Wedding Photography and Using Your Surroundings

One of the things that quickly distinguishes a professional photographer from an amateur is the ability to select a good location for a portrait (also, professional photographers have an air of mystery and suave intrigue about them, like James Bond).   I see this every weekend when I’m shooting weddings (I’m a wedding photographer in Tampa, FL). People have a  preconceived idea about how a photograph should look. They’ve seen wedding photographs before and they’ve seen tons of pictures taken at the portrait studio in the mall (or at school) and so, subconsciously,   they believe that’s what a good picture looks like. (Not that they aren’t good. Don’t write me a nasty email, Mr. School Photographer. I shoot them too…) A good example of this at a wedding is that most people expect me to take a group  and family portraits on the altar–and many times I don’t.

If you look at any good portrait photographer who works primarily on location you’ll see a common thread. They have a knack for looking at the surroundings and figuring out the best way to place their subjects. Being able to manipulate your surroundings  to your advantage  will help you in every type of photography that you do. In wedding photography,  it can be the difference between a good picture and a great one.

With that in mind, I thought I might post some pictures from a recent wedding and talk about how I manipulated  my surroundings to create, what I think, are better pictures. I’m just going to concentrate on posed shots this time around and maybe later I’ll do a post on candids.

This first picture was taken just before the bride  left the dressing room to go and start the ceremony. We were already running 10 minutes late  and the wedding planner was dragging her out the door when I stopped her.

“Can I just have 30 seconds?” I quickly closed the door and opened the blinds.   Then I said, “somebody turn out the lights.”   This shot is nothing but window light and a gray wall.

Window light and a gray wall
Window light and a gray wall


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Wedding Photography: Death of the Formal Portrait?

Oh Formal Wedding Portrait, we hardly knew ye.

It seems that lately I am beginning to see more wedding photographers who are “photojournalist only” or “natural light.” I don’t want to get into a debate about the merits of these specialties as I’m a big believer that whatever works for you and your clients is great. Everyone doesn’t have to do it the same way. In fact, it’s a good thing we don’t because then wedding photographers would be like gas stations: Whoever has the lowest price gets the business.

That being said, it still seems like we are starting to move towards a complete elimination of the “formal” wedding portrait. I know for a fact that many photographers hate to shoot them and some flat refuse to. I don’t understand that mentality.   (more…)

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My New Pocket Guide

What makes photography so interesting is the constant learning process: new equipment, new techniques, new software. It can become overwhelming at some point. Well thankfully there are plenty of resources available to feed the mind and expand your knowledge. My latest read has quickly become my favorite, my new pocket guide so-to-speak. Joe McNally’s The Hot Shoe Diaries: Big Light from Small Flashes (Voices That Matter) is not only fun to read, as is Joe’s style, but it’s also a fantastic source to learn how to master the use of small lights. (more…)

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What I look for in an assistant

One of the tried and true methods of learning about the photography industry is to spend time as an assistant. Even with a formal education in photography, time spent as an assistant is critical to learning the industry and business, as well as learning a bit about yourself. Sure the hours are long, the pay is bad, and you may very well spend the day picking up turkey poop or standing in triple digit heat for eight hours (both of which I did while assisting) but you’ll also get to see things and do things that make most normal people jealous. (more…)

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Book Review: “Mountain Light” by Galen Rowell

Galen Rowell’s ::amazon(“0871563673”, “Mountain Light: In Search of the Dynamic Landscape”):: might seem an odd first choice for a book for teaching photography, not because of Rowell’s talent (which is undeniable) but because of the age of the book, first published in 1986, long before the digital revolution. And yet when students in my photo workshops ask for a first recommendation for a book that will teach them something beyond basic photographic mechanics, Mountain Light is always my first suggestion: It provides, more than any other book on color nature photography, a clear and holistic view into the inner workings of Rowell’s photographic process. (more…)

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The Thursday Composition: On Learning Composition

This is the first in a series of regular weekly posts I’ll make each Thursday on the subject of photographic composition. Before I start digging into the “rules” of composition, though, I’d like to start with a general discussion about composition and, more importantly, how one learns the skill of seeing, composing, and capturing effective compositions. (more…)

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