by Tom Hirsch
Nowadays it seems that more and more couples are having the individual and group wedding pictures taken before the ceremony. Taking the pictures beforehand saves a lot of time in trying to get everyone in the wedding party rounded up after the ceremony. That is also the time when the guests would like to convey their congratulations and the newlyweds would like to mingle with the guests.
Regardless of when the formal pictures are taken, the professional photographer is the one in charge, so be very considerate of that person's time and space. It isn't easy to coordinate a group of strangers and get everyone to smile right on cue. The job is even more difficult if other photographers are trying to take advantage of the setup for their own personal record of the event.
The newlyweds (to be?) will want pictures with their newly created extended families. It's only natural for family members not in the wedding party to see this as an opportunity to get family pictures while everyone is in attendance. If you want to take pictures at this time, everything will run quite smoothly if you follow a few dos and don'ts. First of all, wait until the primary photographer has set up and taken all the pictures he or she wants of a group before you step in to take your shots. Make it quick so there is little delay in setting up for the next grouping. Never walk in front of the camera or talk while the photographer is setting up or taking pictures. And never suggest a shot; leave that to the photographer or members of the wedding party.
At least half-an-hour before the scheduled time of the wedding, find out from the pastor, priest or rabbi if you will be permitted to take pictures during the actual ceremony, and if so, will you be allowed to use flash. At one time, any picture-taking during the ceremony was taboo, but that has been changing over the years. It is still not allowed in all churches and synagogues, so be sure to check with the person conducting the ceremony.
If you'll be taking pictures of the wedding party processing in, come early and select a pew about five or six rows from the front. For the best vantage point, sit next to the aisle. Let the newcomers move past you. Even if you don't plan on shooting the processional, the location will be ideal for snapping a shot of the bride kissing her father at the altar, If you're allowed to take pictures during the ceremony, it will be a good position for that, too.
For shooting the processional, pick a spot about five rows back from where you're seated, and use this as a reference point. Prefocus if possible, and as each group in the wedding party reaches this point, take a picture. Because the members of the wedding party will be moving toward you, it's a good idea to anticipate slightly, and begin snapping the shutter just before they reach the designated point.
After the wedding, you'll want to get to the back of the church as soon as possible in preparation for the receiving line. Walking down the center aisle would be inappropriate, so before the ceremony begins, inform the others in your pew that you would like to get past them later, and tell them why. At the appropriate time, move down the row as quickly and quietly as possible. When the wedding party begins to form the receiving line, find a spot that would be out of the way of the professional photographer, but would still allow you to see the faces of the bride and groom. After taking a few shots, you'll still have time to get in the receiving line.
There are still plenty of pictures to be taken. These will be covered next time.