In this ever changing world of photography the word classic can turn both client and photographers off straight away, however when you start to break down the individual components like light and pose combined with groups we can all of a sudden find ourselves falling back in to classic habits. The question is – is this a bad thing?
As a photographer the last thing I want to do is shoot “Normal” images, by that I mean the same selection of images day after day but even though a wedding is always different due to the different couples and venues, to some extent I do have to shoot the same images wedding after wedding, especially for a Bride and Groom who want a Classical wedding coverage.
Even the wedding venue combined with some bride and grooms attire can distract you back to a classic shot, even though the client has requested more informal images. I think this is where experience comes in, knowing when to step back in style and when to go overboard with creativity, at the end of the day it is the Bride and Grooms story and I have to make them look the best they can be.
Posing is a horrible word and feared by many photographers and clients alike, however it is this that will often separate one photographer from another especially if it is done exceptionally well. Coming through the classic wedding years of competitions and qualifications it was drilled into me the importance of posing and I must say that without these years I doubt my photography variety and style could be what it is. There are some important elements to good posing but for me the two that stick out are “A pose starts from the feet” and ” If it bends you bend it”.
“ A pose starts from the feet!”
One of my old masters taught me this saying and it has stuck in my head forever. To ensure a pose looks relaxed, unstrained and static with control, the body animation must start from the feet as the weight displacement is everything. If you think about it when we stand around chatting to each other we naturally move our weight from one foot to another, so weight displacement is essential along with the way the foot points as this gives the body natural direction. So to get a subject to turn slightly away from camera, to make them look thinner, the feet have to control the flow because if we get a subject to just turn with their hips they will move back to a comfortable position before very long.
“If it bends you bend it!”
This other saying ensures that we think about all the body joints, hips, shoulders, arms fingers, neck etc. By applying a slight bend to the joint we naturally soften a limb and give it more flow. With the arms and wrists this is usually a bend upwards to give a soft curve with the finger joints then naturally bending to create the pinch effect instead of a grab, perfect posing for a bride holding a veil.
Probably the most classic part of any wedding is when I head for a window to light my subjects, whether it is a Bride and her Groom or groups, window light has a very classic look in both its quality and direction. It also wraps and transitions the light in a gradient around the scene.
In my workshops I always demonstrate the “Walk Through Of The Light” as it is a good place to start when teaching lighting whether it is with a large softbox or a window. This walk through technique shows you the different positions to place your subject to create slightly different lighting effects, which can be everything from Rembrandt lighting through to edge lighting if you know where to stand your subject relative to the camera position and light source.
For the bride and groom images I usually use a combination of 45 degree lighting or as I teach it on the clock either 4 o’clock or 7 o’clock which means the camera is at the 6 o’clock position with the bride and groom in the centre of the clock and with the light source, the window, at the 4 or 7 position. This lighting gives me the classic light pattern, perfect for the bride if her body is turned slightly away from the window with her head pointing back toward camera or the window itself, depending on the look I need. By turning her body away it with create a more flattering figure by thinning the body slightly along with creating a roundness to the bust and maintain any detail on the dress bodice.
Window light can be used for far more than just a 45 degree light source, by simply moving the camera to a new position, creating a new 6 o’clock position the light source will now be in the impact zone of my clock and compass lighting technique, where the camera position is always referred to as 6 o’clock. When the light source is in the 9 -3 o’clock zone the light will have dramatic direction and create more dramatic images. The great benefit of using this technique is that exposure taken from the face towards the light source remains the exposure no matter where the camera is positioned with the exception of when the subjects look at the camera, which would require a new reading.
When I light a group with just natural light I tend to use a flattering window light, with the light source at a 6 o’clock position, this is to ensure the majority of the group has an even light allowing me the added option to add a flash on camera fill light of minus 1 stop or by adding a reflector just out of shot and below the subjects waist.
Yes I do use some flash on a classic wedding, but only when I need to control the fill light in the scene or when I want or need to dominate the exposure in the scene. When using my flash on camera outside I am always on High speed synch, this is to ensure the camera does not second guess my shutter speed and change it without me knowing. When working in the dark or inside I always switch to rear curtain (second Curtain) synch to ensure either flash fires at the end of my exposure to help reduce any motion blur. My flash on camera is usually in TTL mode with me controlling the power plus or minus depending on the effect I need the flash to give me, whilst my camera is always in a fully manual mode.
So in short, if I need to create a more classic posed image or wedding I simply rely on those two sayings not forgetting Expression, Expression, Expression as at the end of the day it’s the expression that you create or capture that truly shows of the subjects character.
The art of posing can be initially a tricky thing when you’re starting off, an easy way to get to grips with a starting pose and the development of that pose to give you variety during the session is to look at how dances flow between positions. For a classic wedding I tend to use more classic dance holds similar to ballroom dancing techniques which all rely on balance and support. In this image the groom has total balance control of his bride, not due to strength but due to balance through his feet position. The Bride is balanced during the dip pose by his hand on her back, which is the main support with the added control of his soft touch on her arm.
The only technique of mine that has stayed the same is the way I use light, whether it is a portrait or a wedding, posed or documentary, street photography or fashion I will always use the natural light in a scene to light the subject before I add a reflector to add accent to the subject and as the last resort I will use flash.
Why? Well for one, the speed of shooting, as using just available light allows me to animate the subjects quicker and record the scene with a minimal of fuss. However when I need to enhance the subject by adding more light whether to add a better quality of light or to add contrast, I have to reach for a reflector of some kind, which is usually a silver on dull weather days or a white / diffuser on sunny days. When I reach for some flash it’s usually going to be used for either a fill light on sunny days or for impact in minimal light.