So you’re trying to develop your wedding photography skills? Let’s talk through some of the photography skills you need to learn and develop. My advice is to pick one thing at a time to focus on, perfect that and then move on.
As a wedding photographer for over a decade, it can be entertaining to look back at some of my earlier work. Some of my techniques and results were miserable. And yet, some of those initial photos stand the test of time.
Let’s talk about why.
Posing and Generally Working With Couples
The first thing that can instantly make you a better wedding photographer is connecting with your couples. From getting to know them to figuring out how to highlight each individual's unique beauty, your couples will make you better.
Initially, it can simply be a lack of experience. If you’ve only photographed a few people, you’re not going to be great at it. Once you’ve had more and more people in front of your camera you’ll be more confident.
When it comes to posing, like with most of my suggestions, I’ll advise you to keep it simple. Simple is often the most natural and thus the most beautiful. You’ll want to connect with your couples and get them connected with each other. That connection will be more important than any complicated pose you’re able to force them into. However, you can always check out our favorite wedding photography poses below.
Moments: Making Memories
My main point above was about connection. And this brings us to moments. If I look back at my oldest photos that are somehow still awesome, they might lack photographic technique but they still have meaning. Why? Probably because of the story that the photo tells.
When it comes to wedding photography, it’s all about telling the story of this very important ritual. Getting married is often a big deal for a couple and their families. Maybe it’s the first time the whole family has been together in a while and it’s also the uniting of two families in hope of a connected future.
Learning to see and capture moments will make you a better wedding photographer regardless of any of your fancy gear or technical skills. Start simple; Learn to see. Sit at the coffee shop or a park and watch how people interact, notice when emotions start to spill and smiles start to shine. Better yet, look for these moments at a very emotionally charged event such as a wedding.
If you’re ready to dive deeper into capturing moments, check out this video.
Light: Know It, Use It, Love It
Ok, ok, emotions and connection and moments are all fine and good but how do I actually take a picture? You need to learn about light. And shadows.
Learn to see light in all its complex beauty. Light can be described in so many ways such as angle, direction, color, warmth, intensity, hardness, softness, natural, and artificial. When someone says, “the light is really nice right now!” Do you know what they mean? Do you ever say that and do you know what you mean and why?
The wedding photography skill that has the quickest impact on your work might be the connection to people and the ability to capture moments. However, the skill that will have the biggest impact is light.
First, seek to understand light. Then you can start to see it, use it, and play with it. And eventually, you might even create your own light.
Some initial tips to explore:
- Expose for the highlights
- Have a plan for “bad” light
- Try to control the light and seek out “good” light
The following videos dive deeper into this topic of light specifically as it pertains to wedding photography.
Composition: Fine Tune Your Shots
We can’t forget the ever-important skill of composition. This is the final leg that will bring your work together and give it that extra oomph of ooh-la-la. Or whatever reaction you’re hoping for from your viewer. Here are a few composition tips to get you started.
The first simple answer to improving your composition is not only choosing what to include but choosing what not to include. Kick out the distracting elements. Do you really need that trashcan in your frame, what is it adding?
Next, I really like to think about layering. What’s the foreground, subject, and background. How can you use layering to maybe a 2D image draw you into the 3D moment. As you start to think about layering, you will find yourself diving into the concept of depth of field. How do your camera and the lens you are using see the scene in front of you?
From there you start following rules or learning the rules well enough to know when to break them. You’ll learn to look for leading lines, shapes, rule of thirds, symmetry, and patterns. Utilizing these elements will help you compose and create a stronger image.
One of the overlooked tricks is leaving negative space. Again, it’s this idea of choosing what not to include. Imagine a picture of a little kid holding a kite. Then imagine the same picture with a wide-open sky full of possibilities about the kid. Use composition to take your photos from snapshots to stories.
There are some other little rules to consider such as avoiding cutting off the limbs of the subject or having trees or other strange objects appear to be growing out of their heads. From the big picture to the details, composition takes your work to the next level. A few of these tips are in the following video:
Light, composition, and capturing moments are the top wedding photography skills you need to develop to take your work to the next level. These are all fairly complex topics, which one is your strength and which is your weakness? What skill will you choose to practice and improve?
A few other valuable skills to consider improving might be your editing, location scouting, dealing with gear malfunctions, and helping your clients with the timeline.