Getting it Right in-Camera
This may seem simple, but hear me out. After seven years of shooting, I feel comfortable shooting in a dark church and getting things nailed (without flash).
First, I'm not great with technical jargon, so I'll link to videos that fill in the gaps.
So, let's talk about focus. The secret is back-button focusing. You press that back-button (which you can set yourself) and right before you click the shutter to nail focus on your subject. A good place to start nailing nailing focus is putting your focus on a point of contrast (that rim of light on the bride's face during ceremony, dressing room, etc). I typically shoot with a center focus point and re-adjust the frame. This is probably the easiest (or lazy) way, but you can opt to pick a specific focus point.
Changing my mindset about depth of field has been so important on my journey as a wedding photographer. The hard truth: it's safe to shoot above 1.2 or 1.4. With family portraits, I aim for f/4 to f/5.6 to make sure that everyone in the portrait is in focus and the focus doesn’t fall off on the edges. When you step out of your 1.4 comfort zone, you’ll see what I mean.
It’s pretty standard to say that the minimum shutter speed for capturing a moving subject is 1/250. For a subject that is moving very quickly, you’ll want to shorten the amount of time your shutter is open. 1/1000 will guarantee zero motion blur. Sometimes you can push it a bit. Occasionally I find myself shooting at 1/60th of a second to capture the ambiance in a reception space. (check out this video for a more a detailed walk-through)
CROPPING / FRAMING
So many people struggle with this and I have to throw my hand up and say “me too”. It’s difficult with a fixed-length lens because your feet are your zoom. Another thing to think about when you’re taking an image is how the setting adds to the story and how you can add a sense of place into your portraits. I know very few people who barely have to crop their work and I think we can all aspire to that.
On a shoot, I often find myself throwing my hand directly in front of me and spinning around. This helps me know exactly the direction of the light and how it will fall on the people I’m photographing. There is a lot to say about light, but it is very subjective depending on who you talk to. The perfect light to you may be strong evening sunset light or it could be moody Seattle light on a rainy day. My only real advice on this is: experiment experiment experiment.
Thank you for reading and I hope this is helpful to at least someone! I feel compelled to share because the way I learned how to be a photographer was through articles like this.