wedding photography

wedding photography lighting – shooting in partial sunlight & shade

I strongly believe that when you have the ability to control a photo session, that you pick your battles. You don’t have to try and make everything work. Set up portrait shots in light that favors you. Of course, off-camera flash really helps you in being able to pick where you want that light that favors you.

Solid advice that I adhere to, is to not have a person or a group of people half in the sun, half in shade. It’s a recipe for disaster, or a tough battle to fight, lighting wise. But then, slightly amneding Sean Connery’s immortal words in The Untouchables, “Don’t bring a knife to a gun-fight.” When you have enough light to match the sun, then it is possible to pull something out of that challenging situation!

I like using speedlights for additional light, but I also have my Profoto AcuteB2 600R Power Pack (vendor), in the trunk of my car … just in case I need something more than a knife. But really, if the Profoto B1 500 Air (retail), was available for Nikon, it would be the Profoto B1 that I pull out. 500 Ws of easily portable light!

I really liked this building as a backdrop, but at this time of the day, half the facade was in sun, and half in shade. And this is where having a really powerful flash on location, is very very handy. I can dump sunlight levels of light (through a softbox!) to match the sunlit areas, and match the exposure levels.

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photographers – becoming more confident in posing people

How to confidently pose people for portraits, is likely as big a challenge for new photographers, as how to use light. Even a model as professional and inventive as Ulorin Vex has told me that one of her biggest frustrations with photographers is when the photographer expects her to drive the shoot, and pose herself and come up with ideas. So yes, even when working with professional models, you need to guide them.

For me, the first step in becoming more confident in posing people was to practice. And practice by posing yourself while looking in a mirror ), and figuring out what looks good as a pose, and what just looks clumsy.

But the break-through realization for me was that as a photographer, the people that I am photographing, gave me permission to pose them. It’s not an intrusion to (gently) pose people so that they look good in front of the camera. Somehow, it had to eventually dawn on me that I have their permission. I don’t have to be shy and wonder if I should. In fact, I have to pose people when photographing their portraits.

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photography: posing tips – the leaning pose

Even when you’re photographing a bride as graceful as Patricia, there’s still a need to adjust and guide the pose. I liked the roughness and color of this gate, and I also knew the background would be an out-of-focus mush behind her.

When you ask someone to lean against something, they tend to fall back onto the wall or object, with both shoulders and their back flat agains the surface.

My starting point with this pose, is that I show what I want. Remember, people don’t usually know what you’re after, and they most definitely don’t know the composition you’re getting. So I like to get in there and physically show the pose. (And yes, she did laugh at me doing that.)

Then it’s series of gentle verbal nudgings to where the photograph will look good:
- roll against your (left) shoulder towards me,
- separate your (right) shoulder away from the wall,
- lean a tiny bit towards me,
- pop your knee out,
- use your hand to shape your body / leg / arm.
- drop your chin / lift your chin.

And with that, I’ve finessed the leaning pose that I showed to my subject.

With the leaning pose, those are my general instructions, and it usually gets us to where the photograph will look good! I don’t rigidly pose, but use a few verbal instructions to finesse the pose. In that sense, the way that I pose someone is fairly “loose”, and helps keep the momentum of the photo session going, because we don’t get stuck in the minutiae of every limb’s every position. We get to a point where “yes, this looks great!”, and then we move forward to the next place. The momentum is also important.

(This photo is from Patricia and Erwin’s wedding, where I was the 2nd photographer for JC Carley.)

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Peiwen & Eric – wedding in Melbourne, Australia – slideshow

I’ve shown a few images already of the wedding I photographed in Melbourne, Australia, early in March 2014. Everything fell into place during our visit to Australia – and on the wedding day itself – great weather, lovely people, a truly fantastic couple. It’s a huge honor indeed that Eric reached out to my last year, enquiring whether I’d be up for photographing his and Peiwen’s wedding in Melbourne. And yes, I did feel a lot of pressure. The images dared not be mediocre!

But Eric and Peiwen really were great to work with – sparkling personalities, and full of energy and ideas. It also helped that they allowed for ample time for the romantic portraits on the day, as well as the next day with a visit to Brighton Beach. It all turned into a set of photographs that I am truly proud of. Here, are some, (yes, only some) of my favorite photographs from Peiwen and Eric’s wedding.
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exposure metering: under-exposure / over-exposure vs exposing correctly

When I posted this photograph of Peiwen & Eric’s wedding in Melbourne, Australia, on Facebook, someone asked the question: how much did I over-expose this photo by?

We have to be very clear with our terminology regarding over-exposure and under-exposure. This photograph is not over-exposed. It is exposed correctly! Did my camera’s light-meter jump all the way to the right-hand side? Yes, it surely did. Does it matter? No, it does not. Why not? Because I exposed correctly. Not under, not over, but correctly.

This photograph (which is ambient light only), is exposed correctly … because my subject, the bride, is exposed correctly. This is a key concept – we have to expose correctly for our subjects. Even if you decide to turn your subject into a silhouette, the decision was still very specific about how you wanted to expose for your subject.

If you are a landscape photographer, then most likely your entire scene is your subject. If you are a portrait photographer, then invariably, your subject is what you need to expose for correctly.

However, if you want to balance your subject which is shaded, in relation to a much brighter background, then you’re going to have to use additional lighting to expose correctly for your subject. But working with just the available light, you will invariably aim to expose correctly for your subject.

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bounce flash photography – adjusting the black foamie thing to be a snoot

During the day, as I photograph a wedding, I am continually mixing up the lighting, adapting and adjusting. It’s part of the process of giving my clients as much variety as possible, and also just being flexible in adapting to the demands of the various locations. It’s therefore a varied approach in using all kinds of light sources: off-camera flash, on-camera flash, video light and available light. It’s part of the fun, and part of the challenge of being a wedding photographer – thinking on your feet. Of course there’s extra pressure on you as photographer when you’re flown to Melbourne, Australia to photograph a wedding!

The morning after Peiwen and Eric’s wedding, they had the Tea Ceremony with the parents, and Peiwen was in traditional dress. I just had to get more portraits of the two of them, and with Peiwen in this striking red dress.

In the elevator lobby on their floor, there were these seats and mirrors and wood paneling that looked like it would make an elegant setting for some portraits of the couple. But the light there was uneven, and not very bright. I needed to add some light, but only had a video light with me, and on-camera flash. With that large mirror, someone holding up a video light would’ve involved a lot of Photoshop work. So the next option – bounce flash. But again, that large mirror there was a challenge.

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photographing a wedding in Melbourne, Australia

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wedding photography: dealing with the DJ’s lights

As wedding reception venues and DJs are becoming more sophisticated in their lighting, there’s now the added challenge of spotlights and lasers and other lighting effects that compete with the simplicity of just using flash.

So how do you deal with this? You just deal with this. One way or another.

You can either embrace the colors (as in the example above),
or you can use flash to neutralize some of the wild color casts.
Just how do you do that? Well, there’s a little bit of homework at the end of this.

Very often, I shoot towards the DJ’s booth, so that the wild colors become splashes of color, whether I add (on-camera bounce) flash, or not. This way I don’t have to directly compete with the lights, but they become an enhancement of the image.

With lasers skimming around – my advice is to shoot a lot to make sure you have enough images, in case some were spoiled by bright green dots. Also, learn to love photoshop and the Healing Brush.

With up-lighting that becomes quite prominent – well, there’s the little bit of homework to do at the end!

And if anyone advises you to use specific settings such as (for example):  1/60 @ f/4 @ 1600 ISO to cover every situation, they are fools who are misleading you. There are too many variables for generic camera settings. Scenarios and situations change. You need to adapt.

You’re not a passenger of your camera’s settings. You control them to allow more ambient light in, or less. And if you allow less ambient light in, you need to add additional light, whether flash or video light.

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wedding photography – using video light for macro detail photographs

With the details photos of the wedding rings, I generally resort to on-camera bounce flash for enough light … and for interesting light. Sometimes though, I mix it up by using video light instead. Here I used the Litepanels Croma LED video light (vendor).

The need for smaller apertures means enough light … but working with a tripod is often just too slow with the hectic pace of a wedding day. Then a stabilized macro lens is essential.

The photo above was shot with an LED video light, so we had to hold the light very close to the rings to get enough depth-of-field. Fortunately though, with a macro lens, you’re working so close to your subject, that the light source won’t interfere.

camera settings: 1/125 @ f/8 @ 1600 ISO
Litepanels Croma LED video light (vendor)

I purposely composed the image so that the one flower would be in the background directly behind the rings, otherwise they would’ve blended into the black background. The rings and flowers were all lit with the single LED video light.

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wedding photography – big bounce flash

In photographing groups with weddings, I have a preference to keep the light soft and even. This makes posing a large group easier, since you don’t have to worry about odd shadows. A big light source, just off to my side, is the simplest way of lighting this. Previous articles described how to do this with speedlights and an umbrella. (Check links at the bottom of the article.) Often enough though, you’ll find yourself in a scenario where one or two speedlights just don’t have enough juice, and then you need to bring out something bigger and more powerful – portable studio lighting.

There are numerous options out there for portable studio lighting – Elinchrom, AlienBees and others. I use Profoto. I always bring my Profoto 600R in the trunk of my car, just in case it is necessary. And frequently enough it is necessary, for example:
shooting wedding photos in the mid-day sun
lighting large groups with a large light

With Grace and Joseph’s wedding, I had to pull out the Profoto Acute B2 600 W/s powerpack (vendor) again. Lack of time due to the snowstorm delays had me simply use it as a big bounce flash. But it took a few steps getting to that point …

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