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Contemporary Wedding Photography Tips & Techniques

written by: Brian Nelson•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 5/18/2011

Bride alone, bride with groom, bride with parents, bride with groom's parents, bride with ... you get the idea. There are a plethora of standard wedding photographs that get shot formally and informally at every wedding, but what about something a little more contemporary? Check out these tips.

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    Contemporary Wedding Photography

    For weddings with a contemporary theme or location, adding a modern touch to the wedding photos is easy, the updated wedding itself provides a new feel thanks to its location, colors, or format. But, what about creating contemporary wedding photographs under all circumstances, including those traditional-style weddings in traditional locations? Too often, shooting contemporary wedding photography devolves into zooming in very close or adding cheesy retail-store photo studio effects like halos or butterflies to the picture with photo editing software.

    You're better than that. You can create contemporary photographs out of a traditional wedding without resorting to cheap tricks or fish-eye lenses. In these cases, the wedding photographer can still create great wedding photos with a contemporary flair simply by using some contemporary wedding photography tips and techniques.

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    Reversing Contemporary Wedding Photo Poses

    Contemporary Wedding Photo One of the simplest ways to create contemporary wedding photography poses is to look for opportunities to reverse traditional wedding photo convention in some manner. There are numerous traditional wedding photos that specifically involve the bride or groom in a conventional manner. Swapping places in these photos can add an updated look. For example, many wedding photographers shoot a picture of the bride being held lengthwise across the groomsmen. The same shot with the groom being held across the bridesmaids adds an element of modernism, and if desired, can also be played for comic effect. For larger grooms, or just for fun, consider creating a pose where it seems that reinforcements were needed, a groomsman pitching in to hold up the feet, or maybe even the flower girl or ring bearer!

    Reversing the traditional gender roles can be used across all manner of traditional photos. Instead of the bride surrounded by bridesmaids, show the groom surrounded by groomsmen fussing over his hair. Instead of shooting groomsmen looking at their watches waiting for the bride, show bridesmaids doing the same. Each of these shots can be used as a replacement for the standard wedding photo, or as a complement.

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    New Positions Create Contemporary Wedding Pictures From Traditional Ones

    No matter how contemporary the wedding, or how modern and untraditional the participants, there are key wedding shots that every wedding photographer knows to photograph. The most common of these are the traditional clusters of relatives and wedding participants. Obviously, everyone wants a shot of the bride and groom, and it branches out from there.

    * Bride + Mom & Dad

    * Bride + Brothers and/or Sisters

    * Bride + Bride's immediate family

    * Bride + Bride's extended family

    * Bride + Maid of Honor

    * Bride + Bridesmaids

    * and so on... (also repeated with the groom)

    Just like shooting family portraits, these shots are a tradition for a reason. They are the classic embodiment of the social and family groupings that make up our lives. The reason they sometimes seem stale, however, is that we've seen these photographs over and over since childhood. How to make them fresh without removing their emotional power is the task of the contemporary wedding photographer.

    As a rule of thumb, the wedding photographer should always take the traditional photos. Contemporary wedding shots can be added. In some cases, they will be appreciated merely as the "additional shots" and in other cases, they may take their place of honor in the bride and groom's wedding album instead of the "usual" shot. However, it is always best to let the couple and their families make that decision lest you have unhappy customers.

    To jazz up traditional wedding photography of relatives and friend groupings, play around with the order and center of focus.

    No matter where the bride stands, her dress calls attention to her, so the traditional rules of photography composition about where your "eye" goes go out the window. Place the bride on the end of the long line of tuxedo wearing men who are part of the wedding party instead of front and center. She won't get lost and the composition will look fresh.

    Likewise, try placing the dark suited groom at the end of a line of brightly colored women in the wedding and you'll still notice him.

    Finally, get off of the steps in front of the alter or in front of the fountain or ocean view. Shoot with a sprinkler going in the background, or get a long-exposure shot with the highway of rushing cars blurring in the background.

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    Non-Traditional Weddings and Contemporary Wedding Photography

    There are plenty of times when a professional photographer will be called upon to shoot a non-traditional wedding; second or third marriages, those with older couples getting married for the first time, surprising locations like a rodeo wedding, all provide the scene for surprising, modern photographs. Don't use this as a crutch!

    A contemporary wedding photographer should continue to look for ways to turn traditional photos into contemporary photos, even if they start out that way. No one wants their photos to be "unusual" based solely on the fact that there are not parents in the pictures, when the reason is that they were not there. In these cases be sure to add a new twist on traditional wedding poses that allows the photograph to be different on its own merits and not just because of family members who are no longer with us.

    Finally, play up any non-traditional elements the couple includes in their wedding. This validates the concept that they have made their special day unique. If there are bright green sneakers on the groomsmen, be sure that every groomsmen shot includes an additional wedding picture that shows their feet in the same pose. The traditional bride in the center of groomsmen photograph becomes both contemporary and personalized when cropped at knee-height showing the bride's white shoes against the groomsmen's cowboy boots.

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    Modern Wedding Photography Adds Value

    Use these simple contemporary wedding photography tricks and tips to help add value to the photographs shot at weddings for clients and even when shooting as a semi-professional photographer for friends or relatives. Your clients will thank you, and their orders will reflect that happiness with your work.