SVP’s top ten hardest things to photograph at a wedding

October 9, 2020

If we’re ever at a wedding and you spot me standing with my hands on my hips, my head tilted to one side, and my brows furrowed so hard they meet in the middle and turn into a monobrow… it’s highly likely I’ll be trying to photograph one of the following:

10/ Getting out of the car

Surrounded by helping hands in every direction, this wedding moment makes my heart beat FAST. When everyone descends to help, it’s difficult to get close enough to capture a photo without random shoulders and rogue bouquets in the way. It’s a fine balance between getting the shot and not spoiling other people’s enjoyment of the moment.

Plus, it’s not easy stepping out of a car in a big dress. So catching a happy expression as well as getting great framing is a tough test of timing.

So I love it when I spot the wedding car coming down the road early. And I love it even more, when the car driver reads my mind and winds down the back window, giving me a chance to capture a clear photo of the bride’s reaction when she’s greeted by everyone waiting for her.

Knowing I already have a smashing shot nailed takes the pressure off and gives me a burst of confidence to capture the car exit as it unfolds.

9/ Anything where I’m restricted to a small space

I often find myself crouching in a corner or backed against a wall to get that extra half an inch of depth that’ll make all the difference to my shot. But even then, it’s common for something to jut into the photos.  

Which is pretty much during every wedding ceremony. If I’m photographing from the front of the ceremony location, I’ll be confined to a small space. Which gets even tighter when you add pedestals of flowers… And the string quartet… And the videographer… And then your witnesses join you for the vows…Yikes!

But it is what it is. And I’ve learned to love imperfection and focus on doing my best with what’s in front of me. 

8/ A wedding cake displayed against a dark, drab background

Why do the most beautiful wedding cakes always seem to end up in the darkest, dingiest corner? (Safety, maybe? At least Great Aunt Flo won’t stumble into it after too many gin brambles.) 

It makes my heart sink. Because it’s hard to get a photo that shows the cake off well when the light and background aren’t good. Because any cake can look a million dollars in lovely light and a stunning setting.

7/ Engraved rings

Rings are fiddly to photograph. But engraved ones? Another level.

All that tiny intricate detail. All those reflections. All that light bouncing off them. Jeepers!

The camera finds it hard to autofocus, so I always end up focusing manually to make sure the engraving is crystal clear.

And if focusing wasn’t enough of a challenge, the curvature of a wedding band often obscures some of the engraving. Plus, I’m long-sighted, and can’t see anything that small for toffee. So I take a photo, zoom into it on the back of my camera and check it’s in the best position – with the most important bit showing, and not upside down.

It’s slow going but the tortoise wins the wedding ring race.

6/ Grief

Sadness and pain break my heart. So I find it mentally hard to shoot the moments when lost loved ones are honoured and remembered. 

I feel torn about whether to capture these moments too… Invariably, I decide to photograph such solemn moments, because they’re as much a part of the story as the brighter times. But I dial-up the discretion by shooting sparingly and sensitively.

5/ Perfectly posed children 

Little ones make the best subjects. But they can also be the worst

It’s definitely worth trying to capture a classic photo where they’re looking at the camera and smiling. But if things go off plan, it’s rare to get back on track – even with ice cream. So it’s wise to give up well before a complete meltdown erupts (and that’s just me). 

Activities that distract them from the camera – like walking, eating cupcakes or playing Chinese whispers – work a treat. 

4/ Pets

Most notably, the lively and fast as fudge spaniel. A joy but a challenge. Patience and treats essential – in large quantities.

3/ Flying birds

(I don’t know why I wrote ‘flying’ birds. Because I’ve never seen a penguin, emu or ostrich at a wedding. But who knows? Once upon a time, I’d never seen a llama at a wedding. So I won’t edit it.)

So there I was thinking spaniels are fast. Then I encountered a falconry display. And now spaniels seem easy.

I’m glad these demos last a while. And that the same bird flies a few times. Because my hit rate drops significantly when photographing birds of prey. As does my jaw when they swoop close to my head.

2/ Glass frames

The shiny surface means lots of reflections. And those reflections aren’t always a good look. 

So I take time to find the spot where the camera, glass and light source are at the optimum angle to minimise the reflection. (I honestly didn’t think geometry would ever be useful in wedding photography.)

It’s intensely frustrating and irresistibility challenging.

Want to make your photographer’s life easier? Mount the glass at the back of your frame.

And in top spot ….

1/ Mirrors

THEEE hardest thing in the world to photograph is anything mirrored. 

With all those reflections (yep, worse than glass frames), it can be hard to find an angle where you can actually see everything that’s on the mirror! 

It’s great for increasing my daily step count though. Because I would walk 500 miles to find the right angle. And then I would walk 500 more to avoid doing it again.