wedding photography

using video light for romantic portraits of the bride & groom

One of my favorite photos of the day. Why can’t wedding portraits of the bride and groom be a little bit sexy?

When I went back to the bridal suite during a quieter moment in the wedding reception to fetch some gear I had left there earlier, I had this thought that mmmm, yes! romantic portraits of the bride and groom on the bed in their suite. This might just work! So I called Julia and Louis back to the the bridal suite at the venue, and we did a sequence of images using video light.

I’m a big fan of video light for certain wedding portraits. The harder light and the rapid fall-off in light, lends a certain dramatic quality to images. Also, a video light like the  Lowel ID-Light (B&H) that I used here, is neatly balanced for the Incandescent lighting found in most places indoors. The color balance is usually easily matched. An LED video light such as the Litepanels Croma LED video light (B&H) makes it even easier to change the color balance to your own intent.

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wedding photography – adapting photography lighting during the wedding day

When I posted the photographs of a recent wedding in an album on FB, there were a lot of questions regarding my lighting. The answer is an easy one – I change it up as needed, throughout the day. Whatever is needed to give me the best results the fastest. It’s rarely just one thing. So with Alesha and Patrick’s wedding, I used on-camera flash, off-camera flash (with a soft box), Profoto on-location lighting kit, and of course, if it worked, then I just used the available light. The one only lighting option that I regularly use at weddings, that I didn’t use on this day - video light.

The image at the top, of Alesha just as she finished her prep, was shot with just the fluorescent lights in the room. The color versions look good too, but I really liked the simplicity of B&W here.

Let’s step through a few images, and discuss what I used in terms of lighting, and the how and why …

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wedding photography – detail shots, bounce flash & macro lenses

Macro photography for wedding detail shots is one of those areas where you need a smaller aperture. I know it’s been suggested by some high-profile photographer(s) that you shoot macro at f/2.8 but this is tough advice to follow. If you even breathe, your plane of focus changes for that close distance you’re working at.

That smaller aperture (and I regularly work at f/11 or there-abouts), implies you will need a lot of light. A lot of daylight or lots of flash. When you’re shooting indoors, this means flash, although it is entirely possible to use video light for macro detail photos.

As described in the article, tips for detail shots of the wedding rings, I use the black foamie thing and on-camera bounce flash to create soft direction light. With flash I can more easily get that lots-of-light for smaller apertures.

As with the photograph at the top, with photographing details, I want the light to come from the opposite side than the camera. This creates a kind of wrap-around light as the bounce flash spills all around, but with the shadowed areas towards the camera. In other words, it looks nothing like you’d expect flash to look like.

camera settings: 1/250 @ f/5.6 @ 1600 ISO
It’s unusual for me to shoot macro at this medium aperture. And as you can see from the photo, the depth-of-field it already quite shallow.

A pull-back shot to show exactly where I bounced my flash …

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adapting your photographic style during a shoot

I had the pleasure of photographing Rebecca and Max’s elopement wedding in New York. They’re both from Denmark. (Actually, Max is from Spain originally.) They both planned to get married in New York while over on a trip here. I met up with them at City Hall on the day, where I was the witness to their wedding ceremony. That’s quite an honor too. Then, after the ceremony, we ventured out into Manhattan for an extended photo session.

And this is where there is a certain balance that I need to maintain. If I have a specific style in photographing on-location portraits, it is one of simplicity.

The straight-forward recipe is to make my subject(s) the center of the image by:
- careful composition,
- minimizing extraneous clutter,
- eliminating distracting backgrounds,
- compressing the perspective with a long lens,
- by using a wide aperture on a tele-zoom for shallow depth-of-field.

Great. This works well when the area that we’re photographing our subject in, is just something to have as an interesting, but non-specific background. The background might even be defocused so you can’t really tell where it was. Now, when the location is very much part of what is happening, then as a photographer we need to definitely include the location as part of a “character” in this story. I recently did it with the father and son portrait in Times Square.

And so it is with a wedding taking place in New York, where New York was very specifically chosen as an exotic destination. The photographs of Rebecca and Max had to show a wide range – from the more specifically portrait-like images, to photos which show the city they are in. But I also wanted to avoid a cookie-cutter touristy thing where we move from landmark to landmark and just have them pose in front of things and buildings.

I still wanted to show how they interact with each other. For me, wedding photography, and photography of couples, should be about how they interact with each other. It should reveal something very much *them* along the way.

So there’s the challenge – to take photographs of the couple in Manhattan, and have the range of photos – from elegantly simple portraits, all the way to showing them against the backdrop of the busy city. And yet, not have that same busy-ness intruding, and distracting attention away from them when their family and friends look at the photos.

Let’s run through some of the images and look at the thought-process behind them …

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wedding photography – make those moments happen!

Anticipation and timing on the photographer’s part is essential to getting those key moments on the wedding day. Certain moments will happen, so we have to be ready for them.

This relies on your keen observation and you ability to recognize important moments. You have to know your cameras and equipment, and you have to know the fundamentals of photography. You have to be ready. And you can only be ready if you know your equipment well, and know the techniques. No excuses.

But there is no need to passively wait for moments - it is also possible to make them happen. And even though the photographer is guiding the process here, what is captured is still very true to the day’s events.

Here is an example of how I nudge things along to make sure I get a wonderful moment.

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when you need extreme bounce flash to photograph the wedding processional

As mentioned in the article on photographing the wedding processional, in my opinion, the wedding processional in the church is likely the most challenging part of the day in terms of our technique. People are moving towards you – admittedly at slow pace, unless the bridesmaids are nervous. Then they can easily just zip right up to the front! The light levels are low, and the light is most likely uneven. Adding flash to this is a reliable way to get clean open light on your subjects, but bounce flash can be a bit of a challenge.

As an example, with this wedding in Temple Israel of Lawrence, in New York, the light was really low. Not just that, the temple itself was cavernously huge. Yet, a few test shots showed that I could get the kind of light that I like, using just on-camera bounce flash.

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wedding photography – lighting large groups of people / formal portraits

Relating to the article positioning your flash for the wedding formals, where the family portraits and groups where photographed with a single umbrella and two speedlights, the question then inevitably comes up – what do you do when you need to photograph a large group of people.

The obvious answer is – you need a lot more juice! You either need to add more flashguns, or use a more powerful unit.

As a wedding photographer of Indian weddings, I know that I will be dealing with huge groups of people. And that means a small aperture – and that means a really powerful flash.

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wedding photography: positioning the lighting for the groups & formals

In setting up the lighting for wedding formals in the church, the question often crops up – where do you place the lights. How far from your subjects do you place the lights.

The photograph above shows how and where I place the flash with the umbrella – about 3 pews in, just behind me or to my left (or right). This is approximate though. Two pews in would be fine. Of course, if you’re shooting the wedding formals elsewhere in a different location, just use the same idea.

The closer you bring the light, the more you risk having the light come from too steep an angle, and giving you shadowed eyes.

In positioning my light here, I can be slightly forward of my light – no chance of lens flare - and I have proper perspective for full-length photos. You really do not want to shoot full-length portraits with a wide angle lens. Step back, rather than zoom in!

Placing the light relatively further back like shown here, does bring the light in at a fairly low angle – but it gives open, clean lighting. This is how it looks:

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wedding photography NJ / NY

December 28, 2012

NJ wedding photography New York

wedding photography – favorite detail images

With wedding photography, there are 3 main elements to what we should capture – Portraits; the Moments, as well as the wedding day Details. The more traditional approach is portrait-heavy; the photo-journalist approach favors The moments. In-between there somewhere is the better balance … even with modern wedding photography where there is a strong bias towards story-telling. The wedding day portraits will always remain important.

However, what brides tend to scour magazines and Pinterest for, are the wedding day details. Ideas and inspiration for their own weddings. Bridal magazines know this, and the articles featuring specific weddings are usually details-oriented.

I’ve seen some of the more purist photo-journalistic wedding photographers scorn this bias towards photographs of the details. “What will you remember in 20 years’ time about your wedding? The color of your bridesmaids’ bouquets, or the people who were with you?”

Fair point. I’d heartily agree. Yet, it is very solid advice for any wedding photographer that if your client paid for something, you should photograph it. The details of the wedding! With that in mind, I posted a selection of my favorite images of wedding details from 2012. (There are links to the associated weddings.)

I was very honored this year by the number of weddings where my clients were inspired to book me because of my work seen on the Tangents blog. It’s a huge compliment to be trusted with such and important task as making a lasting record of someone’s wedding day.

This year I photographed weddings not only in New Jersey and New York, but also in the cities of Boston and Baltimore, as well as in Maryland and Delaware.

If any followers of the Tangents blog have family and friends that recently became engaged and / or are looking for a wedding photographer, please do contact me. I am still booking for 2013. As I mentioned, I do travel further afield than just NJ, and I also photograph destination weddings. So please feel welcome to recommend me.

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wedding photography – where to start building portfolio

I do get some interesting emails and Facebook messages. The strange ones run the whole range from trippy & bizarre, all the way to obscure. One of my favorite weird emails was one that had the title, “Nikon D100″ with the body of the email simply asking, “How do you do that?”

This morning, I saw news that Facebook is once again altering things, including the way that messages are delivered. Paid messages from strangers now seem to be on the horizon. So with that, for the first time in forever, I went through the backlog of messages in the “other” folder. And I saw this message that I show here as a screen-capture.

What bemused me was the polite and respectful tone. And yes, he did ask! Unlike others who have simply used images as they please. I’ve even had my my entire website ripped off. A very ballsy move that they denied to the end. It gets even stranger when you realize my bio is the most plagiarized part of my website! I even directly mention this in the one section. Yup, apparently you can just use my bio as a template by changing a few details. So this request now is an odd combination of sincerity and naiveté. That he even asked, is then a surprise in itself.

Obviously, the main problem here is that someone would even (naively) think it is okay to misrepresent his abilities to potential clients. If you can’t shoot in a certain way, or produce a certain quality of work already, then it is fraudulent to say you can. Your potential clients deserve better!

We can’t ignore that this kind of thinking is very prevalent in the photography industry. It is a regular thing for me to see other photographers on Facebook complain that their images and text were ripped off. It is that rife! There is the Stop Stealing Photos Tumblr blog, where photographers are constantly busted for using photos that aren’t their own. The scary thing is, that site mostly just shows theft of wedding & portrait photography! It’s an avalanche that tedious DMCA take-downs can’t effectively stem.

The culprits just don’t realize that they will be caught. One way or another. Sooner or later. And there can be significant consequences when they are busted, as just one example.

What I find most ironic with all this, is that photographers like to think of themselves as creative people. Yet, there is such a vast number of wannabe photographers who happily steal and misappropriate and plagiarize. Where’s the self-respect?

I’ve even heard of photographers using the sample albums from album companies as their own work. Yup, they’ve all been shooting the same fabulous wedding in Italy.

The disconcerting element to all of this is that two photographs from someone else, could qualify one as a wedding photographer. That, sadly, is how low the bar is!

Mulling over this request, my reaction ranged from amusement, all the way to “are you f’n kidding me?”, back to the idea that this guy, like other aspiring photographers, is struggling with ideas of how to start as a wedding photographer …

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