Monday, November 30, 2015

Behind The Frame: Finding The "Real" Moments

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Family Portraits can be a long tedious resulting in formal photos that get framed on parents work desks, but are otherwise never looked at.  I wrote back in October about watching your subject for a few extra seconds after the final shot because the "in-between" moments can often be the best.  You can also find wonderful authentic moments right after the formal one is taken.  While I'm shooting family formals I always instruct my second shooter to point the lens in the other direction the family standing behind me waiting to be photographed, which can result in amazing candid shots.  I also try to hold the camera for a beat longer on my subject to see what unfolds.  This shot was taken during cocktail hour when we had a long list of extended family photos moving in and out of this frame.  When we finally finished the bride and her sister gave their parents a kiss on the cheek and that little moment became my favorite of the day.  The way the bride's dad is closing his eyes and reaching out to hold the bride's shoulder is the punctum (see previous post) that makes this photo truly special for me.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Angela and Young's Wedding at the Wythe Hotel, New York City Fine Art Wedding Photography

Angela and Young were married on a beautiful Fall day in Williamsburg at the Wythe Hotel.  The bride and groom both got ready with their friends and family at the hotel and then met downstairs for a very sweet first look followed by portraits around the hotel in Williamsburg.  The day was extremely windy, which made for some fun photos with the bride's beautiful ruffled Hayley Paige dress.  The ceremony took place in the hotel's courtyard under strings of twinkle lights followed by cocktail hour in the lower terrace. The groom, a fitness and nutrition coach, personalized their ceremony and surprised the guests when he had the officiant ask everyone to take a moment to stretch during the ceremony, which was a favorite moment, and one of my favorite photos of the day!   After the ceremony the bride and groom went up to their suite to sign the marriage license and took a quick celebratory moment to jump on the bed, another of my favorite moments of the day!  The reception took place inside the hotel and the room was transformed by Blush Designs into a lush and romantic fairy-tale space full of deep red tones with gold accents and hundreds of candles, perfect for an evening of dinner and dancing.  See more from this lovely wedding on Style Me Pretty!

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Coordination: Whimsy Weddings 
Floral Design: Blush Designs 
Wedding Dress: Hayley Paige 
Bride's Shoes: Badgley Mischka 
Bridesmaids' Dresses: Jenny Yoo 
Catering: Reynard 
Hair And Makeup: Michiko Boorberg 
Groom's Attire: Michael Andrews Bespoke 
Officiant: Secular Wedding New York 
Venue: Wythe Hotel 
Ceremony Band: Dolce Vita Strings 
Thank you to Monika Eisenbart for second shooting and Rachel Watkinson for assisting and Richard Photo Lab for scanning and processing.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Behind The Frame: Building Trust with your Clients

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Gaining your clients trust is one of the most important elements of taking a portrait.  Shooting a portrait is like a dance, it must be done together and you must trust your dance partner.  If you are posing your client and feel nervous or unsure they'll pick up on it and it will make them nervous, which will then reflect in their face in the image.  I'm always excited to try out a new idea and they definitely don't always work, but when that happens you still have to remain confident.  Sometimes when it's really not working I won't bother taking the photo and I'll just laugh and say well that didn't work and make some kind of joke to make them feel at ease and then immediately go into something that I know will look great so we can get right back into the flow of the session.  For many couples I get to know the bride well through meetings, phone calls and emails, but often I've only met or talked to the groom once before their engagement session or wedding (which is one of the great reasons to do an engagement session) so they tend to trust me a little less than the bride.  For this session we were on the beach right at sunset and the sun was the most amazing shade of pink shining right over the horizon.  However it was a little too bright, and being on the beach there was nothing to flag the light with so I asked the couple to lift their blanket above their heads and look at each other under the blanket.  The light diffused into this perfect pink sheen, with a little sun flare right over the groom's head.  Now I had the great light, but I could tell the groom felt a little silly so this is where trust becomes important.  My personality by nature is to gush and get very excited when I know I'm getting an image like this, others may become more quiet or focused, but whatever you do you have to communicate to your client that what their doing, although it may seem a little odd, will make an incredible photo.  I asked them to lean into each other like they were about to kiss, but instead of kissing, just smile at each other, which creates this lovely very intimate moment.  This photo feels to me as if someone literally lifted the blanket from on top their heads and is peering into a little slice of life, which just happens to be a moment full of love as their eyes lock and his hand gently pulls her in closer from the waist.  If they hadn't trusted me that this photo was great the gaze in their eyes would have been completely different, and that, for me at least, is the whole magic of the photo.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Behind The Frame: Gone With The Veil

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I love playing around with a cathedral length veil in wedding photos.  I'll often drape them over the bride and the groom, spread the veil on the ground creating a train, or send them flying like this shot to give them a little motion.  This wedding was at a beautiful barn in the Hudson Valley and we were taking portraits next to the horse paddock, which created this gorgeous dark leading line from the back left of the frame to the front right.  There was a bit of a breeze lifting the veil into the air along that same dominant line.  When it blew backwards it actually got a little lost in the composition so I had my second shooter hold the veil straight out and then drop it as she darted out of the frame so we could have the gentle effect of the veil blowing in the wind.  This is a trick I use all the time to create movement in the photo.  If this were a wider shot, you'd see my second shooter and/or assistant to the left darting backwards.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Behind The Frame: Posing Large Wedding Parties

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Posing bridal parties is one of my favorite things to do.  I always build at least 15-20 minutes into our schedule for the full group wedding party photo, especially when a group is large like this one, so we can create a dynamic and visually compelling image.  These more posed images have become more popular in wedding photography over the last few years, which I love and find way more compelling than an image of all the bridesmaids and groomsmen lined up.  When I don't have chairs or an opportunity to take this more editorial image I go the opposite route and crowd everyone together mixing the men and women on either side and go for a much more candid and joyful shot.  I never go for the pose of all bridesmaids on the bride's side and groomsmen on the groom's side lined up in a row.  It feels so oddly posed and prom-like.  No visual interest.  This is my favorite type to take because the photo is 100% about the composition.  These photos were made popular by Annie Leibovitz, who poses her large scale Vanity Fair Hollywood Issue photograph like this every year.  However it really goes back to the idea of basic composition: creating triangles and allowing the eye to flow through the frame, which I studied my Junior year in Paris at the Louvre in Poussin's History Paintings.  Poussin painted epic large scale paintings of mostly mythological scenes, featuring dozens of people on the canvas.  It can feel jumbled and chaotic, but by creating triangles our eye is able to enter the frame and follow the flow of the image.  This photo has lots of lovely triangles in it from the stained glass window, but the wedding party themselves also create two upwards triangles and a downwards triangle in the center of the frame.  The eye will enter the frame at the lightest and brightest spot, which is the bride and then can easily travel down the line of her veil and then up to the groomsmen on the end and easily flow over the two triangles on either side of the image to see every person in the party.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Behind the Frame: Setting the Scene in Direct Sunlight

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Any photographer will tell you that good lighting is one of the most important factors to making a good photo.  Good lighting may mean different things to different people, but for most photographers direct overhead sunlight is less than ideal.  I always try and find more flattering angles so the light is either backlit at a 45 degree angle or put the subject in open shade.  However sometimes when you need a wider shot in a specific spot, like this couple in front of their incredible, castle-like, venue we had no choice but to shoot in the harsh light.  This is one of the times when film really excels because it has a great dynamic range, which means we have details in the bright white of her dress and in the dark shadows behind them.  When posing in bright sunlight I never have my subject look at me because they'll be squinty, instead i have them look at each other and I expose for the shadows to get a portrait like this.  If the bride and groom have blue skies on their wedding day they'll definitely want a photo showing that off and when we shoot back light a lot of the time the sky turns white so this is a great chance to get that sky and set the scene.  When telling any story through photographs its important to shoot at three levels- set the scene with a wide context establishing shot, shoot close with beautifully lit emotional portraits and then capture the small little details like the bride and groom holding hands or the wedding day still lifes like the accessories and papergoods.  When all three are combined you can tell the story of the day and create a comprehensive memory for the bride and groom.  Once I know I have a great "scene establishing" photo like this one I can turn them around into better light and shoot more close up portraits with glowing backlight.
 
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