Wedding Photography for Non-Wedding Photographers

Like most amateur photographers I often attend friends’ weddings with my camera and take a lot of pictures. I’ve also been tapped to be wedding photographer for a few friends and family over time, usually as a planned favor or gift but not always with forewarning. From those experiences I’ve learned a few things about taking pictures at weddings that I think make the couples happy while giving you good pictures to share.

A couple dancing at their wedding, the bride is smiling as they do a spin. In the foreground is their table with their place cards, drinks, and flowers showing.

Have Fun. The whole point of being at a wedding is to celebrate the couple’s love and coming life together. I’ve gone to weddings where a friend or family member got obsessed with competing with the official photographer or couldn’t accept that the couple didn’t really care about having official pictures. Your job is not to get great pictures, it is to be part of the celebration. If that means you miss a great shot or you end up in the back during the cake cutting talking to a buddy you haven’t seen in ten years, that’s just fine. Enjoy this time your with friends and family first, the pictures take second place to everything else.

A newly married couple talking to each other taken from a distance through a window.

Don’t get in the way. Just because you brought a nice camera does not give you permission to be a jerk and push your way to the front of every group. Official wedding photographers can be pretty pushy about getting pictures at the best times from the best angles — it’s literally their job. Your friends are paying good money for their services, so don’t cause them trouble or act like you also can also be that pushy. If you stand next to the photographer you are just duplicating a picture they are already taking, go find a different place to stand. And don’t bother the couple for extra pictures either, they have enough going on and are getting lots of pictures taken of them, they don’t need a friend bugging them to do a few extra.

Newly married couple walking away from the camera have walked passed a metal fence.

Focus on informal images. The official photographer will take portraits, family pictures, and other standard formal pictures. But while they are focused on those, all kinds of other things are happening that aren’t on their todo list — focus your energy there. I like to look for the things that are happening when the couple and photographer aren’t paying attention. Pictures of the couple being relaxed together; of friends who are behind the photographer; of the photographers, DJs, and others who are often trying to be unnoticed. If everyone turns to look at something glance back the other way and see if there is a great picture there to be taken.

A couple looking at the camera cross a space with several people

Take pictures of as many friends and family as possible. The photographers are rightly focused on the couple, their families, and whoever else they were told to focus on. It used to be normal for them to skip nearly the entire reception — after the cake was cut and the bouquet tossed they would bolt — and while that’s changing they still focus on the main action of the dance floors and toasts. But dear Aunt Marge may not be much of a dancer anymore and that pregnant friend from college might be happy to sit the whole time. Try to document for the couple as many people as you can so they have at least one image of everyone on the guest list.

A bride and flower girl mugging for the camera, while the official photographer takes their picture.

Don’t sweat the editing. Leave the perfectly polished images for the professionals. Sure you might want to color correct or make other tweaks cause you enjoy it, but mostly your friends will be happy with what comes in because it’s part of the celebration. The photographer will provide a perfectly edited set (at least they should), so focus on giving your friends a more complete overview of events.

A flower girl seated at dinner, the picture is taken carefully around the table decorations.

Share what you take, quickly if possible. It often takes a busy photographer weeks or months to turn around a set of images that are properly edited. Couples often like to start to share images on social media as soon as possible, and pictures from other friends’ cell phones will pile up quickly, so help them enjoy that part of the celebrations and get yours into the mix as soon as you’re able. I tend to give my friends copies of just about everything. Even if I edit some I will often send the original in case they want the version where Aunt Marge was at the edge of frame and I cropped her out.

Couple holding hands and raising their linked arms in celebration at the end of their wedding.

Be prepared to pinch hit. A few times I’ve been to weddings where the photographer was a no-show and I was the only person around with a nice camera. Take a deep breath, ask the couple what they want from the pictures, scribble a list of the most important images to capture, find a friend to assist in gathering people for group shots, and then do your best from there. While you do now get to push your way to the front of crowds and ask the couple to pose for portraits, your first job is still to make sure the couple — and the guests — are enjoying the day. The union and celebration is still more important then the pictures.

Arts in the Heart 2019

This year’s Arts in the Heart of Augusta was not hurricane plagued the way last year’s was, and was a great weekend of good food, performances, and generally great chances to take pictures.

Each year opens with a parade to celebrate the diverse set of communities that have settled in and around Augusta.

The whole event is built around artists selling their work. They manage to pull in people from a fairly large area, but also make space for young local artists to try to get started selling their work.

For us, and for many others, the variety of ethic foods available for purchase is a large part of the draw.

It’s also a great event for just plain people watching. Between watching the various performances, enjoying the vendors, and the many activities, there are lots of chances to watch people having a good time with their friends and family.

Mixed in with the vendors, food, family activities, stages, and other goes on are always a mix of street performers.

There are several stages setup throughout the event, spanning several city blocks. The performances range from local signers to dance troops, street performers

Until next year…

Two people walking away from the camera as the sun is setting. A few other people milling about.  The woman is wearing a traditional Mexican dress and hat.

Hague Appeal for Peace Pictures

This week marks the 20th Anniversary of the Hague Appeal for Peace.

This week marks the 20th anniversary of the Hague Appeal for Peace and everything that happened (and didn’t) as part of that event and since, I decided to post some of my pictures from that adventure.

In my post on being an activist back in March I mentioned attending the Hague Appeal and the peace walk that followed. I was part of a delegation from Philadelphia Yearly Meeting; a group mostly made up of college students and a few older high school students, along with a few adults who handled the logistics and kept us on track more or less.

I have ten boxes of slides, and a few years ago I scanned them as best I could but frankly the scans aren’t great. The slides, which were more than ten years old at the time, had already started to fade and color shift as a result of their age. I did some color correction as I prepped them for this, but I also like the feel of some being somewhat faded and shifted with time. There are shared here full frame, and some are roughly cropped, but none carefully realigned. Since they are now pushing twenty I decided that I wanted to leave them all at or near full size and try to capture a bit of the way I saw the world then, and less of how I would edit it now. I like the rough visual feel they have as part of reflected on partially faded memories.

That trip was an important few weeks in my life, and I’ve been having a great time going back through the pictures. If you were with me on that trip and wonder if I have other pictures of you kicking around I might so send me a note and I’ll try to see what’s around and sent some your way.

Aiken State Park Photography

A few weeks ago I took a few hours to scratch an itch and went out did a little local photography. I spent much of my time wondering the trails through Aiken State Park. Although there are a few included here from another stop I made, and from the Lunar eclipse on January 21st.

Pictures from Belize

For Christmas this year my wife and I took off and went to Belize. I took some 2,500 pictures and I’m working my way through them. The gallery below will get captions, alt-text, etc soon.

These panoramic pictures were created with a combination of my iPhone in pano mode and some that are stitched together with Hugin.

Picture of Belize taken from the top of the temple at Xunantunich. Stitched with Hugin.
Same angle made with iPhone.
Picture of Guatemala from the other side of the temple at Xunantunich stitched with Hugin.
Another of Guatemala with the iPhone.
The frieze on the side of the temple. This is actually a cast created over the top of the original to protect it from weather.
The temple taken from the main plaza.
Taken from the side of the temple.
The main plaza at Cahal Pech ruins at the edge of San Ignacio
The main plaza at Tikal
Taken from the top of the observatory at Tikal.
Taken from the top of Temple IV at Tikal. Scenes from Yavin base in Star Wars were shot near this spot.
Another stitched image from Temple IV.
Dock on the beach in San Pedro.
A bit north of Secret Beach (which is anything but secret) we found a nice dock to enjoy our lunch.

Arts in the Heart 2018

We got out last night to the opening night of Arts in the Heart of Augusta 2018. With hurricane Florence creeping over the region that’s probably all we’ll get to this year, but it was great to get a meal and enjoy a bit of the festival.

Update: we did manage to get back on Sunday for another meal and to see a few more performances.

Aiken’s Makin’ 2018

This weekend was the annual Aiken’s Makin’ Arts and Craft show. I took a few hours earlier today to enjoy show, eat some terribly unhealthy food, and take some pictures

Families Belong Together: Augusta, GA

This afternoon my wife and I went to the Families Belong Together protest at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Augusta, and organized by a few of their members, Progressives for Democratic Reform, along with a few other like minded groups that think tearing families apart is repugnant (at best).

Escape to Savannah

We took a couple days this weekend to relax and visit Savannah.

March for Our Lives: Aiken, SC

Yesterday my wife and I realized that there was a March for Our Lives being held here in Aiken. When we saw a friend of ours describe her 3-year-old’s first pre-school experience with an active shooter drill we realized that if the local teens could get up early on a Saturday to speak up for themselves, we could not justify staying home.

So I charged the camera battery, cleared the memory cards, and made sure I’d have pictures to share. Aiken is a small city in a state that’s hostile to gun control, so even a small crowd is an impressive turn out. The turn out was good, the people were energized, and the kids were clear in their ask: they want to be safe at school and they don’t think that should mean they have to be surrounded by armed guards (police or teachers).