7 Wedding Photography Rules I’m Following This Year

After 10 years of photographing weddings I am still looking for new techniques, mindsets, and approaches to documenting the fast paced craziness of a wedding day. To help me do that, I am setting some rules for myself this year to that’ll keep me focused and in the right headspace to document and create more creative, compelling, and unique wedding photographs.

The first and last rule on my list are the most important I think. The first being to “shoot how it feels. Not how it looks.” This idea is one I learned from photographer, John Dolan. You 100% need to follow him because his work is some of the most honest and true work I’ve witnessed. This seems like an obvious rule but one that is easily forgotten. I want to document how the wedding feels more than what it looks like. Wedding photography should capture the feeling of the event and not just the style and aesthetic. I know that I’m going to fail at this one more often than I will succeed. Many of the following rules on this list exist to help me achieve my goal of “shooting how it feels.” This rule is one that is certainly easier said than done, but I’m excited for the challenge of trying to capture the essence and heart of what each wedding feels like throughout this coming year.

The second is “Don’t Stand Still.” Now while I think waiting for the moment is okay at times, there comes a time where shooting from the same angle constantly doesn’t benefit you. Standing in the same spot for the entire ceremony, or the entire first dance will only create the same image over and over again. My goal is to move more, find new angles, and see things differently to capture more emotions and more moments, and even to focus on people and shoot from angles I’ve never considered.

The third is to “get on the dance floor and enjoy the party.” I am pretty good about being in the mix, but I have a hard time letting loose and being a real person who isn’t at work. It’s my goal in 2023 to be more of a wedding guest than a photographer with the hope that I can feel more of the event and capture more of its essence, and of course, to have more fun photographing weddings.

The fourth rule is to continuously ask myself “what’s the story here?” There is always a story, but if we are unaware of it, how will we know how to best tell it? Photography is always sharing a story of some sort, and wedding days are no exception. It’s my hope that I can better tell entire stories of moments through single images which will make a series of photographs even stronger and more impactful. To piggyback off this idea, and take it a step further, how can I tell the story in a single image giving context to everything that’s happening, while also, sharing the emotion that was felt during this moment of the wedding day?

A quick example is during the first look. If we ask ourselves, “what is the story here,” then we would say, “The groom is seeing his wife for the first time on the wedding day.” This means the groom is the subject we want to focus on since his reaction is the story. BUT, the mistake would be to only include the groom in the photo. To give context to this image and tell the entire story in a single frame, we should include the bride in the frame in some capacity. I like to do this by putting her in the foreground and shooting over her shoulder. This gives context to the image and tells the viewer what is happening during this moment and adds more emotion to the photograph because we now understand the context. If we only show the groom in the photo and don’t give context, how do we know what he is reacting to? He could be posing for a photo, or reacting to something completely different that we are now leaving up to the viewer to fill in. The first look is just one example on the wedding day and I’m going to keep asking myself “what’s the story” which will help me narrow down the focus of the subject and what is needed to give context to the image. Hopefully, after a while, this will become second nature for me.

The fifth rule is to remove my expectations. In past years I’ve found myself stressed going into wedding days based on timing, or how I felt about the venue, lighting, weather, and other variables. Removing expectations and remembering that I’ve never experienced this exact wedding day before and I can’t approach this wedding with preconceived notions gets rid of the stress of needing to perform. It allows me to get back to the basis of my job as a wedding photographer which is to capture the story of the day as it unfolds as my eyes see it. I can thank Lanny & Erika of Two Mann Studios for helping me remove my expectations, as well as my sixth rule…

…which is to “Get Close, Get Far.” They continue this rule by saying “Get High, Get Low.” I often don’t get close enough or get wide enough. Composition and framing in this aspect is a struggle sometimes for me so my goal in 2023 is to get closer and go wider and committing to the extremes in this regard.

Next and equally as important as my first rule is to “Breathe. Listen. Observe. Slow Down.” First, we breathe. We do this to recenter ourselves, calm our nerves or emotions, and become more present in the moment. Next, we listen. This is listening to what’s going on around us, or to a conversation a guest or family member is having with you. Learning about the friends and family of the couple can aid in the storytelling. Then, we observe. This can also happen before or during the listening phase, but I want to take a look around and again ask “what’s the story?” I want to take time to observe my surroundings. Just as an author uses the 5 senses when writing a novel, we want to use our senses to share the story going on around us. Can our images evoke the sensation of touch, or a sound? I believe so, but if we don’t take time to immerse ourselves in those sensations then it might be more difficult to capture the feeling of the day.

Being present, self aware, and experiencing the wedding day is my goal because if I can experience the moments and open up to being part of the event, it will only help me in my ability to capture the day in a way that really resonates with the couple.

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February 10, 2023



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