When you look at your wedding photos, do they tell a story both individually and collectively? Can you feel like you’re back in that moment? Does the image help you remember not only what it looked like but how it felt?
Hopefully getting in a storytelling mindset will help you feel less like you’re just shooting blind and more like you’re creating a story. I say ‘creating’ because you have to do more than just capture what you’re seeing, you have to communicate a feeling or tell something beyond the moment in front of you. Think about great storytelling and how it embellishes, entertains, or inspires so much more than just the fact.
Four Tips for Telling Better Stories
These four tips will take your wedding photography storytelling to the next level. If you use the skills you have and the tools at your disposal, telling a story is all about getting in the right mindset. Instead of capturing what you see, think about creating something bigger.
- Take your photo beyond a snapshot
- Choose what to include and exclude
- Emotion helps you show how it felt, not just how it looked
- A moment in time can evoke a whole memory
Once you master these concepts you can extrapolate and use them to not just create a great photo but create a collection of photos. With better storytelling, you can create slideshows or wedding albums that have your couples in tears or their cheeks burning from smiling. A wedding is already an emotionally charged day, you and your camera can utilize that to make fireworks.
Beyond a Snapshot
The first distinction to make is to think about the difference between a snapshot and a photo that tells a story. If you just hold up your camera and capture the scene and how it looks, you’ll get one result. However, if you are more intentional about your framing, composition, timing, and use of light, you can get a result that’s a lot more complex.
This is one of the reasons I don’t like shooting with my phone despite how good the camera is. When I grab my phone out of my pocket to capture something that’s happening, I’m in an entirely different mindset than when I have my camera out with the intention of telling a story. It’s a mindset.
Instead of thinking, “Wow, that’s beautiful,” click. You need to think, “Wow, that’s beautiful how can I frame and compose this in a way that captures what it means to the people around it? Wait for the moment, wait for it, now!” Click. See the difference?
Include and Exclude
Choosing your composition and framing is all about deciding what to include and exclude from the photo. Your instinct is to try to include everything, but while that shows the whole scene, it’s not that easy to read a cluttered photo. Instead, get closer and see what is essential to the story.
In editorial wedding photography, photographers capture pictures of all the details of the wedding day to help tell a story editorially but we want to tell more of a story in each photo. How, instead, could you use those details to tell a story? Instead of the wedding dress hanging in the window by itself, can you show the nervous bride getting ready with the dress in the background?
When capturing a moment between two people do you need that third person in the frame or are they a distraction? What about the clutter on the table? Choose what to include by changing how you’re viewing the scene whether that means your focal length, physical distance, height, or angle.
Next, it’s all about capturing the emotion. We want to show how something felt, not just how it looked. Emotion isn’t something you can compose – instead, you have to wait.
Your use of light and composition can help make a photo more dramatic but the image isn’t complete without the emotion that comes with the moment. To capture emotions you have to know what to look for. You’ll need to learn to predict when a moment might happen and understand how people might act, you’ll need to tap into your empathy and connect with your couples.
Another thing that can help you capture emotions is to connect with your couples before the wedding day. You want to feel like a trusted presence in the room that doesn’t distract them from feeling all the feels. You need them to feel all the feels!
Your job when trying to tell a story with your wedding photography is to capture a moment that evokes a memory. The photo might show one split second of something that was happening, but if you choose the right second then you’ll be able to paint a much bigger picture. That tear fell because of the heartfelt words of a father or they were all laughing hysterically because of the joy of finally being together again.
Memories have moods so while you might not be able to capture smell in a picture, you can capture texture or light or patterns that help evoke a memory.
In summary, if you want to tell a better story with your wedding photos you need to know how to create something beyond a snapshot. Deciding what to include and exclude will help you show the bigger picture, pun intended. From there tap into emotions so that you can evoke memories.
Storytelling is a lot of fun, it feels immersive, imaginative, and creative. Weddings are big days with big emotions so there’s a lot of material to draw from. The predictability of a wedding day will also help you spot moments and prepare for stories.
Utilize your knowledge of light and composition to create the scene and set the mood. From there, test your patience as you wait for the story to unfold. Click.
About the author: Brenda Bergreen is a Colorado wedding photographer, videographer, yoga teacher, and writer who works alongside her husband at Bergreen Photography. With their mission and mantra “love. adventurously.” they are dedicated to telling adventurous stories in beautiful places.