The best wedding photography skills to learn and develop
So you’re trying to develop your wedding photography skills? Let’s talk about some of the photography skills you need to learn and develop. My advice is to pick one thing at a time to focus on, perfect it, and then move on.
As a wedding photographer for over a decade, it can be fun to look back at some of my past work. Some of my techniques and results were miserable. And yet, some of those early photos stand the test of time.
Let’s talk why.
Posing and generally working with couples
The number one thing that can instantly make you a better wedding photographer is connecting with your couples. From getting to know them to figuring out how to showcase each individual’s unique beauty, your couples will make you better.
At first it may simply be a lack of experience. If you’ve only photographed a few people, you won’t be doing very well. Once you have more and more people in front of your camera, you will be more confident.
As for the pose, as with most of my suggestions, I’d advise keeping it simple. The simple is often the most natural and therefore the most beautiful. You will want to connect with your couples and connect them to each other. This connection will be more important than any complicated pose you can force them into. However, you can still check out our favorite wedding photography poses below.
Moments: creating memories
My main point above was about the connection. And that brings us to times. If I look at my oldest photos which are still impressive, they may lack photographic technique, but they still have meaning. Why? Probably because of the story the photo tells.
When it comes to wedding photography, it’s about telling the story of this all-important ritual. Getting married is often a big deal for a couple and their family. This may be the first time the whole family has been reunited in a while, and it’s also the union of two families in hopes of a connected future.
Learning to see and capture moments will make you a better wedding photographer, regardless of your fancy gear or technical skills. Just start; Learn to see. Sit in a cafe or in a park and watch how people interact, notice when emotions start to spill out and smiles start to shine. Better yet, look for those moments at a very emotional event like a wedding.
If you’re ready to dive deeper into capturing moments, check out this video.
Light: Know It, Use It, Love It
Ok, ok, the emotions, the connection and the moments are beautiful and good, but how do I actually take a picture? You must learn the light. And shadows.
Learn to see light in all its complex beauty. Light can be described in so many ways such as angle, direction, color, warmth, intensity, hardness, softness, natural and artificial. When someone says, “the light is really beautiful right now!” Do you know what they mean? Have you ever said that and do you know what you mean and why?
The wedding photography skill that has the fastest impact on your work might be connecting with people and the ability to capture moments. However, the skill that will have the biggest impact is light.
Seek first to understand the light. Then you can start seeing it, using it, and playing with it. And possibly, you could even create your own light.
Some first tips to explore:
- Expose for highlights
- Have a plan for “bad” light
- Try to control the light and search for the “right” light
The following videos delve deeper into this subject of light especially as it relates to wedding photography.
Light and shadows in photography
Golden Hour on the wedding day
Outdoor Night Wedding Photography Tips
Lighting tips for outdoor wedding photography
Composition: Refine your shots
We cannot forget the ever important skill of composition. It’s the final step that will pull your work together and give it that extra ooh-la-la punch. Or whatever reaction you’re hoping for from your viewer. Here are some composition tips to get you started.
The first simple answer to improving your composition is not just choosing what to include, but also choosing what not to include. Eliminate distracting elements. Do you really need this trash in your frame, what does it add?
Next, I really like to think about layering. What is the foreground, subject and background. How can you use overlay to maybe have a 2D image pull you into the 3D moment. When you start thinking about layering, you’ll find yourself diving into the concept of depth of field. How does your camera and the lens you use view the scene in front of you?
From there, you start following the rules or learning the rules well enough to know when to break them. You will learn to look for guidelines, shapes, the rule of thirds, symmetry and patterns. Using these elements will help you compose and create a stronger image.
One of the overlooked tricks is to leave negative space. Again, it’s this idea of choosing what not to include. Imagine a photo of a small child holding a kite. Then imagine the same picture with a wide open sky full of possibilities over the child. Use composition to take your photos from snapshots to stories.
There are a few other little rules to consider, such as avoiding cutting off the subject’s limbs or having trees or other strange objects that seem to grow out of their head. From overview to details, composition takes your work to the next level. Some of these tips are in the following video:
Light, composition and capturing moments are the main wedding photography skills you need to develop to take your work to the next level. These are all quite complex subjects, which is your strength and which is your weak point? Which skill will you choose to practice and improve?
A few other valuable skills to consider improving could be your editing, finding locations, dealing with equipment malfunctions, and helping your clients with the timeline.