Capturing Moments on a Wedding Day with Raph Nogal
After 11 years of photographing weddings, I see similarities in how I capture moments. There are 5 key things I do in order to help me and I want to share them with you below. It’s time to snap out of the routines and embrace the senses.
1. Be Curious
I believe wedding photography is a lot more involved than most other genres of photography. What I mean by “involved” is that a wedding day usually lasts 8-12 hours and has many moving parts and we, as photographers, are involved in it all throughout the day. We are also involved in the wedding much earlier. Our relationship with the client starts months before the big day and sometimes years earlier. As a boutique studio, I go out of my way to get to know my clients and what is important to them. How can I know what they love and want if I don’t ask? I’m genuinely curious. So on your next potential client meeting, make sure you ask. This is one of the most vital pieces of information because it will lead you to take images that are important to your clients. My curiosity has led me to photograph so many amazing moments.
This is probably the most meaningful image I have taken to date. Prior to the wedding, I learned that the bride’s father was is terminally ill. I knew this was a special situation and really wanted to document the relationship between the bride and her father. This moment was captured as the bride and her father embraced after the recessional at the beach of the church. It was moving to see the subtle embrace between them and how he held her hand. Three days later, I learned that her father had passed away and that’s when it really hit me—“Wow, we have so many opportunities to do something meaningful for our clients.” Had I not known the backstory, this moment may have been captured very differently or not been captured at all.
2. Be Mindful
Being curious helps you succeed in this next step—being mindful and anticipating the action. Once you know what is important to your client, you’re able to focus and predict some of the action to photograph. It’s almost like you’ve been told a little secret, like the location of a treasure on a map, and now it’s your job to try and find it.
During this particular wedding day, the groom’s nephew was involved in the getting-ready portion of the day. I took the time to ask if he’s been walking and was told “not yet.” I kept that in mind as I photographed them. I was seeing that his nephew was standing and was excited about the commotion of the day. I anticipated any movement of him walking away and what do you know? I was able to photograph his very first steps. How amazing?
3. Be Present
Being present means not just being there physically, but also emotionally, and in the right headspace. Trying to think about how a groom must feel seeing his bride for the first time allows you to change your perspective as a photographer—it becomes more personal. Being present and observing family dynamics also gives you perspective. It may reveal relationships between family members, between siblings, between the wedding party, and friends. This information can help you capture some amazing moments for your clients.
A groom first laid eyes on his bride as she walked down the aisle. Being curious and anticipating what he might do, and being present, has allowed me to capture this moment. Throughout the day, that groom mentioned how excited he was about seeing her for the first time and jokingly mentioned he was an “ugly crier,” with the wedding party confirming. I knew this was something I needed to capture. So, as the bride started walking towards the groom, I made sure that I focused my attention on the groom’s reaction.
4. Be In Charge
Being in charge may initially sound counterintuitive to capturing moments, because you may think of moments as being 100% organic. I don’t believe that is the case. There are times during a wedding where if you left things to chance, things may not happen, or you may not have the opportunity to capture certain moments. Sometimes being in charge allows you to control the situation—not set it up or fake it, but rather control it so that it will allow for organic things to unfold.
I first had to make sure the path was relatively clear for the couple as there was no clear path for them to exit the church. People were excited and scattered all over the place. By being in charge I was able to control where the couple would come out and prep everybody to make sure they threw the rice at the right time. Being in charge allowed me to get everybody ready and allowed me to have the composition and timing that I wanted for the shot.
5. Be Flexible
Sometimes as photographers we become a little bit obsessive when it comes to composition, lighting, and making sure things are perfect—Death By Perfection. Don’t. Allow yourself flexibility. Not everything will always go as planned and you will not have control of every aspect of the wedding. You may not always know all the ins and outs of the family dynamic and you will miss anticipating something that leads to the exact moment that you’re trying to photograph, but don’t beat yourself up over it. Having flexibility allows you to be more fluid. If you get 4 out of the 5 steps above, that is totally fine… Go with it—create memories for your clients. Don’t let perfection be the cause of not capturing a beautiful moment that may mean the world to your client.
Don’t forget moment between moments. I was giving the clients some direction for a few more posed shots, and once I got the shots I needed I just told them to relax and wait for me to grab another lens. They started talking to each other and eventually she leaned into his chest and closed her eyes for a few seconds. Click! And there it was. A beautiful serene moment that captured how she was feeling about the day. Going back to all the 5 tips above: being curious, being mindful, being present, and being flexible allowed me to take the shot without them even noticing just before I went to the camera bag to change the lens.
Keep these 5 tips in mind on your next wedding day. You will be surprised how they can change your perspective.