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How to Capture the Perfect Wedding Kiss

Author: Libby - Printique by Adorama

By Jessie Parker
Recently I was asked how to photograph a perfect wedding kiss. I have complicated feelings about this. I respect the question, but at the same time it strikes me as little bit funny. Unlike a lot of the wedding day photos, it’s something I have almost no control over.
I would say at least 3/4 of ceremony locations in my area have explicit rules against flash photography during the ceremony, so it’s not like you can even control the lighting. Even at those places that are a little more lenient with their rules, we’re so conditioned not to use flashes during the ceremony that it seems disruptive and rude.
Given all those conditions, we (me and a lot of other wedding photographers I know) have gotten very good at not adding light and making do with the ambient. Some people think they can’t do that, but truly you can. All it really takes is a tripod, a steady hand, and not having another choice! Here are a few helpful tips.

1. Know When It’s Going to Happen.
Familiarity with the structure of different ceremonies helps, but you can only really get a feel for that from a lot of experience. If the bride and groom made a program for their ceremony, the kiss is often listed in there, so you can check that too! If you have a chance, you could ask the officiant, but I find we’re both so busy right before the ceremony that we usually don’t get to so much as say hello before the bridal party starts down the aisle.

2. Don’t Freak Out.
New wedding photographers have a tendency to tense up right before the big moment. They build it up too much in their heads and the anxiety makes them shake the camera or get distracted and miss it entirely! Relax. Hold the camera steadily, but don’t grip it so hard that it shakes. And, don’t forget to breathe.

3. Try to Get Several Shots.
Although it’s good to get as many shots as possible, don’t try to get so many that you shake the camera in your haste. I can’t stand it when I’m editing a new photographer’s work and they took like 25 kiss pictures, but none of them are in focus because they were nervous and in a rush. Slow down and get it right. It’s about quality, not just quantity.
I like to get at least three or four frames off during the kiss. The character of the kiss changes and it’s nice to capture the variations in that brief moment. They might move from holding hands to embracing or the groom might even dip the bride. Don’t let yourself celebrate prematurely. Even after you’ve caught the kiss, keep your eye in the viewfinder and finger on the trigger until they’ve moved on to the next part of the ceremony. Most couples have some sort of post-kiss reaction that’s worth capturing too! Be there for the laugh as they break apart, turn to look at the congregation, raise their arms in celebration or whatever they might do.

4. Use a tripod.
If you’re the main (or only) camera on the ceremony, chances are you’re shooting from the center aisle. I’ll admit that there is room for creativity in the wedding kiss, but getting the traditional kiss shot comes first for me. Using a tripod provides stability. It’s as simple as that. If you want sharp photos in a dimly lit space, use a tripod. If you don’t want your arms to get tired and shake, use a tripod. If you don’t want to stand there waiting for what feels like eternity and let your mind wander and almost miss it because your arms are starting to ache, USE A TRIPOD.
5. If you have to, fake it.
Finally, if all else fails and in spite of your best intentions and effort you miss it, mess it up, or someone steps in front of you into the aisle with their iPad and ruins it for you, accept it and move on. It happens to everyone. I know several world-renowned wedding photographers and it happens to them too. No one is perfect. Don’t beat yourself up about it. That doesn’t solve anything and it just messes up the rest of your day, and it doesn’t have to be that big of a deal!
The best solution is to grab the bride and groom as soon as you can after the ceremony (before the staff start to break down the set up!), get them back up to the altar, and fake it! If you want to preserve your dignity and their confidence in you, you don’t even have to tell them why. I’ve done this many times and NEVER has anyone questioned why I was taking those photos, either in the moment or when they see them later. You can even renumber them, so the faked ones appear in the proper order, instead of after the ceremony. Tell them to stand in the exact spot where they got married and give each other a kiss like they’re newlyweds (which they are) or some other cheesy joke. Just get it done and everyone will be happy.
For more on wedding photography and photography tips, click here.