I will often hear brides comment that my photos feel very natural and show genuine emotion. Most of all, they say 'everyone just looks so happy!' I absolutely love photographing all of the exciting moments of a wedding day when everyone is together. However, anyone who is not a professional photographer knows that that bringing the life and joy you see in real life into a still-photograph is not as easy as as it looks! This can be frustrating when you really wish to tell a story or make a moment last. My job as a wedding photographer is entirely based on photographing moments in the most natural light possible and to portray genuine emotion. Here are some tips that will help add life into your photos when it comes to documenting your most favorite moments!
1. Shoot From a Side Angle
For almost any subject, you'll find that shooting at an angle from the side makes everything a little more interesting. Shooting straight on is typically what you'll see most people do right away, and therefore the photo won't look very interesting or unique. Sure, shooting straight on has its purpose sometimes, but when you're trying to make a photo look natural, observe the scene from the side. This is what will give it the candid feeling because you have now placed more separation between you and the subject. Also, shooting at a 45 degree angle tends to be more flattering for people!
When I photographed the photo above, shooting sideways not only captured the bride laughing, but it also captured all the different smiles and laughter from her bridesmaids! So there are times to shoot an image straight on, but shoot from the side and you may find other elements to make the moment special.
2. Narrow Your Focus
For the best natural looking shots, crop out anything that's taking away from the moment. But you want to be careful not to awkwardly crop off limbs, because that will be distracting for the eye. Your ultimate goal is to focus where the scene is most interesting and then compose according to that. If I was overly concerned about fitting all of the bridal party in the photo above, I would have been zoomed far out and you would then lose immediate focus on the most important subject: the bride.
3. Don't Narrow Your Focus Too Much
Referring again to the photo above: If I zoomed in too close, I wouldn't have obtained the full effect that the setting brings to the photo. Which is, the bride and groom laughing with their friends and the beautiful scenery surrounding them. So narrow your focus, but be sure to also look around. You wouldn't want to leave out any surrounding elements that may add a setting or benefit the emotion of the photo as well.
4. Use Continuous Drive Mode
You'll be able to capture a variety of subtle expressions that you would otherwise miss if you set your camera to continuous drive mode. In One-Shot mode, when you push down the shutter button your camera will take one photograph. In Continuous or Burst drive mode, your camera will keep taking images continuously as long as you are holding down the shutter button. This allows you to take full advantage of moments that happen as fast as they do on a wedding day. The worst is when you look back at a photo that you thought was a perfect natural moment, only to find that the groom's eyes were closed.
I also recommend shooting about 2-3 continuous photos at a time so you don't come across as a lunatic, or use up all your memory card space. By using continuous mode, you'll have more photos to choose from that captured the most flattering smile or laugh.
5. Let Loose!
This is the fun part! To capture natural looking moments, it helps let go of any desire for perfection. Encourage your subjects to interact with each other. Allow yourself to be in the moment with your subjects occasionally too. Most importantly, don't worry if your shot is not composed just right. The best part of shooting digital is that it's okay for some shots to not be perfect! For a moment, let go of any "rules for photography" and that will bring out the artistic part of you that is all about feeling rather than thinking. Therefore, the photo you create will have a greater sense of feeling. So use these tips, enjoy the moment you're in, and you'll be surprised by what you'll create!