How To Photograph A Wedding Ceremony With A Team

Wedding photography teams vary in size, but they generally range from an individual photographer to three shooters (with the lead’s assistant standing in as the third shooter). The more shooters you have on your team, the more coordinated the movement must be to ensure that the angles are covered for each of the important moments, and that the bride and groom’s (as well as the guests’) experience isn’t hampered by intrusive coverage.

Seamless movement doesn’t just happen without careful planning and consideration. As we mentioned in the previous chapter, think about how to cover the ceremony from a final product standpoint. In other words, if you plan to put your images together as a cluster of wall art or in an album, there are certain things you need to build a more impactful story. Your storytelling will benefit from well-choreographed movement.

For the purposes of discussing shooter movement, we will look at a three-shooter setup. Whatever the configuration of your team, know that each member of the team will play a distinct role, from the processional to the ceremony and on through the recessional.

Lead Shooters

In the simplest terms, the lead shooter is the person looking to capture the full story. Lead shooters are generally stationed down the back of the aisle as that is where you’ll capture the full story, at least for the most part. That said, leads also work in artistic/creative shots, but it really comes down to the timing for fitting these in.

  • Processional: More often than not, leads will position themselves at the front of the aisle (near the altar) during the processional and capture the groom and the bridal party as they enter the ceremony site and walk the aisle. Leads usually maintain this position until after the bride has walked the aisle and taken her place next to the groom.

  • Ceremony: As previously mentioned, leads try to capture artistic/creative shots while capturing the ceremony, but it largely depends on timing. One occasion to shoot creative angles occurs when it’s generally slower in terms of action and moments, directly after the processional when the officiant is opening the ceremony. Otherwise, leads will determine the team’s position based on where he or she decides to shoot.

  • Recessional: It is important to position each shooter before the recessional begins. During the first kiss, lead and second shooters generally stack up (stand next to each other) and capture the kiss at different focal lengths, one using a 24-70mm lens and the other a 70-200mm lens. After the kiss, lead shooters should walk to the front of the aisle and track the bride and groom as they walk toward the back of the aisle.

Second Shooters

Second shooters watch and work off of the lead shooter. After the lead shooter has established his or her position, the second shooter can then find an appropriate location.

  • Processional: Second shooters usually occupy the back of the aisle during the processional in order to capture the groom’s reaction (from over the bride’s shoulder) as the bride walks down the aisle.

  • Ceremony: During the ceremony, if the lead is positioned in the center aisle, for example, and capturing wider images of the bride and groom, the second can take the right or left side of the ceremony space and shoot over the shoulder of the bride or groom to focus on individual reactions of the bride or groom, or perhaps of someone in the wedding party, or even the parents in the front aisle. These added angles help to tell better stories.

  • Recessional: See Lead’s role for recessional above.

Third Shooters/Lighting Assistants

Just as second shooters take their cues from the leads, thirds watch and work off of second shooters.

  • Processional: Third shooters can stand near the back of the aisle, off to the side, to capture the wedding party as they enter the area and begin their walk down the aisle toward the front.

  • Ceremony: If the second chooses to shoot from the left side of the ceremony area while the lead holds the center position, the third should position himself or herself on the opposite side of the second.

  • Recessional: Third shooters can stay behind and capture grip-and-grins of family members and other VIPs/guests as they start to exit.

Lens Synergy and Line of Sight

In addition to movement, each shooter should be aware of the angle and focal lengths other shooters are using to capture moments as the ceremony unfolds. Remember to capture wide, medium, and tight angles for each scene you shoot, including the ceremony. Each team member should also be careful to avoid standing in the line of sight of guests, as well as other shooters. As big a part as photographers play on a wedding day, they don’t need to block the view or be in the photos!

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We designed Photographing the Ceremony to train wedding day teams of all sizes to master wedding ceremony coverage with efficiency using non-invasive photojournalism techniques. Course objectives include never missing a moment, being creative under constraint, understanding wedding cultures, telling complete stories, and directing/managing a wedding team.

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