Through the years shooting weddings, I have found that my favorite photos always tend to be those charming candid moments that last ever so briefly. In this video and article I wanted to talk about my technique in how I set up and capture well composed and lit candid moments. Hopefully I will see you all in the Bahamas where we are going to dive into all of these subjects in complete detail in our Ultimate Wedding Photography Workshop!
5 Tips to Capture Beautiful Candid Wedding Photos
I've made a PLAN acronym which sets me up to capture perfect journalistic moments which we discussed in the Photography 101 Workshop.
- P: Prepare
- L: Lock In
- A: Anticipate
- N: Now
Recently, I've also added one more letter to this acronym, which is M. Don't worry, I will eventually come up with a better letter that fits my previous PLAN acronym =)
- M: Move
Tip 1. Prepare
Candid wedding moments happen quickly, and don't last for long, so it's essential that you're prepared for any moment. My go-to lenses are the Canon 24-70 f/2.8 II, Canon 70-200 f/2.8 II, the Canon 50mm f/1.2L (which I have recently replaced with the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art), and if I have enough space, the Canon 85mm f/1.2 L II. I also keep a flash on top of my camera, which is my "just-in-case" flash, for the moments I'm caught in a scene with bad lighting and have no time to make adjustments.
Tip 2. Lock In
Focusing on the moment is key when you're shooting candid moments. If you have to adjust your camera settings, you're may miss an opportune shot that can't be recreated. This is why when I'm set up in a scene I Lock In my Exposure and Color settings in Manual Mode so I can focus on the moment when shooting. If I need to adjust exposure in the moment, I am generally looking to first adjust via ISO. The reason for this is that I want to dial in my Shutter Speed based on whether I want to freeze/capture motion in the scene. Likewise I dial in my Aperture based on how much DoF I want in the scene as well.
In journalistic moments, often times there isn't enough time to look at the back of the camera. If I am adjusting Aperture/Shutter Speed for simple exposure adjustments, I can negatively affect my image composition without even realizing until I sit down in front of the computer. So, as a general rule of thumb, I will use ISO to make exposure adjustments when necessary.
Tip 3. Anticipate
A wedding day is full of anticipation, and not just from the Bride and Groom. While a wedding day is full of beautiful journalistic moments and emotions, more often than not, these things are happening in not-so-ideal circumstances. A scene might be poorly lit, have messy backgrounds, people might be turned the wrong direction, etc. Rarely does the perfect journalistic moment line up with the perfect light, background, etc.
So throughout wedding day I'll frequently play a small role in just setting up my scene so it's ideal for photography. Then I will simply place my subjects in the right area of the scene and cue the action (like in our mother/daughter prep scene above), other times we are simply working with what we might have (like during a ceremony) and we have to anticipate the photogenic angles and anticipate the emotional moments.
As a wedding photographer you need to always be on your toes, and spend less time watching and praising the back of the camera! While walking the bride down the hallway to the first look scene, I saw this beautifully back lit hallway. At that point, we had already come out of makeup around an hour behind schedule, so we didn't have time to stop for a photo. I simply told and showed the bride, "hold the bouquet with both hands, with your elbows out just a little, and just walk."
As she walked, I Spot Metered and dialed in a quick exposure adjustment to expose for the highlights, and came up with the shot below.
Tip 4. Now
You've prepared, locked in your settings and have anticipated the moment, now it's time to shoot. Relax, carefully compose your shot, and shoot. It's important to never forget that this will be one of the most important days of your client's lives. But, it is equally important to remind yourself to relax, slow down and don't rush through each shot just to get to the next one.
This is one of the biggest things we try to teach new shooters in our studio, SLOW DOWN! The difference between having 100 amazing photos versus 100 OK photos is simply slowing down. Spending more time, being aware of the details, carefully composing your images, lighting, and working methodically through the day regardless of the stress and pressure of the timeline.
Look for the now moments all around you, and when they happen, stay calm and composed. Adjust your camera settings, exposure and composition and fire like we did below to capture this beautiful moment between the newlyweds and their son as he jumps under the veil to play with mommy.
For the shot below, we placed our 3rd shooter Albert Evangelista 5 stories up on the St Regis balcony. Soon as the ceremony ended and the couple was at the end of the isle, we had everyone look up and wave at the camera. While a first kiss is one of those "now" moments that you don't need to cue, sometimes other "now" moments like this one might be ones where the photographer has direct involvement.
Tip 5. Move
When you're confident you've captured your shot from one angle, MOVE! Take this opportunity to change your composition, capture another expression, and take advantage of the time you have in the moment. Again, capturing 10 shots from the exact same angle really isn't going to help you in telling a story or creating an album. Once you have your shot, you have a great expression and you know it is in focus, move to a different angle.
Here is a quick screenshot from Lightroom showing this little sequence of images as mom and daughter help each other to get ready and as I move around the scene shooting. The entire scene lasted only 2 minutes and to see all the tips and interaction, be sure to check out the video above.
Learn More About Wedding Photography in the Bahamas!
These tips are just a minute sample of what's going to be covered in our Ultimate Wedding Workshop in the Bahamas. Be sure to register quickly as class spaces are limited and are filling up fast. I hope you all enjoyed this video and article, and hopefully I'll see you in the Bahamas!
Also, be sure to check out all of our amazing Lightroom and Photography education in the Fstoppers Store.