Wedding Photography is a Wildlife Event?

Author:  Greg McKelvey

First off, I am not a wedding photographer and clearly have +1000% respect for those who are. As such, please do not mistake anything I have to say below as recommendations to those skilled Nuptial event photographers. Dealing with the expectations of the Bride, the mom with the visa card, mucho traditions and an event with no do overs all aimed at a wedding album for the ages, This is not my skill set.   To get people to smile with their eyes open in good like looking like they are having the time of their life is a down right difficult.   I have, however, helped on a few weddings by being the lens in the background trying hard to get the candid photos that the professional often does not have time to get.  While the pros are capturing the pre events, walking down the aisle, rings and kisses, maids, grooms, first dances, flower tossing, cake cutting, entwined champagne glasses, and in-laws / outlaws posed photos, there is a lot going on elsewhere.  As the pro tells the group the lens is on focused on to, on the count of three squeeze together, look up with eyes open, and turtle your face toward the lens (The Hanson Fong “this makes even the oldest neck look firm again” trick), there are friends, grandmothers, kids and the like watching or having punch or doing just about anything. The candid images are my focus.

Frist time I helped, my successful capture rate was not all that good. An image with one person with eyes open, manageable light, good expressions telling a story is hard enough. If any one of the four critical aspects of a good image is missing and the story is not told.  The more critical components you are looking to capture, it might be more than four, the harder still it will be.  Put two people in that same composition and the math warns us that the chances just get harder and harder. While the Pro is asking the family to try again, the candid chances just slip form away.  No do overs!   If you want to do the calculations of the odds to get a great candid photo, go for it; it will be a staggering many factorial for sure.  So?

 I have been fortunate over the years to have several skilled photographers mentoring my efforts to improve my camera skills. When I learn a new technique, it is a real challenge to both master it, and look for other places I might apply this new knowledge.     For example, not long after learning how to photo stack macro images of the beetle, I found myself at the Tonto Natural Bridge and remembered the stacking. Why not take three or four images with different focal planes and stack them.  Dang if it did not work!

Ceremony shot 3 of 5 natural light Color image processed as monochrome in Photoshop
Ceremony shot 3 of 5 natural light Color image processed as monochrome in Photoshop 

Recently the daughter of some very special friends was married in Sedona. 150 or so folks. Receptions, wedding, dinner, breakfast, they put on one of the happiest and special wedding I have ever witnesses.  The bride’s mom asked if I might take a few candid shots.  Wow and honor that I was happy to accept.  As luck would have it many of the events were outside with cloudy natural softbox conditions.  Lots of good light!  Luckier still is that I had just returned from a bird photography shoot in Texas. Leader Bruce Taubert has taught me well of the years how to control the background, keep the subject in tack sharp focus and capture enough images of moving object to improve the chances of preserving the award winner.   AI Servo, controlled depth of field, rapid fire; these are the tools of the wildlife folks.

Before the wedding as people are drifting toward the church, I see my first opportunity, Brides Grandmother and her oldest son walking up a path toward the Chapple.   Out pops my camera and before they can see me, snap goes the shutter.  Felt great until I saw the result, Grandma’s eyes were closed. Oh Foooo.    Click goes the preverbal idea light bulb in my old head and I start to tell that darn camera what to do!!   Changes the settings to AI Servo, rapid fire (10 frames per second if I want), limit the depth of field, fast enough shutter speed to stop the action and, in my case, I set the ISO to automatic.   From there on out I have more keepers.  The wedding pro came over after hearing several bursts and ask what I was doing.  I presented my case with a quick review of the 10 shots I had just taken.  We both liked on, number 4 in the series.  She whispered “wow and how do you do that”?  My answer should have been “take a wildlife workshop from Dr. Bruce”, but I showed her on her camera both the settings and the custom functions. I heard the rapid fire a few moments later.


I submit to you that Candid photography is a lot like Wildlife photography.  While it is not respectful to talk about a wedding as a wildlife event, cameras setting tailored for the fast and furious — do work. A few weeks later an I use the same settings to capture graduationmy Grandson’s graduation with honors from High School!

I am no expert, yet it worked for me.    Just suggesting!