Creative Wedding Photography Ideas From Award Winning Photographers
We all run out of imagination, and it isn’t something to be ashamed of. Whether you gather inspiration from social media, peers in the industry, or walking on the street, there is always something new to learn and attempt. With wedding season in full swing, we wanted to round up some of our favorite images and offer creative wedding photography ideas and tips to spark some inspiration for your next wedding! We’ll cover the following categories:
Note: This artice was originally written in 2019 and modified in 2022 to include more tips and images. Also, for more inspiration and education, be sure to see our wedding photography tips article.
Creative Wedding Photography Ideas for Portraits
Below are ideas, inspiration and tips for the couples session, i.e. portraits, from the wedding day.
Tip #1: Find Natural Light Direction
Don’t be afraid of hard light. With the right posing and positioning, you can make hard, afternoon light work in your favor. Like all scenes, first, start by analyzing your direction of light. Then place your subjects in an area where the shadows aren’t too harsh. Focus on finding a background that helps chisel out your subject.
No additional light modification is necessary when you find the right kind of light and positioning for your scene. Be careful of how you place your subjects on the same focal plane, watching for how they cast shadows on each other.
Idea #2: Bring Out the Detail in the Scene
Look at the scene in which you’ll be shooting and think of how you want the background to look, without paying as much attention to how the subject will be exposed. Now that you’ve dialed in a proper exposure to bring out the detail in your scene, pump in enough flash to make your subjects pop so they don’t blend in or fall into shadow.
It’s important to pay close attention to light direction and light spill when trying this technique because you want to create as flattering of a light as possible.
This is not only a great technique to underexpose to bring out the detail in the sky, but in your overall frame. The image above took almost a year of planning “as the stag is part of a wild deer herd in the highlands of Scotland. and we needed to make sure they were okay with flash going off”. After a couple of hours working around the deer and weather, “I finally got the shot I had in my head, without Photoshop”. You can see BTS on how he shot it here!
Creative Wedding Photography Idea: Use Objects to Frame Your Subjects
Utilize your surroundings to draw attention to your couple via leading lines, geometric shapes, or interesting foreground objects. Before even picking up your camera, scan the scene and find shapes within your image that can be used to frame your couple.
Nik came across a park in Europe with people playing chess and the wheels started to turn as to how to incorporate them in the shot. He placed a light to camera left to illuminate the chess pieces and players, and another light to camera left to bring out the couple in the frame. He then “waited for that perfect moment to get all three hands moving simultaneously” to a dynamic feel to the scene.
#4: Create a Spotlight Effect
This technique is derived from stage performances that utilize spotlights to help draw attention to certain actors on stage. Using a grid or a snoot, you can create the same type of effect with a simple pocket flash.
This is a great lighting technique for wedding reception photos when you get to sneak the couple in before guests get seated. Make sure to watch where the light spills because the goal is light up just the couple and darken everything else around them.
Double exposures are simply layering images on top of each other, and while this technique can be done in Photoshop, most cameras have the ability to accomplish this within the menu system. Read more here in order to learn how to achieve this look.
Creative Wedding Photography Tip #6: Add a Backlight for Interest
Backlighting is one of the simplest techniques with one of the highest rewards. Although photographers may shrug off the idea of silhouettes for being “too basic”, they are always a major hit with clients. Adding a strong light behind your subjects turns a scene that looks completely ordinary into something absolutely extraordinary.
You can even add some Atmosphere Aerosol to the image to create an added depth to the scene. Adding colored gels to your backlight can help draw the viewer into the image and can also complement colors found in the wedding venue or decor.
Creative Idea #6: Add Color To Your Scene
Often times wedding photographers are faced with venues that may not have aesthetically pleasing backdrops or many options for couples portraits. This is a great opportunity to kill your ambient light and create something out of nothing.
We mentioned colored gels in our previous tip as a way to add interest to the scene. For this shot, David “placed a groomsman on each side and gave them two champagne bottles” to add some action into the scene and to compliment the pouring rain. By cross lighting with a blue gel and a rose-colored gel, he was able to come out with a dynamic image.
There you have it, 6 different ways to shake things up and get creative in time for your next wedding! What are some other types of tools or techniques you like to utilize on wedding days when the odds are stacked against you? Let us know in the comments below!
Creative Wedding Photography Ideas for the Ceremony
Wedding ceremonies often take place during a 20-30 minute window of time leaving you with a limited time to capture moments as they unfold.
In order to gain new perspectives on how to photograph wedding ceremonies, we asked 14 award-winning photographers in the SLR Lounge Community what tips they would give to for creative wedding photography ideas during the ceremony and here’s what they had to say:
“One of my favorite perspectives is straight on at the couple’s parents/people sitting in the front row. I like using wider lenses to really create the feeling that I’m right up in the action and close to them! The secret sauce is timing. I try to find little stories happening. I love capturing hilarity (if there’s an especially funny officiant) or gushy criers (if there’s an especially emotional portion of the ceremony).”
Creative wedding photography can sometimes be right in your pocket!
“Use your phone screen to create some cool reflections and patterns! If you’re tired of the same shot from the back of the church, try taking your phone out and holding it right below your lens. Angle your phone screen up and down to get the right reflection. Make sure you wipe your screen beforehand, so you can get a clean reflection.”
“Watch the kids – you never know what they are up to…usually something adorable!”
Amii & Andy Kauth
“We like to change our perspective and use a variety of “tools” to put an artistic touch to our photographs, which our clients love (and love to print). Our advice? Get low … or even get underneath. We also love to get creative with a prism.”
SETH & Beth KERECHANIN
“Shooting mostly Catholic church services, it’s super tough to get creative. Our best option is to think ahead and be daring! At times, we try to sacrifice the average shoot and go out on a limb and take a chance). It can be super stressful in the moment, but the dividends pay off if it works.”
“One of my favorite parts of the ceremony in a church is communion. It’s the one time during the ceremony that no one is really watching the couple as guests are participating. They have a chance to chat and just focus on one another instead of worrying about all eyes on them. I always make sure I’m in a good spot with a long lens to get their interactions during this time as they tend to be my favorite moments.”
“I tell my couples to remember to look at each other while recessing. Sometimes only one of them does it, but I just love that look of adoration and pride when they come back down!”
“Many times I am able to view the ceremony from angles/locations that others cannot and I ALWAYS try to capitalize on these. I love when I show my couples a photo and they say, ‘where did you take this/where was this?’ In this photo I was on huge sailboat standing in the middle of the boat on a raised spot nobody else was allowed to go. I loved the way the wind was playing with the brides hair.”
“Do the opposite: Sometimes I think to myself, ‘what have I captured so far?’ – If I’ve shot wide, I start shooting telephoto, if I’ve shot the bride and groom in direct light, I try shooting them on the shaded side. In this example I laid on the ground with a 24mm to try and capture the scene of this wedding in the Redwoods.”
“Use the environment and look for unique opportunities for composition. Shoot through….something! This is a great way to remove details you don’t want. The officiant had a big podium and ugly notebook to the right of the bride I wanted to block out. I shot this photo through a wooden bench.”
“Try and integrate details that help tell the story of the wedding day!”
“Have an eye on family, as well as the bride and groom. The mother of the groom broke down with happy tears as the bride was walking down the aisle. After I shot the groom I quickly panned to Mom because I saw her out of the corner of my eye and got this priceless moment of her crying and Dad consoling her while smiling at his son.”
“One thing that I have really been trying to work on is getting close. Almost every single ceremony image I see looks the same. That’s because almost every photographer sits at the back of the church taking images with a telephoto lens. And I get it. The church has rules and it’s the only place you could shoot from. What else could you do? The problem is that it’s so easy to get used to following these rules even when no one tells us we have to abide by them. You get used to hanging out at the back of the church, taking the 2 or 3 images you can get, and then playing around with Instagram stories until something interesting happens. But if no one tells us we need to stay in the back, we should fully take advantage. Not only that, but we should be proactive in talking to the church officials to gain the access we need. Even if they normally have a set rule, a lot of the times they will waive that rule with a simple conversation and explanation of what you are trying to do.”
“Once you have the access to get close though, it can feel really uncomfortable actually doing it. You feel like you are blocking guests and causing a scene. This is another reason why it’s hard to get close. We don’t want to be a distraction. We feel like all eyes are on us. But in reality, staying far away is actually doing our clients a disservice. Because if you think about it, we are not just shooting these images for them. We are also shooting these images for their future kids and their future grandkids. And where do you think your couples want their future kids to see their wedding from? Definitely not from the back of the church! If their kids were at the wedding, they would be front and center. That’s where you should be. This is also a great explanation to give to church officials to gain access.”
“This all said, there needs to be some grace in these actions. You being up close and personal won’t be a distraction. But you being up close and personal while constantly moving up, down, back, and forth will be. You have to be intentional and precise with your placement. Know when you want to be close and where you want to be. When it’s time, get in, get your shot, then get out. Don’t hang out for the entire wedding and don’t spend the entire wedding jumping to the front for every moment. Like anything in photography, don’t let it be the only tool on your belt that you use. But definitely use that tool when you can!”
“Keep an eye open for watery eyes. When you see those you know a tear is coming soon. Make sure you have your drive mode set to continuous shooting and when you see the tear start to form hold the shutter down to fire off a series of shots before your subject is able to wipe the tear away. A telephoto lens like the 200mm is your friend in this situation as well.”
“As you move around to different spots, use back button focus to pre-focus your shots so in a moments notice when you see something worth capturing, like laughter or tears, you can pull the camera up, frame and shoot without having to waste time on focusing.
“I particularly like to line up the bride and her mom right after the couple get to the altar. It often is a nice composition and an opportunity to get powerful shots like that one where the bride’s mother was wiping off her tears. Those are the shots I am running after.”
“I try to remember to do a panorama at every wedding ceremony. I love the look of a large scene captured by a telephoto lens. You get this wide angle view but with the compression of a telephoto. It’s very easy to do a handheld panorama by shooting vertically and moving your camera incrementally from left to right. I start by locking focus on the bride and groom and then I disengage autofocus and shoot in manual mode to keep the focus and exposure settings consistent frame to frame. Panoramas make for great wide canvases and are so easy to stitch together in Lightroom.”
“Use flash to create the light you want.”
“Give your second shooter the safe shot, you take the artistic risks. For example, I love using tilt-shift lenses to create a soft, dream-like look that works especially well with bright and airy images. It is a good idea to have a back-up shooter covering the action whenever you switch to a tilt-shift lens to ensure that you don’t miss any important moments.”
Photographing The Ceremony
If you enjoyed this article, please check out Photographing The Ceremony or stream it now in SLR Lounge Premium!