The Secret to Taking Gorgeous Candid Wedding Photos

Four professional wedding photographers share the best candid wedding photos they’ve ever taken, plus tips for how to take your own.
by Maggie Seaver

The idea of having a camera (or two) in your face for an entire day can be daunting for anyone, but especially if you usually feel shy or awkward in front of a lens. So what’s the secret to acting natural for those priceless, off-the-cuff candids on your wedding day? Take it from seasoned wedding photographers: One way to getting organic photos is to try to forget the camera is even there. Sounds impossible, but don’t worry—the pros know exactly which impromptu moments always guarantee truly authentic pics. Here, four photographers share how to relax in front of the camera, plus the sweetest candid photos they’ve ever snapped.

1. Photographer: Valorie Darling

The key to staying relaxed and natural:

“Finding a photographer you're comfortable with is key. It’s so important to have a connection with whomever you hire. I strive to find clients I connect with and learn what makes them laugh and feel confident, so when it comes to their wedding day I'm more like a friend than a stranger. Then, it just feels like we're playing without stress around the camera.”

Your favorite wedding moments for capturing candid photos: 

“There's so much emotion and high energy happening on a wedding day that lends effortlessly to capturing great candid shots, including moments like speeches, when the couple is really invested in what’s being said. I always encourage the [couple] to do a first look if they're open to it. This allows them to relax in the day and knock out the more formal shots before guests arrive, so after the ceremony they can just live in that bliss and let the epic candids roll.”

Your pro trick to snapping candid shots:

“Being present and in the moment, but still maintaining a little bit of anticipation for the way a wedding day unfolds. I typically use a 70- to 200-millimeter lens (a long lens) to get intimate shots up close without intruding. Being able to read a room thoroughly is helpful too, and I tend to look for animated guests who light up a room and get people laughing.”

Favorite candid shot you've ever taken: 

“Sometimes it's the little moments that stick out, and an easily overlooked laugh shared between two cousins—a bride and her maid of honor—walking to the car together after taking formal photos, is one of my favorites. I can still hear them cracking up and their uncontainable energy of shared memories leading up to this day. Some people might look at it and not think much of it, but I look at it and instantly feel pure joy.”

What makes these photos so special:

“The rawness and authenticity of candid shots have an energy that’s palpable. A great candid shot transports you back to that exact feeling and moment. A really great candid gives you goose bumps, and you feel a connection even if you weren't a part of it.”

2. Photographer: Sasithon Pooviriyakul

The key to staying relaxed and natural:

“Get into the mind-set of having fun together versus taking formal photos. Imagine being on a date that just so happens to be your wedding day.”

Your favorite wedding moments for capturing candid photos:

“The dance party—hands down! Especially when there's a hora involved. When the party starts, all inhibitions are thrown out the window, and capturing this energy is priceless. I also love when there are surprises involved. At one wedding, the mother of the bride surprised the couple with a Brazilian dance troupe. The reactions from the couple and the guests were incredible to photograph.”

Your pro trick to snapping candid shots:

“Telling couples to try and forget I'm there and to enjoy each other and the moment. A wedding day goes by so fast, so savor every second. Also, a glass of wine always helps.”

Favorite candid shot you've ever taken:

“I shot a farm wedding and two goats jumped right in sync in front of the couple!”

What makes these photos so special:

“Candids are the heart of a wedding—they're the photos that take you back to the feeling and magic of that special day.”

3. Photographer: Dacia Pierson

The key to staying relaxed and natural:

“The best way to feel comfortable in front of the camera is to feel comfortable with your photographer. Don’t let your wedding date feel like your first date with a stranger. Get a coffee or a drink, call them when you have questions (we’re more than happy to weigh in) and, above all, opt for the engagement shoot.”

Your favorite wedding moments for capturing candid photos:

“Just after the ceremony, when the pressure of everything running on schedule is over. That’s it—you’re married! There’s a real shift in energy between [the couple] once that part is over and you’re basking in all the love surrounding you.”

Your pro trick to snapping candid shots:

“I’m an observer. Throughout all of our time together, I’m watching how [the couple] interacts with each other and making space for it to happen. My process is simply to respond to who you already are together and provide encouragement through direction if necessary.”

What makes these photos so special:

“Simply put, candid photos are the story of your wedding day: the energy in the room, emotional [wedding parties], the loving moments between you and your love, and the merging of two families.”

4. Photographer: Samm Blake

The key to staying relaxed and natural:

“Book a photographer whose style and personality you connect with. Look through a selection of their full weddings similar in style to your own to see how they photograph the different parts of the day. Meet with and get to know your photographer before you book and again just before the day—you’ll be more relaxed and yourself around a friend, then a stranger. And on [your wedding] day, try not let any hiccups get in the way of you enjoying yourself, because if you’re stressed, it’ll show in photographs.”

Your favorite wedding moments for capturing candid photos:

“I love when couples spend time with their guests immediately after the ceremony concludes. The energy is high and there are so many smiles and happy tears. Everyone forgets about the cameras and it’s a really joyful time.”

Your pro trick to snapping candid shots:

“I help my clients build a timeline for their wedding day that will allow the natural events to unfold in a relaxed manner. Great photos are made when you’re relaxed, so create a timeline with lots of breathing room. Good photographs take time to create. Trust your photographer with their recommended times.”

Favorite candid shot you've ever taken:

“One that clearly sticks out is from a wedding I photographed in the Faroe Islands. It happened to be a very windy day and a huge gust of wind came along nearly knocking the couple over—their reactions are the best.”

What makes these photos so special:

“They’re real. They’re documenting life, love, joy, celebration and happiness. These photographs become reminders of what’s important to us. I see photographs as portals back to a happy time and place and a reminder of all the people you cherish coming together for one unique day.”


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