How to be a Great Wedding Guest Photographer

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A rare moment alone at this couple's beautiful wedding

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Every wedding has a main story but there are many sub-plots.

While a wedding seems like one big event with the primary focus on the couple, there are always many other storylines developing right alongside it: Long overdue family reunions are causing tearful and joyous hugs. Out-of-the-blue budding romances are heating up. Dear old friends are scrambling to catch up on precious lost years. Sweet little kids are running around and being naughty.

As a wedding photographer for the past six years, I’ve shot many weddings. It’s hard to describe the beautiful kaleidoscope of emotions that one is privy to during these moments but all I can say is that my experiences have taught me a lot. In this blog, it is my hope that I can help couples and their attending guests pay extra attention to documenting all the great stories that are happening all around them.

It is my job to capture the ‘main event,’ and the big key moments at the wedding: from the bride walking down the aisle to the wonderfully nervous ‘I do’s,’ from the father-daughter dance to cutting the cake; and, of course, the more formal family portraits. But with so much else going on, it’s simply impossible for one photographer – no matter how skilled they may be – to get all the subtle nuances – and colorful characters – that can make up a wedding.

While there’s probably no guidebook on how to be a great wedding guest photographer, there should be.

Guests come ready with their own cameras and the very best intentions. They want to get the same key moments that the photographer does. But what most people probably don’t realize is that the photographer has prepared these shots very carefully, and one wrong move or one extra flashbulb flashing can change the whole outcome of the shot. So instead of trying to take the same shot as the photographer does, if they can focus on the ‘sub-plots,’ the guest stories, and the more candid details, the couple – and their families would be thrilled. These perspectives are actually just as important and they are a warm and welcome supplement to the professional photography.

Wedding photos, over exposed,

Examples of some typical wedding guest shots: at left, attempting to get the same shot as the professional and right, taking an overexposed photo that misses any quality interactions

Great wedding guest photographers can give a tremendous gift to the newly married couple: a totally different view on their day; one that is honest, intimate and, many times, wonderfully surprising.

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Guests can capture amazing moments like these: a great-grandmother enjoying time with her great grandchild for the first time; a little girl discovers the petals of a flower for the first time

How You Can Help Your Guests Take Really Great Photos

  • Rather than trying to mimic the same shots the photographer is taking, tell your guests to seek and find those small, special moments that are happening around them.
  • Remind them that a wedding is full of carefully chosen details. They can take snapshots of things like the floral centerpieces, the beautiful lighting, the grandmother beaming with pride, the groom’s boutonniere, a piece of delicious cake on a plate, cute kids crawling around, anything that’s real, true and in the moment. People love to see and re-live those details later.
  • Encourage them to be a little sneaky. An extra second spent being aware of what people are doing – or about to do – can make for a great photo. The best man’s speech where the guest knows that his date is about to burst out laughing at what he’s going to say: right then and there, they capture that look on her face.
  • The best way to get a wonderful candid album is to take a variety of shots: close-ups, medium shots and faraway shots; and also to be sure to get photos of the venue itself, the doorways, the steps, the chairs, etc. Again, all the finer details that may seem normal are all full of thought.

About the guest blogger:

Caroline Tien-Spalding is the Director of Marketing and Communications for ArcSoft, Inc. She also owns and operates Sphynge Photography, a professional boutique wedding photography company whose work has been called both editorial and impressionistic. Sphynge Photography has been featured in a variety of publications, including lifestyle, family, weddings and photographer publications. Some of their most well known features include Style Me Pretty, DIY Weddings Magazine and Rangefinder Magazine.

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  • Idd Chambuso

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