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How to Photograph the Wedding Ceremony

The primary scene for wedding photography is always the ceremony. This scene includes the climax of the wedding day plot: the moment the couple says “I do” and is formally introduced as husband and wife. Make sure to keep the following purposes in mind when shooting the ceremony:

  • Advancing the plot: All the planning and preparation has built up to this moment when the couple actually ties the knot, so keep an eye out for those specific moments that move the story along, such as the bride walking down the aisle, the vows, and the kiss.

  • Creating a mood: The mood of a ceremony often involves a happy sort of seriousness in what the couple is doing. Look for smiles of excitement, tears of joy, or the moment of solemnity when the vows are said as the couple stands before their guests.

    You can also grab a couple quick shots of the expressions on the guests’ faces, like the parents of the bride or groom while their son or daughter is saying the vows.

  • Forging a connection between the character and viewer: One way to help a viewer identify with the people in your photographs is to make sure you get some up-close shots of your couple during the important moments during the ceremony. They help the viewer to know how your couple is feeling as well as a sense of what is going on.

    If all of your shots during a ceremony are from the back of the aisle, all your viewer will see are two people standing on a stage.

  • Showing action: The ceremony scene includes many little actions that you don’t want to miss, from the bride’s entrance and the officiant’s exhortation to the couple to the exchange of wedding vows and rings. Make sure to capture all those important moments.

    [Credit: 50mm, 1/100 sec., f/4.0, 1000]
    Credit: 50mm, 1/100 sec., f/4.0, 1000
    [Credit: 50mm, 1/400 sec., f/4.5, 250]
    Credit: 50mm, 1/400 sec., f/4.5, 250

As you get ready to shoot this scene, think through and prepare for a few logistics:

  • Capturing the setting: In order to set the stage for the rest of the scene, you should get one or two photos of the ceremony site before any guests arrive. After the preparation photos are done, consider heading straight over to where the ceremony is taking place so that you can get a few photos, uninterrupted.

  • Documenting the ceremony without being obtrusive: Remaining inconspicuous is one of the biggest issues photographers face during this scene. Although getting all the important moments during the ceremony is crucial, it is equally important to move about quietly and not to draw any attention to yourself.

    Consider scoping out the ceremony site before it starts and mentally choosing different spots to stand for specific photos. Also consider using a telephoto zoom lens to help you get those tight shots of your couple without having to get too close to the stage.

    [Credit: 17mm, 1/100 sec., f/2.8, 1250]
    Credit: 17mm, 1/100 sec., f/2.8, 1250
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