Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Q and A: More Things To Consider When Shooting Weddings

QUESTIONS: CANDLEMAN from Digital Photography School forum asks: "What was the most important tips/techniques you learned when you shot your wedding? I'm doing a wedding in 4 weeks and would be very interested...."

ANSWER: First all, good luck on your wedding assignment Candleman! I have really appreciated your encouragement on the DPS forum. This is a good question, and I really had to stop and think about my response.

As I finish up editing the shots from my first wedding assignment, several things seem to keep cropping up, forcing me to spend far more time editing than I should have. Things are moving pretty fast during a wedding, but if I would have taken more time at the beginning to slow down enough to be aware of what was in my viewfinder first and repositioning for better composition before I pushed the shutter, then I wouldn't be having such a hard time editing now.

1) Be careful of distracting backgrounds. Most of my post processing has been desperately trying to correct aspects of poor backgrounds, namely things that appear to be sticking out of people's heads (branches, bookshelves etc.) or things that just detract from the main subject (bright track lights on ceilings, unsightly things like trashcans etc). Sometimes I could save the image, but other times I had to ditch it.

The above photo is an example of what I'm talking about. I took this image at the bride's house when she was getting into the car to be driven to the church. I think this would have been a great photojournalistic-type image that would have provided plenty of memories for the bride about how heavy and cumbersome that dress must have been. She needed nearly constant help from her bridesmaids to keep the dress from trailing on the ground and it was difficult getting in and out of the car.

But take a closer look: That boat in the upper left hand corner of the image is a major distraction. I tried everything I could to clone that out, but I wasn't able to do so in a manner that I would have liked. This could have been solved by taking the image from another angle, maybe while standing in front and to the side of the vehicle shooting over the window at the bride and her helpers. Then I would have had those wonderful green vines and the brick house for a more uncomplicated, uniform background.

A wide aperture is your friend in situations like this too where a cluttered background could be blurred out, allowing your subject to stand out. Or try filling the frame with the subject to eliminate most of the background, whether it's distracting or not. I also like using a telephoto lens to move in close to the subject. Fill the frame and select the widest aperture to make the background soft and often awash with colors and light. This Kodak article also suggests staying away from bright colors and text (for example, store signs). I also like the suggestions this shutterbug.com article made regarding the use of flash to render a background black.

Some will argue you can use editing software such as Photoshop to blur the background, which is true, or even put in fake "studio-like" backgrounds especially if you are working on portraits. I've used that technique before, but it's always better to get it right in-camera first. Besides, that stuff can look very unnatural if you don't do it correctly.

2) Have a second or even third photographer if you can swing it. There was just too much going on to not have at least a second photog with me. I just don't know how a single photog can get all the candid and posed moments that happen during a wedding. I am so thankful for having those extra pairs of eyes and perspectives to get as many storytelling shots as possible

3) Avoid shooting portraits in bright, direct sunlight. It's always best to put people in shady or evenly lit areas so they don't squint or end up with those racoon shadows under their eyes and noses. Far too much editing time has been spent on healing hot spots on foreheads, cloning out those undereye shadows and dealing. Also, have people remove their glasses if possible so you don't have to deal with those flares that show up in the frames.

4) It ain't all about the bride! Remember to get shots of the groom and his family's reactions to the wedding. I put one of my photogs solely on the groom for that day's worth of coverage so his relatives and friends will be more likely to buy photos and albums as well.

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