Wedding Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots

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It's so important to have a good balance of photography fundamentals as well as the marketing and business side of running a photo studio. SC: I've been shooting weddings for 15 years.

I took photography classes, and at first I just asked friends, and friends of friends, if I could show up at their wedding with my camera to begin building my portfolio. I learned the basics-looking at light, using a light meter and so forth. That gave me a very solid foundation. LW: What's different about your approach to teaching this subject than books on the same subject? SC: It's not just a technical guide; it's laid out and written specifically for wedding photographers, presenting the information according to how things tend to unfold at a wedding day.

I found a couple of different approaches out there-books with beautiful imagery featuring a very specific look or style, but light on technical instruction. On the other hand, there are also books with very good technical instruction but not very inspiring visually. Weddings: From Snapshots to Great Shots starts with camera settings and core shooting basics and then goes into different stages of a wedding day.

Each chapter focuses on a particular stage of a wedding and addresses common challenges that come up and strategies for how to handle those situations. For example, wedding photographers are often faced with photographing a backlit wedding ceremony, so I offer a couple of strategies that photographers can use to deal with those types of situations. LW: For beginners, it can take a while to understand the different camera settings and how to apply them to various lighting situations.

For myself, it was a solid two seasons of second shooting before I felt truly competent with my camera. How long did it take you to learn? SC: I felt pretty secure in my camera skills because I had taken excellent classes in photography and had a very solid educational experience.

But a wedding is a different animal, and I'd say it was about 3 wedding seasons before I started feeling really confident that I could handle whatever came my way. I think that is probably a pretty typical timeframe. LW: What would be your advice for someone looking to learn wedding photography?

I wrote Weddings: From Snapshots to Great Shots specifically for anyone who wants to become a wedding photographer. It's filled with a mix of core shooting principals, assignments and picture call outs, which explain why I composed an image in a certain way. It's hard to try things out on the wedding day because you are so busy just dealing with what's coming at you.

The idea behind the assignments is learning strategies for dealing with common situations you'll encounter on a wedding day, so that when you are in that situation, you'll know what to do. For example, one assignment is to put a fake centerpiece in a window and shoot it from every possible angle. This teaches you to understand directional light in a very similar type of situation you would encounter on a wedding day. A wedding day is NOT the place to learn how to position yourself or the couple. By practicing it at home without wedding day pressure, you will learn how to position yourself for that type of shot, so when it happens, you are ready.

LW: What mistakes do you see when looking at the work of new wedding photographers?

[PDF] Wedding Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots [Paperback] [2011] (Author) Suzy Clement

SC: The most common mistake I see beginner photographers making is blowing out the highlights. No details in the dress, no details in the shadows. Ask questions and test it out before you buy. Bring your camera to the store and set the whole thing up so you can see how the components work together. Be sure that the ash head swivels so that you can bounce light from the ceiling, walls, and so on. Also, make sure that the ash accepts various types of diffusers. Some of the smaller models dont have these features. Cameras and lenses can and do fail at the most inopportune times, and you must be prepared for that possibility.

Have at least one backup camera body and ash, as well as enough lenses that you can still provide good coverage even if one goes down during a shoot. BAGS Many types of camera bags are available. I have a few different bags that I use for various types of shoots: A large rolling bag for weddings A shoulder bag that rides atop the roller if I need to bring additional lenses or lighting A smaller backpack that I use for portrait sessions, since I need less equipment and I want to keep it on my person at all times If you decide on a rolling bag, make sure it can t in airline overhead compartments so that youll be ready when you book that sweet destination wedding.

Although bags certainly arent cheap, they are an investment and you shouldnt skimp on quality. I bought an amazing Tamrac rolling bag shortly after I started shooting weddings. Its denitely possible to make wonderful images with very simple gear. In this section, I offer suggestions on how to begin your collection of equipment and how to think about what the most logical next purchase might be.

Youll see a huge difference in your images, and the investment will be worth it. Many wedding photographers use zoom lenses, but the best-quality ones are very expensive. Heres a beginning gear list to get you started: One camera body Note: Rent an additional body as a backup until you can buy one. With two camera bodies on hand, you can mount different lenses on each of them and easily carry both at the same time, so you have some choice in focal length at any given moment.

If you have a camera with a cropped sensor, you might get 28mm, 35mm, and 85mm lenses instead, to compensate for the effect the sensor has on the perceived focal length of the lenses. Make sure that whatever lenses you buy can work with full-frame sensors as well; that way, if you upgrade your camera body, you wont have to buy all new lenses. The lenses listed in this section obviously dont provide the exibility in focal length of some of the zoom lenses, particularly on the telephoto end of the spectrum, but the affordability and great image quality are more important when youre just starting out.

These lenses will continue to be useful for many aspects of wedding work even as your gear collection expands. Renting equipment is a great option if you cant yet spring for that amazing mm zoom or if you need something out of the ordinary for a particular wedding shoot. Its also a wonderful way to test-drive equipment before buying. Most rental houses count a weekend as a one-day rental, so you can pick up your toys on Friday and play with them all weekend long.

Im lucky enough to live in San Francisco, home of an amazing local rental shop, Pro Camera. The folks there know pretty much everything about every piece of equipment they rent, and they hear feedback from photographers of all specialties about how items perform in many different situations.

They can suggest appropriate equipment options depending on my needsfor instance, helping me decide which strobe lighting kit would work best for that person group shotand they know which lenses are fast and sharp, and which are sub-par. Theyre a tremendously valuable resource, and I cant recommend highly enough that you take advantage of your local rental shop, if you have one. If you dont have a local source for rentals, you can rent at www.

The added lenses are pricey but beautiful, sharp, and fast, and theyre the workhorses for many wedding photographers, myself included Figure 1. With this equipment, youll have many more options at your disposal and many more ways to express your creative vision. Theyre the workhorses for many wedding photographers. Most items even come with a warranty. The way that you see light and the way you choose to control it when making images are key to shaping the look of your work and developing your personal style.

It all comes from youthe camera is merely the tool that helps you realize your vision. The more you understand the way your decisions about lenses, camera settings, and lighting impact the look and feel of the image, the more effective youll be in using your camera in specic, intentional ways to achieve the desired look.

This chapter isnt a comprehensive review of all the fundamentals of photography, but it covers some of the basic principles and techniques I use at various points in a wedding to capture images that are authentic, emotional, and beautiful. It generally starts getting good around 20 minutes after sunset. If you try to shoot too soon, the sky will be washed out and not nearly as pretty. I used a tripod for this shot so that I could use a very slow shutter speed. This created a motion-blur effect for any of the people who were moving during the four seconds that the shutter remained open, while the architecture and decor stayed perfectly sharp.

The blue hour is the twilight period shortly after sunset, the time in between full daylight and full darkness. Because the sun has dropped below the horizon, the light travels a much greater distance through the lower atmosphere which scatters blue light than at other parts of the day, and essentially hits the sky from below. These factors create amazing, vibrant colors when photographed.

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The blue hour is a magical time to capture beautiful overview shots of the wedding celebration. With an extremely slow shutter speed, I was able to keep my ISO low to reduce digital noise in the image. But there are other good reasons for using available light: It allows me to shoot from a distance using telephoto lenses, without concern about whether light from a ash will make it all the way to the subject.

Plus, even when shooting close in, the absence of ash makes my shooting far less intrusive for the wedding participants, so they feel more comfortable and less aware of the camera. This allows me to capture more natural, organic images Figures 2.


Im always acutely aware of lightits source, its direction, its color, its intensityand the ability to really see light in this way informs my decisions about how to shoot in any given situation. Although there are a few instances in which I use a ash as ll lightfor example, at a ceremony that is either extremely backlit or has dappled sunlightfor the most part I dont use a ash at all during the day. During some parts of the day, such as the portraits of the couple and family, I can mastermind the situation and direct the action to the places with the best light.

At other times, such as the ceremony and many elements of the reception, I have to simply manage the situation as I nd it and know how to add supplemental lighting when needed. The wedding day demands that you act as both designer, shaping what happens and where, and documentarian, capturing whats happening in an effective way without the ability to change it. Ill cover how to handle many specic lighting situations that typically arise as they relate to the stages of the wedding day in later chapters of this book.

For great image quality, you need just the right amount of light. Too much light creates a washed-out image with blown highlights, and too little light results in a too-dark image with no shadow detail. Camera sensors are getting better all the time, and although you can, to some extent, save over- or underexposed images in post-processing, your images will look a lot better and youll spend a lot less time at the computer if you get it right in-camera.

There are three basic ways to control the amount of light that hits the sensor: shutter speed how long the shutter is open to allow light in , aperture the size of the opening , and ISO the sensitivity level of the sensor. Every exposure is a balancing act between these three elements. For any given lighting situation, innumerable combinations will give a correct exposure, but the way in which you choose to use them in combination has a huge impact on the way the image looks Figure 2.

The main way that shutter speed affects the nal look of the image is by determining whether there is any blur in the image due to movementeither of the subject or of the cameraduring the exposure. At a wedding, I make sure that I have a fairly fast shutter speed when the couple is recessing from the ceremony and if they make a formal entrance at dinnerat both these times, they can move really quickly!

Blur resulting from movement of the subject may be isolated to only part of an image Figure 2. If blur is due to the movement of the camera known as camera shake , then the entire image will be unsharp. This technique creates the effect of motion blur for all the people in the shot, while the tabletop is perfectly sharp.

You can use motion blur intentionally to create various effects. It can be really effective in conveying a sense of movement in the image. Camera shake is generally to be avoided, but sometimes, it can create a softness that doesnt necessarily detract from an imageit can even enhance the emotional impact Figure 2. But in order to avoid unintentional, image-ruining motion blur, you must rst know the speed at which you can hand-hold the camera without shaking, and then always be aware of the shutter speed youre shooting to make sure you dont go beyond your limit.

To minimize camera shake at very slow shutter speeds, try leaning against a pillar or wall if possible, or rest the camera on a solid surface, such as a table. Take a breath, exhale, and hold it; then release the shutter.

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I often take several images in a row, all in the interest of nailing one perfectly sharp one. Unless my subjects are perfectly still, I need to keep in mind that their movement could also translate as motion blur in the image. I ask myself whether thats the effect I want, and if it isnt, I adjust my shutter speed accordingly.

I was moving really quickly, as were the subjects, so some motion blur was capturedbut in this case, it actually enhanced the feeling of movement and excitement. Panning is a fun technique that captures the excitement of motion in an image in a very deliberate way. You do it by using a relatively slow shutter speed the speed will vary depending on how fast the subject is moving and the level of motion blur you want to create and tracking the subject with the lens as you press the shutter.

If youre tracking along with the movement, then the subject will be reasonably sharp, while the background will be captured in an exaggerated blur of motion. It takes a bit of experimentation and practice to get the feel for panning, but its a great way to convey the feeling of movement in an image Figures 2. Aperture is the size of the opening for a given shot, measured in f-stops.

The larger the f-stop, the smaller the opening; the smaller the f-stop, the larger the opening Figure 2. Note that the smaller the number, the larger the aperture. The most important image feature to associate with aperture is depth of eldthe distance between the nearest and farthest objects in a scene that appear acceptably sharp in an image. The smaller the aperture, the greater the depth of eld; the larger the aperture, the shallower the depth of eld. Shallow depth of eld can lend an image a softness thats really beautiful, especially for weddings.

It creates a nice separation between the subject and the background and helps focus the viewers attention precisely where you want it Figures 2. Shooting with a shallow depth of eld at a wedding also can be really practical, because it helps reduce or completely eliminate distracting background elements over which you have no control Figure 2.

Other factors aside from aperture affect depth of eld. A longer lens like a mm zoom will create a shallower depth of eld than a wide lens like a 35mm. Your distance from the subject makes a difference, as wellthe closer you are, the shallower the depth of eld. Figure 2. When I was close in to the bride, I found that, with her face at a three-quarter angle to me, I couldnt get both of her eyes in focusthe depth of eld was too shallow.

A wide aperture blurs the background just enough. But because of the long lens not the one I would normally use for this, but on my camera as I walked by and my close distance to the subject, the depth of eld was actually too shallow. I needed a smaller aperture to get the entire escort card in focus. A higher ISO, such as , is more sensitive and, therefore, needs less light to expose properly, making it incredibly useful in darker environments. A low ISO, such as , is less sensitive, requires much more light, and is best in brighter situations.

As the technology and image quality with digital photography improved, I slowly began to incorporate it into my workow. Now, Im shooting nearly all my color work with digital, but I still shoot a lot of black and white with lm because I just plain love itI love the grain, the wonderful range of tones, and the timeless beauty of a true black-and-white silver print.

Many of the black-and-white images in this book were shot on lm. Aside from my passion for black-and-white lm, I view three features of digital photography as game-changing improvements over lm when it comes to shooting weddings: You dont need to reload the camera every 24 or 36 frames. This is incredibly helpful at many times during a wedding, particularly the ceremony. With lm, I often had to ration my remaining shots to ensure that I had enough exposures left for the kiss and recessional or gamble on whether I would have enough time to rewind and reload before the end of the ceremony.

With digital, this concern is removed, and I can shoot away through the ceremony or the rst dance, or the toasts with one less technical consideration to worry about. The sensors on digital cameras have become amazing for shooting at high ISOsmuch higher than with lm, and with a higher-quality result. As a natural-light shooter, I had ways to deal with very low-light situations, but they were limited and, frankly, I was less than excited about nighttime weddings.

Now, I feel that a whole new world of low-light photography at weddings has opened up to me, and Im excited and energized by the possibilities. You can change the ISO to anything you like at any timethe most wonderful feature of all! I can go from a dark church to the bright outdoors and back again, and, with a turn of the dial, adjust my ISO as necessary and continue shooting uninterrupted. With lm, I would have to take the time to reload with another lm type and often waste unshot exposures on a roll in the process.

I still love and cherish many aspects of lm, but for me, the advantages of digital as they pertain to weddings are just too wonderful and exciting to ignore. The trade-off for using a high ISO is image quality. The higher the ISO, the more digital noise and grain appear in the image. For this reason, you should always shoot at the lowest ISO possible. In just the past few years, though, sensor quality has vastly improved, and many cameras can now capture very high-quality images at ISOs of , , or higher.

The images have relatively little grain and great color. This is an amazing development for natural-light shooting in darker situations Figure 2. Because of the great highISO capabilities of my cameras sensor, I was able to hand-hold and shoot really quickly. The color is beautiful, and digital noise is minimal. Refer to your camera manual for additional modes that may be available. Using an automatic mode can be very helpful when youre moving quickly between different lighting situations because, for the most part, you can trust the camera to make the necessary exposure adjustments while you continue shooting.

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  8. An automatic mode is also great when subjects are rapidly moving between areas of light and dark say, in and out of the shade of trees or when events are moving along so quickly that you dont have time to properly meter and set the camera yourself. I never use Program mode, because I want to be the one to make the exposure decisions. If youre just starting out, you may be tempted to use Program mode, but I encourage you to leave Program mode behind, if for no other reason than most cameras wont allow you to shoot RAW when youre in Program mode, and RAW is always preferable see the sidebar below.

    If youre afraid of missing important shots because you dont trust your abilities in Manual mode just yet, try Shutter Priority or Aperture Priority instead. As you get more comfortable shooting in these auto modes, you can start switching to Manual and get even greater control over your images. RAW VS. When you shoot RAW, much more color information is retained, which results in greater latitude the range of light to dark that is possible in an image, while retaining detail in both and a lot more exibility when making color adjustments in post-production.

    In the past, the main arguments against shooting RAW had to do with the large amount of memory required to store the bigger les and the cumbersome, time-consuming nature of processing RAW les. Today, memory is very inexpensive, and amazing software programs like Aperture and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom make processing much easier. You may want to use Shutter Priority when youre photographing fast-moving subjects and you want a particular shutter speed to freeze the action. Aperture Priority mode is helpful for maintaining a certain depth of eld. Although I shoot predominantly in Manual, I sometimes use Aperture Priority because, for me, depth of eld is the most important consideration.

    When using Aperture Priority mode, I always keep an eye on my shutter speed to make sure its not slow enough to cause unintentional motion blur. I shoot in Manual mode for much of the day. As an available-light shooter, Im often working with lighting situations that could potentially trick the camera into giving an incorrect exposure, and I feel more condent when Ive actually metered the light myself.

    For example, if the scene is very backlit, it could confuse the camera. The same is true if the scene is either very light overall, or very dark. This is because the camera reads the light that is bouncing off a subject. If the subject is very light in color, more light reects back to the camera, and it interprets the scene as brighter than it really is.

    It then underexposes the image to compensate. When the subject is very dark, the opposite happensless light is reected back, the camera thinks that the scene is darker than it is, and it overexposes the image. This is a big danger in dark churches and synagoguesbe careful! Because an incident meter measures the light that is actually hitting the subject, not the light that is bouncing off of it the way the cameras built-in light meter does , it gives a true reading regardless of how light or dark the overall scene is.

    In-camera meters are very good, provided that you understand how they work and which metering mode is best for various situations. Most cameras have three basic metering modes: matrix, center-weighted, and spot. With matrix metering, the camera looks at the values of the entire scene and bases the exposure on that. This works remarkably well much of the time, particularly when youre shooting a scene that is straightforward in terms of lighting and contains a mix of tones, but the exposure can be thrown off in certain situations, such as an extremely backlit scene, or one that is either very light or very dark.

    With center-weighted metering, the camera looks at the whole scene but gives more emphasis to the center of the image when determining exposure. This mode is a little more reliable for tricky backlit, dark, or light scenes, as long as the most important element of your composition is in the center.

    Center-weighted tends to be my default metering setting if I choose to shoot in my preferred auto-exposure mode, Aperture Priority. Spot metering can be both very useful and a bit tricky. With spot metering, the camera bases the exposure solely on that one spot in the frame, ignoring the rest of the scene. This is useful when you know that you want a certain element of the image to be properly exposedsay, the face of someone standing in a windowand you dont want the camera to try to balance the exposure for the whole scene.

    You also can use spot metering if youre faced with a scene that is either very light or very dark. Point the spot at an area of the subject that has a midtone valueneither the darkest dark nor the lightest lightand it will give you a more accurate reading Figure 2. You can even hold out your own hand and spot-meter on that. Instead of spot-metering and switching to Manual mode, some photographers prefer to use the exposure compensation control on the camera.

    This tells the camera to consistently adjust the exposure up or down by however many stops you indicate, based on how off the initial exposure is. One more note about spot metering: It should be used very deliberately in specic situations, because it places so much emphasis on a very small area of the image. For example, if youre just casually shooting in spot metering mode and the spot lands on a black tuxedo, it will give a much different reading than if it lands on the brides white gownand its likely that neither exposure will be the best one for the scene.

    Switch to spot metering, and center the spot on a light to midtone value, such as the girls face, to get the correct exposure reading. Then switch your camera to Manual and dial it in. The histogram is essentially a visual representation of the tonal range in an image. Darker tones are represented on the left and lighter tones are represented on the right. The peaks in the histogram show which tonal ranges are most prominent in an image.

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    There is no one perfect histogram; the way the histogram should look varies depending on the tones present in the scene and your choices about how to shoot it. In general, though, if youre shooting a very dark subject, your histogram will skew to the left, and if youre shooting a very light subject, it will skew to the right. For a subject with mostly midtones, the histogram for a proper exposure should be distributed throughout the middle portion; in this case, if the histogram is far to the left or the right, its probably an indication that you have either underexposed or overexposed the image.

    At a wedding, I mainly use the histogram to quickly check for smashed blacksdark areas with no detail whatsoeverand blown-out highlights. These will show up as lines on the extreme left or right of the chart. Sometimes, this line can be so thin that it almost looks like the border of the graph. This would be expected for certain subjects, such as bright sunlight glinting off water, but for the most part the pure white or pure black pixels indicate that there is no detail information at all in part of the image, and they should be avoided.

    Doing these quick histogram checks can help you gauge exposure and make the necessary adjustments. There are many, many rules for achieving good composition, and Ill briey cover a few that I feel are most helpful for wedding photographyalthough I recommend approaching them more as guidelines than hard-and-fast rules. Learn and practice these principles to help build a solid foundation in understanding composition. From there, youll be able to more effectively experiment, play, and bend and break the rules. If you picture imaginary lines dividing your image into thirds both horizontally and vertically, you should place the most important elements of your composition along those lines, or at the points where the lines intersect Figures 2.

    The rule of thirds can help you compose well-balanced and interesting images. This rule can help you learn interesting ways to balance a composition. This composition gives the image a very open feel, and its much more compelling than if the couple were smack-dab in the middle. Lines can be used to lead the viewers eye through the image, as well as to direct attention to the area of the image that you want to highlight Figures 2. There are plenty of naturally occurring lines at every weddingthe ceremony aisle, banquet-style tables, strings of lanterns or lights, rows of ceremony chairs, a garden path or a hotel hallway.

    You can nd lots of opportunities to use the principle of leading lines to great effect. This type of setup offers so many great ways to use leading lines. Some elements that you might work with at weddings include trees, arches, architectural details, doorways, and chuppahs. With an open mind and a little imagination, youll nd that there are many, many ways to frame a subject. Dont take the idea too literallythe framing elements dont need to completely surround the subject in order to be effective.

    These trees in the background are wonderful framing elements. These elements can be used to create arresting photographic compositions. Once you really start to notice, youll see that were surrounded by symmetry and patterns and, thus, photo opportunities! A well-designed wedding has many, many examples of symmetrythe decor of the ceremony with, for example, identical urns of ower sprays on each side , the architecture at the altar of a church, the banquet-style table with the same oral arrangements stretching along both sides, and so on Figure 2.

    Patterns may be formed by a sea of blooms in a oral arrangement or the petals of an individual bloom , rows of perfectly placed escort cards, or a box of identical bouquets when viewed from above Figure 2. A key to capturing a sense of pattern in a composition is to edit other elements out; telephoto lenses are useful for zooming in on the critical elements. Viewing the wedding with an eye to capturing its sense of symmetry and pattern will help you create truly compelling compositions.

    When viewed from above, these identical bouquets created a pattern that made for a really nice composition. Chapter 2 Assignments Experiment with Aperture and Shutter Speed Experiment with different combinations of shutter speed and aperture that achieve the same exposure. Remember that for every stop you go down with the shutter, you need to open up one stop with the aperture, and vice versa.

    Theyre all correct exposures, but the images will look very different. This experiment will give you a sense of the many, many combinations of settings that are possible for correct exposure for any given scene. You can also use this exercise to see the effects of aperture on depth of eld as you move through the range. And if youre hand-holding, youll see the effects of motion blur and camera shake come into play as you hit the very slow shutter speeds. Throw ISO in the Mix Once youve done the previous assignment and you have a good feel for the relationship between shutter speed and aperture, add ISO into the equation.

    Change the ISO and notice how it affects the shutter and aperture settings that are required for a correct exposure. Having a really strong, foundational understanding of the idea that exposure is a balancing act between these three settings, and knowing how each setting impacts the nal image, will empower you to make purposeful choices. Practice Panning Have a friend model for you and practice shooting him as he moves through your eld of vision from one side to the other.

    Have him move at varying speedswalking quickly, running, riding a bike. Practice your tracking skills by following the subject with your lens as he moves. Notice how much motion blur each shutter speed causes. Notice also how the speed of the subject affects how slow the shutter must be to capture the sense of movement. Create Compositions Take another look at the section on composition in this chapter. Then set out to either create or nd examples of each compositional conceptthe rule of thirds, leading lines, and so on.

    I suggest just walking out the door and around the neighborhood to see what you can nd. At rst, you might feel that looking for these types of compositions is a bit restrictive, but it can be really helpful in giving you a starting point, a way to begin to make sense visually of all thats around us. Prepping for the Shoot ss Talent and skill will carry you far, but there is no substitute for preparation. In order to capture the truly telling images at the wedding, you must keep a clear head amidst the commotion of the day so that you can focus on the wonderful moments going on all around.

    Having a solid understanding of the sites where the wedding events will occur, the schedule, and the ow of the event as well as any specic desires of the couple will set the stage so that you can get into the creative zone when it counts. Shaded spots like this are especially good when the portraits of the couple need to be taken in the harsher afternoon light. A wide aperture creates a shallow depth of eld, softening the background and reducing the distraction of the buildings in the distance. Compositionally, the balcony railing forms a leading line that draws the viewers eye straight into the image.

    I metered for the medium shadow on the brides face, so the image retains both shadow and highlight detail. All this time and energy is well spent when it allows me to walk in on the wedding day with a clear sense of how the action will unfold and how I intend to capture it. The more legwork I do ahead of time, the clearer my vision for the day, and the better able I am to simply be in the moment at the actual weddingin tune to the rhythms of the day, poised to capture the meaningful moments.

    Theyve hired me to come do what I do at their wedding. Still, I always take time to connect with them and learn whether there are any considerations or concerns that are specic to their event. Maybe theyre exceptionally passionate about black-and-white photography, or perhaps they want special emphasis placed on certain family members. There may be particular elements of the wedding that are especially unique and important to them Figures 3. And of course, if there are any tricky family dynamics at play, I need to know about them.

    At the same time that I gather information from the couple, I also offer my opinion on various elements of their planning that will impact the photography, particularly the timing of events. Most clients dont realize what a huge impact timing can have on the way their images will look, so I want to be sure to give them the photographers perspective. For example, many couples dream of a sunset wedding. A sunset wedding may be beautiful, but the rest of the wedding will be in pitch dark. From my standpoint as a photographer, its much better to have the ceremony a couple of hours before sunsetthe light will still be somewhat softened at that hour, and after the ceremony has ended theres a nice chunk of time to shoot portraits of the families and the couple, cocktail hour, and possibly even toasts or the rst dance with natural light.

    All those elements will be much prettier as a result, especially for an outdoor wedding. The question of whether the couple should see one another before the ceremony often comes up. From a photographers perspective, its always a great idea, because it allows me to take most or all of the posed groupings before the ceremony, as well as some portraits of the couple.

    I never pressure couples to see one another, but Im very frank about the implications if they choose not to. If they have large families. If their ceremony is close to sunset, we may not have enough light afterward to make the most of the beautiful setting, and well be much more limited in what we can do with their couple portraits. If they clearly understand how the decision may impact other parts of the day and they still truly dont want to see one another, then I respect their wishesits their wedding, after all!

    Based on our pre-wedding conversations, I knew how meaningful this element was, so I emphasized it in the photos. I might have missed these special touches if I hadnt had good communication with the client. I cant expect them to know all the factors that will affect the photography at their wedding. Part of my job, as a professional, is to educate them about what they can reasonably expect and to guide them toward decisions that will result not only in the best experience of the day but also in the best images possible.

    Most commonly, clients simply dont realize how long things will take. They may be planning to t a lot more into a short amount of time than is actually possible.

    Suzy Clement radio interview "Weddings from Snapshots to Great Shots".wmv

    For example, I was hired by a couple getting married in San Francisco; they had their heart set on driving their entire wedding party to a beautiful location on the other side of the city to shoot group portraits as well as couple portraits, and then returning to cocktail hour. They allotted 30 minutes in the schedule to do this, which wasnt even close to the amount of time we would actually need! During our pre-wedding conversations, I had to tell them that this wasnt going to be possible. I never enjoy having to disappoint my clients, but its better to have that conversation in advance than it is to go along with a plan thats clearly unworkable and that would mess up the schedule for the rest of the day.

    But for the posed family and group portraits, I always do.

    Wedding Photography from Snapshots to Great Shots - AbeBooks

    Despite my heavy bias toward spontaneous, candid moments, I realize that these formal images represent an important historical document of the families present at the wedding. I want to be sure to capture everything necessary and do it as quickly and efciently as possible. Working with the couple to develop a specic list of groupings helps me do that.

    Bride and groom with brides immediate family Bride and groom with grooms immediate family Bride and groom with any other special family members for example, grandparents Every family is different, so I ask the couple to customize this list to suit their needs. I encourage them to keep the list as streamlined as possible, avoiding endless combinations of nearly the same set of people, and to consider what groupings they, or their family members, will actually want to include in an album or a frame after the wedding Figure 3. If the image isnt going to be used for anything, its simply not worth using precious time on the wedding day to capture it.

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