Elevating your wedding photography and videography — a guide
Wedding photographer Natali (Tali) Pelosi and videographer François Lamoureux share the secrets to elevating the wedding location, manipulating light and sparking magic with the happy couple
In this special feature we’re looking at capturing weddings in two ways: photography, with destination wedding photographer Natali (Tali) Pelosi, and videography, with wedding videographer François Lamoureux.
Destination wedding photography
Capturing beautiful candid wedding photography is like a dance: it’s about finding a rhythm with the people, letting them move and be free and natural. I’m inspired by different places, beautiful light, patterns, structures, and — most of all — people. You have to love people to shoot weddings.
Prepare and anticipate
Weddings are fast-paced, and it’s challenging — being able to anticipate what a couple might do next is so important when you want to shoot in a flow. It will also help you give them the space to have fun, as if you’re not there.
Everything you know about a couple, the location, and the planning will make your work easier. I run Tali Photography with my sister (and usually shoot weddings with support photographers). We send couples a questionnaire where we ask lots of practical questions such as where the bride and groom will get ready, what group shots they want to take etc. We also have video chats so they can get to know us. If we have the chance, we visit a location one day before the wedding, so we can look for the places where the light is just right.
We meet the couple in-person for the first time at the pre-wedding dinner — where we might be booked for two or three hours. I always watch the bride and groom closely. Watching people can really help you get a feeling about them. Pay special attention to the way they talk to each other and how they move. This can help you anticipate on the day, especially during the couple shoot.
Always the 50mm
If I had to choose just one lens, it would be a NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.2 S prime. I once covered an intimate wedding on my own with just a 50mm. I was able to cover everything, from the bride getting ready to the group shots and the first dance.
I love the 50mm for the more candid editorial or documentary-style shots — and for capturing the details on the wedding dress. I like the 85mm when I want to catch the emotion on the faces of the couple, but not be so close to them. And I use a 35mm prime for wider group shots or during the ceremony when I want to catch the scene without intruding — I’m often positioned behind the action.
Adapt to the couple
We always do the couple shoot late in the day — because of the light and because we know them better by then. You watch them the whole day through your camera. By the evening, you will know whether they’re shy or not and you can go with their flow more easily. When you have a sense for who they are, you can get the great shots.
As much as we love capturing candid moments, we have to give direction sometimes. Wedding couples are not models, so it’s very important to make them feel comfortable and work with them on their energy level. You need to adapt to the couple and not the other way around.
Give them time to relax and build their confidence with you. If the couple are immersed in each other or perhaps a little shy, it helps if you are calm too. Don’t try too hard to make a shy couple become more expressive: perhaps suggest they can walk a little or dance. If a couple is more expressive, you can be freer with your suggestions, ask them to move and to jump on each other!
Wedding photography and videography with Natali Pelosi and François Lamoureux
Work with a camera you love
Working with a camera that’s comfortable for you to handle is so important. On a wedding day, you’re surrounded by so many people who behave differently as soon as they see the camera. With a smaller camera like the Nikon Z 7II, people behave more naturally. Even I behave differently because I can be more spontaneous: it’s quicker and easier to move the Nikon Z 7II up to my eye to take a shot.
I always shoot in Quiet mode and I really appreciate the second card slot on the Nikon Z 7II. Never shoot a wedding with just one card slot! If you like to edit your images in post or your clients want big prints of the photographs, you need the level of detail that RAW files will give you. I use one card slot for shooting and one for backup.
Our style is focused on what we love rather than following the trends in wedding photography. It’s so important to be brave. Show only what you love, and be consistent in what you post. The style you showcase is what people will book you for.
We shoot the couples at sunset because of the light — I love the colours and shades. If someone wants their couple shoot in the bright afternoon light, they won’t book me because that’s not what I do and not what I show.
Stay open to inspiration
I just love the portrait of the couple in the olive groves that was taken with the Nikon Z 7II in Italy. My images are usually high contrast and saturated, but this portrait isn’t like that at all. This was taken shortly before sunset and I’ve never captured such soft tones before!
I don’t know yet whether this will change my style of shooting or editing, but I love it so much it’s exciting to see where this might take me!
Filming a wedding with videographer
Some people think that making wedding films can be boring, because it's always a movie about a couple who are in love and getting married. But I don't see it that way. It's different people each time, so the story is always different. What’s exciting is understanding who these people are: what’s their story and how can I make something that looks like that?
Find their inspiration
Creating something unique for a couple is challenging and it’s always a good idea to talk to them before the wedding. I like to ask about how they met and their story, as well as about the kind of films and music they like.
Having an idea of their cinematic taste can inspire ideas for the edit. I ask about the music because I always choose the soundtrack. I shoot first and then find the music, so I pay close attention to the music used during the wedding day as that can tell me a lot.
Arrive early, make friends
On the wedding day, I like to arrive early and chat to the couple before the day starts. Most couples are shy at first, but by taking the time to talk you can really help them to relax around the camera. Sharing some jokes and having a little fun early on can help people forget about my presence later in the day — and that can be the key to capturing the emotions.
Now you’ve made a connection, your job is to stay close. The trick to doing that is to be almost invisible. It takes practice but it’s possible. Once, the groom told me that he remembered a scene that appeared in the movie perfectly from the day itself, but he didn’t remember me being there. I was just in front of him, about a metre away!
Working with as little gear as possible really helps. The Nikon Z system’s size is a real advantage for me: the lenses are so small. Some people even think I’m a guest and pose for a photo. I have to tell them I’m shooting video and ask them to move!
How you dress can be important too. Shooting a wedding is tough: it’s a long day so you need to be comfortable. It’s smart to avoid flashy colours. You really don’t want to draw attention to yourself.
On the Edge: a wedding video shot on the Nikon Z 7II by François Lamoureux
Shoot with minimal kit
I usually shoot with just my camera and perhaps a monitor so I can check focus and exposure. I feel more free to move around that way, even in tight spaces. I don’t usually use a gimbal because that can slow me down: it’s heavier and can be intimidating for the couple.
I used to pack a lot of gear in the trunk of my car and not use it because it would take too much time to set up or it was too heavy. Now I know how important it is to keep things as light as possible.
My kit bag contains two cameras (because you never know), two lenses, my filters, and my camera cage and monitor. I also bring two recording devices to capture the sounds of the environment and the speeches. I take spare memory cards and lots of batteries: usually more than I need, because it makes me feel more comfortable.
Find your focal length
Changing lenses during the wedding can make you miss a shot. Using just one lens makes you more responsive, plus you don't have to think about the gear.
I prefer primes because of the image quality and the wider apertures. I can open apertures as wide as f/1.8 and not have any issues with backlight when shooting at night, or in indoor locations.
If you’re not sure which prime to use, it makes more sense to shoot with a 24-70mm zoom instead. Look back at what you’ve shot and find out which focal length you’re using the most. There, that’s your prime lens.
Embrace wide-area AF
I try not to use lots of different settings because it distracts me from capturing the emotion of the moment.
For scenes where I have more time, like when I’m getting the shots of the rings, I might use manual AF. The rest of the time things are moving too quickly. I like to shoot dynamically and react to the people around me spontaneously. I love it that the Nikon Z 6II lets you use Eye-AF when shooting video: it’s perfect, a wonderful feature. I can get through the whole day using the Nikon Z wide-area AF mode and Eye-AF because know everything will be in focus.
Save time by saving your favourite settings
Saving custom profile settings to the camera means you can switch between them as you need. I have a custom 4K 25 fps flat profile log saved for general use, and a 100 fps flat profile saved for slow motion sequences.
I used to shoot with very flat profile logs but the colours on the Nikon Z 6II are so accurate that I’ve been able to adapt my workflow. With colours and skin tones this good, you can spend less time in post-production, so I’ve adjusted my custom profiles to tweak the saturation and the contrast just a little.