View Full Version : How to incorporate this tree into a wedding shot

05-16-2010, 10:36 AM

I'm shooting a wedding this summer. I visited the church the other day. The grounds have a particularly unique 1000+ year old tree with a 2-seater bench beneath it. A photo of it is on this photo book page ran by the church :


My question regards how to group my wedding shoot as the couple have said they would like the tree to feature in them. My initial view was to have the bride and groom sat down on the bench with significant others to the side and behind the bench. I can't see how else to do it as the bench will just get in the way otherwise.

I'm unsure though because I have never seen a wedding photo where the couple are sat down with their significant members stood around them. Is this a composition that is sometimes done to good effect, or should it be discouraged if at all possible?

Happy for any other suggestions.

PS - As far as I could tell by my first visit, at the time of the wedding, the sun will be to the right and slightly behind the photographer; a 16:00 position, if using a clock based system, 12:00 being the position of the bench.

I will be using Fuji 400H or 800Z if it it particularly dull.



05-16-2010, 10:42 AM
Do they want the leaves of the tree, or would the trunk be enough? It's a really crowded background, so I'd probably shoot vertical, get close and crop a bit (feet —> just above the hole in the trunk.) Stop down and get the trunk in focus.

The bench looks quite big (depends on the size of the dresses though), so if there's too much space left on the bench, get some people to sit on the arm rests.

Ian C
05-16-2010, 11:19 AM
Since you have sufficient time before the wedding day I recommend trying some test shots at the same time of day as the scheduled shoot under both sunlight and overcast sky with stand-ins, such as friends, family, street urchins, or whatever you can find. That will reveal lighting and composition problems.

Overcast will require at least some supplementary light if youíre to get pleasing color. Thatís often advisable even with scenes that are frontally lit by sunlight (balanced fill flash to lighten up eye sockets and other facial shadows).

If the sunlight falls directly upon their faces then that will irritate the eyes of the wedding party. In that case youíll have to select an angle so that theyíre not all squinting uncomfortably in the blinding sunlight.

If you have enough stand-ins, that will guide you to an effective composition. It looks like a lovely spot. The composition options would be greater if that bench were gone. You could examine it to see if it might be reasonable to request it be temporarily removed for the shoot. If not, then youíll just have to make it part of the composition.
Donít overlook the possibility of altering your camera angle to just exclude the bench. Youíll likely want some shots that include and some that exclude the bench.

Depending upon the focal length of the lens and camera position you might try a composition that puts the entire wedding party just in front of the bench and, therefore, obscuring it. For this shot you might even temporarily cover the bench with a camouflage cover that matches the grass and so forth behind. In this way even if a small part of it is somehow visible between legs and such it wonít visually clash nearly as much as would the white paint of the bench.

05-16-2010, 11:23 AM
My first thought also went to the gravestones. The combination of wedding party screening them and a vertical composition could address this. But they may also feel it's part of the natural cycle of life. The group could also be in front of the bench if you (they) prefer.

Contrast (based on the photo you posted) could be an issue. A cloudy day might actually help.

Most, but not all, wedding photos I've seen seem to show the B&G standing - I assume to best show the dress and for a less "stocky" look. But hard to imagine a hard and fast rule. Is there a reason why you can't do multiple shots (standing and sitting)? Also, I've seen chairs and benches used with shots that might include elderly family members.

05-16-2010, 11:30 AM

05-16-2010, 12:01 PM
Is there room behind the tree to work?

My rule of thumb for weddings is that open shade is the best light for group shots. A little bit of back-lighting can work as well.

As an aside, I really like the note on that website - "The yew is over 1000 years old and has a certificate to prove it" (my emphasis :))

05-16-2010, 12:40 PM
Bye Steve.

Your comments are not appreciated.

Good luck everyone.

Jeff Kubach
05-16-2010, 01:54 PM
Personally I think it'll look cool. I love that church. Great place for photos.


sun of sand
05-16-2010, 01:59 PM
i'd do a semicircle to block the stones bride groom on bench
or have the keepers remove them for the day
i'd also take some with the headstones
bride groom standing on walk underneath tree blocking upright stone on right
the entire lineup in front of the bench left to right hiding all but upper trunk and foliage crown
maybe parents sitting on bench with them standing
maybe long line of guests on walk to block all stones to the right bridegroom on bench
maybe there is a composition somewhere if you have them stand on the bench
i dont know if thats etiquette
i don't if that's the correct way to say "not etiquette" ..how do you say that, im blank
maybe do some "daily routine" photos on the bench or on the grounds there
have him take his spot on a burial plot since his life is over ...I wouldn't do that, not even on the backside of the plot ..ever
candid shots of kids are always great no matter what background
but it's a cemetery

if you don't have enough guests or desserts just knock on the tree and ask for the elves

Rick A
05-16-2010, 02:34 PM
My first thought is to remove the bench, and use the cement pedistal for standing group shot. Camera low and in front as to use the group to block the headstones and giving a slight upward angle to aid that. This will also bring the tree into the shot.

05-16-2010, 04:54 PM
Thanks for the ideas guys.

Just to the left of the shot is the main church entrance, which has a very "oldy worldy", tudor-like wooden framed entrance. I think I will try to get the main formal shots of folk stood in front of that and the main church itself, and then use the bench for the smaller group shots, perhaps - especially the one's with kiddies.

The issue regarding the headstones - I'd considered this but felt that the group size combined with shallow DOF (they are quite a way back from the tree) would probably help mask them. I think when photographing in a church yard these are always going to be a feature, to some extent, aren't they? We have to just do our best to ensure they're not prominent. Just my view.

05-16-2010, 05:23 PM
Ask them what they want. Get specific. Be repetitive. Ask/inform them about the gravestones, specifically, for sure. Simple enough: talk to your client. Communication is key. It's the second most important part of shooting weddings, or most things for that matter. The first most important is a signed contract that makes you undefeatable in court when (if?) you are sued. :D

Poisson Du Jour
05-16-2010, 05:34 PM
A wedding shoot in a graveyard!?
The idea strikes me as very oblique and incoherent in a way. Most people are dying to get in there, not sure about brides-to-be...
If the tree must be featured, the couple should be place behind the bench or the bride seated on it and the groom behind, with the entire arrangement tightly cropped to exclude the irrelevant background of gravestones. I see no aesthetic benefit including the stones. A moderate telephoto lens would assist in compressing the scene and framing.

Here in Australia, King Billy Pine (Athrotaxis selaginoides) frequently reach 1500+ years in age in remote alpine rainforest areas of Tasmania, and this is considered young. Not sure if they have certificates! :p

05-16-2010, 06:35 PM
A wedding shoot in a graveyard!?
The idea strikes me as very oblique and incoherent in a way.

I'm not a full time wedding photographer, thus the original question, but don't a good proportion of wedding shoots take place in a church or the grounds of a church? Correct me if I'm wrong but I know some couples prefer to have them taken at the reception venue if it's nicer than the church or church grounds, but that's not the case here and is by no means 'the absolute thing to do' (or is it?). Of course I'll ensure the headstones do not play a prominent role in the photos and I'll avoid it entirely where I can as described above (I have a Nikon 80-200mm that I hope to use for this if possible).

Poisson Du Jour
05-16-2010, 07:01 PM
Yes they do, Ted, depending on historical (very, very old), aesthetic (spatial representation, complimentary/contextual strength and mood), and the representative image on Facebook for all intents and purposes is thin on all three, with the exception of the yew tree as having potential with the bench. The gravestones look quite bland and unserviceable, certainly not of the visually interesting very ancient ones that can be found in churchyards around the UK. Go down to the yew and experiment with your 80-200 with various frame-ups. Maybe climb up the yew for a "up here/looking down" shot at the happy couple!:p

05-17-2010, 05:59 PM
Hi Ted!

How far could you position your camera from the tree? I suggest mounting the camera on a tripod, use a cable to trip the shutter. The reason: maybe they will love this photograph and order a large print from you. I have several 30" x 40" prints on display in my studio and they can provide income to get extra film toys!

The reason I ask is perhaps you could get away far enough where the tree would be in the background and the folks in the wedding party would be in the foreground (have them stand away from the tree and fairly close to your camera - perspective!). If you could get far enough away then maybe you could capture the entire tree. A wide angle lens could help but I recommend checking things out as you don't want to distort the bodies of people in your photograph.

What time of day will this take place?

At any rate, I think this is a good idea, a great idea if your clients wants this as part of their wedding day photographs.

05-17-2010, 07:04 PM
Hmm that one gives me an idea immediately. I am thinking: groom standing behind the bench; bride seated. Fairly wide lens, lowish perspective (eye level to the bride). Narrow depth of field.

If there are other people in there, then a choice relative of the bride beside her on the bench, and everyone else arranged as you please. You can permute youngest and oldest relatives etc. and knock the whole thing out methodically.

Generally I think a standing posture for the groom will help reconcile the scale of the tree with whomever is on the bench. If you do have b&g seated then I think you will need to take a lowish perspective to frame them better aainst the tree (assuming the bench isn't movable).

05-17-2010, 07:40 PM
How much room do you have on the other side of the tree - or to one side of the tree? My thought is to put the wedding party on the other side so that you are standing between tombstones to take the picture but there's no tombstones in the picture/s. If I understand your description correctly, if you place the wedding party to one side of the tree you may be able to include the church door in the picture.
I'd get some husky relatives to remove the bench as it constrains your options too much.
How about making up a little poster faking a love heart carved in the tree and a real close shot of the pair?

06-23-2010, 05:10 PM
Hi all

In the end I didn't really use the bench and instead generally masked it using the people. I was able to get the tree in some shots, but due to the cloudy day, it was VERY dark beneath it's canopy. So I just used it as background interest. I was lucky - the rain eased off for an hours just as the ceremony ended so I was able to get the formals shot in the church grounds.

I am quite happy with the results. Full write up and critique request here: http://www.apug.org/forums/forum292/78356-my-second-wedding-some-piccies-critique.html#post1018083

Thanks to all of you for your help with this one - I learned a lot from the discussion.