wedding photography style

wedding photography – light, lighting, posing & direction  - making the decisions

The title of this article is quite ambitious. To cover all of that, it would be a 50,000 word book. But in editing this wedding at the moment, I noticed this photograph, and I love the look of it. So in the context of that one single image, let’s look how it all came together. While the photograph itself isn’t complicated, a lot of quick decisions went into making this image work … and easy to edit. A number of things had to be considered, but instead of being overwhelmed by juggling all the decisions and thought-processes simultaneously, there’s a way to break it all down to simple elements which will help the photo session come together naturally.

Now even if you’re not that interested in wedding photography per se, hang in for a while, for the thinking here is applicable to just about any other field of photography …

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photography – looking for, and using the available light

Let me say this out straight – I hate gazebos. I hate gazebos and fountains and I especially hate having to photograph a couple at whatever landmark/feature that a reception venue has, where every other couple from the last five years has been photographed. There, I’ve said it. I feel better now, with that weight off my shoulders.

Wedding portaits should be about capturing the romance, and capturing the relationship between the couple. I want to show how much they are in love with each other, rather than the wooden structure that the reception venue bought from Home Depot. I would much rather work with the couple and with the light that is available … and augmenting the existing light with some flash or video light if needed.

This photograph from a wedding a few years back, remains one of my favorites in my wedding gallery. The portrait session with Simone and Damien and their family and bridal party was to take place in the late afternoon. The maitre d’ of the venue suggested I use the fountain on the venue’s grounds as a backdrop for the couple.

Instead, I looked at where the light was coming from … and it was stunningly beautiful glowing light. And the best part of it was, the spray from the fountain was lit up by the glow from the late afternoon sun. This created that ethereal looking golden mist behind them.

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using a variety of lighting techniques for wedding photography

I’ve had some questions about specific images posted to the Facebook page of my photography. Since I’d like to keep that page for my clients and potential clients, I don’t want to clutter it too much with photo-geek stuff. I therefore decided to select a few images to discuss here instead.

This recent post on lighting ideas for the romantic wedding portraits, showed that I like to mix it up a bit, and not rely on one specific technique. Not every situation we’re going to encounter can be solved with one specific approach only.  Mixing it up in terms of lighting also helps to provide my clients with more variety in the look of the final selection of images. In addition, it also keeps it interesting and fresh for me.  Constantly adapting to challenges is part of the process of growing to be a better photographer.

With the image at the top, I wanted something with a sense of the dramatic. I only had my assistant there with a softbox on a monopod. Just the one light.  We were freezing, and had to move fast. So no time for more lights. To get this kind of separation between my subjects – the bride and groom – and still get even light on them, I simply made sure that my light was at an equal distance to both of them. This way there is no light fall off and one of them brighter or darker than the other …

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lighting the romantic portraits of the bride & groom

Scouting around the location during dinner time, I peered over the edge of this spiraling staircase and thought it would be a good idea to get some light on the couple, seated on the couch. I posed Melissa so that  she lounged back with her head on Dennis’ lap. There is no way to get light on them from my position with on-camera bounce flash, and definitely not if my intention is to get light only on them. It needed off-camera flash.

To add some variety,  I also thought of a few other things to try with the lighting, using the same set-up and pose.
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finding (and using) interesting available light

I hope that no one thinks that the flash photography and lighting techniques that I describe on the Tangents blog are only applicable to wedding photography. In a recent post I described where I photographed a model in an alley way when I noticed a splash of sunlight (reflected from a window) falling onto the wall. In recognizing that interesting splash of light, and using it, I got an image which was different than I would’ve had if I had just used the even shaded light in the alley.

I used this very same idea at a recent wedding in photographing the romantic portraits of the bride and groom. The safer way of working, which is my usual initial approach to make sure I have the essential photographs ‘in my pocket’, is to work in the shade, or have the couple backlit against the sun. In approaching this one area, I noticed the dappled light falling onto the wall. But it was a large area of sunlight sneaking through, not just a messy splotch of sun & shade …

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style in wedding photography – anticipation and timing

I’m sure every photographer has this experience, where your shutter trips, and you just know you have the shot.  Something that you see – whether anticipated or just lucky timing – and you capture it.  This is how I felt when I captured this moment between Marie and Andrew at their wedding this weekend.  I got it!

A bit of background to this image:
During a Catholic wedding service, there is a short time after the exchange of vows and rings, where the couple are seated again for the Mass.  With everyone’s attention now on the priest and the rest of the proceedings, this is usually the moment where a couple have their first nearly-alone time.  From experience, I know that invariably the couple will then steal glances at each other, or lean in to each other to talk.  Or they might reach out with a momentary fingertip touch.  

Just a little something where they spontaneously show their connection with each other. And this is how I was ready for this brief moment where Marie shaped an I-heart-you with her hands for Andrew.

In that sense this then is not a lucky shot.  When you are photographing a wedding, or any other kind of  event, whether news or sports or whatever it might be … the key to getting images that capture something essential about the event, is to be prepared, to observe, anticipate, and ‘read’ the event.  It’s all about anticipation, awareness and timing.  Those moments are there.

other articles on wedding photography

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