Tuesday, January 8, 2013
I have photographed enough couples now that I have lost count. The setting for these photos recently has been the Big Island, Hawaii Island. I love this place, and the couples who choose to come here to become married generally love it too. But nothing is guaranteed in this life.
Awhile back, the bride in the photos was unhappy with the shots I liked best. I felt dreadful for her, and sought to understand what was amiss so I could edit appropriately. She told me she didn't like her expressions in some photos, her husband's in others, that they generally did not look interested enough in each other, and that the photos were not flattering. Most of that commentary is not subject to editing. She was unwilling to discuss further, leaving me to sort through the experience from this end and learn from it.
I wish I could put up that selection I liked from that shoot so you could see their photos for yourself, but she has forbidden their use. To my eye, they are among the best I have done. Based on her remarks and looking at the photos, I think she would have preferred a more animated set of photos on the one hand, and something more studio-like and posed on the other. I am also pretty certain that in future years, perhaps as few as two or three, when she looks at those photos, she will be stunned at how pretty she is, how handsome her husband, what a great looking couple they are.There is also something else - during the shoot she repeatedly remarked about how little she cared for this island, for its culture, and for what it is about. Perhaps that has something to do with her perception of her photos as well.
The photo above is of other people. I have chosen to use it here to illustrate what wedding photography is for me as a photographer - it is an opportunity to make a record of what this experience was for these people, in the context of this place, Hawaii island. Here the couple is studying the ground, the a'a and pahoehoe lava in a somewhat recent flow. There is a look of geologists about them, because they had a sincere interest in the lava. Their intelligence and sparkle and shared enthusiasm comes through, despite the sunglasses. They are in a place they have not been before, and it is fascinating. This is both one of their favorite photos from the shoot and mine as well. It is right for them - it is them. For you, it would be another sort of picture altogether.
So here is my take as a wedding photographer. If you are looking for verve and animation, dress casually and be prepared to jump about, run, and be excited. That sort of look does not happen in a dress with a long heavy train and a suit, tie, and heavy dress shoes. As a wedding photographer, I always suggest the couple take some photos in their wedding attire and the remainder in casual dress. Both sets look lovely, and the contrast tends to be between the solemnity and joy of taking marriage vows and the playfulness of having succeeded in becoming married and being happier than you had even imagined. If you are looking for studio shots, use a studio photographer. There everything is controlled. The camera person sets you in position and moves you and the lights until everything is as flattering as it can be, for each shot.
If you have seen an effect or a set shot in someone else's photos you would like to try, by all means tell the photographer about it. But do not keep trying to recreate it as your photos are being done. This is likely to have peculiar results. In the photo session that disappointed the bride, she repeatedly asked her husband to lift her vertically into the air. She was wearing a dress with a long train. The effect was that she appeared over him in a surreal column. She did not look like she was floating, being held down like an unruly balloon, but more vampire like. And no, she did not see any of the photos where she looked like that! And there were dozens of them, because everywhere we went, she would repeat the pose And yes, I included a couple of them that sort of worked in the set of photos she received. Be prepared to find out that the set shot you imagined is not at all what you envisioned. It was someone else's photo, not yours.
In viewing Pinterest wedding boards, I note there are certain genre shots that are popular now where a heart appears in the photo. Sometimes the heart is drawn in the sand. Sometimes it is fashioned from rocks or shells or flowers. More often it is formed using the hands and arms of the wedding couple, the setting sun behind. If you desire shots like this, it is vital to tell the photographer. Do not expect your photos to duplicate what you have seen elsewhere. Your photos are not and cannot be what you have seen somewhere else, of someone else. I know that sounds remedial, but that is a fact. You may have been told you look like a certain celebrity. Do not expect that in your wedding photos you will look like her double. If you ordinarily do not wear makeup or wear very little, and then have your face done for your wedding or your photos, you will look different than you usually look. Be certain you like that look. Makeup is not an essential part of wedding photos. The best photos of you are the ones that look like you. Again, this sounds so very basic, and yet we do not always think in basic terms.
Everyone and anyone, any couple, can look wonderful in wedding photos. By wonderful, I mean like your own best self. As a photographer, that is what I am after. You as your shining, happy, most radiant self. I am also after the you of you, whatever person is beneath your skin. This is why I love doing this work. It is a treasure hunt, and there is always treasure to be found and shown.
When we do wedding photography, it happens on the scheduled day, out of doors for the most part. We can do some indoors, incorporating the sense of place. We can always use the treehouse, even in the pouring rain, and get sweet results. We can also go somewhere the weather is nicer. We have not had a wedding shoot yet where we could not find good weather and pretty light. We do half day and full day shoots. Half day seems to work the best. You do not want to appear tired in the photos. What every couple always comes away with is an experience that was unlike any other - a journey around and about the island that was recorded for them in dozens of photos, where the context of the island frames who they are, in this time, in love, in this gorgeous place.