Hello Everybody! Click on the hyperlink to read my latest article in the National Parks Traveler’s “Photography In The National Parks” column. Hope you enjoy it.
No matter how much you *think* you know about photographing a wedding, there is always something new to learn and take back for use at a future wedding. Since hindsight is 20-20, here are a few lessons I learned and things I will (try to) do for future jobs.
- For the reception – particularly the dancing – I’ll get closer to the action and use the flash more – without the diffuser dome. I’ll just make sure the flash is not at it’s highest setting since a little bit of non-diffused flash goes a long way.
- I’ll make sure to have a step stool or a free table handy onto which I can stand. Actually, I’d requested a ladder and the resort staff said they would provide one for me, but never did and I didn’t have time to go search for one – I managed to find a chair that worked well enough for my shots.
- In addition to the step-stool thing above, I’m going to try and procure something that allows me to stand above the action and use a tripod so I can request of the bride and groom that they go out to the dance floor and just stand there, looking like they are slow dancing while gazing at each other, while the rest of the dancers move about them. I’ll use a slow shutter speed on the camera so that only the newlyweds would be sharp in contrast to all the blurred movement around them. I’ve seen similar wedding images to which this idea was applied and they are totally cool shots.
- I will pack less gear (famous last words, I know, but I really do mean it). Go back to my first post regarding this wedding to see all the gear I brought with me.
- I will continue to remain ever-vigilant regarding subject placement against a background of lamps, lamp posts, or tree trunks so nothing looks like it is sprouting out of someone’s head. Luckily for me, those issues were minimal and could be discarded because I took the same shots at numerous different angles.
Finally, here’s some advice for those of you embarking on a part- or full-time career in wedding photography. If you have a contract (and you should), make sure there is a clause stipulating that the bride & groom agree YOU are the only photographer who will take the official images of the ceremony as well as all the posed shots of the bridal party and their families (I’ve got that clause in my contract). Hard to avoid smartphones during the processional, but YOU should be the only one standing in the aisle with your camera catching the bridal processional.
Thankfully, I had no real issues about that with this wedding. So, why am I even mentioning this? Awhile back, I read a blog post about a professional wedding photographer who had a number of key shots ruined because the guests were either elbowing the highly-paid photographer out of the way to get their own smartphone shots, or guests were getting *in* the way of a key shot, or because a guest’s flash went off at the same time the photographer’s flash went off, thus totally over-exposing (blowing out) the bride & groom or their families to the point that there was no way to recover any detail at all in the photo. I looked at each of this photographer’s photos and literally cringed over the shots ruined by rude people, both guests and non-guests. One of my Facebook friends who is a successful wedding photographer told me he simply refuses to take any posed photos as long as some of the guests are trying to take the same shots with their own cameras. He just puts down his camera and waits.
While I’ve been extremely lucky with the weddings I have photographed, that blog post and those Facebook comments highlight this problem that all wedding photographers face at some point in time. Because of the bride & groom for this wedding prepared a very handy schedule of events for the key players, I had no problems at all during the ceremony or with the posed shots, and very minimal issues at the reception (like this photographer photo bomb during the father-daughter dance).
Naturally everybody is going to pull out their smartphone or point & shoot to capture images during the reception, which tends to be a much less-structured event than the ceremony and far more relaxed. Sometimes, one even runs across those guests who have toted along their fully-loaded SLRs to the wedding because they either think they are doing *everybody* a favor (including the wedding photographer), or else they don’t think the paid photographer can do his/her job as well as they might have. My ego would like to think that these guys (yeah, it’s usually guys) see the wedding photos and then realize (but would *never* admit) that I did a pretty damned good job after all!
Here’s my rule of thumb: If I am invited to a wedding and I am not the wedding photographer, then I leave my camera gear at home. Period.
I am exceptionally proud of the images I captured for this couple on their special day. If you would like to see more photos from this wedding, then wander on over to my Facebook page Rebecca Latson Photography, click on the Photos box on my timeline, select Albums, then click on the link to the Maegan and Josh album. And, if you like what you see, then please “Like” me while you are on my page.
Immediately after the ceremony, the bridal party ensconced themselves in an empty room within of the gazebo and waited for the guests to head for the reception. Next on the schedule were family photos. While we waited, I captured a few images of the Newlyweds.
For this image, I used only the ambient side light coming from the window because of the warm, intimate feel the light bestowed.
I used my Gary Fong dome diffuser over the flash for this quick shot of Maegan and the Boyz.
Family photos done, the bridal party remained for a few more photos.
I stayed glued to the bride and groom and photographed them as they took the stairs down to the reception area.
This is one of my favorite images. For this photo, I used only the ambient light and bumped up the camera’s ISO to 1000. Shutter was 1/40 and the aperture was f4 on my 5D Mark III. I then used a vignette-spotlight preset from OnOne’s Perfect Effects plug in to brighten the area around the couple. No, that preset did not create that yellow spotlight – the yellow light was already there. The preset simply created a brighter area around Josh & Megan while lightly vignetting the rest of the image.
For the remainder of the reception, I focused mainly on getting candid shots and those little accents (like the table setting) that flesh out the character of the reception.
Fixing the bride’s bustle so she could dance and move around with a little more ease.
The bride and groom dancing in the bokeh’d background with focus on the table setting.
The awesome band.
The next dance after the First Dance was especially for the bride’s daughter. The song was “Aint No Mountain High Enough”.
While I of course captured the prerequisite images of the First Dance, the father-daughter dance, the mother-son dance, the toasts, and the cake (and cake cutting), I knew the bride and groom would want lots of photos of their guests having fun and the two of them having fun alongside their guests, as you can see from the photos above.
Reception photos can be problematic because receptions – as a rule – are low-light affairs. Flash is usually called for. I, on the other hand, don’t like using flash as much as using the available light. For the reception, though, the only real light came from the candles and lit lanterns on the tables and a large, drape of material embedded with lights. So, I used both flash and ambient light, with ISOs anywhere from 2000 to 6400. Yes, I had to use a noise reduction plug-in (although at times I used Lightroom’s noise reduction sliders instead of my plug-in software – Lightroom’s noise reduction is not too bad, actually).
My feet were hurting (damned those beautiful patent leather shoes) so I was sitting at one of the tables, happily snapping away at the bride’s daughter who was happily swirling about the dance floor with her dress billowing around her. She turned to me and blew me a kiss.
I am guilty of taking quite a few photos of the bride’s 6-year old daughter. She was a fun (and funny) little girl who enjoyed herself every bit as much as the adults.
Next Post: Thoughts and Hindsight
The ceremony was to start at 5:30PM. I left Josh & Maegan’s penthouse suite and hoofed it on down to the Gazebo area to set up, format my memory cards and stuff them in my pockets within handy reach for quick change-outs with the full memory cards. The Officiator introduced himself to me and we chatted a bit before he left to gather together the groom and groomsmen. As the guests took their seats, I photographed the bride’s mother and the groom’s mother and father as they were ushered down the white rose petal-strewn grass aisle.
During this time, a steel drum player performed soft Caribbean music. Maegan is of Caribbean descent and wanted to focus on her heritage with the music.
At precisely 5:30, the men appeared, stood for a photo, and then proceeded to their stations at the gazebo.
Next came the bridesmaids,
then the bride’s daughter,
and then the bride and her father.
Each stood for just a moment for me to capture a photo before moving on toward the gazebo. Maegan literally glowed with happiness and excitement.
I captured several wide-angle images using the rented Canon 6D and rented Canon 14mm before stationing myself a couple rows away from the front where I kneeled down for the remainder of the ceremony.
I used both the 5D Mk III, the 1-DX, the 24-70mm lens and the 70-200mm lens, alternating between the two. It’s a tricky situation, sometimes. I absolutely don’t want to block anybody’s view, but at the same time, I want to be able to get compositions of the entire wedding for the bride and groom to enjoy afterwards. I may be wrong, but I have a feeling things like this are a bit of a blur for the couple during the actual ceremony and immediately afterwards. It’s not until days later that they really remember their feelings, what was said, and the events leading up to and during the ceremony. I want the photos I take to help bring back those wonderful memories of their special day.
Every wedding ceremony should be filled not only with love, but with joy and laughter, too.
In one of these images, you can see resort guests watching this event from their room balconies. After the ceremony ended, a number of people staying at the resort walked up to Josh and Maegan to congratulate them and tell them how lovely the wedding looked from their vantage points.
Next post: Après Ceremony And The Reception
Josh and Maegan did one of the smartest things I think any bride and groom can do: they opted to get all of the posed shots (sans families) out of the way *before* the ceremony. That way, only the family posed shots remained post-ceremony and people were able to get to the reception and have fun faster and earlier. Plus, I didn’t have to worry about corralling everybody together. Thanks to that handy schedule Maegan emailed to all the key players, everybody knew their time and part to be played.
Now, I’ve heard this argument from a number of people regarding the groom seeing his bride for the first time: shouldn’t this be done *during* the ceremony? Folks, just because all of the bride and groom images were taken before the ceremony did NOT mean that there were not any photos taken of Josh as he saw his bride for the first time. It’s not a mandatory thing for a crowd of guests to be present for this event. Images of the groom seeing his bride for the first time are special, with the focus on the groom and nobody else.
Here’s what I had Josh do: He came out to the gazebo first and I told him to stand facing the Gulf of Mexico view so his peripheral vision wouldn’t see Maegan coming out of the resort and down the side walkway toward the gazebo.
I told Maegan to go stand about 2 rows away from the gazebo. We then *both* had to call out loudly to Josh that it was ok for him to turn and look.
From there, it was a series of bride & groom shots, bride & groom & bride’s daughter shots, and bride & bridesmaid shots. Everything was outside, the lighting was great, the background venue was great, and the resulting photos turned out really well. I used both my Canon 5D Mk III and Canon 1-DX with the 24-70mm lens and the 70-200mm lens. For the images of Josh’s reaction to Maegan as she approached him in her bridal gown, I set the focus mode on the 1-DX on servo because I knew Maegan was moving toward Josh and Josh kept turning toward Maegan with his smile growing ever wider.
Showing off the foot jewelry. Instead of slippers, the bride and bridesmaids all wore delicate foot jewelry to walk down the grass aisle.
After the posed shots, there was about a an hour or more during which we could all relax (well, except for the photographer) prior to returning for the ceremony. The guys went one direction and we ladies headed back up to the 16th floor to find ourselves locked out of Josh & Maegan’s penthouse suite. Some of the room card keys had been left in the room and the card keys available to us did not work. While waiting for the resort’s security to come up and unlock the door, I asked Maegan to pose in front of the long, curving bank of hallway windows. The rear architecture of the San Luis Resort is completely made up of those neat curving floor-to-ceiling windows from one end of the hallway to the other (except for the part where the elevator banks are) and they make for great photo ops.
Oh, and don’t forget to get some silly shots, too.
Next post: The Ceremony
Judging by the room Josh and Maegan had, I’d say the San Luis Resort penthouse suites are – well - sweet
I entered with all of my gear, set it out of the way of the ladies in the room, and began picking up cups and plates off of the coffee table and moving chairs and other things around the room to make space for forthcoming photo ops. I decided there would be no need for any flash as the ambient light from the balcony windows mixed nicely with the interior shadows. The bride finally returned from the salon and the photography process began. And this, folks is where the art of photography really comes into play when capturing the beauty of the Bride and her Ladies.
I first saw Maegan in her little “Bride” robe when she waltzed down to the salon for her hair appointment. She told me the bridesmaids and matron of honor each had robes as well only they were in the bride’s color (aqua) with white embroidery writing on the backs.
I’ve noticed this about the “getting ready” sessions I have photographed prior to the actual wedding ceremony: they are all very relaxed and intimate, with hugs and fun chatter and quiet excitement of the ceremony to come. Talk centers around family. In the image above, Nana was showing her granddaughter the locket that will someday belong to her.
When you are hired to photograph a wedding, it’s so very important to get to know the couple prior to the Big Day. Why? Because having the couple feel comfortable with you and your style is worth so much in terms of the kinds of photographs you can achieve on their behalf. When everybody feels comfortable around you, then they tend to not feel so self-conscious and worried about having a camera around them on a constant basis. They relax in your presence and the photographs you capture reveal the love, affection, and emotion of the day.
Getting a photo of the wedding dress is almost a de rigeur photo nowadays. And Maegan was cracking me up. Pretty much everything she wore said “Bride”, from her robe to her tank top.
That quiet excitement began to build as the bride was helped into her gown and finishing touches were applied.
I made use of my 70-200mm, 50mm, and 24-70mm lenses for these images. All of them hand-held. No flash. In all of the photos with people (excepting the reception images), I added a touch of Imagenomic’s Portraiture. It’s all about looking good for the wedding, you know.
If you are in a situation where you can utilize side-lighting, then by all means do so, as it is fantastic for portraits.
If you are in a situation where you can utilize backlighting for the bride, then this is another one of those “by all means do so” moments.
Yes, the backlit bride and her dress are clichéd shots that all photographers get, but nobody can argue they aren’t beautiful images and every backlit bride image is different from wedding to wedding, so it’s not *quite* the same thing as photographing a landscape that everybody else with a camera has captured.
I also made use of black & white with some of the photos. Weddings, IMO, were made for monochrome. In some cases, I noticed the black & white images bringing out more dress detail than in the color images.
Next post: Posed Shots – The Bride, Groom, The Bridesmaids, The Bridal Party
The Groom and His Men. The groom, Josh, is second from the left, sitting down beside his Best Man.
Let’s face it: the groomsmen tend to get short shrift when it comes to wedding photography. The bride gets soooo many more photos; I admit to having captured far more images of the bride than of the groom. That being said, I did my utmost to get great shots of the guys.
After my hair and makeup photo op session with the bride, her mother, her daughter and the bridesmaids, I grabbed my lighting equipment and hot-footed it down to one of the lower levels of the resort where the guys were getting ready in a small, private club / gameroom.
The entire scene was infused with old-fashioned gentlemen’s club masculinity: the subdued golden lighting, the pool tables, the poker tables, the (unstocked) bar, the leather couches. All that was missing was the blue cloud of cigar smoke hanging in the air.
All of the images here were taken with the ISO set to between 640 and 2000, even when I used flash. Two of the scenes I photographed were taken with only the ambient light and no flash. In hindsight, I was near a number of electrical outlets, so I should have used my 500-watt continuous light with the umbrella instead of the flash, as I would have been able to see the light at all times instead of just after I’d taken the shot.
For the scene at the top of this post, I used my Gary Fong diffuser dome over the flash which was on my 5D Mk III. I set the ISO to 1250 with a shutter of 1/40 and an aperture of f4.
For the pool table scenes, I set up the umbrella and flash so the light went through the umbrella onto the guys. The off-camera flash setup was approximately 45 degrees to my right and at one end of the pool table so that the light was softer and covered the entirety of the groom and groomsmen. I used the 5D Mk III, set the ISO to 640, the shutter speed to 1/50 and the aperture to f4.
For this poker table scene, I turned the umbrella so that the open end faced the men. The flash bounced off of the umbrella rather than shot through. This produced a stronger light on the guys. I used the 5D Mk III and set the ISO at 640 with a shutter of 1/50 and an aperture of f4.
This scene was shot with just the ambient light. I used the 50mm prime on my Canon 1-DX, set the ISO to 1000 and the shutter at 1/40 with an aperture of f4.
For this toast scene, I again used only ambient light, setting the ISO on the 5D Mk III to 2000 with a shutter of 1/25 and an aperture of f4.
I used the Gary Fong dome diffuser over my flash for this image, setting the ISO at 1250, shutter at 1/40 and aperture at f4.
The only issue I really needed to watch was getting reflections of all of the guys in the polished coffee table as they toasted the groom. Maybe I didn’t get all of their faces in the reflections, but I at least got their arms with the drinks. Oh, btw, that liquid was *not* whiskey. The guys mixed coke and a little water to make it look like whiskey.
Despite the best efforts of my flash, I still worked with Photoshop CS6 to lighten some of the faces. The photo I most had to work with was the first photo in this post. The other photos were better in terms of the amount of light and shadow I wanted. Because of the low-light interior, it was necessary to use my Imagenomic Noiseware reduction software to get rid of that graininess inherent with low-light / high ISO imagery.
The bride and groom had created an extremely handy schedule, so I knew exactly where I had to be and when. And, by golly, that schedule worked like a charm for everything! So, after the groomsmen photographs, I checked the time then lugged myself, my cameras, and my lighting equipment up to Maegan and Josh’s 16th floor penthouse suite.
Next post: Getting Ready