Wedding Portraiture


Tips for taking non-candid shots

If you do weddings, chances are you will find yourself doing some portraiture. By definition, a portrait is a picture of a person’s appearance and/or character. To get things straight, the portraits am referring to here are not the candid ones which you can take anytime. For those kinds of shots I only have one advice: Don’t think, just shoot. If you take time to think, then you miss the shot.

So when do I take portaits? I usually take them after the bride is made up, after the couple is dressed (individual shot of course) and after the wedding. Do I take after reception pictures? It depends! If I am satisfied with the traditional shots I’ve taken of the couple before the reception, I call it a night. If not, then invite the couple for more pictures.

When you take traditional wedding pictures remember that your subjects are not professionals; chances are they don’t even know where their good angles are. you cannot just leave them to pose freely. here is where communication skills come in. suggest poses, or politely guide them on what to do.
keep the shoot light. remember that they are probably more nervous than you are. they are probably thinking “am i doing the right thing?” or “this photographer probably thinks i am the ugliest bride he’s ever shot.” not to mention the stress and tension the wedding preparation has probably caused them! you have to be sensitive to all these things – even their relatives. i remember i had a shoot one time and the couple wanted all their altar shots to be funny or wacky. the parents went up to me and complained. the mother said that those poses i made them do destroyed the solemnity of the wedding rites. i politely told her i was just following instructions of the couple. remember, you cannot please everyone, but know who to follow – in this case, you were commissioned by the couple not the parents, it is the couple’s wedding not the parents’.


as a general rule, i hardly use direct flash. i only use direct flash when the subject is strongly backlit or when the subject is far away (like 10 meters). if not, i use bounce flash or some form of light diffuser to make the lighting as natural as possible.

here are some tips that you can employ when you shoot in the three most common environments – indoor, outdoor and night.


be very aware of what color the room is: the walls, the floor, the major furniture. this determines how often you can use flash, and what adjustments you can make. For example, if the walls are colored green and you use bounce flash, you will have a greenish tint on your pictures, creating gremlin colored subjects. use window lighting as much as possible, unless the window too has tint.

the most common problem i have when indoors is lighting. since light comes from several light sources, they tend do be so unpredictable. be aware of these. usually, when you are in the preparation room, there is natural light coming through the windows, there is tungsten lighting from the lamp and the bathroom (in different color temperatures), and sometimes even fluorescent lighting coming from hallways or the ceiling. make sure that these lighting don’t mix if you don’t know how to handle them. When you are in a church, the most common mixing of light is the natural light that comes from outside, the tungsten lighting from the church lighting and the light that comes from your video light. minimize the mixing of light by using color gels on your video light. use blue gels if the lighting in the church is natural to fluorescent, or use white filters when the lighting is tungsten.


Here is a sample of flash bounce against white wall in the room. Notice how the shadow is formed on her right cheek. The windows cause the hairlight on the right side of her hair. In this picture the flash was bounced on the right side of the room set to TTL but reversed set with the bounce card out to minimize spill. I would assume that my setting here was around 1/30 f4 @ 400 ISO.


One of my favorite settings is the outdoor shoot. most of the time, i shoot using available light in this scenario. however, here is a little tip if you want to do some creative shooting.

1. set your subject against the light (i.e. the sunset). 2. meter the background. 3. set your flash to manual. 4. adjust to 1/2 or full blast and see the results in

your Lcd. 5. adjust the flash output to taste; remember that this

only affects your subject and not the background. 6. set your white balance to get the correct subject color

not minding the background.

be sure to have lots of back-up batteries though, as this technique is a power guzzler. aside from this, i would suggest you use a reflector not only to reflect light from the sun, but you can also use this to reflect the flash from your camera.


you don’t have to be content with shaky night portraits. the best way to shoot portraits in near-dark locations is to bring a tripod and meter for the background. position your couple in a dark place to prevent them from blurring and use flash. i’ve tried this technique using shutter speeds of slower than 2 seconds. remember that in

this particular situation, the shutter speed controls the background exposure and the aperture controls the subject exposure. adjust to taste.

as a finisher, i think that traditionally posed pictures should always complement the candid shots.

not one should be without the other. practice and practice, as no wedding is the same. a wedding is a running event; you can’t stop something from happening just to get your shot. if you do

a reenactment, it’s just not the same as the real thing. so try to get it right the first time.

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