I remember when we were just getting started with weddings that I knew I wanted to get better, but I didn’t know what to do to improve our images. These are the things that I wish I had known when I started searching the internet for wedding photography suggestions. Check out these wedding photography tips that you can master to produce amazing images yourself.

Off-camera flash

Off Camera Flash

So you probably already see the need to have a flash to fill in shadows and make sure you can see detail in faces, and here’s the next step. In photography, lighting does more than just provide illumination. Lighting can add dimension and interest. Unfortunately, a straight on flash isn’t going to add any depth to the picture. In fact, a straight on flash will actually flatten features giving you a bland image.

For an easy fix, you can bounce your on camera flash off a wall. By changing the direction of the light hitting your subject, you get rid of the flattening effect, and if done right, you can add a sense of depth to your images. Bounce off the cieling for a natural feel, or bounce off walls for a cool side light.

Even bouncing your on-camera flash has its limitations, though, and you’ll soon find yourself wanting more control. Adding additional off-camera strobes allows you to have lights coming in from multiple sources, and each light has a different purpose. Lighting is said to be one of the most creative parts of photography, and the sky is the limit with what you can do once you’re dealing with multiple light sources.

Shallow depth of field

Shallow Depth Of Field

If you want a quick way to set yourself apart from photographers who use point and shoot cameras, using a shallow depth of field is the quickest way to do it. Not only does a shallow depth of field look really cool, it also gives a sense of what’s important in the image based on what’s in focus. The out-of-focus parts of the picture blend together, and our eyes naturally move right to the part of the image that’s in focus.

There are 3 basic techniques to achieve a shallow depth of field. The first place to start is by lowering your aperture value down to a low number. Some lenses may only allow you to as low as 5.6, while others allow you to go to 4.0, 2.8, or even lower. The lower the number is, the more blurred out the background will be. The second thing to consider when trying to get a shallow depth of field is to extend your lens as much as you can. When you zoom, you get more blurred out background. You can also move in closer to the object you’re focusing on, which will also blur the background.

I can hear some of you right now – “I can do this same thing in Photoshop”. Please, if you’re wanting to look professional at all, don’t attempt this in Photoshop. People can usually spot digital blur pretty easily, and it makes you look like you’re an amateur. Do yourself a favor and blur out the background in your camera before the image ever gets to Photoshop.

Tell the story

Tell The Story

Every wedding is different, and everyone’s wedding day has different stories playing out. Capturing little pieces of those stories is what makes your journalistic images charged with emotion. These are the moments that people are looking to capture by hiring a professional photographer. Don’t let them down because it is true that those moments can’t ever be brought back again.

Not only is it important to watch for emotion as it’s happening, the longer you shoot, you’ll start to look for certain times when emotion usually surfaces. As dad is just about to walk his daughter down the aisle, just before the doors open, there’s frequently a look from the bride to her dad, or a whisper, or a tear. Emotions come out differently for different people, so watch for it, and be sure to capture the emotion as it’s displayed.

Right after the bride and groom are announced for the first time and they have their first chance to look at each other, it’s often a great time to get some fantastic kissing shots. Even a shy couple may forget everything else going on around them and get caught up into the moment with each other.

The first dances have their share of tears and smiles too. You can usually count on the beginning of the song and the end of the song for some priceless moments. These are just a few of the times when emotions bubble over. The more you pay attention at weddings you shoot, the more you’ll find other must-capture moments yourself.

Shoot from interesting angles

Shoot From Interesting Angles

Don’t you get bored of looking at pictures from the same perspective all the time? So do the bride and groom. Shoot in different locations and with different points of view, and you’ll be doing everyone a big favor by giving them more than the same old stuff to look at.

Not every “creative” angle that you think up is a brilliant idea. Some angles put on additional weight, and I can guarantee that even the most amazing image will never be cherished by a bride if it adds extra pounds. Experiment with different shooting locations, but when you’re going through your pictures, be honest enough with yourself about how the image turned out, and be willing to not include an image that doesn’t flatter the subject.

Know your camera

Know Your Camera

It’s an important skill to be able to “see” the shot before you click the shutter, but if you don’t know your gear, you may be frustrated by your inability to produce in your camera what you see in your mind. To make matters even worse, if you spend a lot of time trying to get a certain image, you can bet that you’ll have people asking about that image if it doesn’t make the cut. A wedding is a hard place to practice a new skill.

The best place to learn your gear is really before you need to shoot with it. Check out Youtube and other sites for tutorials on how to use your camera. If possible, pick the brain of other professionals. Read books. Then experiment at home and practice in a non-stressful environment.

Shoot with the final image in mind

Shoot With The Final Image In Mind

Since the introduction of professional digital cameras and image editing software, there’s no longer an excuse for pictures that have not been retouched. This also opens new doors to allowing creative shooting options. What shows up on the back of your digital camera is not how the image has to look after you’ve edited it. It’s a good idea to decide in advance what kind of major changes you want to an image before shooting it.

Your camera probably won’t shoot a panoramic, but it takes only a simple crop in Photoshop to turn a normal image into a panorama. Is the lighting setting the wrong feel for the mood you’re going for in your image? It’s not cheating to adjust the color levels. Knowing the abilities and limitations of your image editing software should help you in choosing which shots to take, and which ones won’t work even with powerful editing software.

Get inspiration before the wedding

Inspiration Before The Wedding

Like most artists, you probably have days when you can feel your creativity ready to move into action and days when you can’t think of a new pose to save your life. Some of the creativity triggers are out of our control, but there are plenty of things we can do to introduce a creative spark.

Have you noticed when you’re the most pumped up to take amazing pictures? For me, it’s right after I’ve listened to the best photographers at a photographer’s convention. Why would that be? Because their work and the presentation of their work inspires me. Give yourself a chance to be inspired before the wedding. We have a list of photographer websites that we regularly visit before shooting a wedding. Not only does this give us posing ideas, it usually gets us excited about doing something truly out of this world for the wedding pictures. Try it. I think it will work for you too.

What kinds of things do you do to get amazing images? Leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

23 Responses to “Wedding Photography Tips To Get Amazing Images”

  1. What a good bunch of wedding tips and pictures, though it seems the first picture is stretched a bit? It almost makes me feel sad that I don’t have a wedding to photograph but I wouldn’t want to have the responsiblity on my shoulders, I’m not nearly a good enough photographer (yet?) to take on a job like that, even if I did it for free :)

    • TJ says:

      I looked at the first image, and it doesn’t look stretched on my pc. I wonder if it’s a browser thing?

      We all start somewhere. If it’s a passion of yours, you can always start by second shooteing for low or no pay. That’s always a great launching point. It’s always good to get the hang of photographing a wedding along-side someone else before the stress of doing it all yourself.

      • TJ says:

        I’m not sure why, but the images didn’t stretch while using IE for me, but they did in Firefox. They stretching problem should be fixed now. Thanks for letting me know!

  2. Eric Kim says:

    Great photo tips TJ! :D

  3. John Rocha says:

    Hi Larissa

    Thanks for your comment on my site. It’s good to hear from you and I’ve got a reply there.

    I really enjoy tips from other photographers and I especially like your views on pre-visualization and knowing your equipment because they seem to bring together the aesthetic and technical aspects of photography.

    As I said in the reply on my site I can’t seem to see an RSS feed button on your site. Have I missed something or is there a reason.

    Good shooting


    • TJ says:

      It definitely seems like more “photographers” are doing machine gun shooting, just hoping to get something decent and experiment in Photoshop enough to get a decent end product. It makes so much more sense to shoot like you actually know what you’re planning to end up with.

      Sorry about the RSS feed link. I’ve added it to the main page sidebar, and I’m still trying to figure out how to get it added to the individual pages. I’m such a WordPress newb.

  4. James says:

    These tips are good for any kind of photography with people in them.

    For me, I’m still getting to know my camera (though I’m suffering a crazy desire for the new D7000 from Nikon – which would somewhat start the cycle over again).

    • TJ says:

      Thanks for dropping by! Do most of the Nikon cameras have the same basic layout from camera to camera? There’s a big jump in Canon’s layout from the Rebel series to the professional series, but most of the professional series cameras stay fairly consistent from model to model.

  5. This images are fantastic.. I just started practicing OCF and love the results. Sadly my Pocketwizard Flex is in the hospital, but cannot wait to get back to “learnin” when it returns. I need to tag along and watch you it seems as you have it down! Love the sillouette

    • TJ says:

      What happened to your PocketWizard? Sometimes I get nervous putting the antennas up because I feel like they could break off. I’m hoping yours didn’t.
      Thanks for the encouragement, and thanks for stopping by!

  6. Thanks TJ..
    I just put fresh batteries in it, and nothing happens.. zip, nada.. nothing!
    Its only 6 months old so its under warranty, but it still takes time!
    Keep up the good work!

    • TJ says:

      I’m really sorry, but I didn’t see this comment come through. I usually try to reply within a day, but September is definitely past the 24 hour mark=)

      That stinks about the PW. Did they replace the unit? We definitely haven’t had those kinds of issues. Maybe just a random equipment malfunction. Did you find anyone else online complaining about the same issue?

      Talk to you soon. No, seriously, this time I’ll watch my inbox closer for new comments!! ;)

  7. [...] Learning Definitely do a ton of online learning. You can’t beat the price. Check out these wedding photography tips to get you started. Then find blogs, articles, websites, videos, podcasts, and anything else you [...]

  8. Christian says:

    I’m not even sure what to classify myself as. My dad gave me my first SLR when I was 12 years old. And 30 years later and many years of just taking pictures for the pure enjoyment of it, I’m at a crossroads. I’ve taken pictures at family events just for the love of it (especially since I got a DSLR). I know I’m no professional but every time there is an event going on, my name is the first to come out of family/friends mouth to take pictures. So my name has come up to photograph a friend’s sister wedding after her sister saw some family pictures/photo shoot I did of my friends kids. I have been on a mad binge for the last 2 months (Wedding in Oct) just trying to see what I’m getting myself into. I must admit, I’m really nervous about it because this is a major event. Nothing like family gathering/party.

    I was glad to see your comment about everyone starting somewhere and to try doing a wedding for little or no pay. That’s great advice from someone who has been where I am. It’s a bit of a confidence builder for me.

    • TJ says:

      Is the website that you listed yours? If so, it looks like you may have already shot a wedding or 2? If so, that’s awesome!

      If your name keeps coming up, and you love doing it, then I’d say just keep shooting. Make sure the expectations are clear – “hey, I’m really just trying to build up my portfolio and gain experience, so there are probably going to be shots I miss”. Also, I’d highly recommend bringing along another photographer to the wedding (even better if you can bring an experienced photographer).

      As far as the pay, I know there are photographers who would disagree, but I really think you’re right in starting at shooting for free or low cost, then increasing the rate as your skill goes up. As a consumer, that makes sense anyway.

      If you love it, keep at it! We never thought that we’d end up doing photography full time. One session just led to another, and we ended up making a career out of it.

      Let us know how the wedding goes! Talk to you soon!

  9. Stefan says:

    Useful tips and nice photos!

  10. greatttt tips, thanks for sharing !

  11. Max Surikov says:

    Interesting and in depth presentation.

    Since photography is about light, it is important to establish the baseline ambient setting when using OCF. Also, it is important to remember, that you can control the light spread from the flash to control the light output. For example, in the couple’s picture by the lake,I would have chosen 110mm setting to focus the light on the couples faces. Also this allows you to “blow away the sun” when needed if working with High-sync capable triggers.

    • TJ says:

      Thanks for the suggestion! Larissa works a lot with her 24-70, so I’m guessing she was at 70mm here. That’s a good point about taking control of the light though.

      • Max Surikov says:

        TJ, I was actually referring to the manual focus on the flash. 580EXII can focus up to 105mm. This allows to focus as much of the flash photons on the subject rather than losing them on the surrounding areas. This can really add great lighting to the subject. With 24-70, zooming in at 70mm would focus the flash to 70mm, thus “loosing” 35mm of focused light.

        • TJ McDowell says:

          Gotcha. I bet you could probably teach me a few things about strobes. We really haven’t experimented much with manually focusing flashes.