The Freelance Wedding Photographer How to Take Great First Dance Wedding Pictures in 7 Easy Steps
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The Freelance Wedding Photographer How to Take Great First Dance Wedding Pictures in 7 Easy Steps

To take dynamic wedding photos you need to break the rules of the traditional wedding photographer

Many people bring cameras to weddings and shoot a plethora of pictures. One of the most photographed events of the day is the bride and grooms first dance. The shocking thing is that if you were to take all those pictures and place them side by side, the expertise of the photographer aside, you wouldn’t be able to tell which photographer took which picture. For some mysterious reason, everyone shoots every aspect of a wedding in the same manner. They shoot at the same angles, using the same f-stop and the same shutter speed. Even the professional wedding photographers have fallen into this trap. Where has creativity gone?

Wedding photographers, like a videographer, have a shooting script. The bride and groom expect a pictorial record of certain aspects of their wedding day. You have to shoot the first dance between the bride and groom. it’s expected. It’s traditional. It’s one of the shots on your shooting script. However, there isn’t any rule, written or unwritten, that states that there is only one right way to shoot the first dance, or any other wedding activity for that matter. Still, people are funny, so I always get the conventional shots before I let my creativity take control. Some brides and grooms will demand the conventional shots but the vast majority elects to go with the unconventional shots once they see them. Back in the days when we shot film, shooting weddings this way cost me a few more dollars in film and a few more hours in the darkroom but the results, happy and pleased brides and grooms, made it all worthwhile. Today, shooting digital, shooting those extra pictures doesn’t cost us anything but a little extra time.

The next time you shoot a first dance, shoot the traditional shots, then unleash your creativity. The seven secrets that I’m going to share with you here will turn ordinary first dance pictures into dynamic, attention getting photographs that will have everyone ooohing and aaahing.

1. Rule Number One: Break the rule of shooting all of your first dance photos from a standing position. Try shooting upward from a low angle. This alone is enough to produce a dynamic photograph that will stand out from the crowd but it’s also a good way to include background details. Wedding receptions are often held in very ornately decorated rooms or halls and this low angle allows you to capture much of that splendor along with the happy couple.

2. Rule Number Two: Break the rule of shooting all your pictures from the same side of the dance floor. Many photographers have fallen into the habit of shooting all of their first dance photos from one side of the dance floor to isolate the young couple from the masses. That’s the traditional way of doing things. Break out of the rut. Move to the other side of the dance floor and shoot a picture that captures the excitement of the wedding guest as they watch the bride and groom glide across the dance floor in each other’s arms for the first time as husband and wife. Shoot a picture that shows the couple smiling joyfully as they bask in the adoring looks of their wedding guests. Shoots some pictures that capture the smiling guest and “paparazzi” as they snap pictures of the couple.

3. Rule Number Three: Break the rule of shooting at a high shutter speed to stop all the action. Lower your shutter speed for a few shots to induce a little blur in your shots to show the motion of the dancers as they swirl around the dance floor. I you are lucky, like I’ve been on more than one occasion, you will release your shutter just as a guests flash goes off near the couple freezing them in space while the other dancer blur to show motion around them.

4. Rule Number Four: Get the flash off the camera. On camera flash produce flat lighting so take the flash off the camera and have a helper move around with it as you continue to shoot. Equip your camera and flash with a wireless remote. To do this you need to know the effective range of your flash unit and I’ll cover that in another article.

5. Rule Number Five: Light the dance floor before the reception starts. I have used as many as a dozen flash units at one reception. I used various mounting devices to mount them on poles, atop band speakers, balcony railings, etc. I set them up with a multi-channel radio remote tripping device so I cold program the to fire in different group so I could control which units fired right from my camera. This method beats having several helpers running around with flash units and depending on them to be where you wanted them when you need them there.

6. Rule Number Six: Make use of the videographer. Most couples today have a videographer videotaping their first dance and that’s a real opportunity for you to get creative. Set your camera to underexpose the couple on the dance floor and then wait for the videographer’s on-camera light to brighten and focus on the couple. This produces an eye catching spotlight effect.

7. Rule Number Seven: This takes place in the digital darkroom. One of my favorite tricks is to turn the picture into a black and white picture and then restore color to the bride and groom. Some people think that this is a cheesy and cheap trick but you’d be surprised at how many couples really love the effect. Explaining how to create such a photo is beyond the scope of this article but I have another article in the works that will explain how to create such a picture.

Today, in the tight economy and shrinking budgets, many photographers are cutting their prices to get new business. They are marketing their wedding packages based on price rather than on value. It better to drop something from your wedding package if you have to, but sell value rather than price. Weddings are a once in a lifetime event and they will hire you to record it in pictures if you prove you can produce the dynamic attention-arresting pictures they crave.

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Comments (1)

Excellent article!