I’m 50 years old and I have lived through at least two major photographic revolutions of our time: film to digital and cameras to mobile phones. As a designated “family photographer,” I am suddenly a sought-after person whenever there is a birthday, a wedding, a festival, or a gathering. I am also supposed to be “armed” and ready all the time, even on a vacation!
My family and I recently went to London to attend my cousin’s wedding. This was an interfaith wedding between a Hindu/Punjabi girl and a Christian man. The bride and groom had agreed to a mixed set of rituals including, a temple ceremony followed by a civil one.
A day before the Puja ceremony, my cousin asked, “I hope you have brought your camera along. We would really like you to take pictures at our wedding.”
I live in India, where wedding photography is a booming business. A typical wedding function would see two professional photographers, one assistant carrying umbrellas diffusers, a videographer, and a full-time drone operator! And here I was, where everyone was okay with the idea of crowd-sourcing pictures from every guest and printing a wedding album!
I assured everyone not to worry as I patted my trusted Pixel 3 in my pocket. After 3 days and 5 ceremonies later, I had 427 pictures, and a quick look told me that around 25% would be keepers. I was pleasantly surprised, and I thought I would share my experience with others about what works and what doesn’t, the dos and the don’ts of covering a wedding using just a mobile phone.
1: Position, Position, and Position
You have to get yourself close to the action! When I say close, I mean right next to the bride and groom. Do not try to zoom from far, pictures will come out shaky. It will help if you are a close relative of the couple. As I happen to be the bride’s first cousin, I could stand right next to her. I was taking pictures as I was participating in a few of the rituals!
2: Shoot in Normal Mode, Save Battery
Most mobile cameras can now shoot in burst mode but slow down when shooting with HDR on or flash. You need to be quick, not to lose out on any action. No HDR, no flash. Also, you will not have time to recharge your phone! Start your day will a full battery and shoot all day with ‘battery saver’ mode on.
3: Exposure Compensation and Lock
Always take a few test shots to check the lighting conditions. I had the worst lighting one can imagine! Bride and groom were sitting against a sunlit window. I had to overexpose every shot to get the details. Thankfully, my camera has an exposure lock feature, which came in handy.
Mobile cameras are not known for fast shutter speeds and high ISO performance. Most of the shots I deleted, were unusable due to motion blur. You really need to know when to press the shutter. Anticipate the moment when the scene has less movement.
5: Use ‘Portrait Mode’ for Close-Ups
Most of the mobile cameras now can apply AI to blur the background to simulate a bokeh effect. It is not 100% accurate in some conditions, but you always have a copy of the image without this effect applied. It saves you loads of post processing which you would otherwise have to do, to blur the background of a normal image.
6: Image Resolution
Try to shoot at the highest possible resolution which won’t slow down the picture-taking process. Do not zoom in on the action (see point number 1). You are going to end up with images with lots of unnecessary elements in the frame. High-resolution images will help you cropping these out and framing your shots.
7: Trust Your Photographic Instincts
Remember, only the equipment has changed, you are still a visual artist! Use this to your full advantage. Know the ceremonies, anticipate what’s going to happen next, be there, quick-tap to focus, and shoot. Here is my favorite photograph from the wedding. The bride and her sister walk down the aisle as the groom sits behind a curtain, as the proud parents look on. Perfect!
I saw the entire wedding on a 5” screen. At the end of the day, I was exhausted. Looking back at the images now, I am secretly proud of myself. Trusting my instincts, more than my camera.
About the author: Rahul Sharma is a photography enthusiast based in India. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. After spending his career working full-time in corporate IT, Sharma is now retired and spends his free time exploring new photographic stories.