Capture those special moments

Jess Wells

Junior Web Designer, johnlewis.com

Taking your camera to a wedding? Disappointed by your results? Here are some handy tips on taking great photos; from how to cope with difficult lighting, taking pictures of children, ideas for unusual shots and - most important of all - capturing the happy couple’s special moments.

As a photographer going to a wedding as a guest, it’s hard for me not to scrutinise the official photographer’s every move. I’ve even followed them around, muttering “I wouldn’t have done it that way”! It’s even worse when you know the bride and groom really well. 

I recently went to a wedding where the photographer turned up 10 minutes late, so I felt obliged to jump in and shoot down the aisle. Then I heard a screech, a door slam and someone run in, so I stepped back into the aisle and let them carry on.

Everyone wants to get a great shot of the happy couple on the day but the best bit about being a guest photographer is that you can take all those candid photos.

Wedding Image of Bride Kissing Page Boy
Wedding Image of Girl Hiding

On the day try to stay clear from the official photographer - they’re there for a reason - but do observe them; take a step back and get the shots of the bride and groom looking at the photographer. A good idea is to look around for guest laughing or a child yawning; the main photographer can’t be everywhere, so look in the opposite direction for things happening around you. The couple will have lots of official photos but it’s those candid, informal pictures that will complement the wedding album and illustrate the atmosphere of the occasion so well.

Wedding Image of Detail shot
Wedding Image of Flowers

During the ceremony it’s more than likely you’re not allowed to take photographs, so concentrate on the reception. Why not take some close-up shots, especially when the bride’s family have taken a lot of time and care on creating the details?

Next would be speeches and the first dance. By this time the light is starting to drop, so using a flash might be best. Most cameras come with an internal flash but the higher end DSLRs (digital single-lens reflex) will require an external flash.

Which camera?

What equipment do I need I hear you ask? I am a bit biased in the fact I use Canon, but there are a range of cameras and lenses that suit all sorts of users.

1. Point-and-shoot (or digital compact) cameras

These entry level digital cameras are great for everyday use as you can pop them in your pocket or handbag. They're fine for outside shots they could struggle with low light or fast movement.  A good choice is the Panasonic TZ55 . Photos and videos can be tagged with location names and are automatically sorted for quick reach. The Samsung WB800F lets you instantly send quality photos to social networks like Facebook or email them to a small group of people, directly from the camera, while Live Panorama just aim, hold the shutter button down, and pan to capture the perfect scene with everyone in it.

2.  Bridge cameras

These 'bridge the gap' between point and shoot and Digital SLRs. They look like SLRs and have the high megapixel counts and greater zoom ranges but they still carry the automatic nature of point and shoots. The Fujifilm Finepix SL1000 has a 50x optical zoom and 22 shooting modes.

3.  DSLR  cameras

If you're a professional or aim to be one then you really need to consider a DSLR. They really give you so many more features and functionality, not least a choice of lenses. The Canon EOS 1200D is a super entry level camera and is a great transition from a compact user. The Nikon D90 is the world's first digital SLR camera to feature a movie function. You'll be able to shoot in high definition and playback on the camera screen with sound, thanks to its uniquely powerful speaker and microphone system.

Digital Compact
Bridge Cameras
DSLR Cameras

Which lens?

If you have a SLR there a range of lens that you can get that'll help you get that perfect picture.

Engagement Image of Couple

Portrait 

To achieve a fixed focal length lens go for a standard lens, such as the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 or the Nikon DX 35mm Standard Lens.

 

Image of Bridesmaid and Child

Telephoto 

Best for taking pictures of guests, as you can keep a distance from your subject and capture those moments when they’re unaware. Prices vary quite a lot. A good choice is the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM.

Image of close up of Wedding rings

Macro

Macro lenses are great for close-up, detailed elements of the wedding. Sigma lenses offer good value and can be used on both Nikon and Canon cameras. 

Accessories

Make sure you have enough memory cards: you can never have enough. If you have an external flash on your SLR, remember to have back-up batteries just in case.

Image of Couple with leaves
Black and white Image of Couple

My 5 points to remember….

1. Keep clear of the professional photographer

2. Look for available light source

3. Experiment with your camera - be creative

4. Look for unusual shots, odd angles, informal poses

5. Have fun!

All imagery taken by jessicajillphotography.com