There is nothing that adds more class to formal wedding photography than pictures taken in a natural setting. Studios are great for controlling the basic photographic environment, the lighting and so on but the ‘great outdoors’ creates far better memories than a stuffy studio.
Having said all that however, there are challenges that you will face that simply don’t exist in a totally controlled environment.
Lighting is one. Sunshine is not your best light source. Sunshine, although it brings warmth and color to your wedding photography, creates unwanted and unattractive shadows and contrast you neither want or need.
Sunshine can also create uncorrectable problems with white bridal dresses.
Sunshine-induced shadows are deep and will often times produce a cyan overcast to the shadow areas. Sunshine also generates ‘squinty’ expressions in your subjects which are always undesirable.
The best overall lighting effects can be obtained on a cloudy-bright day. If lighting conditions allow you to shoot at about 1/125th of a second at around f11 using DIN 200 film, you’re in the ballpark.
Be careful of where the shadows fall. You can lose some excellent facial expressions if the eyes of your subjects are in deep shadow. Fill flash works well as does a reflector if it doesn’t product an effect that’s too bright.
It doesn’t look pretty but you can make a very effective reflector from aluminum foil draped over a piece of corrugated cardboard. Carefully crush the foil and then straighten it out until it’s fairly smooth. Staple or tape it to a piece of cardboard and use it to reflect light into the faces of your subjects. This has limited use for groups.
A lot of would-be ‘professional’ wedding photographers these days do not pay attention to one very important ingredient, they don’t insist on correct posing. The importance of this cannot be overstressed if you want to capture something that really looks good. If you start with something that looks good, that’s what the camera will see.
Have a look at the ‘average’ album of wedding photography Perth. Hands and feet are all over the place, flowers are being haphazardly held, there’s a lot of unequal spacing between the people in the pictures.
It takes extra time to pose people but the results are more visually pleasing when you take the extra time to do it right. The following photo demonstrates a bit of what I feel should be in a correctly posed photo.
The girls are equally spaced, the bridesmaid on the far right has her feet correctly placed and notice the girls’ hands…each is tucked away except for the Maid of Honor which, in this case was unavoidable (her white muff got misplaced in the rush to get the picture taken). Similar hand placements work also well with floral bouquets, large or small. The hems of dresses should be placed in such a way so as to not detract from the overall ‘flavor’ of the photo. If the bride’s dress has a long train, always flare’ the bride’s dress to show it off to good advantage. One way to do this is to have the bride turn her back to the camera lens. Arrange her gown so it is carefully draped behind her.
Have her very slowly and carefully turn around until she is facing the camera. This will allow the dress to fall naturally in a beautiful array.
Lighting for this picture was a single electronic flash hand held well above and to the left of the camera lens. This, to a small degree, will produce pleasing facial shadows that give facial features some definition. Because the light was held well above the lens, it completely eliminated what is commonly called “pink eye”.
The bridal party in this instance was about two hours late reporting for the wedding photographs which totally precluded the possibility of doing a proper lighting job but, the posing does make up for some of the lighting inadequacies.
Correct posing is just as important as any other element I can think of in the production of pleasing wedding photos. In order to get the kind of cooperation you’ll need, you must be sufficiently assertive to maintain absolute control of the group. They need to know you’re in charge if you’re going to get the results you want.
I have a horror story for you.
I accepted a job shooting a wedding that I never should have taken. When the couple arrived at my studio to discuss the pictures that were to be taken, the young husband-to-be kept questioning my abilities and my qualifications to shoot his wedding. I became very nervous around him. I remember that he didn’t smile once during the interview and by the time the interview had been concluded I was, quite frankly, very happy to see them gone.
I should have refused the job. However, I didn’t.
The day of the wedding, I was not at all relaxed as I usually am doing a wedding. After all, I’ve done hundreds of them quite successfully and had a good reputation. The groom was still suspicious of my ability to photograph his wedding and he pretty much had control of the proceedings. Unfortunately, I didn’t.
We had chosen to take the formal photographs in a local park. It was well maintained and had several areas which were eminently suitable for wedding pictures…at least that’s what I thought at the moment.
It wasn’t until I had processed the film and printed the ‘proofs’ that I realized what I had done. Growing out of the bride’s head for all the world to see was a beautiful hand-carved sign that read “DOGS ARE NOT ALLOWED OFF THE LEASH WHILE IN THE PARK”.
I’m not going to tell you the rest of the story. It’s too gruesome.
It’s amazing the number of times I’ve seen telephone poles, trees, wires and other very unattractive objects ‘growing’ out of the top of someone’s head. This is a very common mistake that a lot of photographers Canberra don’t realize is happening until it’s too late.
Regardless of the size of the group; you’re working with, it’s essential that each of the subjects keeps their eyes on you.
The best way to do this is to set your camera on a tripod and attach a long cable release. You can’t keep good eye contact with the group if you’re face is plastered to the back side of a camera.
Keep talking. Develop a rapport with the members of the group so they forget the camera is there. Try to pick on one or two members of the group that has a good sense of humor and play to them. The rest of the group will follow.
‘One-liners’ are very effective in doing this. For instance, “Hey everyone, I want the girls to lick their lips.” Everyone, including the guys, will quite often lick their lips. After they quit clowning around you drop the clanger – …hey, I just wanted the girls to lick their lips…it makes their lipstick look expensive”…laughter, slows to a grin and “SNAP” you have a great photograph with natural expressions.
Another one-liner that always works…”I want the girls to stand up straight and pull their shoulders back a bit.” (This obviously makes their bust-lines a little more prominent.) When everyonedoes this (and, trust me, they usually will) you drop the clanger – “…I just wanted people to be able to tell which ones are the girls”…again, laughter, slows to a grin and “SNAP” you have another great photograph with great natural expressions.
Corny? Of course. Effective? Absolutely!
Standing in front of the group and telling them to “…say cheese” doesn’t cut it. This kind of unprofessional request produces only expressions that are forced and unnatural. This is simply not good wedding photography.
Weather is always a critical factor in shooting an outdoor wedding. You should always have an alternate location picked out well in advance of the wedding date just in case the weather turns sour or the wind starts to blow the wedding party around.
If you’re fortunate enough to have a zoo in your area, this is always an acceptable location. One of the additional reasons for selecting this kind of location is cost. Zoos quite often do not charge the usual entry fee for weddings. Arrangements should be made well in advance with senior management personnel. (you have to deal with the very top to get the best results)
Especially in the more northern cities in the country, there are public atriums that are in bloom all year round. These are always excellent for wedding photography and are usually either free or very moderately priced.
What do you shoot? What do bridal couples like to see in their wedding albums? How many pictures should you take?
You won’t know until you ask.
Take the time to sit down with the couple two or three weeks in advance of the event to discuss exactly what it is they want. Take notes…lots of them. A lot of what I’m about to tell you has ‘gone by the board’ unfortunately but I have to say that of the hundreds and hundreds of weddings I’ve shot, brides and grooms always wind up requesting pretty much the same types of photographs. Start at the bride’s home. This is traditionally going to be a real madhouse and difficult to take photos in but it can work if you make sure you’re the one in charge.
If there are small children, get them involved in the photographs, regardless of whether or not they are in the formal bridal party. By taking creative steps like this you raise your credibility with the family and you wind up getting some truly wonderful photos.
Try to arrive about an hour before the wedding party is to leave for the church. Do your level best to get your pictures quickly and then get the heck out of their way.
They’ve got a wedding to go to!
Got another story for you.
I was engaged to do a wedding for an ethnic minority couple. This was an arranged marriage and the bride had never met the man she was to wed.
She was very nervous to say the least and it took a long time to get the pictures I wanted to take. I was very concerned about the time because the wedding was scheduled to start in a matter of minutes and I hadn’t started to do my job yet.
The groom’s brother put me at right easy however by saying “…relax and do not worry…if we do not get to the (wedding location) on time they’ll start without us.”
We were about an hour late and, sure enough, they’d started the ceremony without us!
When you get to the church, be as unobtrusive as possible. This is where you do mostly ‘snap’ shooting. If you scan the building layout prior to the actual wedding you can form a shooting plan in advance and wedding photography will go a lot smoother. You don’t really want any surprises if you can avoid them.
Most ministers do not appreciate flash units going off during the actual ceremony but pictures going up the aisle before the service and coming back down the aisle after the service are quite acceptable. If you want to get a picture during the ceremony, a timed exposure from the back of the church is usually okay as long as no flash is used. Oh yes, don’t forget the register signing pictures – very important!
There’s always the congratulatory photos to be taken outside the church which quite often don’t work out well. The excitement level is so high at that point that most times nobody wants to stand still for a picture.
Once the formals have been finished it’s pretty well snap shooting until the vey end of the affair.
There’s a lot more that can be said about wedding pictures but I planned this to be a guide only and not an actual how-to primer. I truly hope it has been of some interest and use to you.