It’s time to go stealth mode.
As wedding photographers, we desperately want to capture every single special moment -every handhold, every stolen glance, and all the smiles. We want to be there for it all.
But have you ever tried to happy sob when there’s a camera in your face? It’s not impossible, but then again, isn’t it?
So how do we capture authentic moments without ruining them?
And how do we avoid being THAT photographer? You know, the one so dedicated to getting the perfect wedding photos that they ruin the wedding day for everyone else?
They’re front and center in the aisle. They’re throwing elbows on the dance floor. Honestly, they’re worse than Uncle Frank with his 10-year-old iPad (who actually wants those photos, FRANK?).
There must be some magic sweet spot in between being an Uncle Frank and being so timid that you don’t capture anything, right?
Yes, there absolutely is, so let’s get into it.
How to Stay Stealth While Shooting a Wedding
Figure Out Your Client’s Expectations
This will always be top of my list. You cannot succeed unless you know what success looks like for you and your couple.
A traditional couple may not want to see or hear you unless you’re directing family formals. You should be so stealth that they’re left wondering if they even had a photographer, and then boom! You masterfully deliver every single tasteful photo on their wedding shot list.
A more modern couple that loves to flip a particular finger at wedding-day etiquette, might want you in on everything. You’re an essential part of the wedding party. You better get yourself in on some selfies because you’re basically family at this point.
Those are two very different approaches, and most people will fall somewhere on the spectrum between them.
But you’ll never really know if you’re hitting the mark for your client unless you talk with them. Communication is key!
It will also help you spot any trouble areas. Make sure you know how they expect you to interact on the day and what kind of photos they want.
You’ll want those things to match up (i.e., a client can’t want a ceremony photo of them looking over the guests and also want you to stay still during the entire thing).
This will also help you determine if you and your client vibe in the first place!
Skip the Tech
If you can get your client in on a tech-free wedding, then stealth-mode will be a lot easier to achieve.
Remember Uncle Frank? Well, you won’t need to duck, dip, dive, and dodge around his and other guests’ devices.
And we all know what kind of blessing that is.
Get to Know the Venue
Scope it all out, friend.
You’ll want to get to know every inch of the ceremony and reception location. This will help you determine who will shoot from where if you have multiple photographers.
It will also help you decide if you need to hire another photographer if you don’t typically have a second shooter.
If you already know where most of the action will happen and who will shoot what, it will help you plan your route so you can remain as inconspicuous as possible.
You will also want to familiarize yourself with the venue rules. This may not be an issue if the ceremony is on the beach or in an open field.
But if you find yourself in a church, there will likely be rules about how you can move, when you can move, and where you can move.
So make sure you know all of this ahead of time.
Check the Wedding Day Flow
Grab yourself a timeline and study it. Now.
If you’ve shot plenty of weddings, you’ll know that most of them have a similar flow to the day. But if you’re somewhat new, make sure you familiarize yourself with how a wedding day pans out.
Then get to know how your couple’s wedding day will pan out! Everyone is different, and every wedding is different, so make sure you know all of the crucial moments.
When you know what’s coming and you’ve assigned who will shoot what, you’ll be able to maneuver with more intention and grace when the moment is happening.
Get Your Wedding Gear Straight
Maybe you typically shoot with prime lenses. That’s great.
But if your couple is having their ceremony at a very traditional church, you may have to sit your butt on the balcony and make it work from there.
Knowing the circumstances you’re up against will give you time to get the right equipment.
If you don’t have it, rent it.
Discretion Is Key
Make sure you choose discrete spots to stand and kneel on the wedding day.
If you can hide behind a decoration or kneel beside a pew, fewer people will notice you or find you distracting.
When you want to get a shot and the location is less than discrete, move quickly.
Make sure you’re ready to capture that shot before you move so that you can snap the picture and high-tail it out of there.
Most people won’t mind you popping in a few front-and-center spots as long as you don’t linger. But again, check to make sure your couple is open to this.
Wear the Clothes for the Job
Pick clothing that will help you blend.
Some people rock the Steve Jobs all-black look. Others believe that dressing up like a wedding guest will help them blend more.
Find what works for you (and your client), and for goodness sakes, don’t wear loud shoes, please.
Carry Your Gear and Keep It Fresh
Make sure your gear is accessible by either keeping it on or near you. You’ll want to minimize trips back and forth to your bag of tricks.
Also, start the wedding ceremony with a fresh battery and memory card. You don’t want to be fumbling around for an extra battery right during an intense (and quiet) moment.
The less awkward you feel; the less awkward you look.
If you’re exuding confidence, people won’t be as distracted by your presence.
You’ve got this!