How to Apply Composition Techniques to Your Wedding Photography

We can learn more about photographic composition techniques and we can learn more about wedding photography, but how do we combine the two lessons into real-world application?

As a wedding photographer, it’s easy to get so focused on capturing all the photos of all the things that you forget to compose the shot. Composition consists of assembling the photograph and arranging the elements of the scene.

It can be hard to imagine how you will organize a photo in a situation where you have very little control like a wedding. And I’m not going to suggest that you try to control anything. Instead, you’ll reposition yourself and your camera until your photo elements appear where you want them.

Let’s dive into some of the popular composition techniques and how you can use them in your wedding photography. It’s both simple and challenging, but one thing is certain, being able to intentionally create photographs will turn your snapshots into art.

Techniques of photographic composition

We will learn how to apply the following photographic composition techniques to wedding photography. You can challenge yourself by choosing one at a time to intentionally focus on until you find yourself using them naturally and instinctively. Composition techniques will improve your photographs simply by forcing you to be more intentional.

  1. Guidelines
  2. negative space
  3. fill frame
  4. Depth of field
  5. Rule of thirds
  6. Contrast
  7. Repetition and pattern

Guidelines

I chose to start with the main lines only because it’s one of my favorite techniques. I loved learning perspective in art class, there was something magical about drawing a road that disappears into the horizon. Leading lines can add more depth and movement to a photo and they can point towards your subject and draw the viewer’s eyes to where you want them to go.

The guidelines are visually very satisfying to me and quite easy to use in your wedding photography, all you have to do is start recognizing them. Roads, bridges, railings, walls, windows, and doors can all become guidelines that direct the viewer’s eye to your subject. One of the most obvious guidelines of the wedding is the ceremony aisle.

Use leading lines such as the ceremony aisle to direct the viewer to your subject and add depth and movement to your images.

negative space

Another simple composition technique that can dramatically improve your photos is negative space. Often wedding days are busy and cluttered and if you’re not careful, all of your photos will end up being busy and cluttered as well. Maybe a busy scene is okay for a cocktail hour shot, but sometimes a clean background and negative space around your subject will make the image punchier.

Leading lines draw your eye to the subject, negative space leaves plenty of room around your subject for the view to provide a distraction-free viewing experience. If you find your wedding photos too cluttered or busy, creating some negative space will help you create crisp, distraction-free images instead. Sometimes creating negative space is as simple as changing your body position so that instead of seeing everything on the table, the subject is photographed against a white wall.

Use negative space to give your subject more room to breathe – change your angle so that instead of seeing the clutter, the viewer receives a crisp, clean image of your subject.

Fill the frame

Sometimes negative space will create breathability and simplicity in your images. However, it is possible for a photo to look like there is too much space and the subject is too far away. When you want an image to be more intimate, you need your subject to fill the frame and take up more of the overall space.

Fortunately, this is another remedy if your photos often seem too cluttered or cluttered, get closer to your subject and use them to block out the clutter while allowing them to fill the frame. Filling the frame is especially effective in photojournalistic wedding photography because when you tell a story of emotion and connection, being closer and more intimate with the subject really brings the story to life.

Especially when capturing intimate moments, get up close and fill the frame with your subjects so your viewer feels like they’re in the moment.

Depth of field

Depth of field is another of my favorite techniques that dates back to when I first started learning art and photography. There’s something so beautiful about being in sharp focus on a subject while everything else is out of focus. Depth of field is a fantastic way to include a wider scene without making it cluttered or busy.

With sharp focus on the subject, out-of-focus aspects of the image become the foreground or background. They become valuable context for the photo without distracting you from the subject. All you have to do is shoot with a low aperture lens and make sure your subject is in focus when choosing what you want to include in the scene.

Use depth of field to isolate the subject while telling a larger story.

Rule of thirds

The rule of thirds is a classic, timeless and reliable composition technique. Sometimes I overlook this one because it feels easy and straightforward. But the reality is that whenever we’ve asked a stranger to take a photo of our family somewhere on vacation, this simple rule could have made the photo much better.

It seems like sometimes people just don’t know where to place the subject in the photo. So let me help you. The Rule of Thirds allows you to divide your image into thirds horizontally and vertically, then place your subject on the left or right third. It’s just a better composition that you’ll see immediately when you compare it to a photo that makes it look like the photographer didn’t know where to place the subject so it floats awkwardly in the frame or is painfully cropped .

Use the rule of thirds as a reliable starting point to position your couple in the frame.

Contrast

We will now take our composition forward by adding drama and magic to our photos. While I love soft, even light as much as the next girl, there are times when a high contrast photo is more likely to do the job. Contrast means we use differences to tell a story such as something really bright next to something dark.

Contrast can be used to make something unpredictable, dramatic, or impactful. Sometimes using contrast is all about taking a harsh light and making it do something productive by having it hit your subject at the right angle. Other times contrast is about letting the background fade to black while you focus on your subject rather than having everything balanced.

Contrast is a technique you can use to add drama and vibrancy to a photo by highlighting and emphasizing extreme differences and using them to your advantage.

Repetition and pattern

The last composition technique I will cover is repetition and pattern. I find this to be one of the more difficult techniques, which might explain why the results seem so powerful. Patterns are everywhere if you practice looking for them, and using them in your photography can create an interesting image that is dynamic without being distracting.

Repetition and pattern make for more interesting photos that hold the viewer’s attention. One strategy is to identify a location that exhibits a strong pattern, then anticipate when something interesting might happen to break the pattern or cross it. It can be even harder to notice when a dynamic pattern is happening, perhaps layers of hugs can form a pattern if you position yourself correctly.

Repetition and patterns can make your photos more dynamic and hold the viewer’s attention. Practicing seeing the patterns can help you use them in your images.

Applying Photographic Composition Techniques to Wedding Photography

I look forward to hearing how you apply these photographic composition techniques to your wedding photography. Sometimes when we set ourselves constraints and intentionally try to accomplish a certain thing, it eventually leads to a creative breakthrough. If you find the rules and techniques overwhelming, try them and you can always ignore them.

However, if you practice remembering how to see and applying it to your photos, you might find yourself creating rather than just reacting on the wedding day. Taking a photo and composing a photo are two different things. Challenge yourself to apply some of these techniques to your wedding photography and see how it changes your work.


About the Author: Brenda Bergreen is a Colorado wedding photographer, videographer, yoga instructor and writer who works alongside her husband at Bergreen Photography. With their mission and mantra “Love. Adventurous. They are dedicated to telling stories of adventures in beautiful places.


Picture credits: Photographs by Brenda Bergreen

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