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How to Handle a Camera-Shy Groom and Other Wedding Photography Tips

Wedding photographers are tasked with an extremely meaningful job: To capture one of the most important events of a couple’s lives. Popular Japanese wedding photographer Takenao Anzawa, has gained attention in his home country for his charming shots of wedding couples. In this article, he shares some tips on how to handle certain common scenarios and still end up with great photos. (Interviewer: Junko Akaike)

Couple in front of mountains with “Just Married” sign

EOS-1D X/ EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM/ FL: 102mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/2.8, 1/640 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 100/ WB: 4650K


Before the actual day

Meeting the couple

Anzawa’s work starts with a meeting before the shoot, during which the couple share their thoughts and ideas with him. "Every couple will have a story behind their relationship as well as family dynamics that I simply don't know about. Meeting the couple before the shoot helps me to understand what’s important to them, think of how to shoot in a way that tells their story, and ultimately, create a wedding story that is uniquely theirs."

Takenao Anzawa interview shot

Takenao Anzawa not only creates wedding shoot concepts for each couple, but also realises them in the form of high-quality photos.


Don’t underestimate the engagement shoot

The wedding story, of course, starts with the engagement photoshoot (also known as the pre-wedding shoot). To Anzawa, engagement photos record the everyday life of the couple close to the wedding, and capture a relationship unique to that couple. In line with that, his engagement shots are usually in a casual style, showing the couple on a date or relaxing at home. As the shots are casual and meant to reflect the couple as they are, it is a good chance to alleviate any anxiety or resistance to photoshoots that the couple might have before the wedding.

Engagement shoots are also a form of warm-up and preparation for the actual day shoot. Anzawa shares, “I get a feel for the couple, and it influences the style and content of the shots that I take on the actual wedding day".

Couple kissing on street

EOS 5D Mark II/ EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM/ FL: 170mm/ Manual exposure (f/3.5, 1/100sec, EV±0)/ ISO 200/ WB: Auto

Anzawa tends to shoot engagement photos at a location that holds fond memories for the couple. It is also a good way to build a connection with them.


Prep your gear

Anzawa uses two camera bodies, each with a different lens attached. This helps him to avoid having to change lenses or take out the memory card, which could result in missed opportunities for good shots. The Speedlite 600EX II-RT is another indispensable part of his arsenal.

His main camera is the EOS-1D X. He usually uses it with the EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens to capture people’s facial expressions, especially those of the wedding couple. His other camera, the EOS 5D Mark III, usually has the EF24-105mm f/4L IS II USM attached. He uses this to capture the wedding ceremony itself and the ambience of the venue as a whole.

In addition, there are two other lenses that he keeps on hand:
- EF50mm f/1.2L USM: For when he requires a bokeh effect
- TS-E90mm f/2.8: For he wants to blur the hem of the wedding gown to create a dreamy effect during fashion-style shoots.

The Speedlite 600EX II-RT is for shooting small items such as the rings, or when he needs to manipulate lighting and shape shadows to bring out the detail on the wedding gown. He mounts the flash on a miniature tripod, and uses a wireless remote control to operate the flash off-camera.


Anzawa’s camera bag

Anzawa limits the amount of equipment so that everything can fit in a single backpack. Pictured are his EOS-1D X, EOS 5D Mark III (with BG-E11 battery grip), two zoom lenses (EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM and EF24-105mm f/4L IS II USM), a prime lens (EF50mm f/1.2L USM) and a tilt-shift lens (TS-E90mm f/2.8). He also carries a Speedlite 600EX II-RT.


The actual shoot: Tips and techniques to try out right away

1. Put a photo-averse groom at ease

When you have a camera-shy groom, Anzawa suggests that you offer to capture him in a way that doesn’t show his face, such as by capturing him from the back, or even just an arm. He gives the groom the option of not being in the photo—the groom is more likely to feel at ease if he knows he has a choice.

Once the groom becomes more relaxed, you might actually be able to include part of his face in the shot. Sometimes, this is all you need to capture the groom’s natural expressions. Anzawa shares that some of the grooms told him that they were so moved by the resulting images, they got the goosebumps!

Black and white shot of couple in crowd

EOS 5D Mark II/ EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM/ FL: 70mm/ Shutter-priority AE (f/2.8, 1/50 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 3200/ WB: Auto

When the groom does not want to be captured in the photos, don't put pressure on him. Instead, shoot with a focus on the bride. Anzawa observes that many grooms eventually let their guard down and allow you to photograph them.

More tips on photographing camera-shy subjects here and here


2. Pick a meaningful location for engagement shoots

It's tempting to go for visually appealing locations, but to Anzawa, shots done in places that hold special significance to the couple have more impact. For that reason, he usually proposes a location only after he meets the couple for the first time. 

For example, for a couple in a long-distance relationship, he would propose the airport that was the site of many joyful reunions. The location could also be symbolic: If a couple liked viewing nightscapes together, he would propose shooting at night with an industrial area as the background, which makes a stunnngly beautiful backdrop. 


3. Use a variety of focal lengths to shoot the wedding ceremony

When the ceremony starts, anticipate the scenes from the time the couple enters until the time they leave, and switch between the two cameras as necessary. Use your telephoto and wide-angle ranges purposefully—you could have cinematic close-ups of people as well as shots that give an overall view of the entire scene. The point here is to have a good variety of perspectives.

For example, for the wedding ceremony shown below, Anzawa started by using a wide-angle to include the guests in the frame as he captured the groom walking shyly down the aisle. He then switched to the telephoto to capture a close-up profile shot of the nervous yet excited expression on the groom’s face. Following that, he went back to wide-angle to get the shot you see below, which shows the father of the bride entrusting the bride to the groom as the guests bear witness.

Father giving bride to groom

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 24mm/ Manual exposure (f/11, 1/100sec, EV+0.67)/ ISO 200/ WB: 4600K

You will want to switch cameras quickly in order not to miss fleeting moments. Anzawa does this by keeping one camera around his neck and the other slung over his shoulder.

Award-winning wedding photographer Roberto Valenzuela takes it a step further and suggests, “Think like a cinematographer”. Find out more in:
3 Tips to Elevate Your Wedding Storytelling (and Why the EOS R Helps)


4. To achieve natural-looking lighting at night, take the ambient light into account

When you’re shooting in a scenic location at night, you will most likely have to use a flash. But if not done properly, your shots would appear unnatural.

One way to avoid that is to use a slower shutter speed and take the ambient light into account. “There will be a shutter speed where the flash lighting and ambient lighting blend perfectly together,” Anzawa shares. That shutter speed depends on the shooting conditions, but if you find it, you get a well-lit shot that looks natural. And if you hold the camera properly, you will not get much camera shake even at a shutter speed of around 1/80 second.

Check out more lighting tips from Anzawa in the following:
2 Simple One-Light Techniques for Gorgeous Day/Night Wedding Portraits
Indoor Wedding Photography with Available Light: 3 Simple Techniques

You might also be interested in:
Shoot Beautiful Night Portraits with No Tripod, No Flash

Groom carries bride among sea of lights

EOS-1D X/ EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM/ FL:100mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/2.8, 1/60 sec, EV±0)/ ISO 1600/ WB: 5025K

By using a clip-on flash and controlling the shutter speed, you can capture a work that takes advantage of the ambient light.

What Anzawa loves most about wedding photography is the fun that he has in devising a shoot that exceeds the client’s expectations. He hopes that these tips will help aspiring wedding photographers find even more delight in wedding photography, and take great photos that will become precious memories for couples.


For more tips, techniques insights from other wedding photographers, check out the following articles:
Roberto Valenzuela: What It Takes To Be a Master Wedding Storyteller
Suspending Time, Capturing Love with Ivan Natadjaja
Wedding Photography Through The Lens Of Nguyen Long
Shooting Weddings: An Interview with Raymond Phang
Unconventional Wedding Photography
Wedding Photography: Tips of the Trade


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Takenao Anzawa

Takenao Anzawa

Born in 1975, Anzawa grew up watching his photographer father work at his family’s photography studio. His aspirations to follow in his father’s footsteps drew him to drop out from university and enter the Nippon Photography Institute. Upon graduating, he joined Hakuhodo Creative, Inc. (now known as Hakuhodo Products, Inc.) for a few years. Hoping to pursue wedding photography further, he left for the United States in 2006 and became a student of visual artist Shinichi Maruyama. Upon his return, he established An’z Photography (“Anz Photo” since 2009). In 2012, he was involved in establishing the Japan Wedding Photographers’ Association, of which he is the current President. When he is not shooting weddings, Anzawa is a full-time lecturer at the Nippon Photography Institute.