By Rick Sammon – Follow Rick on Twitter
In this trying economy, almost everyone is looking to save a buck, or make a few extra bucks. That includes me – who faces four years of writing checks, as a very proud and happy dad, to Johns Hopkins University starting this fall.
So when Wiley, one of my publishers, asked me to write a book on wedding photography, I gladly accepted the challenge. I worked with some of the top wedding photographers in the country, getting their best photos, tips, tricks and techniques.
For the book, Digital Wedding Photography Secrets, I acted more like the editor than the author – which was actually great fun.
The book, my 33rd, is geared toward those who want to be weekend wedding photographers, which was actually the original title of the book. It’s jammed packed with
one-page ideas on covering a wedding from start to finish. Chapters include:
*Rick’s Recipe (top tips for great shots)
*Light, Cameras, Computers, Action (wedding photo gear)
*The Studio Shoot (basic lighting set-ups)
*The Weekend Wedding Photographer (from start to finish)
*Pros Share their Secrets (inside info from the pros)
*The Woman’s Touch (a very special chapter)
*The Creative Touch (a must read)
*Photoshop Must-Know Info (Photoshop basics)
*Photoshop Enhancements (Awaken the artist within)
What . . . you think you can’t shoot a wedding? Sure, it is a specialty. However, if you are a good photographer, you can apply the same set of basic shooting skills to
photographing a bride and groom on their special day.
So if you have skills, why not ask local wedding photographers if you could get a gig as the “second photographer” on a wedding? It never hurts to ask – something that I have learned by experience.
What follows is the introduction to the book. As you’ll see, photography is photography – no matter what the specialty. To illustrate my philosophy, I used some istock.com wedding photos and some of my travel and studio photographs. My photographs are the right or bottom images. Here comes the . . . bride and groom wedding tips.
Place the Subject Off Center
When you first look at a picture, chances are you were first drawn to the subjects, and then you began to look around the frame to see what else was happening in the scene. Placing the subject off center compels viewers to look around the frame for other interesting objects. When you place your subject dead center in the frame, the viewer’s eyes get stuck there. It’s why professional photographers say, “Dead center is deadly.”
Master Studio-Style Lighting
Some brides and grooms like the photojournalist-type approach for their wedding album. This is basically a style that requires a photographer to shoot what (s)he sees—without any set-up. Other couples prefer the more formal, studio-type approach. In talking with some married couples that chose the photojournalist style for their wedding, I’ve heard them say they now have some regrets about not getting studio photographs, too.
As a wedding photographer, you need to be prepared to take studio shots. What’s more, you can make extra income by adding studio photographs to your list of services. You don’t need a fancy and expensive studio lighting set up to get nice quality photographs. Westcott (www.fjwestcott.com), for example, sells hot light and strobe light kits—each with three light sources—for under $500 and $800, respectively.
Watch the Hands
The hands in both of these photographs take up less than 5% of the frame, yet they are important in the overall success of the pictures. You need to make sure your subject’s hands are well positioned. Don’t be shy about providing direction if his or her hands look awkward and need to be positioned differently. If left unchecked, awkward hand position can ruin an otherwise terrific photograph.
Work Close for an Intimate Portrait
The closer you are to your subject, the more intimate the portrait becomes. That’s why many wedding photographers like to use wide-angle to medium-telephoto zoom
lenses and shoot relatively close to subjects when possible.
Working close also lets you identify with and relate better to your subjects. So,get up-close-and-personal. I have another tip that I’ll include here, since I have your attention. Watch the nose. When you are photographing a subject from the side, be sure that you position his/her nose so that the cheek acts as a background, as illustrated in the top photograph. Or, position the subject to get a complete profile of the nose, as illustrated in my photograph. If you don’t follow this advice, then the tip of your subject’s nose will probably look “funny,” sticking out like a lobe from the cheek.
Expose for the Highlights
Back when I was the editor of Studio Photography magazine, I used to shoot slide film. When shooting slides, we had to expose for the highlights. If we did not, the
highlights would be overexposed, showing little or no detail. In those cases, the slides were tossed into the out-take pile.
When I shoot digital, I also expose for the highlights … even though in Camera RAW, I can rescue up to one f-stop of overexposed highlights. If you expose for the highlights, you save time in digital darkroom.
Envision the End-Result
Ansel Adams, the most famous landscape photographer of all time, was known for, among other things, envisioning the end result. That is, he considered all—and I
mean all—the factors that go into taking a picture (including the f-stop, shutter speed, exposure and more) and enhancing it in post processing.
I am big on envisioning the end-result, and I talk a lot about that in my workshops. When I shoot a backlit photograph, I might envision a silhouette even though I can actually see detail in the backlit subject at the time of shooting.
Make Pictures; Don’t Simply Take Pictures
Anyone can take pictures, but not everyone takes the time to make pictures. When we take a picture, we simply point and shoot. When we make a picture, we carefully arrange the subjects in a scene – sometimes moving hair out of a subject’s face or posing the subject in a certain manner. We see the light and use a reflector, diffuser or flash to help control it. We carefully choose our camera angle, lens, exposure mode, and the f-stop and shutter speed combination.
Take the time to make pictures in addition to taking candid photographs, and you’ll make your clients happy.
Consider Digital Noise and the ISO Setting at All Times
“Keeping it clean” is actually one of my main goals when I take a photograph. And by clean, I mean the image has very little digital noise. I get clean pictures by shooting at the lowest possible ISO setting for a hand-held shot. I also shoot with a top-of-the-line digital SLR camera, because top-of-the-line cameras have less noise than entry-level and mid-range digital SLRs.
When shooting in very low light, I sometimes use the noise-reduction feature in my camera. Yet the process this feature requires increases the time before I can take
another picture. If I can’t afford the wait, I reduce the noise in Adobe Camera RAW or Apple Aperture. When you reduce noise in post processing, reduce the chroma (color) noise first and then luminance noise. In both cases, try not to reduce the noise more than 30%. If you go beyond this, your picture will start to lose sharpness.
Also note that noise shows up more in the shadow areas than in highlight areas.
By the way, in-camera noise-reduction features reduce only chroma noise.
Use—Don’t Overuse—the Disequilibrium Effect
Use the disequilibrium effect, which is created when you tilt your camera down and to the left or right. It’s a simple, fun and creative effect. Just don’t over-use it.
Another tip: Have fun with it!
Always Remember: The Camera Looks Both Ways
The camera looks both ways. This means that when you photograph a person, you reveal an image of yourself. Your mood, energy and emotions are reflected in your
subject’s face and eyes. This is actually my #1 tip when it comes to photographing people—whether your subject is a beautiful bride in her home or church or a magnificent woman in the rainforest. Your disposition matters. So as a people photographer, keep this expression in mind … and don’t get bogged down with camera settings. The technical stuff has to become automatic, so that you can concentrate on getting a great personality portrait that you and your clients will love.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Later today Photofocus will publish another tip by Rick called People Photography Tidbits. It goes hand-in-hand with the tips presented in the wedding post.
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