Tips for Shooting Spontaneous Photos at Weddings

Your Photos Can Complement the Work of a Professional Photographer

Elyse Butler / Getty Images

If your family knows you enjoy photography, chances are you've been asked to shoot photos at some family events. Perhaps the organizers of the family reunion have asked you to shoot some photos, because you enjoy photography and have an advanced camera. Or maybe everyone in the family just likes the way you compose your images, while timing the shutter just right to capture the desired emotion on everyone’s faces.

If this is the case, another event where you may be asked to shoot photos is at a wedding. At first glance, you may feel some apprehension at this request. No one wants to make a mistake while recording this once-in-a-lifetime event, after all.

Perhaps you might not feel comfortable serving as the primary photographer at a family wedding. Instead, you might suggest that you’d rather shoot some casual photos during the wedding or reception, capturing those fun moments and relaxed photos that a professional wedding photographer probably will miss, because he or she is busy shooting the posed photos or because he or she doesn’t know the family members and may not understand certain relationships or get the family’s “inside jokes.”

So if you find yourself in a spot where you’re asked to shoot these types of photos at a family wedding, make use of these seven tips to shoot great spontaneous wedding photos!

  1. Respect the pro. Make sure you respect the work of the professional photographer. Don't intrude on the photographs he or she is trying to shoot. Additionally, make sure you aren't adding to the "stress" of the day, as the preparation for a wedding can be nerve-wracking. Try to remain in the background.
  1. Look for behind the scenes images. While the professional photographer is working with the bridal party, consider shooting some photos of the people preparing for the wedding and reception ... or taking a nap. Those "behind the scenes" photos may be much appreciated later by the bride and groom, as they aren't always able to see what happens during the preparation, and they can later know whom to thank.
  2. Watch the background. At weddings, you're likely going to have to work around bright light bulbs, mirrors, posts, and candle flames, any of which can cause a problem in the background of your photos. Take extra care with the backgrounds to avoid distractions from these types of items. You want the focus to be on the people.
  3. Avoid posed photos. If you have a chance to shoot some photos of the wedding party -- at least when the professional photographer isn't posing them -- shoot some non-traditional photos. Photograph the bride relaxing with a couple of attendants. Shoot the groom with his sister or his favorite cousin adjusting his tie. Try to shoot photos that will be relaxed, but try to select the people who will be in them.
  4. Better lighting is outdoors. If at all possible, shoot as many photographs outside as possible, either before or after the wedding. The lighting will be much better outdoors than indoors with a flash. If you must shoot photos indoors, try shooting some photos near windows and use natural lighting. If you have to use your flash, be sure you stay within the recommended distance for your camera's flash range.
  1. Focus on the reception. The wedding reception is another great place to shoot casual photos. People tend to be more relaxed and willing to be photographed at the reception. And couples may not want to spend money on a professional photographer at the reception, so this is where you can focus your efforts.
  2. Pay attention to the guests, too. Don't shoot all of your photos of the wedding party. Afterward, the bride and groom will also want to be able to see how the guests at the wedding and the reception enjoyed the party. A professional photographer may focus on the wedding party, so your photos may be better served focusing on the guests.