusual shot will stop this from happening. You can think of it as sentences: there's only so much you can read in one go without stopping, and the same applies to viewing images!
Another favorite of mine is isolating certain guests and creating almost a still life image with them in the scene. Don't forget that your couples are used to seeing their friends and family in everyday situations when it comes to photographs, such as simple group shots, having fun, posing, and smiling for the camera. But, what they haven't seen is a thoughtfully composed image of one of their guests who then become a part of the image landscape. This is a nice way to include the surroundings, both inside the venue and on the grounds. Sure, you may argue that a landscape shot of the venue itself is beautiful enough, but for me, personally, including that one extra person or persons adds dimension and scale to the photograph. Seeing their family or guests photographed in such a way is something couples aren't used to, and each one of these types of images will contribute to a very diverse and interesting wedding gallery.
There are only so many shots you can take of people raising glasses and standing still as they chat to one another. Sure, there will be low energy moments in every wedding, but adding just a few of these more dynamic compositions will make it more exciting for the couple to look through their gallery. You don't even need to resort to using special effects or filters, such as prisms, to add something more exciting to the gallery; simply focus on how you compose the images and whether a different angle would make it more interesting. Trust me, your couples will enjoy seeing such a variety of images!
Do you enjoy shooting guest candids? Is it something you dread with every wedding? Let us know what you do to enhance these types of images!