Today we’re going to discuss how WAFFLES will make you better at capturing moments in wedding photography. Yes, you heard me right. Delicious, warm, smothered in syrup waffles! Actually, it’s an acronym, because who doesn’t love a tasty acronym?
What are moments and why are they important in wedding photography?
Close your eyes and picture your perfect wedding day, real or imagined. What do you picture? Is it the tears in your dad's eyes? Your brother's drunken speech? Your best friends dancing? Your grandma giving you her pearl bracelet to wear?
These are the moments that make weddings special. These are the moments we want to remember. And these are the moments that it’s our job, as wedding photographers, to capture.
Moments are about emotions, memories, telling a story. What’s the story you want to tell? Who is this couple? What is important to them? Who is helping them celebrate? What are the feelings and emotions that are in the air?
A good principle for capturing wedding photos is thinking through your light, composition, and moment. Find good light, choose an interesting composition, then wait for a moment to happen. Ideally, the best photos have all three, but a photo can be great solely based on the moment.
Light is definitely a key to advancing your photography, but telling a story and capturing the moment is where your photos really shine. Moments tell stories. Moments touch your heart and your soul.
So Let’s Talk About How To Capture the Moments
It’s all about the WAFFLES!
W Stands for Wait
You’ve got to have patience! Get your light and composition, and then, try waiting for a moment to come to you instead of chasing it. Wait for something interesting to happen, whether it’s movement or emotion.
Don’t just click, click, click and move on, and don’t just run around crazily, one step behind the action. If you try chasing moments, you’ll lose. Get ahead of the action, and then, wait for it to catch up to you.
A Stands for Anticipate
Tired of waiting around waiting for a moment to happen? Anticipate. Weddings are pretty predictable, and moments often happen at certain times.
If you take what you know about a wedding or what you know about your clients, you can predict when something interesting might happen. If you hear someone telling a joke, you know that a punchline is coming, which might cause a laugh. Anticipate that, get ahead of the action and in the right position, and then, wait for it.
F Stands for Feeling
When we talk about moments, we’re talking not just about how something looks but how it feels. Photograph how something feels, allow yourself to feel. Notice the feelings in the room.
When we think about the best light and composition for a photo, it can be subjective. Maybe you want an imperfect composition to show the imperfect feeling of the moment. Perhaps you want soft light to show something gentle or harsh light to show something dramatic.
Don’t be afraid to move around to get in a position that better captures the feeling. Are you looking up at the scene or down at it? Are you up close in the action or far away observing?
Get low, get high, get near, get far, and see how the different perspectives capture the feeling of the moment.
The Second F Stands for Focus
What do we focus on in order to see a moment? You might be looking to focus on movement or emotion in order to tell the story. Emotions are often communicated with hands and eyes, so try focusing on them.
The L Stands for Listen
When you simply look at a scene with your eyes, you might be tempted to just capture how it looks. Using your ears more than your eyes can help with moments. You can listen for the moment and hear when it peaks.
Sure, you can’t capture sound in your photo, but can you use sound to help you capture feelings? Can you use all your senses to immerse yourself in a moment and decide how to best tell the story?
The E Stands for Engage
Be present, relate, connect, and gain trust. If you engage with your subjects, they will be more comfortable around you, more honest around you, and more likely to show their emotion. If you are present and engaged, you’re in the moment and therefore able to capture it more purely.
I’m not saying to be the life of the party or distract anyone, entertain anyone, or cause moments yourself. You simply don’t have to be an outsider. Engage in the moment, relate to your subjects.
The S Stands for Shoot, Shoot, Shoot Through:
Shoot through the moment. Keep shooting past the moment. Often, the moment doesn’t end as soon as you think it does. The moment is not over until it’s over.
Maybe you think you got the peak. Feel good about that, but then, stay ready and poised, with your finger on the trigger, ready to see if there’s one more thing that is about to happen.
WAFFLES: Wait, Anticipate, Feeling, Focus, Listen, Engage, Shoot Through
How to Practice Seeing Moments
You can practice seeing moments everywhere. You can practice shooting them outside of weddings. Practice on your friends, your kids, or your dog.
Be ready for the moments, live them, and appreciate them. Moments aren’t just key to great photography, they’re key to a fun and memorable life.
Here are a few tips for practicing capturing moments outside of weddings:
- Carry a camera on an adventure or outing, even if it’s just your phone. Be excited to capture moments, not just snapshots of things.
- There is no pressure to create anything; these photos are just for you, and this is your everyday life, so just be patient and wait for what interests you. Don’t just take photos for no reason. Great photos are about knowing what you want and waiting for it.
- Ask yourself why. Why did you take that photo? What were you feeling? What were you trying to communicate, and did you succeed?
Here are a few exercises you can try:
- LCM: Find your light, choose a composition, then wait for a moment to happen. Try waiting for a moment to come to you instead of chasing it, where you’ll always be behind.
- Shoot through: Everyone wants a posed picture once in a while. Set up a posed picture, take it, and then try shooting before and after to find a moment.
- Embrace constraints: Only allow yourself to shoot one image at a time. Not using burst mode forces you to wait for the moment, which forces you to identify when that moment happened.
Final Thoughts and Dealing with Challenges
If you’re interested in capturing moments in wedding photography, you might consider communicating with your clients about their priorities. Sometimes, wedding photography means we’re taking a picture of the dress and the shoes and all of the details. And sometimes, that means we’re missing moments.
It’s not that photos of details are bad; some brides put a lot of thought into the set and setting for their big day. My point is just that it’s impossible to shoot three things at once and stay engaged enough to capture moments. This is another reason anticipation is so important; the more you know the schedule of the day by heart, the more you can anticipate the moments rather than chase them around all day.
In other words, don’t stress about the photos you aren’t taking. Stay present, be patient, and focus on the moment you’re in. Chances are if you capture a memorable moment, the bride won’t be worried about the pictures she doesn’t have because she’ll be so pleased with the ones she does. It’s important to know what our clients' expectations are in terms of what photos they want and what their priorities are.