Many of you may remember Stephanie’s wedding dress photos from last year. That will be a shoot I will not soon forget. It was one of the lengthiest shoots I have done. At a bit over 5 hours we covered a range of concepts and left the location exhausted. Stephanie had an endless supply of props; still don’t think we shot everything she had ideas for. The sky was absolutely perfect!! I feared for my equipment…electronics and water don’t mix. The fact that there was water in a San Antonio creek during a record drought was amazing.
Narrowing the photos down to the 10 I posted was extremely difficult. We had so many fantastic images, and I knew at some point I would revisit the images. One concept that I withheld from the first post was the snorkel and flipper shots. After browsing through the images again today I decided to post the one below. My tendency is always to shoot into the sunset. Everyone knows you get the most brilliant colors and supplementing that with some dramatic lighting makes for sensational photos. Once we moved into the larger pond area, the backdrop towards the sunset was not very appealing. With multiple obstructions and unclean lines I opted to shoot away from the sunset. Hey what do you know, there is that awesome sky now providing brilliant color in the opposite direction as well. The clouds added just the right mood and effect to make for an amazing background.
The basis for my style of photography is light, especially off camera lighting sometimes referred to in photography circles as one-light. I add auxiliary or additional light to 90% of my images. There are the occasional photos that are “natural” or ambient light only, but using additional light allows me to bring a sense of drama and atmosphere to the photos. I came across several photos today that give a good depiction of the lighting scenario that I might encounter in an indoor setting. These photos represent the various approaches that could be taken given the location, lighting, and composition of the scene.
The photos show a composition of an indoor table centerpiece that is heavily backlit by a nearby window. The first image is composed and created using settings that would yield a decent exposure for the centerpiece, but the background is “blown out”. In fact the brightness of the background is so great that it makes capturing the centerpiece somewhat difficult without losing a lot of detail and contrast in the subject.
The second image below is created using settings that capture the background in a more pleasing and interesting manner. The image reveals much better color and detail in the background, but you can see the main subject goes almost completely dark in shadow, with very little detail. This approach can produce an interesting silhouette of the subject, but in this case I would rather see the detail that went into the centerpiece.
The final image below, is created using directional off camera lighting that is balanced with the bright natural window light. Overall the image is better balanced in terms of the exposure, revealing beautiful detail in the background and stunning detail in the subject. The other aspect that brings a pleasing look to the subject is the directional lighting as opposed to “on-camera” flash. With the additional light coming in from the upper left of the subject, we have more dimensional lighting giving the subject a more interesting appearance. On-camera flash would have given the image a very flat and lifeless look. Overall the image has a nice dramatic atmosphere that enhances the beauty and appearance of the centerpiece.
Much like outdoor wedding formals, engagement photography is great for the use of onelight style. By mixing onelight with the outdoor setting I am able to create dramatic looks and explore ideas that might otherwise not be possible. It is through onelight that I am able to bring and engagement shoot to life with great style. In this post I will talk strictly about using onelight in outdoor situations. The weather here in San Antonio is mild enough that outdoor shoots are possible most of the year.
With the light and fun atmosphere most engagement shoots present, I can be free to experiment and be more creative than in a wedding situation. There are no time constraints and couples are willing to try things outside the norm as long as it maintains that fun atmosphere. Without time constraints I am free to explore interesting ideas and develop potential compositions. This experimental process lends itself to onelight shooting. Introducing a light source to the scene adds a new dynamic, but an engagement shoot is the perfect place to experiment. In the laid back atmosphere of the shoot I can take time to adjust and manipulate the light, which in turn helps mold the composition and evolves the set into something that is dramatic and stylish. Of course there are times when I see this is not happening and I might nix the current look and move on to a new idea. Using onelight allows me to explore ideas with a whole new mindset.
Without the use of onelight I am often limited by what is available, and the direction of light present. Shooting with strictly ambient outdoors, I am able to create some very lovely images, but adding onelight opens up new possibilities. Using onelight I now have the ability to shoot in areas that were too harshly lit, or in directions opposite of the natural light. Opposing the sun with my strobe I am able to bring a dramatic look to the image. I can close down on my aperture to darken the sky and bring a great deal of contrast to the clouds. I can focus attention directly on the couple by spotlighting them and letting all the other detail in the scene fall off into darkness.
Most photographers will tell you the best time to shoot is at sunrise or sunset. There is the magic “golden hour” where the light is perfect for creating beautiful images. I have to agree shooting during the “golden hour” brings a whole lot of atmosphere to your images. Using onelight opens up the entire day to creating stunning dramatic shots. By adding the directional off camera flash I am able to produce great results any time of day.
Call me today to find out more about engagement shoots and how I can help bring dramatic style to your images.
Capturing shots on the dance floor is one of the most exciting aspects of the reception. Everyone is having a great time, and it is an opportunity to shoot for the dramatic shot, not the safe shot. Mix in the DJ lighting, and as a photographer, I have the opportunity to create some stylish looks.
In most wedding photography situations I have to approach the scene with a cautious optimism, knowing that I need to capture the moment, as fleeting as it might be. This requires a good deal of planning and anticipation. Style certainly plays a big role, but the objective is always to capture the moment as creatively as possible without pushing the limit too far. Try to be overly creative and the moment is missed. With dance floor coverage the approach is completely different.
My objectives for capturing dance floor images is to catch people having fun, and create atmosphere through dramatic lighting. There are so many opportunities to capture “fun” on the dance floor, my focus can be on creative lighting. I touched on some of these topics in my onelight post several weeks back, when I talked about low ambient light shooting. The technique is the same but with all the opportunity for great shots I am free to shoot outside the box. I no longer have to approach the scene with the safety shot in mind.
I can quickly set my lighting, calculate my settings, and start looking for great opportunities. This might be interactions between individuals, a group having a fun time, or a spot with great emotional energy. This is my chance to play with shooting angles, lighting, composition, and interesting techniques. With the flash located in one spot of the dance area, I can move around the floor positioning myself to create different looks and atmosphere with each image. I can go from side-lighting to back-lighting quickly and easily. For additional versatility I put an assistant in charge of the light, which not only helps avoid any mishaps, but it also allows me to direct him to a new location if I see a particular shot that would work better with different lighting.