Nov 4 2008

Seven Tips for Better Wedding Photos

  • One: Clean up the room. This applies more so to brides than grooms, but both would benefit. More often than not, the area the bride is using to ready herself becomes instantly littered with open shoeboxes, plastic bags, and wrappers from last minute candles, flowers, ribbons, etc. Leftover fast food bags and soft drink cups do not add romance, love, or emotion to the “behind the scene” shots at a wedding.
  • Two: Look up and forward when walking down the aisle. It is fine to smile, cry, or look at someone in the crowd, but remember to pay a little attention to the photographer. Taking your time, pacing yourself, and looking down the aisle (toward your groom) or at the escort will yield the best results.
  • Three: Keep family and friend photographers and videographers at bay. I do not mind having them around or shooting whatever I pose. However, please ask them to speak with the professional photographer or the officiant about any restrictions at the location. Many officiants restrict flash photography and have limits on how close or where the photographer can stand. Also, unless they are supposed to be in the shot, please have them stay behind the photographer. Depending on the lens being used, the photographer may need to backup 5′ to 25′ to get the framing he is looking for. Even if you think you are out of the shot, if you are anything forward of the photographer, using a wide-angle lens, you will be in the way.
  • Four: Prolong the kiss! Some couples spend months getting ready for the big day, and then their first kiss is nothing but a peck. Pecks leave little or no time to get the shot. You should not slobber all over each, other but you will appreciate seeing pictures of (and we can all wait three seconds for) a real first kiss.
  • Five: Keep your hands exposed for ring shots. This one is a little more difficult to do, but try not to crowd up and stand 180 degrees opposite of each other if possible. If your back is to the audience then there is a good chance your back is to the photographer. (The alternative is to hire Obnoxious Photography, who will stand at the altar with you and put his lens three feet from your face.)
  • Six: Assign a family photo coordinator. There are several reasons for this. First, the photographer will not know everyone’s name and may not even speak the family’s native language. Second, the photographer will not know who is important to you. I have yet to meet a professional photographer who will work from a “shot list.” Without forcing the couple to pose, pose, pose and making everyone else wait, it is near impossible to get every named shot. Shot lists are NOT practical and do not result in genuine imagery, meaning they don’t show what happened at your wedding and don’t elicit special memories. If you have certain combinations of shots you want, a family photo coordinator is your best bet.
  • Seven: Minimize the number of formals and shoot them before the ceremony. That is, shoot them before you are hot, before you are tired, before everyone is waiting on you to party. Post ceremony, the more you shoot, the hotter you will get, the more irritated you will get, and the longer everyone will have to wait. Remember, albums full of formals are boring. Pick a select few and avoid taking a “formal” picture with every Uncle Bob in attendance.

Everyone won’t agree with all of these tips, and they won’t apply to all situations, but I assure you these time-tested tips will result in better and more special photos.

Oct 24 2008

Junk in the Trunk – Background Faux Pas

As a photographer, I am always trying to create an image that conveys the mood, the feeling or the emotion at an event. It is not an absolute, but one of the best ways to get a viewer off subject is to distract them from the subject with trash in the background or a poorly framed subject.

With landscape photography junk in your trunk is not usually an issue as the background IS the image you want. However, when shooting people, animate or detailed objects the background effect can make or break the image. One of the easiest ways to botch an otherwise nice photo is to have too little or too much going on in the background. Just the right amount of bokeh, underexposure or the lack of clutter can really make an image pop. Today, I am going to focus on the clutter.

The best tip I have for you when taking your own pictures is simply to be highly aware of the background. This awareness comes only with practice as job number one in photography is to focus on the subject, literally. There are two main things you need to be aware of. First, get the garbage out of the photo. Literally, at weddings I often find myself moving a McDonald’s cup, an open and scattered shoebox or plate full of crumbs out of the way to get a better photo. Even if the trash is only fraction of the image area it will stick out. Sometimes, especially if it is small, you can fix the trash issue during post-processing, but less time spent fixing pictures allows for more time shooting them.

If you can crop the trash out of the frame by zooming or stepping closer to eliminate the offending object, do it. When you can, move your subject to a location with fewer distractions in the background. Inside you generally want as few things behind the subject as possible. It is so easy to forget what is there. Try to train yourself to notice and remove extra toys, nicknacks, etc. Television screens are terrible in pictures. By the same token you do not want a plain white wall behind the subject either. The background should be of neutral interest, not devoid of interest.

The image above was an impromptu shot when I called to the bride to turn and look at me for one second. Obviously, I could not change the background. With this image you can see that in post-processing I cropped out the horizontal horizon and removed the bench and railing on the left. This left a nice diagonal line guiding the eye from the bottom right of the image up through to the bride. Ideally, I would remove the light pole which shoots though the tail of the vail but that bit would take me quite a while to remove.

Second, especially when shooting outside, be careful to position yourself or your subject so that you don’t get passing cars or nothing but sky in the background. Even worse are tall objects directly behind your subject. A building, a pole, or a tree can all too easily look like an extra appendage, an impalement or a bad costume.  More often than not the effect will be undesirable and sometimes even offensive.