Photo Tips: Episode 1

In the midst of crazy-busy editing, I thought it might be interesting if I blogged a few asides as to some of the things I think about while working on images.  Presenting: Photo Tips, Episode 1!  (And I promise it’s better than Star Wars: Episode 1…)

In this inaugural edition, I’ll answer a question I get fairly often: Why don’t you deliver all the photos you take in the final edited batch?

There are a few reasons for this, so I thought I’d explain with some behind-the-scenes examples.

Reason #1: this is the ‘obvious’ reason: the photo is an unflattering capture of the subject or someone in the background.  In a photojournalist approach to wedding photography, you take a lot of candid shots.  Thus, you get a lot of…. well,
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…squinting, and…
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…interesting faces.  (I don’t want to post any photos that could be embarrassing for anyone, but I couldn’t resist this example, because this guy’s expression made me smile while I was editing, and he kind of looks like Bill Murray, which is awesome.)

Reason #2: it’s a duplicate.  Often I’ll take multiple shots of something, even if it’s inanimate, just to make sure I nail it, especially if the shutter speed is bordering on ‘dangerously slow.’  Or sometimes I’ll adjust the angle slightly and decide later which of the few works the best.  Either way, no one needs thirty shots of the bridesmaids’ shoes in the same situation; sorting through a batch of photos like that would be positively fatiguing!  So this is probably the largest part of culling for me: to pick the cream of the crop for my clients, and make sure there’s enough in the batch to constitute a full body of work.  (Wow, now I sound like a cooking show…)

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…Nah, the framing’s not quite right…
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…Blurry…
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…Still blurry…
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There we go!!

Reason #3: For me, this is the most important reason.  I think Henri Cartier-Bresson put it best when he coined the term “the decisive moment”: when everything comes together just right, for that perfect shot.  And once you’ve got it, it just sings.

A common example of this is when someone is laughing.
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That awkward pre-laugh moment…
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…That’s still not quite it…
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Perfect!

This next one’s a simple matter of timing.
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Hands in the way!  Ack!
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Ah, much better.  :)

Here’s one last example that combines positioning, timing, and expression: a moment between Kari and her mother.
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Kari was reading a card from her mother before she started getting ready.  When Kari first opened the card, I wasn’t in a very good position; mom’s face is blocked.
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Here, I’m in a better position, but I still don’t like the angle, and there’s a dress steamer in the background that I find distracting.
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I switched lenses to focus in closer; an intimate moment like this one is a great time for close-ups on facial expressions.  But it’s still not quite perfect…
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There it is.

A successful photojournalistic approach to wedding photography requires a mix of patience, careful looking, and moving quietly to compose an emotionally-charged image without being a disturbance.  At least, that’s my strategy!

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