My Wedding Photography Approach
Wedding ceremonies can sometimes be a challenge to photograph, requiring a delicate balancing act between being as discrete and unobtrusive as possible so as to not be too much of a distraction, while also capturing the beautiful and memorable pictures that my couples expect and desire.
For church ceremonies, there are usually restrictions that limit where photographers and videographers can position themselves, but typically these rules match up with how I would shoot anyway. I will sometimes use flash during the processional (and recessional) depending on the lighting, but then will shoot with just the available light the rest of the time. I'll be at the first pew (nearest the altar) during the processional, which also enables me to get the shot of the groom's reaction to seeing the bride for the first time if there was no first look (and even if there was a first look, I still usually like to get this shot), and then for the rest of the ceremony I'll be off to the sides and at the rear of the church, occasionally moving partially up the center aisle for capturing certain key moments, such as the exchange of rings or the first kiss. This approach generally meets the approval of most churches in the New Orleans area, though some occasionally have more restrictive rules that require me to only shoot from the back of the church or choir loft.
For ceremonies taking place in other locations, such as a hotel courtyard or ballroom, a park, or a dedicated event venue, I'll typically have to allow myself a bit more leeway in terms of movement and use of flash if the lighting is poor. While being unobtrusive is always my top priority, in some cases the tighter confines and/or setup for these ceremonies does require me to be a bit more visible than I ordinarily would be at a more spacious church.
Similarly, while the altar of most churches will usually be reasonably well-lit, lighting conditions in other indoor venues may dictate that I supplement it with my equipment. Photographing ceremonies outside at night almost always requires some use of flash, usually by employing strategically-positioned remote flashes on light stands.
Regardless of the venue, I always strive to achieve a balance between discretion and thoroughness, as well as the even more delicate balancing of capturing well-lit, pleasing photographs that also accurately represent the natural ambiance of the location and decor.
Formal Group Shots
If there is one common thing that I hear frequently from almost all of my couples, it's that they do not want to spend an excessive amount of time doing formal group photos. My goal is to finish these as quickly as possible so that you don't miss too much of your reception (or cocktail hour). Depending on the number of groupings requested, I usually plan on these to take 15-20 minutes, but it's a good idea to allow 30 minutes just in case things run a little longer than expected.
Another option to alleviate this potential source of wedding day stress is to have a first look, enabling us to get all of these shots done before the ceremony, which means afterward you can go right to the reception without delay.
In either case, make sure your family members and wedding party know when and where to report for these photos. For pre-ceremony group shots, this means ensuring they are ready early enough (it's ok to cheat a little and tell them a time that is 15 minutes or so earlier than our actual expected start time for these pictures). For post-ceremony group shots, ensure that the people needed for these know to not roam off until we are finished.
Many couples place portraits of the two of them (beyond the portraits we'd typically get of them during the formal group shots) as a high priority for their wedding day. Capturing these kinds of photographs does require some time and planning though. Timing, locations, lighting, and (sometimes) transportation logistics all need to be considered.
For French Quarter weddings during the Spring, Summer, and early Fall, we can usually sneak out for 15-20 minutes or so during the reception to do some of these portraits, but this is highly dependent the timing of the event. If the ceremony took place in the late afternoon / early evening (or if it's a Winter wedding, since it gets dark much earlier), chances are we won't have daylight to work with by the time the reception is underway, and although we can shoot outside after dark, most couples prefer the natural light look for these shots. So, it may be that having a first look (seeing each other before the ceremony) might be the only option if these portraits are important to you.
This is also the case if your wedding is taking place elsewhere in the city, but you are getting ready in the French Quarter and want some portraits in that area... a first look lets us do these portraits before we head off to the venue.
Regardless, if these portraits are important to you, it's worthwhile to include early in the planning process the discussion of where and when to do them.
While wedding ceremonies, especially in a church, require an approach of being as non-distracting as possible, there is generally no such expectation during a reception, where the festive and chaotic atmosphere, loud music from the band or DJ, flashing lights, and guest activity will make my movements and use of flash pretty much unnoticeable.
Still, I prefer to candidly capture natural moments that occur during the course of the event, rather than approaching groups of guests and asking them to "look at me and smile". Obviously the dance floor is where most of the action takes place, and much of my coverage is focused in this area. But I do also periodically roam around the other areas of the venue in search of people mingling and talking.
And while the bulk of my wedding photography coverage is photojournalistic in nature, I am perfectly fine with brides, grooms, or guests seeking me out to request informal group shots (friends from college, co-workers, distant relatives, etc.) during the course of the reception.
I have a very clean and straightforward editing style. Neither dark and gloomy, nor excessively bright and washed-out, and with no trendy filters applied or otherwise having an over-processed appearance. I prefer for the vast majority of my images to have a clear, natural, and realistic look that will never fall out of style or look outdated. I'll typically mix in some tasteful black and white conversions as well, since this classic treatment has been around since the birth of photography, and has stood the test of time.