Whether the bride and groom have choreographed the moves to their first steps on the floor or whether they are just winging it, you can produce some beautiful photographs of their first dance.
Depth-of-field, flash, and focal length
When it comes to depth-of-field, think about keeping it shallow so that the bride and groom are in sharp focus with the crowd standing around them acting as a pleasantly out-of-focus background. You might want to avoid using flash, but if you do find it needs some extra light, balance the ambient light against the flash and bounce it off of a wall behind or to the side of you.
When it comes to focal length, consider a 35 or 50mm lens. This will give you flexibility to capture the couple as well as what is happening around them. For example, you can see the expressions on their parents’ faces or capture a tear rolling down a guest’s cheek.
Do make sure that you chat with your bridal couple before their first dance as they could have a surprise up their sleeves, from energetic dance-offs to costume changes, via fire-juggling acts and fireworks displays mid-dance. Brides and grooms are constantly being encouraged to stamp their own personalities onto their big days—and why shouldn’t they—and often that comes out during their first dances. The more that you know about their plans, the better prepared you’ll be to capture it.
In addition to the first dance for the bride and groom, you’ll usually find that the bride will dance with her father and the groom might well take to the floor with his mother, too. There are some variations on this, so be prepared for group dances, especially if one of the parents is deceased, or for the groom to dance with his mother-in-law while the bride is dancing with her father and for the bride to dance with her father-in-law when the groom dances with his mother. Speak with your bridal couple to know what they’re planning and which photos they expect.
Don’t forget to look to the guests during the formal dances to capture their expressions, too. For example, if the bride is dancing with her father, aim to photograph them in focus in the foreground with the bride’s mother looking on from the edge of the floor. Some of these shots will be important for telling the story of the day, and the bridge and groom certainly won’t be looking at their guests when they’re dancing as a married couple for the first time!
Stuffy, staged wedding photos are a thing of the past. Master modern wedding reportage and capture the true spirit of the event and the personalities of the couple and guests with Michelle Turner’s The Wedding Photography Field Guide. Get the latest information on digital gear, and a professional’s insight into the best techniques for covering the action. Whether you simply want to get great photos at a wedding you’re attending, if you’re breaking into the business, or you just want to refresh your approach, this book is full of useful advice making it essential reading for any wedding photographer today.
The Wedding Photography Field Guide, by Michelle Turner
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