(Opening image ©Taylor McBride)
Wedding Photography is all about style. With the incredible number of men and women involved in this genre today, presenting your work in unique ways is more important than ever. Potential clients are looking for photographers that can take their images to a new level and you need to be able to do that consistently to succeed in this business.
One important way that many professionals are getting that done is by taking more photos with lenses in the 24mm and shorter range. These focal lengths offer more than just the obvious wider field of view. There are many advantages to going wide in a wedding shoot, and we’ll look at some of the specific ones in this article. Before we start, though, let me provide a couple of important tips:
Distortion can be fun, but it’s rarely going to be something you’ll want in a wedding photo.
A Word of Caution
Distortion can be fun, but it’s rarely going to be something you’ll want in a wedding photo. Turning the blushing bride into a blimp probably isn’t going to get you a lot of referrals. There are a few ways to minimize it and you’ll want to know them before you try the upcoming techniques.
1. Shoot perpendicular to the subject. Both convergence and barrel distortion are more pronounced if your lens is at an angle that’s above or below 90 degrees to objects in the frame. To avoid those effects, your lens should be as close to “straight on” with your main subjects as possible.
2. Avoid placing your subject on the edge of the frame. Distortion in most wide-angle lenses tends to become more pronounced as you move away from the center of the frame. You don’t need to try to center every subject, but framing them at the edge will probably be problematic.
3. Use a rectilinear lens. A lens that’s optically corrected to maintain straight lines will make a tremendous difference in the outcome of your shots, including helping cancel the effects of forgetting items 1 and 2 in this list. For example, both Irix 15mm lenses exhibit almost zero barrel distortion. That gives you much more leeway in framing your shots. For instance, you can choose a low camera angle for increased drama, and not worry about warping lines in the scene.
Grabbing your wide-angle can help you include more of the surroundings in a portrait without losing the sense of intimacy.
Portraits With a Sense of Location
Grabbing your wide-angle can help you include more of the surroundings in a portrait without losing the sense of intimacy. Widening the shot with a lens more in the “normal” range will diminish the size of the subject. Because a shorter focal length lets you get closer to the subject while retaining more of the scenery, those pre- and post-wedding shots of the bride and groom, dress trashing sessions and any portraits you take in the package can take on a stronger sense of the surroundings and still show your subjects clearly.
This opens up an endless number of possibilities, from including dramatic skies to getting the action of the surf in your beach portraits. For the couple that likes a macabre theme, you might even shoot your group portraits in a cemetery.
Using a wide-angle lens puts you in the middle of the action.
Closer Interaction with Subjects
Traditionally, wedding photographers get into the habit of staying out of the way. That’s pretty much the best choice during the ceremony, rehearsal dinner and similar events. On the other hand, there are times when making your subjects more aware that you’re there can spark interaction that adds life to your photos. Using a wide-angle lens puts you in the middle of the action.
When the reception dance floor starts to fill, get out there and get those reaction shots from the guests. Before the wedding, get in close for those mom-and-daughter, groom-and-groomsmen and other moments for some real emotional impact. Have your second shooter use the wide angle while the getaway car is being decorated – you’re bound to get some hilarious shots. Use your imagination to get some in-your-face mementos everyone will treasure.
With a wide angle, you can really open up the inside of the limo!
Enlarging Tight Spaces
Try getting a shot of the bride and/or groom inside their arrival or getaway vehicles with a normal lens and you’ll end up with a pretty flat-feeling photo. With a wide angle, you can really open up the inside of the limo! If your lens is rectilinear, you can do that without a fisheye effect, too!
Enhanced Depth of Field
I’m not going to get into a physics lesson in this article, but light has some important characteristics that result in more depth of field at shorter focal lengths and vice-versa. That means that you can shoot at a wider aperture with your wide-angle lens and get better overall sharpness if you focus in the right place. By opening up your aperture, you can shoot at higher shutter speeds, especially in low light and with the increased depth of field, you’ll still get nice sharpness.
There’s also a property that makes DoF greater behind a point of focus than in front. That means that you can focus on your subject and the background will be more in focus than the foreground, so keep that in mind when framing your shots.
Better Low-Light Performance
Yes, I know I touched on this in the previous section, but it’s worth mentioning separately here.
The light-gathering characteristics of a wide angle lens may let you turn off your flash when you need to without the need to increase your ISO setting too far.
There are dozens of instances in a wedding shoot in which your flash can be distracting. It’s also a harsher light than many types of indoor lighting. The light-gathering characteristics of a wide angle lens may let you turn off your flash when you need to without the need to increase your ISO setting too far. This gives you an opportunity to use nice, warm room lighting or that nice, diffuse window light for portraits and reception shots.
This also lets your second shooter stay unobtrusive while shooting the crowd during the ceremony by turning off the flash. The reward can be better shots of Mom and Dad and the rest of the crowd reacting to the couple’s vows, etc.
Wrapping it Up
This isn’t a full list of the possible advantages of including a wide angle lens in your wedding kit. I do hope that it will provide some food for thought and spur your imagination. With a little creative thought, I’m sure you can come up with your own, unique applications for your short lens in your matrimonial and engagement shoots.
I do recommend looking at the Irix 15mm lenses as good candidates for the job. Both models are rectilinear, with superb optical performance and surprisingly low prices.