wedding photography

Alvin & Lucia – their wedding in Central Park, New York

A groom holding up the softbox for me … as you may well guess, there’s a story here. Alvin and Lucia are from the UK, but decided to get married in Central Park. Of course, there’s a story here too.

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wedding photography: controlling those found, “photo-journalistic” moments

This photograph of Catherine, during the preparation on her wedding day, triggered a question in album of photos I posted on Facebook. The question was about the focal length I used, and also about how did I get this photo?

The answer is that this is a found moment – a candid moment – that I controlled. As I discussed in the article – wedding photography – a photo-journalistic style, or more posed? – I often guide things along on the wedding day. If I see something that I could nudge towards being a better photograph, I have no hesitation.

I think that many newer wedding photographers have a fear of interacting with their clients while taking photos. Perhaps this is due to shyness? (You’re in the wrong business then!). But this could very well be because the photographer is reluctant to do anything that smacks of posing their clients, thinking this won’t be quite the story-telling “photo-journalistic” moment then.

The photo above isn’t complicated at all, but it might serve well as a discussion on this topic.

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wedding photography – simplifying composition with a fast telephoto zoom

If you can create a good photograph out of seemingly “nowhere”, then you can bring a variety to your images that is out of the league of photographers who have to rely on picture-perfect scenery. This is especially true with wedding portraits. We’re under pressure for time, and on top of that we can’t always control where we shoot. We have to make it work wherever we are.

One of the basic techniques I rely on heavily with my wedding photography, is to eliminate distracting elements by shooting with a fast telephoto zoom. The shallow depth-of-field works to my advantage. And the longer focal length compresses the image so that the background isn’t a sweeping vista anymore, but a narrower view which YOU can control with your own position. Move around to find that composition.

The photograph above is perhaps an excellent example of this. The groom, also a photographer, left this comment on the Facebook album:

I also had an “ah ha” momemt watching you create images. We went to unfamilar places and you played with the background blur to create cool shots like the one of us sitting on wicker chairs, at a dumpy metal table, outside, facing a pedestrian-filled parking lot.”

There really wasn’t much more than that – the concrete slab outside a restaurant, with a few tables and chairs, with a parking lot in the background, and a few small trees and shrubs.  Now, I don’t quite have a pull-back photo to show you where we were, but I do have this test shot with a slightly wider field of view, which shows some of the background. It was a mess.

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shooting wedding photos in the mid-day sun, w/ off-camera flash & large softbox

Shooting under the mid-day sun is always a tough scenario we face as photographers. Recent topics here have included shooting wedding portraits in bright sunlight, as well as taking photos in hard sunlight. These techniques mostly revolve around adapting to the harsh light. We can often sidestep having to work in the hard sunlight by positioning our subject so the light is more flattering.

Sometimes though, these alternatives are out of our hands, and decisions are made for us. Then we have to deal with the hard sun with the only other option that will give good results – overpowering the hard sunlight with lots of off-camera flash.

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bounce flash photography & the inverse square law

After you’re done noticing the decorated candles that the bride is holding while dancing with the groom (a tradition in Palestinian weddings), you may well notice how evenly lit this photograph is – from foreground to background.

The people visible in the background seen there between the bride and the groom, are nearly as well lit as the bride and groom. Because this was on-camera bounce flash, the background will be brighter than may have been anticipated. If I had used direct flash, or flash with a diffuser cup or bounce card, my background would’ve been much darker. This is because when we bounce flash behind us, the Inverse Square Law works for us.

This gets interesting, but hopefully we can make it less complicated than the topic often appears. So hang in there …

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exposure metering – let your background blow out!

Too often there’s the desire for us to bring the detail in our backgrounds back in by adding flash. But there are times when the image will be stronger if we just allow the background to completely blow out. It especially works in our favor if the background is cluttered, because then by letting the background completely over-expose, we can simplify our composition.

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wedding photography – using bounce flash outside

When working with a couple during the romantic portrait session, there’s the need to bring variety to the images – not just in posing and composition, but also in terms of light & lighting. For this reason I use a variety – available light; video light; off-camera flash and on-camera bounce flash. I really like using on-camera bounce flash since it is such an easy light source to use, always at hand. There was a recent article on using bounce flash outdoors, but I’d like to add another example where I used bounce flash outside a wedding venue. Let’s look at the sequence of images …

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Alli & Scott – their wedding day – fusion clip

The latest Fusion clip where we blend video and stills to give a short form overview of the wedding day, is of Alli & Scott – their wedding day – Temple Israel of Lawrence, NY . They were also the couple in the recent article on photographing the bride & groom’s portraits with video light.

The Fusion clip was edited in iMovie, with the soundtrack from Triple Scoop Music.

More interesting is the thought-process that went into choosing the camera settings for the Canon 5D mk II that the video clips were shot with …
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You’re a photographer, but at a wedding as a guest? Well, then just be a guest.

A recent article on the Off-Beat Bride blog, dealt with the topic of the unplugged wedding. They mention some brides now request guests switch off their cameras, and rather be in the moment and enjoy the wedding. I truly want every photographer, whether professional, amateur, or at any level, to read that article and take it to heart.

If you’ve been to a wedding and observed the people there, you will surely have noticed the barrage of cameras. It is especially prevalent during key moments such as the bride entering the ceremony with her dad. What you’d also notice is that as soon as the bride has swept past any guest with a camera, they are immediately checking their cameras. Engrossed in the image on the back of their cameras with their heads down, they give the bride and groom only a further glance again as something to photograph.

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wedding photography – developing a personal style

I’ve been mulling a while now over a question someone asked me about how long I think it took to develop a personal style in photography.

“What does it take, and how many years do you think it generally takes a photographer to develop their own personal style, meaning, you can look at a photograph and know who took it. Not everyone would know, but some people could tell it’s your style. I think very few photographers actually have their own style and I’m curious what you think it took to get there.”

How long do I think it takes? A life-time. But that’s too glib an answer, even though I think it is a never-ending journey as a photographer – honing your style along with your technique, understanding and skill. So how does one develop a personal style in photography?

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