Street photography for wedding photography

As a wedding photographer it’s imperative you provide images that your couples will love, but equally important to stay inspired and shoot for yourself. Wedding photographers must advance in their skill year on year, grow and produce stunning images that couples will book you for.

For a wedding photographer, there are a wealth of resources and workshops to watch and attend, helping you build your skills. However, I realised very early on that the only way to improve my images, was to go out and take more photos. A famous Henri Cartier-Bresson quote, “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst” eludes to the fact that with practice you will improve. During your first 10,000 images, you will get some awesome shots, but most will be average at best. However your hit rate of keepers, and standard of images will improve as you train yourself to be a better photographer.

There are only so many weddings you can shoot, so for me street photography was the obvious place to turn for inspiration and practice. 

I shoot weddings in the same way as I approach my street photography. I don’t move objects, open curtains, ask people to move or interfere in anyway (although I do a few quick group shots and couple portraits for most weddings). Shooting weddings this way keeps my eye fresh and I find reacting to moments (rather than staging them) provides unique images, but also keeps me inspired to shoot. You genuinely never know what’s going to unfold at each wedding.

I love looking at other street photography, it is one of the most difficult genres of photography to master. So many elements of street and wedding photography are alike. Searching for moments that are unexpected, it’s about how you see the world and the way you capture it. Street photography is the closest as you can get to training to be a better wedding photographer. 

I shoot street whenever I can, sharing my work on my Instagram. I always have a camera on me (my iphone at least) as images can present themselves anywhere. Once a year I travel abroad and shoot pure street for 4-5 days as part of the 8street collective. We are a group of wedding photographers that strive to improve via street photography. Along with shooting on my own personal travels it’s my main investment in training each year.

If you are looking to improve your street photography, I offer 1:1 sessions and group street photography walks in Manchester, contact me to book.


What is street photography?

Unposed moments from the world, they don’t have to be on the street. They can capture a sense of person / place or just make you think. I think there are two types of street photography, moment based and composition / lighting based, the best street photography (like the best wedding photography) has elements of each.

If you are not familiar to street photography, dive in and learn. Here are some resources that I have found useful over the years

Books

I highly recommend buying photography books. I’d start with these:

Street Photography Now

Magnum contact sheets

The Street Photographers Manual

Alex Webb – The suffering of light

Buying street photography books is a real passion of mine. Some of my favourites photographers include these below, get on Amazon and order some….

Trent Park, Matt Stuart, Elliot Erwitt, Vivian Maier, Joel Meyerowitz, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Alex Webb, Don McCullin, Diane Arbus, Richard Kalvar

Online: youtube, blogs + websites

A wealth of resources and inspiration is available online. Just google Street photography in YouTube and you can get lost in videos for months. A few of my favourite resources…

Flickr

I’ve been a flickr member since 2009, but have really started using it the past couple of years. Groups such as APF and Urban Picnic are curated and let you see some outstanding images.

Instagram

This seems the place to be at the moment. I post a selection of street and personal work, and have a separate account for my wedding images. But it’s the process of looking through my feed at other images that I really enjoy. Check out some of these guys:

KociRinzizen, Magnumphotos, Edkashi, cityexposed, time_lapse, fisheyedreams, maciejdakowicz, ka.me.ra, davidalanharvey, streetphotographers

You can find my work on Instagram at adampriley + featured on The8Street 


Relating Street Photography to Wedding Photography

Street photography is about capturing individual images, with a story contained within, or questions asked. In this respect it is very familiar to wedding photography – although it’s important to convey the wider story of the wedding, and your focus is inevitably more on specific people. I find street photography a challenge, and many days of shooting street can be frustrating. But when you get a good image it is worth it.

All the images below are completely unposed street and wedding images taken by me, I’ve broken down some tips on how the two can relate to each other below.

Improving your composition

Wedding photography is not just about shooting what is happening in front of you, but trying to capture that in an image that has artistic merit. I believe that the composition of street (and wedding) photography should not be overly reliant on rules. But knowing how and when to use them can help create a better images. Simple rules like using frames, placing subjects on thirds and layering can all be practiced in street and applied in wedding photography.

Framing – A frame within a frame is a simple way to enhance an image. There are so many opportunities at a wedding, doorways, windows, mirrors, people. Frame your subject to focus attention on them.

Framing in Street Photography
Framing in wedding photography

Rule of thirds – placing your subject on a 3rd of the image can increases or decrease tension.

Rule of 1/3rds in Street Photography
Rule of 1/3rds in wedding photography

Busy Frames/Layering – Something I’m always trying to do in wedding photography. Ensure that no heads overlap, a challenge in busy bridal prep. Adding layers to an image will give a sense of depth. Something Alex Webb does spectacularly.

Layering / complex framing in street photography
Layering / complex framing in wedding photography
Layering / complex framing in wedding photography

Environmental Portraits – Not just a portrait, but an unposed moment that has a story, a sense of place or who the person is.

Environmental Portrait in street photography
Environmental portrait in wedding photography

Being ready – You should know your camera gear inside out, and be ready to capture an image in a split second. You never know what is going to happen at a wedding – the same is true on the street! Always have your camera turned on, exposure correct, and focus ready. Moments are over in seconds.

Being ready in street photography
Being ready in wedding photography

Seeing Light – Seeing light is one of the key aspects for any photographer, I’ve found it takes practice. Street photography is that practice for me. I now see changes in light automatically without thinking, just out walking the dog I can appreciate it! At a wedding it’s easy to be absorbed the moment and completely forget about the light. Often a simple sidestep will allow you to use the light to its full advantage.

Seeing light in street photography
Seeing light in wedding photography

Being observant to your surroundings – Our surrounding change constantly, and generally we tune out all the adverts and background noise – especially at a wedding. But using these elements can give your images an extra dimension. A sense of story or inject some humour. Keep an eye on the background, if you see something interesting, keep it in mind, another element might come along.

Observing the background in street photography – These shadows were part of an exhibition in Berlin. I waited for a passer-by to project their shadow on to the wall, this worked out nicely.
Observing the background in wedding photography. I was aware of the video camera on the paper, and framed the shot to include this, linking the two stories together.

Spotting the unusual – Keeping your eyes peeled and being observant is my favourite way to shoot street. I walk and walk, hoping to find something unusual or funny. Some sort of everyday life that everyone else seems to pass by. Training your eyes and mind to do this makes spotting it on the wedding day so much easier.

Spotting the unusual in street photography
Spotting the unusual in wedding photography

Patience – Being patient is key to creating many great photography images. Seeing an image in your head before it happens, or spotting a scene of interest and waiting for something or someone to enter it to give it that extra element. I have stood in one area for an hour waiting for all the elements of a street image to come together (and often it doesn’t!), but when it does, it’s a great feeling. We don’t always have the luxury of such time at weddings, but keeping your eyes open and studying a scene waiting for an extra element often pays off.

Patience in street photography I’d noticed this advertisement (right of frame) of someone looking up, but never managed to make it work in a frame despite trying lots of times. Later that day I heard a helicopter overhead and noticed people looking up to see it. I quickly found the poster (it was all over the city!) and made this frame.
Patience in wedding photography. The boy in the air had been doing backflips, I shot some images, watched and waited for 5 mins for some more elements to come into frame. Suddenly two flower girls started playing with the man on the right, and I captured this moment. The lens flare from the sun was intentionally in the image, but I was fortunate it landed just on the boy doing a backflip. I think it looks like he is being beamed up by a UFO.

A different view – It’s easy to shoot a wedding day from standing height all day. But moving around, shooting over balconies, capturing images from floor level or holding your camera above your head to shoot all provide a different viewpoint on the story.

A different view in street photography
A different view in wedding photography

Reflections – Reflections can be a little overdone by wedding photographers, but I still think there is place for good reflection images, they can add that extra element that makes your shot interesting. Looking for a different type of reflection shot (not just a bride looking at herself in the mirror) will be made easier by spotting these types of scenario in a non wedding environment.

Reflections in street photography
Reflections in wedding photography
Reflections in street photography

Details – The small things are a big part of the wedding day, look for the little moments and details on the street too.

The details in street photography
The details in wedding photography

Silhouettes – An easy thing to practise, look for interesting silhouettes + shadows to tell a story.

Silhouettes in street photography
Silhouettes in wedding photography

Excluding elements – when framing a scene, it’s important to try different compositions, eliminating certain elements can add mystery to the image and give a “what’s going on here?” question to the viewer.

Excluding elements in street photography. The boy was playing hide and seek, but excluding dad he was playing the game with made for a more interesting image.
Excluding elements in wedding photography. The guy on all fours was playing a game with a fellow guest. Eliminating the other person from the image ( + layering using the lady in the foreground) made for a more interesting shot

Getting close – getting close to your subject can add depth and bring the viewer into the frame

Getting close in street photography
Getting close in wedding photography

Finally…

Shooting street is a very personal experience. It’s one of the only types of photography that includes people, and can be taken solely for the pleasure of shooting…there is no one to please or brief to fulfil. Waiting for that moment to come together, and capturing it when it does is why so many people do it.

Enjoy the process of shooting street, and don’t be focused on getting “likes” online. Slowly the skills you learn on the street will spread into your wedding photography.

Read more about my next street photography training day and get in touch if you have any questions.

36 thoughts on “Street photography for wedding photography”

  1. What a great post, Adam. Learning how to see the world, put things in and out of your frame is probably the best way how to become a better street and wedding photographer.

  2. Nice one Adam, reminds me to get out and go more of this, I’ve been slack lately. Terrific bit of inspiration , cheers

  3. Great post Adam, Ive been using this in my talks for a while, when people ask how to get good at documentary wedding photography. Easy, get good at street photography and shoot some personal projects

  4. Great post Adam, really useful piece for aspiring wedding photographers out there, whether you like street photography or not there is no better training field for documentary wedding photographers.

  5. I think I can honestly say I’ve studied and admired all of those images on your Instagram or Facebook already. It’s an absolute pleasure not only to see them again all in one place but to hear your stories and educational words towards them!
    Totally inspirational work Adam! x

  6. Pingback: How Shooting Street Improves Your Wedding Photos | Photohangout

  7. Pingback: How Shooting Street Improves Your Wedding Photos | WEDDING

  8. Pingback: Porto Street Photography | Portugal Travel Photos

  9. Just stumbled across this. Thanks Adam! You have inspired me on to the street (in a good way)! Great article, wonderful shots. As a wedding photographer I have long enjoyed capturing little stories in pictures. Yes, there are so many elements of the day that need to be done, including the group line ups (a constant source of “here we go again”). But increasingly I love those unexpected moments and the satisfaction gained from capturing them.

  10. Pingback: Leica M10 for weddings - Documentary Wedding Photography in Manchester

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *