Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Heads-Up Wednesday: The Analysis of a Wedding Shoot- Part 3

Good Morning Everybody,
Today marks our fourth day in sunny Mexico. I have to say, the weather is simply beautiful during this time of year. No, it's not all fun and games down here this week - I'm getting alot writing completed on the wedding book - whew, what a project. I was able to complete about 5000 more words yesterday. It is coming together slowly but surely.

Today, I had hoped to have a lot of Canon 5D Mark II news to report, but the internet connectivity has been quite spotty (and seems to be getting worse - hence the late post today.) Getting the 5D Mark II video uploaded - about 50 megs - has been a slight pain. Kent and I are going to work on it again today, so hopefully tomorrow will be good news. That said I'm going with my original story today, part three of my series - Analysis of a Wedding Shoot- Part 3 so lets get right to it...

The Ceremony - Analysis of a Wedding Shoot- Part 3
So far, we have covered the gear I use, and how I cover the beginning of the wedding day. Today, let's move on with the ceremony coverage. Obviously, this is a critical part of the coverage and we should pull it off with panache and style. Let me walk you though my 7 Steps To Better Ceremony Coverage. Here we go...

1 -- Now it's time for the procession. The bride, the bridesmaids, and the bride's dad are lining up in the back of the church. I love to capture all the interaction that takes place during these short moments before the processional starts. My assistant is usually positioned near the front of the church on the right side. He will cover guests as they are being seated and also the processional of the bridesmaids once it begins. His camera is always on AI Servo focus, which means that it follows the subject down the aisle. All of his images are also made without strobe of any kind.

2 -- I'm not big fan of photographing each of the bridesmaids coming down the aisle. To me that's not the bride's view. The bride's view is watching her girls go down the aisle from the very back of the church. That's why I try to capture the processional from the back of the church with several the bridesmaids in the aisle walking up towards the front. As the last bridesmaid is making their way up the aisle, and the bride stands calmly with her dad for her long walk down that long, I'll get a wide-angle lens shot low to the ground of the bride and her father from the back for a really cool image.

3 -- I then make my way about halfway up the aisle into an unoccupied pew. At this position, I can get a great photograph of the bride and her father coming down the aisle. As you might have guessed, I don't take just one shot; I take several, capturing a range of expressions of both the bride and her father as they make their way in the processional.

After I’ve captured these images of the bride and her dad coming down the aisle, I quickly make my way to the front of the church via the left aisle, trying not to crash on my way up there, and capture the images of the father offering his daughter's hand to her groom. All this time, my lighting assistant knows exactly where he or she needs to be in covering the beginning of the event. He is positioned at the 10:00 position along the far right hand side of the church.

4 -- If it's a Catholic ceremony, seeing as I have a little more time because the ceremony runs longer, I hang out up front, in the left aisle of the church, for just a few minutes and try to capture some great expressions of the bride's mother and father, the bridesmaids, and maybe even the grandparents. These images are always made without flash of any kind and always done very discreetly and very quietly.

I then make my way to the back of the church to continue the coverage. I continue most of my coverage from the back of the church ranging my lenses from a Sigma 8mm fisheye all the way to my Canon 70-300mm IS telephoto lens. I never use a tripod hence all the image stabilized lenses -- I just think they're too slow, clumsy, and balky to move around the church.

Image stabilization and high ISOs are my salvation here. If it's a Catholic ceremony, I may place one of a long lens on one of my cameras, make a trip up the left side aisle, and try to get some really good close-ups of the bride and groom, the celebrant, bridesmaids, bride's mom and dad, and guests.

5 -- Yes we do make a trip to the balcony if we have access to it and always try to get some images from that vantage point as well. Again, I run the full gamut of lenses from the balcony vantage point. As we near the end of the ceremony, we take up our positions about a third of the way down the main aisle. My lighting assistant is in position and the celebrant announces the bride and groom as husband and wife.

I lift the camera to my eye and capture that moment with a long telephoto lens and a high ISO. Again, I have absolutely NO flashes going off at this point or at any point during the ceremony. The bride and groom make their way down the aisle and as they all are approaching me, I take several images as they look at each other and smile greet their guests as they make their way back up the aisle. Yes, as a professional wedding photographer I'm pretty good at walking down the aisle backwards. Just be sure there's no videographer or church lady behind you that you're unaware of. Also be aware of any low-lying baptistery fonts that may be trouble.

6 -- I really don't do much coaxing of the bride and groom at this point. That means I don't ask him to stop, or kiss, or look into the camera, or any of that stuff. I prefer to capture the best natural expressions of the couple and photograph the action as it evolves before me.

Next out of the church are the bridesmaids, groomsmen, moms and dads - that's when all the hugging and kissing begins. I'm right there to capture it all.

7 -- There's a couple scenarios that can happen here so let me discuss one that happened just a few weeks ago. As people were coming out of the church and being greeted by the bride and groom, the attendants were handing out bubbles to all the guests which were being instructed to line up both sides of the sidewalk.

As the bride and groom got ready to make their exit from the church, the guests were ready with the bubbles. Many of the children had been practicing for quite some time now and bubbles were flying everywhere.

This is a great time for some great wide-angle images. It's at this point I usually asked my second shooter to cover the action from the rear seeing the faces of the guests, as a bride and groom moved through the gauntlet of guests as they make their exit from the church.

I cover the action from the front with my wide-angle lens, being careful to keep my assistant hidden behind bride and groom as they make their run through all the guests’ bubbles flying everywhere. They wave at the guests and the guests wave back. The bride and groom make their way into the limo and drive off. I love to get a wide angle shot of them in the limo too.

This, many times, is a fake exit. The bride and groom will circle the block and come back around to the church with the guests mostly dispersed and we finish any other images we needed to take at the church.

Hey gang, once again that's about it for me today. I'm spending a few hours a day working on my wedding book and it's coming along quite nicely. I have to be honest though, I'm still enjoying a little bit of the sunshine, the sea breeze, and occasional margarita. It's a tough job but somebody said do it ;~)

I'll see everybody again tomorrow for business day Thursday with an article entitled, "Are you doing a disservice to your client and cheating yourself as well." So that's it for today, everybody have a great one, and I'll see you tomorrow. Adios, -- Dave

Related Posts
Analysis of a Wedding Shoot- Part 1
Analysis of a Wedding Shoot- Part 2


  1. Nice breakdown of the ceremony coverage, but I have one question. In step 3 you mention the lighting assistant being in position. I would guess that means that they're doing something useful, and that means flash. In step 5 you mention no flashes going off at any point during the ceremony. I reconcile these two by assuming that ceremony is defined as from the moment the officiant begins speaking up to the recessional?

    So, flash is okay up to the official/religious components, off during them, and then back on afterward?

  2. Hi David, interesting article. I think concerning the flashes it depends very much on your location. I shoot in Southern Spain and many of the churches are very dark. I don´t think there´s a rule as long as you do it well (flash) and stay reasonbly out of attention