AIM AND SHOOT
Beyond having a good eye and persistence, a wedding photojournalist’s prime expertise lies in the execution of the photos. After spotting a detail and keeping an eye on it to anticipate where it will wind up, it’s then a matter of framing and taking the photograph.
Most of that skill comes down to mastering your tool—the camera—and knowing how to spring into motion at the drop of a hat. You have to be at one with your equipment, and there can never be a question about your camera’s readiness for the action. Spontaneous moments wait for no one. And you never get a second chance.
Some professionals will keep their camera’s exposure kept to the available light, so there is no fumbling with the lens when a quick shot is in order. Still other WPJA pros will keep two cameras handy, one with a zoom lens and one with a wide-angle, in order to be able to switch back and forth if a detail is spotted close up or from afar.
It also doesn’t hurt to take stock of the wedding’s overall tone and cadence so you can keep an eye open for “outlier” moments that breach the familiar. Sometimes, taking a step back from the action is all you need to change the perspective. For instance, if the gathered guests are raucously letting loose on the dance floor and quickening the pulse of the party, your close-up lens should be out fishing for that “fleeting detail”: the wide-eyed onlooker; the quiet embrace of an aged couple; or the entwining of two hands in the middle of a sea of chaos. With two cameras, you can easily switch back to the wide-angled coverage when needed.
The key is being ready to move from one detail to another and not fixate or harp on that one fleeting element that has come and gone. You will miss some moments. That’s just a hard fact. But if you’re putting yourself out there, willing to fail in the name of a great photograph, you’re already winning. You have to quickly put that great lost moment behind you, because while you were lamenting its loss, a new one just popped up over your left shoulder.
Paying attention to such ever-shifting details will eventually produce pictures that will set your portfolio apart from the ordinary. Anyone can create a detail shot of a cake sitting on a table, a hanging dress, shoes, or rings—they will always be there until someone moves them. It’s the skill and intuition to capture these details as they move about during the course of the wedding that elevates the photojournalist’s work to the extraordinary.