Master Class
The Wedding Day, Part I

Small weddings are becoming very popular, perhaps because couples are thinking ahead and want to avoid many of the difficulties and costs associated with large weddings. Be that as it may, photographers still have the opportunity to take lots and lots of pictures and still put together beautiful and fun wedding albums for the bride and groom€even when the wedding is as small as this one was--only four people in total!

This was brought to my attention recently when I assisted Joan Burton in photographing the wedding of a couple at the Beaches Resort, Turks and Caicos islands in the Caribbean. We both were shooting with digital Canon D30 cameras. I had been invited there to teach their photographers by Andy Mann, owner of Tropical Imaging. Andy's an extremely enterprising entrepreneur who's unquestionably the leader in the entire Caribbean for the most contemporary photography being produced there today.

Both Joan and I were using the simplest of equipment. There were no posing stools, portrait lighting equipment, backgrounds, or off-camera flashes to be had. (You can bet that I changed that!) The backgrounds, of course, were no problem. Everywhere you turn at that resort you can find a new background.

So, here's a part of the wedding coverage that Joan and I did together. Everyone was relaxed, had a great time, and, needless to say, loved the resulting photographs.

Photos © 2001, Monte Zucker, All Rights Reserved

Let's start with this picture of the two wedding rings resting on top of the bride's bouquet. I made it with the macro setting of my Canon 28-135mm zoom lens. I just placed the flowers down and carefully nestled the rings among them. I let the camera select its own exposure. Nothing to it.

The next picture, of course, wasn't made early in the wedding day, but it sort of beautifully introduces the whole series of photographs, so I placed it up-front in their album. Although it appears as if they're standing high on a mountain top, there are really no high elevations on the island. They're standing on a small knoll by the beach and I'm crouching down low to place them against the clear sky.

Notice that I kept her body at a 45 angle to the camera, joining the two of them together with their arms around each other. Both the angle of her body and their arms add support to their heads. I usually try to keep both bodies at that 45 angle, but with his having to support her as he is, he would have been unable to keep that position. Had I let both of them turn so that we were looking merely at the sides of both bodies, the picture would not looked nearly as good.

I used a huge wind machine to blow out her gown. (Yeah, sure!) The exposure was set for bright sun and I used a strong flash on-camera to open up the shadow side of their faces.

This next photograph is also out of the sequence in which I took the pictures, but it fits well into the story-telling aspect of the picture coverage at this point. The picture was actually made with her standing on the outside edge of a porch covering. I turned her face slightly away from directly out toward the light, so that I could create the shadows on the near side of her face.

She, of course, is in a Basic Pose, her head flowing in the same direction as her body. She's tipping her head toward her low shoulder, while her left hand is holding the flowers up to her face. Normally, I would show a little bit more of the bouquet, but for practical purposes I cropped all the photographs into 8x10 proportions, since that is what most people have in their albums and that is what most photographers are concerned about seeing.

In cropping the image I kept her eyes about a third of the way down from the top of the picture. I also cropped the composition in the viewfinder to keep a little more space in front of her in the direction toward which she is looking.

Reflect On The Possibility Of Mirror Pictures
I knew that there were going to be just a very few people for this wedding, so I didn't want to miss any opportunity to use some of the tried-and-true pictures that have been so successful for me down through my entire professional career.

One of these scenarios has been pictures in the mirror. As a matter of fact, I found that the more close-ups like these that I took, the more pictures were ordered by both the wedding couple and their parents. What I eventually realized was that these photographs were the beginning of my creating portraits of the parents, grandparents, brothers, and sisters in addition to just the bride and groom.

So, I began with pictures of the bride and groom in the mirror. I did them individually and then created still more by placing one or the other in the background. Using a digital camera allowed me to see what the effect was immediately€and I loved it. What I didn't notice until later was the fact that the mirror I was using had bevels on the edges that caused a slight flare on the edge in some of the pictures. Still, it didn't bother me or the couple enough to eliminate these photographs from their selection.

What I do for my mirror shots is to position the subject so close to the mirror that when I lean the person in toward the mirror the reflected image and the real person are both almost equidistant from my camera. Thus, they are both in focus. I just have to be careful not to put the profile of the subject against the edge of the frame and have that be a distraction.

I turn my flash slightly in toward the mirror, so that the light basically bounces into the mirror and from the mirror back at the subject. The direct light from my flash acts as the fill light. Thus, somewhat of a portrait lighting develops on my subjects and there are no blown-out, overexposed areas on their faces.

In this picture the groom is actually a few feet behind the bride, yet the light bounces out from the mirror sufficiently enough to illuminate him, too.

For the next picture I positioned the groom behind the bride and said to him, "Touch your lips to her cheek." You don't really see him much on the right, but you certainly see him and feel his presence in the mirror image of the two of them. Just imagine, now, how many scenarios one can create from this beginning.

You don't have to be afraid of the flash reflecting in the mirror as long as you position yourself so that you can't see yourself in the mirror.

Of course, the same thing can be done in reverse, can't it?

Or, you can simply change the people in the picture and repeat a similar situation. The groom and his mother, for instance, is a winner with her kissing her "little baby."

Keep Your Mind Open For New Ideas
Of course, the bride and groom both decided that they would see each other for pictures before the ceremony. They had never considered doing this or not doing this before I spoke with them the day before their wedding was to take place. When I explained to them how much fun it could be being together throughout the entire wedding day, they both agreed to do it--with the exception of showing each other their wedding rings.

During a pause in the sequence of the picture taking I watched the bride and groom secretly show his mother the other's wedding ring. Since I had never photographed anything like this before, it seemed a natural to position each of them with their backs turned toward each other, while they each showed the rings to his mother. Cute shots. They both needed to be in the wedding album.

Just the day before I had shown Andy's photographers how I do most of my outdoor portraiture under cover, so that I could create directional light and shadows for better portraiture. So, I took my four subjects, the bride and groom, his mother and her significant other outside. Just under cover of the overhead roof I was able to photograph them both with the groom behind the bride's profile.

To better understand exactly how it all happened, look at this:
Notice that both faces are turned toward the light, but not directly into the light. Thus, I was able to achieve fairly good lighting on her profile and good split-lighting on the groom's face. In most copies of this picture that I see photographers tend to turn the groom's face away from the light. This just draws attention to the back of his head, while his face goes into shadow.

What makes this picture most effective is that I always raise or lower one or the other's face, placing his lips at the same level as hers. Many people don't notice that at first, until I point it out to them. When his head is tilted outward slightly (as it is in this picture) their two heads almost form the shape of a heart. That's another thing that I point out to the couple as I'm taking their picture. Of course, they haven't the faintest idea of what I'm talking about--until they see the picture. Then, they flip out over that and must have that picture in their album.

Believe it or not, the original inspiration for my taking that picture was my remembering a photograph that Karsh had made a long time ago of John and Jackie Kennedy. Of course, now everyone does pictures like this!

Coming next month--"The Wedding Day Part II.

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