Except for the bride & groom fashion shoot and the family portraits, shooting a wedding largely is an exercise in photojournalism. I don’t consider myself a great photojournalist by any means, but I have significantly improved over the years by following this important principle: it is okay to watch and wait.
Working with dozens of 2nd shooters over the years, I’ve noticed that many of them rush from shot to shot, anxious that they are going to “miss something” happening somewhere else. However, sometimes the best images result through patience – the ability to just sit there and be ready, and not shoot until you see something developing.
Here’s an example from my most recent wedding. This isn’t award-winning photography or anything like that, but simply a very nice moment captured because of my willingness to wait.
In the groom’s “getting ready” room, I noticed one of the groomsmen having a conversation with the groom’s sister.
Nothing is really going on, just a normal conversation. However, the sister was clearly telling a story. I waited, then waited some more. Eventually, she got to the punch line as I knew she would, which resulted in this image:
As a sequence, the two images together portray a light moment which helps tell the story of the day.
I probably sat there for 3-4 minutes, not doing anything – no shooting – but just sitting on the floor and listening. My subjects forgot I was there. I knew the payoff would come when the story ended. Now doing nothing but listening for 3-4 minutes might seem like an eternity, but it’s okay. You don’t always have to be shooting every minute of the day.
I wouldn’t have gotten these images when I first started out, because I would have been unwilling to wait for it. I would have been looking through the viewfinder at all times, searching for something to shoot. Then I would have heard the laughter, turned around and tried to get the shot, but it would already have been too late.
So that’s my quick tip of the day: relax, observe, and wait. It will pay off with better and more meaningful images. As a side benefit, you’ll have far fewer images to review and delete when editing.
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