Secret Confessions of a Wedding Photographer: Be a triple threat and take your game to the next level

The more a photographer takes control over the situation, the higher chance of executing a masterpiece. Don’t leave your vision to luck.

Secret Confessions of a Wedding Photographer Part 1: Have you ever wondered what goes through the mind of a world class wedding photographer? Scott Robert Lim gives away his secrets that has turned him into an international superstar.  Part 1 of a series of articles on wedding photography.

Are you a Triple Threat Photographer? Be a master at capturing three types of imagery and bring your business and images to new levels…

1. Be a photojournalist. Capture those unique moments that are well composed, properly exposed and display some nice lighting. During the course of a wedding, lighting conditions change so rapidly a great photographer must be technically sound and have full command of obtaining the right exposures with the correct shutter speeds, etc. in a split second. Composition skill is paramount- the photographer must add elements that tell the story of the day and arrange them artistically. Capture images that describe… Who, What, When and Where.

2. Be a director. I consider myself like a movie director- setting up light, directing and posing subjects, creating a mood, etc. I often take control of the wedding day at various times of the day because I want to make sure several things happen:

  • I can produce consistent quality from one wedding to the next.
  • Execute my vision and artistic expression.
  • Attempt to create a masterpiece by arranging everything perfectly- subjects correctly posed, light and exposure that create drama and mixed with an environment that helps tell the story of where I am. I strive to create the perfect image- fully executing my vision. When the photographer starts to direct, imagery starts to take on a signature style and their work develops a consistent quality which is very evident to prospective clients. Clients pay more for consistent quality and an artistic style.

3. Be an instigatorcreate extreme emotion! This is the skill that really separated my work from my competition. My personality ties into this skill because I naturally am a very high energy, positive and passionate person and it is very easy for my subjects to mirror my emotions- they become what I am. Many people would tell me over and over, “Every one looks so happy in your images”. This is when I realized that our work is truly a reflection of our soul and personality. We must find ways to allow our subjects to express extreme emotion- happiness, love, passion, fun, etc. If we genuinely demonstrate emotions without seeming fake or out of character, it is very easy for our subjects to have fun and “buy into” what crazy things we want them to do.

If we successfully incorporate all three of these skills into our wedding photography, the images will be very balanced and will show a full range of emotions. Here is a common situation during a wedding day – see how each image type adds to the depth and scope of the wedding day.


Type 1- Be a Photojournalist. Capturing the “moment”,  undirected photography, finding subjects in great light and quickly negotiating the right exposure before the moment is gone. Learning to capture in a split second when the subjects look most natural and beautiful. Not always possible to get everyone to cooperate at the same time.

As you can see this is a great photo but the iron rod creates an unpleasant element in the photo. So I needed to take more control and I posed them in front of the iron rod…

Type 2- Be a Director

Notice how happy the subjects look, I somewhat attribute this natural, organic feeling of happiness to the way they feel about me- they are reflecting the positive energy I’ve been feeding them all day, they feel comfortable with me and it reflects back in the images. This photo is fine and dandy but I wanted to create a different image that adds pizzazz and a bit of my  personality so I created more emotion by first making a fool of myself demonstrating what I wanted by  “acting sexy” in front of them and then asking them to do the same and this leads to the third type of imagery…

Type 3 – Be an Instigator – create extreme emotion…

I love to create extreme emotion, it is the third dimension to my wedding imagery that not a lot of people know how to create.

All three types of images can be created within a few minutes but the overall impact of the images tell a more rounded story of the day and allow subjects to come alive with their own personality too.

Here’s another example:

Type 1- a photo journalistic moment. A nice composition with great lighting that tells a story.

I then took full control and created Type 2 image where I directed the entire scene, pose and lighting, it adds a bit more drama and I love to bring out the beauty and glamor of a bride. I then surrounded her with her mom and grandmother to further enhance the story.

Although I like both images, the later image received significantly more interest on Facebook. The previous image is good and tells a story, but it doesn’t make the bride look as sexy, glamorous, pretty, etc. as the one I posed and directed. Wedding photography is all about beauty, glamor and extreme emotion- it is your vision and taking control of the situation that helps create drama and beauty.

Here is another set of images that demonstrate all three types, photographed with a few minutes of each other:

I had group walk over to a certain area and they pretty much posed themselves as pictured below. This is a Type 1 image because I barely did anything but have them look at the camera…

Below is a group photo where I controlled almost everything, my signature lighting style, composition, pose, etc.- it has a different feel, not necessarily a better photo but it paints a different emotion and feel to the wedding day coverage. The color is much richer in this photo because I was able to control and set up my lighting. This is an example of  Type 2 imagery.

Almost every bride wants a picture of them doing something “fun” this is code for creating a group image with EXTREME emotion- Type 3 so this is what I came up with…

All day I have been pumping positive energy into my subjects, developing a good relationship with them, showing them great images I took throughout the day, telling them they look fabulous, making them feel good about who they are in a sincere way. I’ve been having fun with them the entire day, so when I tell them to do something crazy, they are into it, they trust me, they are ready to show extreme emotion because they have bought into who I am, my skill level, THEY TRUST ME.

Many photographers try to make their subject do weird/fun things but if the subjects have not bought into the photographer, they are not going to perform in the same way like when they have complete trust- their expressions will show it and the images will look a bit forced.

These are just a few examples of what I constantly do throughout the entire wedding. View my SmugMug gallery with 80+ images of this wedding (click “show details” to see my camera settings) and view the different types of imagery. After a rough survey, I estimate that close to 70% of the images were directed by me and I took control of the subjects in some way. The more I take control of the wedding day, the more complete my vision and the beauty of the day can be magnified. The more perfect the images, the more we get paid and the more in demand we become. If you wait for the perfect moment and it doesn’t come, MAKE IT HAPPEN!  BE A TRIPLE THREAT wedding photographer.

Exercise: Review a recent session or wedding that you have recently shot and evaluate what areas that you do well and what areas that might need improvement in regards to these three types of images discussed.  You may surprise yourself with what you might discover about yourself. Do you see your personality reflected in the images? Do your images lack pizazz or punch? Try infusing more extreme emotion and most importantly make sure BEAUTY is the central focus. This was my key to getting hired around the world and being able to demand 5-10x market value.

This wedding was shot entirely using…

  • Sony A77, 10-24mm F3.5-4.5, 70-200mm F2.8, 50mm F1.4, 16-50mm F2.8
  • SRs Tiny Triggers
  • SRs Strobie 130s
  • Srs Killer Video Lights
  • More Info
October 29, 2012 - 11:56 am

David Crewe - Great article as usual Scott!

October 29, 2012 - 12:18 pm

Elaine - WONdErFUl! Fabulous! Thanks for sharing!

November 19, 2012 - 9:31 pm

Richard - Great images, and your recipe of 3 key wedding photography ingredients is great.

Just yesterday I weighed in on a common topic, Canon or Nikon for wedding photography. After telling of my preference, I mentioned that Sony should be added to this equation. Their sensors, their glass, all high quality. Saw a Sony Camera and 300mm 2.8 on the sidelines of a college bowl game last year. I knew they’d be knocking on the door. Glad to see the evidence.

November 28, 2012 - 6:15 am

Joni Schrantz - LOVED this post. It’s so true that you have to wear so many hats, and be really great at all three to be successful. Thanks for breaking it down to show your process.

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