If you look up the definition of a photojournalist, you’ll find it to be:
A journalist who presents a story primarily though the use of photographs.
It’s all about the story. It’s not about a few great portraits. It’s not about a selection of images selected and put into an album with no regard to how they fit together. When it comes to being a wedding photojournalist, it’s all about capturing the true emotion of the day through the use of photographs.
Here are 7 tips to becoming a better wedding photojournalist.
1. Be Unobtrusive
In order to capture the moment as it happens, you have to let it happen with no assistance from you. Learn to blend into the crowd, or hang out on the perimeter. When you arrive at your location, tell people to ignore you – you are there to capture things as they happen. If you don’t talk, and hang back, they will quickly follow your advice, and act out their true emotions and feelings. Allowing you to become that much better at your job.
2. Dress The Part
Do you use two shooters? During some of our first weddings, I would actually wear dresses in a variety of colors. When I got the photographs back from one wedding and discovered my magenta dress stood out in many of the images, I bought a black pantsuit and never looked back. Dressing in black means you can blend into the surroundings, hide and be camouflaged, and be unnoticeable even when you happen to be in a few images. And being in pants means I can climb, bend, and crawl anyplace, anytime, without worrying about how it looks.
3. Vendors Are Your Friends
Wedding coordinators, caterers, videographers, and DJs/bands are all your best friends. They can help you set up some amazing images, without the bride and groom knowing. For instance, if the videographer is going to interview the bride and put her in a spotlight, take images from every angle, and capture some amazing looks. If you’ve introduced yourself and work as a team, you can plan these moments perfect for each other, helping you look more professional, and giving the bride and groom an amazing experience.
4. Stage As Little As Possible
Photojournalism means telling the story as it happens, not staging or planning it. While you should use your professionalism to direct things along the way, leave the major decisions to the bride and groom. Let them enjoy their reception without pulling them away from their guests for more photographs. Put yourself on assignment throughout the day and spend 5 minutes capturing different pieces of the day – i.e. table shots, flowers, the band, the location, friends, etc.
5. Learn Names First
Have your bride and groom fill out a form a week or two before the event, and have them list the names of the main players: mom’s and dad’s, brothers and sisters, bridesmaids and groomsmen. Then spend a few minutes the day of the event memorizing the names. Because these people are the main players, each will be able to help you round up other family members for photographs, or run small errands for you. And it’s much easier if you can say, “Ashley would you head out and find Sarah’s mom for her please?” Plus it makes you look more professional.
6. Action, Reaction
Don’t stop with one or two shots of the main action. Start spinning around and capturing the reaction as well. For example, snap a few images of the bride and groom at the toast. Then focus in on the best man as he makes his speech. Capture just the glass and the ring finger of the bride as she wears her new ring. Capture the audience as they raise their glasses in the toast. Capture mom and dad as they shed a tear.
7. Think Of Your Final Product
I’m a big fan of building the final album wedding as a photographer, and never leaving that job to the bride and groom. Why? Because they don’t understand how you took the photographs. They need to see the story to truly appreciate what you’ve done. If you leave it to them, they’ll choose a selection of images, and you have to put it into some type of order for the album. If you design it, they’ll see the story, have more vivid memories, LOVE what you’ve done for them – and ultimately spend more with you.