Tips on How to Capture Beautiful Candid Wedding Photography

Nearly every couple we meet with for wedding photography says the same thing - they are more interested in candid photography that captures the day than the more traditional photos. If you are curious as to what they mean by this exactly, it means they are not looking for the photos of people lined up or side by side, looking directly into the camera. They’ll want a few for their parents and other family members, but they mostly want to capture the emotion and feel of the day through candid moments. As photographers, part of our job is to find out if that is entirely true. So far, we have only had one wedding in nine years that have wanted nothing but candids. Regardless, we get a ton of candid shots, and here are some tips on how you can as well.

Bear in mind, these are in no particular order. I would also like to mention that all situations are different, so some of these tips may prove tricker than others in some cases, but play around with them and make them work for you. Also, this is going to cover getting candid photography at a wedding, but most of this advice can be applied at any photo session.

*All photos included in this article are candid shots captured using these methods. All photography is copyright of RKH Images.

GET TO KNOW THE SUBJECT OF YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY

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Although I know I said these were in no particular order, this one is still the most important to me, because without it, you have nothing. If you are shooting a wedding, you hopefully have been getting to know your wedding couple very well before the wedding. We work very hard to get our clients to feel comfortable with us prior to the wedding so that when the day comes, any stress they may feel has nothing to do with photography. It’s hard to teach this because everyone is different, so your way of making people comfortable may be different than ours. Overall though, just treat them the way you would want to be treated. If they are stressing you out with a ton of emails and phone calls the week before the wedding, take it in stride, answer their questions (even if you already have ten times) and they will feel that much better about not only working with you, but about their day in general. They will feel that you care about them and the wedding. That is key.

When getting to know your clients, learn what you have in common so you can play off of it, learn what they enjoy, if they have pets or kids (this is a big one), and more. This all comes into play the day of because you can just have a conversation while shooting, versus simply posing people. They will feel the difference, you will, and it will show in the photos. If someone is comfortable around you, they are most likely to come out of their shell, which is truly the beginning of capturing those candids.

That’s the easy part. The more difficult part is getting to know the guests, family, and anyone else at the wedding that you have not met yet. You only get to meet them on a day where they may be very stressed out, so you have to put on a smile and hold it there. Seriously, I don’t drop my smile at a wedding unless I am turned away from people, which is really hard for me because I don’t smile when I’m focusing on things (such as my ISO). When you meet the parents or the close friends and family members, joke around, be lighthearted, and have fun with them before taking any photos. People at weddings get super worked up at times because they want everything to be perfect. Be the person that lightens the mood.

And yes, we are aware that there are some people at weddings you just won’t be able to crack. They’re in a bad mood. Just don’t let them know that it’s affecting you and you’re all set.

GET TO KNOW YOUR SURROUNDINGS

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When we go to a wedding, we scoop out as much of the venue as possible. You really have to because half the time people don’t know where they want to do family photos or couple photos, and the other half of the time, the weather isn’t cooperating. It is also important because light can change so much at venues. There is a particular venue that we shoot at frequently and the lighting is so crazy that I have to change my settings every ten feet in any given direction. That’s not a joke. If you are able to do all this before the guests get to the venue, you’ll be ahead of the game.

KNOW YOUR GEAR AND YOUR SETTINGS

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This is so important when it comes to capturing candids. We have gotten better about this over the years and have been able to capture more and better candids because of it.

First, the settings:

The best part of a wedding day to capture candids from our experience is during the cocktail hour, although they can appear at any time of day (see the above candid of the flower girls while getting ready in the morning). All the guests are there and seeing the married couple for the first time. They are excited, happy, and very importantly, haven’t had enough time to take too much of an advantage of the bar. From all the weddings we have covered, we make sure to shoot as many candids as possible before too much alcohol has been consumed by the guests. After people drink a lot, their eyes tend to get glassy, skin can get very red, and there can be many other issues that can essentially destroy any shot of them.

Cocktail hour camera and light settings will usually stay the same, if not very close to the same, because you’re always in the same area. People don’t really move to far during the cocktail hour. So when we shoot those candids, we figure out our settings before we even start shooting. It may take a couple minutes and yes, you may miss a candid shot or two, but it’s worth it to get the settings correct.

Second, the gear:

This is really important and you’ll realize why in a second. Use a long lens. Seriously, if you don’t have one, invest in one. People are more likely to act natural when they don’t know they are being watched. During cocktail hour, we will plant ourselves in certain areas of the room and focus in one subject fifty feet away. Guests don’t know who we are until later in the night. They may have seen us at the ceremony, but they have already forgotten us by the time the cocktail hour starts. So we blend in far away and capture candid shots.

One thing we try to avoid when shooting candids is a flash. This can be really tricky if you are in a very lowlight area. Regardless of your ISO, some venues just require a flash or the photo doesn’t look anywhere near as good as it could. Avoid it when you can because then people will have no idea you’re taking photos of them.

I have to note that the long lens and no flash idea works in a lot of situations. Since there are two of us, we have me always use a long lens at engagement shoots while Kyle uses a different lens. We do the same with couple photos and first looks to capture those extra, in between, candid moments.

CLICKS, CLICKS, CLICKS…

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One of the funny things about when people say they want only candids in their weddings is that we have to explain that not all candid photos are cute or fun or memorable. It’s a LOT of people just standing around. Candids require an immense amount of patience. It is because of this that I highly recommend using a speed burst for candids. Great candids can be gone in a split second and if you have that burst running, you’ll get it. Just keep it going. You’ll have to cull like crazy later, but you’ll have some amazing shots.

BLEND IN

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The reason you want to blend into the group when shooting candids is because you essentially become invisible. When it comes down to it, people don’t care about you at the wedding - they are there for the couple. The faster you get over that, the better you’ll feel at weddings and the more you will enjoy them. When we shoot weddings, Kyle always wears the colors of the wedding party and I always wear as neutral of colors as I can. It’s a great way to camouflage yourself at a wedding, so that even though you have a big camera, no one notices you. Seriously, we have had to hop into the aisle a few times a weddings (which we like to avoid) and we apologized to the couple. They have all told us they had no idea we were there. So if they don’t notice us there, imagine how easy it is to hide in a crowd.

Another way to blend in, which may actually sound like the counter to the last point, is to follow along with groups of people. For example, if there is a group of people at a table that are laughing and telling joke, smile at them and look interested. They may or may not ask you to take a photo, but either way, you’re not the odd man out and they will act naturally around you. This works very well outside of a crowd as well, when shooting couple photos or small groups.

IN CONCLUSION…

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If I could only cover this in one sentence, I would say to be the best friend to everyone in the room and also know how to get out of the way when necessary. You have to keep people comfortable around you to garner candids and that’s it. If you have people that are uncomfortable, it will show ten fold in photography. Stay positive, regardless of the situation. We’ve had a few rough situations when it comes to weddings, but when it comes down to it, it’s nothing that should truly ruin our day. Keep a smile on your face and radiate good energy towards people and you’d be amazed at how much it helps with the photography.