Photographing couples – Posing and composition
Re-editing and re-vamping photographs for my blog post of a destination wedding in Aruba, I found it enlightening to realize how much my style has progressed over years in post-processing too.
As part of destination wedding photography coverage, I offer extended photo sessions around the exotic locale after (or before) the wedding date. While we’re there, we may as well use the opportunity.
The photograph at the top was taken on the day after the wedding when we took a rented car and drove around the arid areas of the island – away from the touristy parts. There was a short rainstorm while we were driving, and the landscape looked really crisp. Offsetting the couple against this landscape just seemed like a great idea. I posed them into the light. I had various compositions of this, but liked the off-center image the most.
In this way, for any single setup, I always shoot wide & tight; vertical & horizontal; high & low viewpoints. This way I get a variety of images, and in the culling process later on, I can pick the few that work, or give me the most variety.
But there’s usually more than just one photograph …
For the image at the top, I was standing in the road. Looking to my left, I saw the road surface glistening with the rain that had fallen. I then asked the bride and groom, Desha and Kyle, to slowly meander down the road. Perfect. I instantly liked what I saw in my viewfinder. A vertical composition like this just made the most sense.
Just a minute and a half had passed between these two images, and the clouds came over, softening the light a bit. Not that that mattered really – this image would’ve worked with sunlight as well.
Change your position relative to your subject
The key idea here is that if you change your position and move around, you can often get images that look hugely different, because …
1. you’re changing your background, and
2. you’re changing your position in relation to the light.
For me, finding an interesting background, is nearly as important as having great light. Now, with off-camera flash, you can concentrate on the background since you can add awesome light anyway.
Changing your position in relation to your subject and the light – that triangle – changes the way the direction of the light. Check this related article: off-camera flash – changing your position, change the direction of light (model – Ulorin Vex), for a striking example of that principle.
14 Comments, Add Your Own
1Shawn Campbell says
I love these little nuggets I get from you, Neil…
“I always shoot wide & tight; vertical & horizontal; high & low viewpoints”.
I agree with Shawn, those little nuggets are very valuable. Thank you Neil ! :)
3ray rullo says
Just like a dog waiting for his master, I wait every day to click on Neil’s website to see if there is an update and I wag my tail when there is. Thank you for doing what you do! Ray
+1 @ ray rullo
5Mike Zurynski says
Such a fantastic site. I really feel it is one of the very few where you can learn something with every visit.
Firstly, thanks you for posting your tutorials. Since reading your blog and watching your tutorials i have had more ‘Aha!’ moments than in 10 previous years of photography. I am starting a wedding photography business and aim to really promote myself in 2014 once i have a few more smaller, friends weddings under my belt. All of which i will be putting your teachings to good use!!
Your teaching style is superb and very easy to follow.
Secondly, are you ever coming to the UK. I would be interested in your seminars / workshops and would happily buy you a beer!
Thirdly, starting out and being on limited budget, what 3 modifiers would you recomend as a minimum and, in your experience, would cover most bases. As much as i would love to have a myriad of gear in the car ‘just in case’ financialy its not possible at the moment. The 5D2, 2 flash guns and Canon 85mm F1.2 and 27 -70 F2.8 have all but wiped me out for a while. (70-200 is being hired….!)
Thanks again and keep up the good work!!
All the best
7Neil vN says
Greg … thank you for the kind words.
I’d love to do workshops in the UK and elsewhere.
However, the high cost of air travel (and venue) makes it a bit of a financial gamble.
re, my recommended light modifiers:
– the black foamie thing
– Spinlight 360
– the plastic diffuser cup that came with your speedlight.
8greg coltman says
One last thing Neil, i recently purchased a video light to experiment with. Its only a cheapo light from Amazon (£30) and is a square panel, dimmable and comes with an orange ‘tungsten’ filter (Initial checks and the tungsten filter on tungsten WB seems to be OK).
In some of your more ‘hollywood’ drama shots where using a video light the light seems to spotlight the couple whereas mine seems to illuminate a larger area and doesnt seem as circular. I can think of one of your shots where the girl is on a yellowish sofa and the light seems circular…Does the shape of the vid light make a significant difference to the light spill?
It may be im not balancing the ambient and vid light well enough and my technique needs poliching!
9Neil vN says
The shape of the video light, and whether it has a fresnel lens, or how the diffusion panel works … will all affect how the light is spread. This is one of the reasons I really like the Lowel ID-Light.
A sheet of black foam, circle cut into it and a bit of tape have changed the shape into a tighter circle. A new use for the black foam!! BFT 2!!!
will see how well it works at the weekend!
thanks for the advice..
11Neil vN says
Great. Here’s where the articles about the black foamie thing reside. Keep us updated there.
I truly enjoy coming to you website and blog, as there is much to learn. About the first picture, I cannot help but notice that the couple are looking to the right and are close to the right edge of the photograph. The negative space being behind them, something seems niggly about that picture. Wouldn’t conventional logic dictate that the negative space be in front of them? I love the colours and exposure though.
13Neil vN says
The photograph’s balance and composition bothers you and made you look again? Great! It’s successful.
With composition, I don’t follow rigid ideas and rules. I feel that the much loved Rule Of Thirds is a straight-jacket. Instead, I try to respond to the scene, and go with what looks and “feels” right.
I too believe that the rules are general guidelines and not to be regarded as gospel, however, in this instance one wants to follow the gaze of the subject but get a sense of restriction as the picture ends. Nevertheless, if you feel that it is right then that’s all that matters.