For some photographers, being responsible for the “big moments” of events is their pride and joy. They’ve trained for it, practiced it with their own family, and now thrill in being “the person behind the camera” who captures it all. We need to capture that first kiss at the wedding, the puff of blue confetti at a baby gender reveal party, or the look on the bride-to-be’s face when she opens that certain box at the bachelorette party.
The photographer knows exactly what to look for and when to press the shutter button to freeze a particular moment for years to come.
For other photographers, like myself, there is a beauty, joy, and art in finding the “hidden gems.” While the bride is throwing her bouquet, the ring bearer may be pushing the flower girl out of the way to catch the missile himself. As grandma-to-be bites into her pink frosting-infused cupcake, the nephew could be finding the pink backup balloons under the table.
And wouldn’t it be fun to remember the smirk on the maid-of-honor’s face when her friend sees that certain present?
There is often so much focus on the main to-do that the simpler, unplanned moments pass by without notice. However, those life-as-it-comes moments may be the most memorable part of an entire event. The crying child in the family portrait may inspire laughter and a funny redo years later. A secret smile from Dad during the father-daughter dance may bring back more memories than the side-by-side portrait on the church steps.
How do you, as a photographer, capture those precious “hidden gems”? If you’re less inclined to take the responsibility of recording all the big moments, and are willing to hover in the shadows, more than likely you’ll find plenty of hidden moments. In general, there are three rules that will lead to successful “hidden” photography.
- Keep your eyes open. There’s always something going on that might be worth preserving for future enjoyment.
- Keep your camera ready! Scanning the scene through your viewfinder can reveal something new.
- Remember that nothing is “too trivial.” Especially at weddings, every picture of a person, table setting, or sparkling glass is a memory. And that flower girl may only dump her plastic petals into the punchbowl once… Hopefully.
Some may ask, “How do you become skilled enough to be asked to do that kind of photography at events?” While photography such as this may not be a primary job or position, head photographers are often willing to bring along secondary photographers to their events. After all, one photographer can’t be photographing the groomsmen tying each other’s ties and the bridesmaids gushing over their first look at the bride. More than likely, there will be two photographers darting about that day.
To become a requested secondary, if you’re not already associated with a particular photographer or company, PRACTICE. The following suggestions will serve you well if you’re willing to sacrifice a little and put in the time.
- Take your camera with you to any and all events. If you’re going to a graduation party, birthday party, holiday event, retirement reception, farewell dinner, or friend’s wedding, take the camera and take pictures.
- Choose your focus beforehand. Are you hoping to capture tender moments between people, the venue, or the table decorations? Your focus will determine what you’re looking for. If you know what you’re looking for, you’ll be more likely to successfully capture the hidden gems of your choice.
- Offer to share your photos after the event. If you’ve been “sneaking around” at a wedding reception, talk to the bridal couple and/or the hired photographer. Perhaps you caught something that they didn’t.
Keep in mind that different types of events will offer different photography experiences. A large wedding with a couple hundred guests can mean hundreds of uncaptured moments, while a best friend’s graduation party might require a little more imagination to reach even one hundred photos.
To give you a little bit of a head start, here’s a few suggestions for your focus at a couple kinds of events. Sometimes the most obvious choices are the easily overlooked ones.
- Grandparents: After they come down the aisle and sit, watch their faces. Grandpa can be just as proud of the bride as Dad. Grandma may pinch the groom’s cheeks one more time during the reception. Though not the immediate family of the newlyweds, grandparents should not be forgotten due to age, relational distance, or lack of “interesting” interactions with other people.
- Younger children: They’re young, mostly innocent, and bound to do something worth remembering (and, most likely, something the parents would like to forget). I attended a wedding where the flower girl ran out of petals four aisles from the front. She turned and looked down my aisle with a look of complete dismay. “I ran out!” she whispered rather loudly. How I wished I had my camera that day!
- The friends: Most likely, the newlyweds’ friends will be sharing stories from the past with each other. When that particular story is told, and the whole table bursts into hysterical laughter, you can discreetly be ready to capture the moment from a distance. If you’re truly on top of your game, you might be able to catch secret winks and nods between the groom and his friends. It happens…
- Fellow graduates: there’s a special joy that’s shared among a graduating class. When the graduate sees a fellow classmate coming to their party, especially a close friend, it’s usually a special moment that most people miss.
- Special decorations: If you can capture the “Congrats” or “Graduate” banner with the graduate up close or in the distance, you’ve captured the heart of the entire event in a single frame. Is there a display board with pictures from the graduate’s life? Be creative.
- All people, all ages: Memories are being shared, children are running around on the sugar high from the cake, and the favorite aunt is blowing bubbles in the yard. Something is always happening.
Overall, finding hidden gems isn’t very hard if you have the desire and patience to look for them. While it may seem more important to focus solely on the big moments, sometimes it’s the unseen ones that tug at the heartstrings.