Thursday, March 19, 2009

Window Light

Today's post comes from the book Master Lighting Guide for Wedding Photographers by Bill Hurter. It is available from and other fine retailers.

One of the most flattering types of lighting you can use is window lighting. It is a soft light, minimizing facial imperfections, but also highly directional, yielding good roundness and modeling in portraits.Window light is usually a fairly bright light and it is infinitely variable, changing almost by the minute. This allows for a great variety of moods in a single shooting session.

Window lighting also has several drawbacks, though. Since daylight falls off rapidly once it enters a window, it is much weaker several feet from the window than it is close to the window. Therefore, great care must be taken in determining exposure—particularly with groups of three or four people. Another problem arises from shooting in buildings not designed for photography; you will sometimes encounter distracting back-grounds and uncomfortably close shooting distances.

Direction and Time of Day.
The best quality of window light is found at midmorning or mid-afternoon. Direct sunlight is difficult to work with because of its intensity and because it often creates shadows of the individual windowpanes on the subject. It is often said that north light is the best for window-lit portraits, but this is not necessarily true. Good quality light can be had from a window facing any direction, provided the light is soft.

Subject Placement.
One of the most difficult aspects of shooting window-light portraits is positioning your subjects so that there is good facial modeling. If the subjects are placed parallel to the window, you will get a form of split lighting that can be harsh and may not be right for certain faces. It is best to position your subjects away from the window slightly so that they can look back toward it. In this position, the lighting will highlight more areas of the faces. The closer to the window your subjects are, the harsher the lighting will be. The light becomes more diffused the farther you move from the window, as the light mixes with other reflected light in the room. Usually, it is best to position the subjects about three to five feet from a large window. This not only gives better lighting, but also gives you a little room to produce a flattering pose and pleasing composition.

Jeff and Julia Woods positioned their bride far enough from a large window to create a full-length portrait. The farther you move your subject from the window, the more light falls off and the more contrast there is. Here, the lighting was still soft and forgiving enough to require no fill.

Window light can fall off rapidly in intensity. One way to correct for this is to group the faces closely so that there is little difference in exposure between the face closest to the window and the one farthest away. Within moderate limits, one can correct for such falloff with minor dodging and burning-in in Photoshop

*Excerpted from the book "Master Lighting Guide for Wedding Photographers" by Bill Hurter


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Photographing the Bride's Attire

Today's post comes from the book 100 Techniques for Professional Wedding Photographers by Bill Hurter. This book is available from and other fine retailers.

The Wedding Dress.
In most cases, the bride will spend more money on her wedding dress and more time on her appearance than for any other occasion in her entire life. The photographs you make will be a permanent record of how beautiful she looked on her wedding day. Formal wedding dresses often include flowing trains. It is important to get several full-length portraits of the full train, draped out in front in a circular fashion or flowing behind. Include all of the train, as these may be the only photographs of her full wedding gown. If making a formal group portrait, this might also be an appropriate time to reveal the full train pulled to the front. To make the train look natural, pick it up and let it gently fall to the ground. Do not ignore the back of the dress. Designers often incorporate as much style and elegance into the back of the dress as the front. Be sure to capture nice images of the bridesmaids’ gowns as well.

To show off the full dress and train, the photographer might pose a bride on a window sill so that the full line of the dresscan be appreciated.

The Bouquet.
Make sure a large bouquet does not overpower your composition, particularly in your formal portrait of the bride. The bride should look comfortable holding the bouquet, and it should be an important and colorful element in the composition. For best effect, the bride should hold the bouquet in front of her with her hands behind it. It should be held high enough to put a slight bend in her elbows, keeping her arms slightly separated from her body.

This is both a formal portrait of the bride and groom and a beautiful rendering of the bouquet. The couple’s shapes form a perfect triangle, which yields a very pleasing composition.

The Veil.
Make sure to get some close-ups of the bride through her veil. It acts like a diffuser and produces romantic, beautiful results. For this shot, the lighting should be from the side rather than head-on to avoid shadows on the bride’s face caused by the patterned mesh. Many photographers use the veil as a compositional element in their portraits. To do this, lightly stretch the veil so that the corners slant down toward the lower corners of the portrait, forming a loose triangle that leads the viewer’s eyes up to the bride’s eyes.

*Excerpted from the book "100 Techniques for Professional Wedding Photographers" by Bill Hurter.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Money Shots

Today's post comes from the book Step-by-Step Wedding Photography by Damon Tucci. It is available from and other retailers.

Between the ceremony and reception, you’ll have some time to work with the bride and groom alone. We call these the “money shots,” because these are the portraits that brides and grooms will invariably fall in love with and purchase. This is your opportunity to create images that will remind them why they hired you. In most cases, you’ll only have about thirty minutes for this session, so work fast.

At the Church
We typically start with a couple of shots at the ceremony venue—perhaps on the altar, if we’re at a church. We do these quickly at the end of the wedding-party and family shots, because our thirty minutes of post-ceremony shooting time at the venue has usually expired at this point.

Going Off Site
Once we have left the ceremony area and gotten rid of everyone else (including all those "helpers” like Aunt Edna) we can slow down and breathe—though we still only have thirty minutes, so there’s no time to get too relaxed. If you must travel from the ceremony to the reception site, be mindful to negotiate extra time in the planning process to allow for this. Generally we do not venture too far from the wedding and/or reception site. Instead, we make
the most out of our environment.

When we leave the ceremony site, we look for little kissy moments and record the bride and groom walking from behind. We work around the lighting and do a few closer portraits. We encourage closeness with our posing. We may also do additional bridal portraits, since we do not have the restraints we did before the wedding, such as worries about people seeing the bride before the ceremony and/or marring the dress. This does not mean we will trash the dress, but brides are much less concerned about it at this time. This allows us to try more poses and be more adventurous with our shooting.

Finding Backgrounds
When creating these photographs, take advantage of everything in the surrounding environment. Do not slip into the tunnel vision some photographers develop when they put the camera up to their eye. Train your peripheral vision and know what is going on around you at all times. You must really immerse yourself to come up with the goods consistently (and by “the goods,” I mean better-than-average photographs). In the competitive market of wedding photography, this what you must produce to survive.

During this session, we employ simple but classic techniques. We also love to juxtapose things in unexpected ways, like picturing the bride next to a downtown mural or Harley-Davidson sign. The only rules you have to follow are making images that your clients will love. We try to incorporate fashion and photojournalism, consistently looking for moments that happen naturally. However, we are not afraid to set up a great shot. To keep things moving quickly, we usually work with one camera, a tripod if the light is low, three lenses (a 24-70mm f/2.8, a 16mm fisheye, and an 80-200mm f/2.8), and a reflector.

Excerpted from the book "Step-by-Step Wedding Photography" by Damon Tucci