Archive › April, 2013

Photo Tip Monday // 4 Tips for Photographing a Wedding Ceremony

The wedding ceremony is an intimidating subject for both new and old photographers. I get emails from people asking me how to shoot their first wedding, and I talk to old pros who confide that they still won’t shoot someone’s ceremony. Whether you’re thinking about shooting your first wedding, or you’ve photographed 100, here are four tips to make things a little smoother.


1. Have fun

After 12 years of shooting weddings, this is still my best tip. No one likes a crabby photographer. I’ve heard more people complain about their wedding photographer than any other single component of a wedding. Having fun will do two fantastic things for you:

  1. It will keep you relaxed. It’s hard to be all stressed out when you’re really enjoying things.
  2. It will win you better photos. If you’re fun and chill, this will tend to relax the folks you’re photographing. When they relax, they look a lot better. Setting the tone with your clients before the ceremony starts means that as you’re taking photos during the event, they’re going to be at ease… at least about the photography!

Wedding Photography Tips

Happy photographers, happy couple


2. Talk to the bride, shoot for the bride

There may be hundreds of people at the wedding, but you’re only shooting for 1 client. You need to know what she wants, and when she tells you, do it! Before every ceremony I shoot I talk to the bride about where I’m going to be during the ceremony. My big question is always if they care if I’m up front. In the past few years, every single bride has told me, “Do whatever it takes, get me good photographs.” Once you know where you can stand, the rest falls into place. Be respectful; don’t distract; don’t be flashy; all that jazz… but go for it. Go stand where you need to in order to get good shots, and don’t stress about what the people in the audience might think.

Wedding Photography Tips
I’m the good looking one behind the groomsmen…

3. Talk to the lighting guy (indoor wedding)

Someone, somewhere is controlling the lights and you want to talk to him/her too. Most ceremonies are dimly lit, posing a challenge for us as photographers. Often times, I’ve been able to get the lighting guy to turn up the lights a bit more, without wrecking the mood the couple is trying to achieve. When it comes to light, every little bit helps.

The lighting guru can also help you get some exposure and white balance settings down ahead of time. I get them to set the lights to what they will be during the ceremony. Then I can have some stand-ins up on stage to take some sample shots and figure out what exposure settings will work well. Finally, use a white piece of paper and set a custom white balance for your stage lighting. It’s really nice to figure these things out before the ceremony starts, not in the middle when you’re under pressure.


4. Have a plan

Take a few minutes to figure out when and where you’re going to shoot. Look over a program so that you know what is going to happen, and then plan your shots out accordingly. Develop a route that you’re going to follow through the ceremony so that you don’t find yourself running from one corner of the church to the other trying to catch shots on the fly. Attending the rehearsal is really helpful for knowing where people are walking and standing and understanding the flow of the ceremony.

Photographing a Wedding

I always make sure I’m in the aisle as the bride and groom walk out.

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Feature Friday // Lisa Kristine: Photos that bear witness to modern slavery

Our instructor, Hannah Brandau, has a heart for giving a voice to the voiceless. This is a very powerful presentation by a photographer who is raising awareness of the slavery that is going on in our world today. The numbers are astonishing and the pictures are heart-breaking.

The PhotoEx: Thailand 2013 leaves for Bangkok this weekend. Pray for them as they serve by making a promo video for House of Grace. Also be praying for House of Grace and the work they do to help girls caught and/or in danger of being enslaved.

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3 Guides for Story Telling Compositions

Story Telling Compositions

I like to think of a photograph as a story. Not just “Fine Art” photographs, all photographs. Every image tells a story. Sometimes the story is, “I’m eating pasta right now” as told by my iPhone. Sometimes the story is, “Buy this product and you’ll be happy and have lots of friends.” Sometimes the story comes together in a moment on the street, other times the story takes hours of preparation with models, lights, and props.

I’m eating this right now, as told by my iPhone.
All photos tell a story. Here are three ideas for telling your story well.

1. A picture’s worth 1000 words

You’ve probably heard that 1000 times, but let’s assume it’s true. This means that for every photo you take, every story you tell, you have ONLY 1000 words to use to tell that story. You need to use those words carefully, making sure that every single one counts. You wouldn’t turn in a paper to class with 600 words on the right subject and 400 words of gibberish. Don’t do that with your photo stories either. Get rid of everything that is not telling your story. If it doesn’t help, it hurts and it needs to go away. The strongest, most impactful photos use every one of their 1000 words to tell their story.

Story Telling Compositions
1000 words of hurrying through a rainy night in Venice


2. Use the right lens

Different lenses allow viewers to engage with the story in different ways. You could think of this as writing a story in the first person tense or the third person tense. When you get in close with a wide angle lens, you give your viewers the experience of being there. They are now part of the story you’re telling. It’s like writing in first person. When you step back a bit and use a telephoto lens, you give viewers a more objective perspective, that of an observer who isn’t actually participating in the story. Neither are right or wrong, just different ways of telling the story. A bit of thought before you snap the photo will help you decide which lens is going to give you the right perspective on the story you’re about to tell.

Story Telling Compositions Story Telling Compositions










One of these was shot in close with a wide angle, the other from a bit farther back with a telephoto. Can you tell which is which?

3. Don’t shoot flat footed

The height of your perspective is just as powerful as the lens you choose in determining how your viewers will interact with the story you’re telling. I’m 6’3” tall, so as I walk around, my camera tends to see the world from about 6 feet above the ground. This isn’t the only perspective on the world, and it shouldn’t be the only perspective in my photos either. A nice general rule is to shoot things at eye level. Not your eye… their eye. This is the strongest perspective for creating a direct connection between the viewer and the subject. Now, not everything has eyes, I understand that, but apply the principle. A car doesn’t have eyes, but if I want to create a direct connection between my viewers and a car, I need to get down at car level to create that shot.

Story Telling Compositions

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Feature Friday // Jill Thomas Photography

Jill Thomas is a wedding photographer in Utah. Why is she being featured here today? Because she is a photographer who will, hopefully, inspire you!


What’s cool about her website:

I like her idea about using pictures to talk about who she is. That’s pretty rad.

She isn’t JUST a wedding photographer. She does other stuff too. Like food and life and picnics!

And lastly, she uses a polaroid camera {Derks does too!} and film cameras. That’s pretty sweet.

Go ahead. Check out her stuff. It’s really good.

{what do you think about using polaroids and/or film cameras? Fun or Scary? Write your thoughts below!}

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Auto White Balance for Tungsten Lighting

I shoot auto white balance (AWB) all the time, and I’m not afraid to admit it. By letting the camera do its thing to figure out what is the color of the light, I’m free to do my thing and pay attention to the subject. That said, AWB isn’t perfect, and sometimes it is horribly lacking. For me, that happens when I’m shooting indoors in heavy tungsten (incandescent) lighting.

Tungsten lighting is great; it’s warm, dims well, and creates a great mood for living rooms, parties, and wedding receptions. Tungsten lighting is horrible; turning friendly wedding guests into evil, highly saturated orange goblins of the underworld.

Before and after with Tungsten lighting

Uncorrected tungsten lighting leaves something to be desired…


The problem is that Auto White Balance typically struggles to go far enough when adjusting for tungsten lighting. So here’s what I do… Leaving the camera set to AWB, I go into the WB Shift/BKT (Canon) and set it to B9.

Canon WB Shift/Bracket Menu     Canon WB Shift/Bracket Menu

Using this menu for Canon or Nikon, shift your WB all the way to blue.

This tells the camera, “Take your AWB value, add 9 blue to it, and use that.” This means that the camera is still measuring the light and coming up with a white balance reading, but now instead of using that reading directly, it is adding a lot more blue to it than normal. My final result is a much better color rendition, while still not having to adjust the white balance manually.
Auto White Balance for Tungsten Lighting Auto White Balance for Tungsten Lighting











Here is the same shot processed two different ways. The first is with the Tungsten values for my Canon camera. The second is with the shifted white balance as shot by the camera. It’s not perfect, but it’s a lot better!

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