For any keen photographer, a wedding is a target rich environment, a seemingly endless supply of photo-opportunities of happy people in great clothes at lovely venues. In fact anybody with any imaging device understandably seems to get caught up into the magic of the day and sooner or later just has to take a picture.
As professional wedding photographers we bring a lot of cameras, lights and lenses because we have to get the shots, whatever the conditions. But when we are guests at weddings we bring a only a small compact camera each and no lights...we get some great shots and can still enjoy the wedding. We encourage you to do the same.
Here are some tips as to the most appropriate equipment to bring, how to get the best shots, how to work well with the other photographers at the wedding and also how to balance the sometimes conflicting demands of "getting the shot" and enjoying the day.
1. PRIORITIES - Enjoy the wedding - it is more important than the photography
2. ETIQUETTE - Work nicely with the other photographers. Be aware of who has their camera up and where they're shooting towards. If somebody is shooting wide, don't jump in front of them. The golden rule is: always shoot from behind the professional photographers
3. EQUIPMENT - Our advice is always don't bring much and never bring a tripod and never bring lights. Regarding focal lengths, you're better off having a wide angle zoom than you are with a long lens. Wide angle lenses are short, light, less obtrusive, create some great drama and keep you close to the other guests. Wide angle lenses can let you capture some great reportage shots showing how groups of guests interact and you don't need to be far away from them. Long lenses can encourage you to stand off from the action which isn't so good if you're a guest.
Don't forget that this is a wedding and you are a guest. Your highest priority is to enjoy the day. You're not on an assignment. You don't have to take everything from every angle for the entire day. Chill and take some nice pictures when you feel the urge.
4. Phone-cameras - are amazing quality, easy to carry, light weight and unobtrusive.
5. Tablet-cameras - on the other hand are a pain. They are big and look dreadful in other people's pictures, many times obscuring a subject in somebody else's sight line. The quality of the camera in a tablet is no better than that in a phone, so our strong recommendation is to leave the tablet at home and shoot with a phone.
6. Point-and-shoot cameras - are great. They are small, usually have good quality and are unobtrusive and usually come with a useful amount of zoom.
7. Bridge cameras - are a little bulkier and heavier but can be quite useful at a wedding with good image quality and usually quite a big zoom range.
8. Micro 4/3 or Mirrorless compacts - are very expensive but small, light, unobtrusive, excellent image quality and have all the sorts of controls easy to hand that most professional photographers come to rely on. It is these sorts of cameras that we would normally take to a wedding as guests.
9. DSLRs - They are big. They are heavy. They are noisy. They are valuable and they have many accessories. Guests with DSLRs are best if they bring a minimum of equipment. Some guests bring big accessory bags full of stuff which is heavy and bulky and doesn't look good in other people's pictures. Even if you just go lightweight, with no flash and a wide angle zoom, it is still a bulky camera with it's big camera strap that you have to find a safe place for during the meal.
10. WHAT TO SHOOT - Don't necessarily try and shoot what the professional photographers are shooting. They will have gone to some bother to expose the shot in a particular way, often with careful consideration of balancing the various light sources and compositional elements. You'll never match that because you won't have the same equipment, you won't know the exposure and you won't have the same angle. Instead look for your own opportunities where the lighting is more favourable to the equipment that you have...you may well then get a better quality image of something that the professionals didn't see because they were shooting something else.
For example, the professional may well shoot portraits into the sun. This gives soft lighting on the subject's faces and creates a great rim/separation light on their hair and shoulders. But they will probably have used manual settings and possibly lights in order to make sure the faces are not silhouetted. If you try and shoot the same thing with your bridge camera set to auto and no lights, the bride and groom may be nothing more than dark shadows.
Instead, turn through 180 degrees and shoot some reportage of guests waiting for their turn in the group shots. With the sun behind you, your camera set to auto will do much better and you will get some shots that the professional won't because they were pointing the other way.
SUMMARY - enjoy taking photographs but don't forget to enjoy the wedding, don't bring much photographic gear, always shoot from behind the professionals so you're not in their shot, shoot your own compositions rather than those of the professional and don't shoot with a tablet....and oh yeah...don't forget to charge your batteries.
These are the recommendations we make from the many wedding guests we've seen at many weddings and noticing what seems to work best for them. We think these tips may be of some help to you next time you are a guest at a wedding.
by Steve Dunster