Flipped Perspective: Takeaways From Being In My Brother’s Wedding As An Off-Duty Photographer

December 9, 2016

By Laura Brauer

The tables get turned, and this time I’m the wedding guest [in this case at my brother’s wedding], not the photographer. Photo © Mollie Wetta Photography

To say this was a first for me would be an understatement. I come from a very small family and have one brother, Kyle—that’s it. His wedding this past summer was really the only family wedding I’ll have, and one of only a few family weddings I’ve ever attended.  

Kyle met Courtney a few years ago, and they are fantastic together. When I found out they were getting married, I was incredibly happy for them and over the course of their engagement I tried to help them out in any way possible—advice on vendors, timelines, the works. I shot their engagement session in Italy last November as a wedding present, and could not wait for their big day to arrive. 

When it came time to choose the photography, they asked me for advice, but ultimately it was a family decision for Kyle, Courtney and her parents. They ended up  hiring a local photographer who had shot some of Courtney’s friends’ weddings.  

The wedding was a simple one in terms of photo coverage: church and reception. No getting-ready shots, no four hours of portraits. Needless to say, as a photographer, I was thrilled!  The experience of being in a wedding is very different from that of being behind the camera. Everything happens slower and with great pause, much unlike the fast-paced timeline of a wedding photographer. I caught myself actually relaxing on that day, a completely foreign experience.  

If there is one sage piece of advice I can impart, it would be to pay attention to all interactions that unfold during the day. Yes, we all try to capture the key people—mom, dad, grandma, sister—but at the end of the day, we get our hero shots and move on to the next thing on our checklist. Granted, the photographers for the day did a good job, but I ended up capturing important moments with my iPhone that they missed.  Seek out those moments. Don’t get stuck in the same routine, and find ways to connect with those people who came together for this important day. I learned that if you concentrate on the people, there are no bad images, just memories.  

So how do we get those memories? For most of us, it involves an online deliverable and an album. Kyle and Courtney’s wedding photos took about eight weeks to arrive, with no teaser images delivered in between. My brother occasionally asked me questions about how long it takes, and if or how they could see some images. Teaser images are so incredibly important. I’ve always covered a couple the night of or day after a wedding, but now I truly understand how very important those images can be.  

Two little things can mean all the difference for a bride, a groom, a family. In the weddings I’ve shot since, I’ve noticed so many small details that I never would have thought of before. And at the end of the day, it isn’t about us—it is about the couple, no matter who they are to you. Just remember to keep your eyes peeled and keep shooting.

5 Ways to be a Better Wedding Photographer

Try to minimize the time looking at the back of the camera. The more you look around, the more you see.
Be as straightforward as possible about the editing process and timeline. This minimizes questions after a wedding.
Make sure to use proper timestamp info. It was super tough going through Kyle’s photos because they were all out of order.
Go to the rehearsal! This is a great way to learn who the important people are, and for them to become more comfortable with you.
If you are attending a wedding, be present, and don’t be afraid to politely ask the photographer to capture those important moments. They only happen once.

Collin Pierson, who is based in Chicago, is a wedding photographer and educator whose signature style is both candid and dramatic.