How to Improve Your Candid Wedding Photography

A bouquet tossing battle. Image credit Kesha Lambert.

“I didn’t even know it had happened”

“I feel like I’m there after looking at these photos.”

“I relive my wedding day every time I open my wedding album.”

Candid wedding photography of the fleeting little moments that unfold on the wedding day is a powerful storytelling technique. When we approach candid photography with intention and a bit of strategy, the final images will embody all the humor, personality, relationship dynamics, nuance and energy of the day.

Wedding candids immerse the viewer in the wedding day experience and make them feel something. Weddings are visually beautiful and, as photographers, we beg to show the pretty parts of the wedding day in our portfolios – the perfectly styled flat lays of bridal detailing, the perfectly lit couple portraits or the first kiss. perfectly captured. These are the wedding day parts that we often see in a photographer’s public portfolio and these are the type of wedding photos that will win the client’s business.

A spontaneous kiss between grandfather and grandmother.

A spontaneous kiss between grandfather and grandmother. Image credit Kesha Lambert.

Candid captures of unscripted, sometimes imperfect moments are the types of photos that will win their hearts. But none of this happens by accident. Those moments that come and go, sometimes in seconds, are some of the most important memories that will be cherished and shared across generations.

So here are five ways to elevate your candid wedding captures, both during the shooting process and during the editing process, making full use of Photoshop and Lightroom.

1. Observe

The art of capturing great candids begins before the wedding day. Gather information using curious questionnaires in the days leading up to the wedding. Tap into your curiosity, ditch the cut-and-paste templates, and create a questionnaire filled with things you’d personally like to know about your clients and the people they plan to celebrate their wedding day with. Here are some sample questions:

  • What is your sun sign?
  • It’s your staycation, what do you do first?
  • How did you meet your witness?
  • What’s the first thing you notice about someone when you first meet them?

These random and curious questions will give you a reservoir of information to extract. The things they share will give you a sense of familiarity and connection with your customers. Observation is essential on the wedding day. As you observe the wedding day, be present, eliminate distractions, and take mental notes:

  • What relationship dynamics do you see?
  • Who are the matriarchs?
  • Who is the resident comedian?
  • How do they interact with each other?
  • What music do they listen to?

Fumbled Garter Throw.

Fumbled Garter Throw. Image credit Kesha Lambert.

The nuance is in the things people say and do on the wedding day – these things give you a clue and give you a crash course in how to anticipate the couple’s specific wedding moments.

2. Anticipate

The ability to anticipate moments is a skill acquired through experience. Weddings are ritual and the more weddings you shoot, the better your ability to anticipate grandma’s soca moan on the dance floor. Even if you don’t have a wedding under your belt, you can use careful observation as a guide to anticipating the times. You don’t have to leave “the right place at the right time” until lucky.

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The “Pup Of Honor” poo takes a nap after a hot summer ceremony. Image credit Kesha Lambert.

Anticipating a moment allows you to be in the right place at the right time because your intuition has told you where to go. As you observe, you can identify the key people to watch – your resident comedian, the aunt who likes to dance, the fraternity brothers sitting at table 4.

3. Prepare

Anticipation will bring you to the present moment and preparation will allow you to capture that moment beautifully. Put things in place to reduce or eliminate setup time and wear a dual harness with your camera and lenses mounted.

I keep an ultra-wide 14-24mm GM and a9II and my 85mm GM and a1 on me at all times. Have your lighting set up in advance and don’t work alone. I always work with a second shooter and designated lighting assistant for off-camera lighting at all one-day weddings.

The parents enjoy the moment and the guest sips a martini.

The parents enjoy the moment and the guest sips a martini.

Father of the bride dancing with the bride.

Image credits Kesha Lambert.

Build a team – working with the same network of second shooters and lighting assistants means there will be synergy on the wedding day. A lighting assistant that intuitively knows how the main photographer is moving and knows where to place the light is the clutch! A second photographer whose work aligns with your style and approach creates a cohesive end product.

4. Run

If you’ve ever looked at your raw files and seen an incredible moment – only to realize that the photo is blurry or poorly lit because your flash didn’t fire – then you know that capturing a moment involves not only being in the right place at the right time but also the technical execution.

The adoring gaze of a daddy's girl.

The adoring gaze of a daddy’s girl. Image credit Kesha Lambert.

Capturing fast moments requires gear that keeps up with the day. I rely on lenses that perform well in low light, camera bodies with a full intelligent autofocus system, and flashes and strobes with fast recycle times.

5. Edit

Editing is the final element you need to elevate your candid photography. With the pace of the wedding day, we are sometimes faced with the need to prioritize capturing the moment over perfect execution. Maybe you accidentally dialed in a lower shutter speed or increased your ISO without realizing it. Maybe grandpa unexpectedly fell into a split and your off-camera light isn’t in the right position (if grandpa does a split on the dance floor, I’ll take the shot that my light whether or not in the correct position.)

The bride who took her shoes off and passed them to the nearest person so she could dance.

The bride who took her shoes off and passed them to the nearest person so she could dance. Image credit Kesha Lambert.

The editing tools in Lightroom and Photoshop give me options to fix runtime flaws. Photoshop and Lightroom are also powerful creative tools that allow me to turn an image into art that my clients will love. Deeper contrast, emphasis on specific colors, creative cultures – these are all tools that help me bring the story to life.

Changing the direction of light on a backlit outdoor ceremonial exit using the Select Subject and Linear Gradient masks in Lightroom.

Changing the direction of light on a backlit outdoor ceremonial exit using the Select Subject and Linear Gradient masks in Lightroom.

I use Lightroom’s comprehensive masking tools to apply isolated edits to specific parts of an image, allowing me to move and control the narrative of storytelling using color, light, shadow, and the texture. Using the HSL panel gives me more control over the color and tone of an image and I use this panel to achieve realistic skin tones, or to boost or tone down specific colors in an image. Lightroom’s clone tool allows me to quickly remove distracting small objects from the environment like exit signs – and when there’s a large amount of objects to remove, I open Photoshop.

Creation of a composite combining a vegetable image and a portrait of a couple, simplified with Photoshop.

Creation of a composite combining a vegetable image and a portrait of a couple, simplified with Photoshop.

Creation of a composite combining a vegetable image and a portrait of a couple, simplified with Photoshop.

The end result – a perfect composite.

Photoshop is my go-to for slightly more complex edits, and just like photography lighting and equipment, Photoshop allows me to create without limits. Whether it’s opening your eyes shut, removing onlookers from the background, or creating a creative composite, the possibilities are endless.

Removed multiple viewers from the background with Photoshop.

Removed multiple viewers from the background with Photoshop.

Removed multiple viewers from the background with Photoshop.

Removed multiple viewers from the background with Photoshop.

Removed multiple viewers from the background with Photoshop.

With that, and all of the tips above, I encourage you to have fun, push your point of view, and steal your clients’ hearts with candid photography.

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