How To Get The Most Out of a 15min Wedding-day Shoot
A handy guide to working fast with great results on your next shoot
Wedding days are unpredictable, as all wedding photographers know. Some days we have an entire hour allocated for our photo shoot, but a lot of times - We have about 15 minutes. My approach to conducting a photo session varies depending on how much time I have. The longer I have, the more complex and technical my set up will be, but this is not one of those times. This is a “Please let me get at least five usable shots” sort of a time. Check out my advice below on how to go about smashing your 15-minute shoot:
Let’s get started. We have a very short time frame to create a series of shots. Our safest bet is to stick to one location. How do we go about getting a variety of looks across our images if we’re stuck in one place? A lot of the time we’re in a hotel room, someone’s home or if we’re lucky, we’re on location somewhere awesome - Wherever you are, you can create vastly different looks across your bridal session images by working with the following tips:
We can achieve varied images by adjusting the bride and/or groom’s poses throughout our images. This not only includes how the subject’s body is positioned but their expression plays a huge role in how the image feels, too.
For a bride, I’ll start with one hand on the hip, the other at the side with a slight kink at the elbow - Her expression neutral and relaxed (no smiles), looking directly at the camera. This is my foundation pose, from here I’ll make tweaks to her position as we go with simple instructions for maximum efficiency. Once I’ve got my first shot I’ll start to make slight adjustments to this pose:
- Looking to the side. Looking down to the left or right. Looking up above my head, soft smile.
- Body facing off to the side away from the camera. Head back towards me.
- Drop the hand on the hip. Grab a handful of the dress with both hands (as if about to walk)
-Face subject’s back to the camera. Looking over the left/right shoulder with one hand on the hip
These are the poses I work with a lot, you may like to use these or some of your own to create variety across your bridal shots. For grooms, I will position the subject with one hand in the trouser pocket, the other holding the lapel on the jacket looking directly at the camera with a neutral expression. From this foundation pose I will make adjustments as we shoot:
- Looking to the side. Looking down to the left/right. Looking up above my head, smile.
-Both hands in trouser pockets
-Adjusting the bow tie/tie while looking off to the side
-Wrist-watch hand up to the chest. Other hand to meet it (as if adjusting the strap)
-Suit jacket off, swung over the shoulder
Crop variation is a great tool for achieving intriguing images. Although different crops can be achieved in post production it’s generally best to carry them out in-camera as you’re shooting. You may also benefit from alternating your lenses to get the best result for each crop. I love using my Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 with my close-up macro filters to shoot extreme close-ups of bridal make-up detail. For mid-length portraits I have my Nikon 35mm f1.8. I love the perspective this stunning lens affords me, it’s also great if you want a wider shot in a tight space.
The way a shot is lit adjusts its entire look. Since you’re working to a tight time-frame, start with a light set-up that you’re comfortable with so you can get those first shots under your belt. If you work best with natural light, start by using the window light in the room, or head outdoors to get some bright, airy shots. Sometimes if I’m lucky enough to have perfect lighting I’ll shoot entirely with natural light maybe with the addition of a silver or white reflector. If you have a surplus of natural light, shoot some silhouettes for variety. Silhouettes often look great in black and white, which will allow you more options for your shots when editing.
If you’re comfortable you can move onto working with strobe lights or even constant light if you prefer. If I’m in a dark hotel room, I sometimes opt for a constant LED light through a handheld scrim (with about 0.5 metres between scrim and light for an ultra diffused light). If you want to use a strobe for a crisper, studio-feel to your shots, using a speed light is a great easy-to-assemble set up. I like to use my Nikon SB-910 off-camera fired through a handheld scrim for a really soft, clean light if I need to work lightweight. You could also use a Profoto A1 here. Using speed-lights or studio lights will allow you to darken your background substantially, allowing these shots to look distinctly different from your natural-light shots from earlier. If you’re working with strobe outdoors you can also achieve a darkened background by using the high-speed sync function if your light supports this, allowing you to shoot at a higher shutter speed and cut out some of the natural background light.
At the beginning of any photo-session the first thing I look for is a space where I can get my clean, standard shots under my belt so I know I’m safe. In an indoor space, I generally look for a clean section of wall to use. If you find yourself in a situation where there isn’t a clean background in sight, there are alternatives you can use. If you have an extra large 5-in-1 reflector, flip it over to black and use this as a background for your half-length to close-up shots. If you have a strobe, expose for your strobe and darken your background substantially to bring less attention to background detail. Shooting at a very wide aperture (f2.8) will also help to blur out excessive background detail.
5. ENSURE WINNING SHOTS
When I’m pressed for time on a wedding-day session, I live by this rule: Stick to what you know. Instead of spending all of your 15-minutes trying to pull off one wild shot which is a risky move, start with what you’re comfortable with and build on that. As you go, the more decent shots you get in, the more relaxed you’ll feel, leaving you to be fully creative and daring towards the end of your session and get those award winning shots.
I hope the next time you only have 15-minutes to shoot, some of the above will be of assistance to you. Let us know how we can help you out for your next session in the comments below.