As celebrants we often find ourselves front and centre within our couple’s most magical ceremony moments. We know how important it is to look our best and wear the right colours, so we don’t standout and upstage the wedding party. But what are the general rules when it comes to working with the photographer and ensuring that together, we get the best shots for our couples.
It might be surprising to hear that we are just as responsible in getting those money shots and if you can be one of those celebrants who works well with the photography team, you will be well respected amongst your peers.
Here are 5 top tips from one of Australia’s most renowned and much-loved wedding photographers, Sam Wyper.
Sam lives on the North Coast of NSW with his beautiful wife, Corinne, and little boy, River. He travels all over the country to capture wedding moments and is just a really nice guy.
Here are his tips in getting those stunning images we love to see and share on our social media:
1. FIRST KISS – A SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT TAKE
With most weddings there are a few key moments that are a must for a photographer to capture for our couples. Celebrants have a unique experience in that a lot of these moments take place during the ceremony. One of these moments that is often the topic of brief discussion between celebrants and photographer is the first kiss. Most celebrants I’ve worked with are pretty keen to avoid being in this photo (or at least close to the couple) for the first kiss. However, I’ve noticed quite a few celebrants are so keen to avoid being in this photo that, at the time of the first kiss, they are actively walking away from the couple. Unfortunately, this doesn’t translate well into good photographs.
When viewing a photograph, a person’s eye is often drawn towards a number of things, movement being one of them. So, if a celebrant is trying to avoid being in the first kiss by actively walking away at the time of the first kiss, a viewer’s eye will likely be drawn to them (the opposite of what the celebrant intended)!
So, what to do…
Firstly, understand that it’s perfectly fine for a celebrant to appear in the first kiss photo. A lot of photographers like to capture a wide angle of this moment to convey the entire scene at this time. So, whether you like it or not, you are likely to be in this photo, regardless if you move out of the immediate vicinity of the couple.
The most natural way a celebrant can be present in a first kiss photo is to stand to the side and look at the couple with a smile. This is likely what the wedding party will be doing so you’ll somewhat blend in (or at least not stick out this way).
On a side note, I’ve photographed first kiss photos where celebrants are looking at their notes, and whilst this is likely not the intention of the celebrant, in photos it does come across as looking disinterested in the moment (or at least feeling somewhat awkward).
2. CENTRE THE COUPLE IN THE ARBOUR
Arbours are a great way where a couple can add a unique and personal touch to their ceremonies. Due to their symmetrical nature, if a couple isn’t standing in the centre of the arbour it can throw the symmetry off balance in the photos. Whilst a celebrant may be able to provide guidance on this during the ceremony, due to the position where they’re standing, they may not have the most accurate viewpoint from which to guide the couple.
The solution, touch base with the photographer beforehand so they know to help direct the couple into the picture-perfect position. Having access to the centre of the aisle, the photographer will likely have the best vantage point with which to help guide the couple into the centre of the arbour.
And don’t forget, it’s always good to re-centre the couple shortly before the first kiss as the couple will likely have shuffled around during the ceremony.
3. ENSURE EQUAL SPACING BETWEEN BOTH WEDDING PARTIES
This is definitely not one of the most pertinent points but can again make a difference to the quality of the photos a photographer can capture for the couple.
I’d be pretty confident in saying that about four out of five ceremonies, one side of the wedding party is much closer to the couple than the other side of the wedding party. For couples having a wedding party consisting of groomsmen and bridesmaids, it’s always the groomsmen that are way closer to the groom.
Often during really closeup, intimate moments such as vows, I’ll have a photo of a bride and groom (for heterosexual weddings) and the groom’s best man (because he is so close to the groom). Again, this not only throws the symmetry of the photos off kilter but can make it hard for a photographer to capture moments that are just between the marrying couple.
The solution, if you are doing a rehearsal with the couple, make sure to point this out to everyone. If there’s no rehearsal, then run this by both wedding parties pre ceremony so everyone knows exactly where to stand.
And if the couple have kids let them do their thing during the ceremony – run around, be cute, or even stand up with the couple. Sometimes those funny interruptions are the best.
4. DOUBLE KISS, DOUBLE CHECK WITH PHOTOGRAPHER
I’ve noticed a trend recently with celebrants announcing a second first kiss, often attributing this for another photo opportunity (“and another one for the photographer”). Being a photographer who loves to capture amazing moments for our couples, I’m all on board with this.
The challenge however for a photographer in this situation is that we often aren’t given the heads up on this second kiss and therefore can’t properly take advantage of it. Most photographers will often capture the safe shot for the couple, taking the photo from the middle of the aisle, facing the same way as the guests are. Whilst this is a must have photo, it’s not necessarily the most interesting photo a photographer can capture of the first kiss.
If a photographer isn’t given the heads up about this second opportunity will happen, they will likely be in the exact same spot as when they took the first ‘first kiss’ photo. If you can tee this up with the photographer before the ceremony kicks off, you can organise it in advance with the photographer, so they know to move to an alternative angle for the second round.
5. WE’RE ALL ON THE SAME TEAM
As a photographer who works with amazing celebrants all the time, I hate feeling obliged to ask a celebrant to not be directly behind the couple during the first kiss or during their vows. The last thing we want to do is sound patronising to a very experienced celebrant who likely hears photographers requesting the same thing at every wedding. I stopped doing the above for this very reason. Until recently I did work with a very experienced who had her head sticking up between the couple during their special moment at the arbour. Awkward…
Reluctantly, I have started requesting this again, because after all, you just don’t know. I have recently on a number of occasions been shut down by celebrants with my polite request, being told “I think I have done this gig before.”
The next time a photographer makes this seemingly common sensical request, remember they likely expect that you wouldn’t do this and are only making this request for the sake of the couple (and perhaps from past negative experiences). We are all on the same team of great experience/great photos for our couples and likely feel awkward ourselves making these requests.
Also, let the couple have at least a good 15 mins of hugs and high fives before suggesting they do family photos. I’ve had a few celebrants do this lately and they are taking away from one of the most magical parts of the day.
Thank you so much Sam, this is such a great guide in helping us to get those amazing shots for our couples and working together with our much-loved photographers – I’ve definitely learned a thing a two.