Photographing a wedding is one of the most challenging assignments a photographer can take. For photographers who excel at it, like Laura Pineda, owner of Alternate Angles Photography, it’s a passion. You can hear the excitement in Pineda’s voice when she talks about weddings, and with 15 years of experience, she’s a master of capturing special moments. Here’s her best advice for shooting weddings, for fun or for profit.
1. PREPARE YOURSELF with the right attitude and the right equipment. Pineda photographed her first wedding the day after college graduation. “My very first wedding was one of my biggest nightmares,” she says. “You can’t redo weddings, so I went with three camera bodies thinking I was golden. Over the course of my very first wedding all three broke. Literally pushing down the shutter, I lifted it up and there was a spring in my hand. It just fell apart. I kept a smile on my face, and I remember saying, ‘Okay, I’m going to switch to black-and-white now.’ I turned around and then my face fell. But they never knew anything was wrong. Being able to keep your cool and calm in any situation so that they don’t lose confidence in you is so important.”
2. VISIT THE LOCATION to minimize surprises and plan your creative approach. Pineda prepares for every wedding with a site visit. Even if you only can check the venue the day prior or just arrive early to the event, a plan of attack is invaluable. “I’ll go to a site visit for every client even if I’ve shot at the place 50 times,” she says. “It gets harder when you’ve shot at the location so many times. That’s where I’m going out and pushing myself to find a different angle, a different location. What’s in this building that I haven’t found before that’s really cool?”
3. DON’T BE A GEAR JUNKIE or you’ll lose sight of what’s important. “A lot of people get caught up in the gear,” says Pineda, “and I’m just so anti that. It’s really the set of eyes and the personality that’s behind the camera that creates the images.” Sure, Pineda brings backups in a spare kit, but on her shoulder is slung a simple bag with one body and a few lenses. “I shoot with the new Canon EOS 5D Mark II,” she says. “I have a 70-200mm, I have a 15mm, a 24-70mm and a Lensbaby. And flashes, of course. I could shoot the entire wedding with a 70-200mm if I had to. That’s my favorite lens.”
4. FAST LENSES ARE A MUST in order to photograph naturally. Good glass is important, but Pineda says it’s the speed of the lenses that really counts. A large maximum aperture allows her to work quickly, center attention on her subject with shallow depth of field, freeze action with faster shutter speeds and capitalize on beautiful light even when it’s dim. “You have to have fast lenses,” she advises. “The speed of the lens is really important. I think you have to have at least ƒ/2.8 or faster to do the job really well.”
5. MAKE THE MOST OF LIGHT with ambience and off-camera flash. Pineda advises utilizing natural light whenever possible. It’s so much better to boost the ISO and get the shot than to miss it. When she does work with flash, it’s never on-camera. Moving the light adds depth, dimension and interest. “I’m utilizing natural light a lot,” she says, “and whenever I’m using flash it’s never on my camera. A lot of newbies are really overwhelmed by that—by the speed that you have to move and to not have the flash on your camera—but it’s very doable. I have an assistant and that’s really his key job—to light from 45 or 90 degrees.”