The forgotten techniques of a wedding photographer
I started my journey as a photographer over 25 years ago and back in the days of film and darkrooms. Boy, that sounds old. LOL. It was before the age of youtube and online photography classes. To learn about photography meant to learn from another photographer. I say 25 years because I started out in the darkroom when I was 16 processing film and prints for myself and area photographers. Later on when it was time to choose my career path I looked into photography as a final career. I looked for a school that could really teach me the technical side of photography. I graduated a couple of years later with a degree in commercial photography from OIP in Dayton Ohio. Sadly that school is no longer open.
So where is photography today?
It’s my feeling the internet and online programs have really taken away from the hands-on schools. Which I find interesting because there is so many more people wanting to become a full-time professional photographer. They have jumped into leaning on cameras and new technology that can hide many flaws. Don’t get me wrong I love shooting digital and it offers some wonderful advantages over film. There are so many techniques I still use today that I learned 20 years ago. I shot my first digital camera in 1994 and by 1998 90% of what I did was on a digital camera. I embraced what was coming and learned to use the new tools available. Even with these new cameras one thing has never changed and that is great light is always great and having a strong fundamental will let you focus more on creativity later.
The state of wedding photography in 2017
Why pick on wedding photographers?
Well, that’s because I am a wedding photographer too and have shot over 250 weddings so far. Also part of my business is to train many new wedding photographers that are looking to become wedding photographers.
So recently I was on a forum for photographers and someone asked a question related to headshots. The job was for a photo to have a grey background and a shadow to the right. The question asked was what software or preset would help her (or him) to get this done faster?
First I still think photography is an art and we are craftsmen. I do think the internet and digital cameras have allowed us to skip a step in our perfecting our photography skills. After reading this question above I did reply for the person to read up on what a 45 light was and buy a grey background. No editing needed. I truly was not wanting to be rude just helpful.
So many people rely on lightroom and photoshop to get them out of any issues. The exposure range of cameras today really do give us so much information we can completely change an image that had any issues when being shot.
So if our cameras are so good why improve our techniques?
Why spend so much time fixing an image in editing? Why not get it right out of camera? I do believe there is a balance of shooting time and editing. There are retouching things I do know I can do faster in post than on set. Or for me I might shoot something differently because I can edit it later to get what I want. What I never compromise is the lighting, focus and detail.
What does this mean to new wedding photographers?
We spend so much time looking in Instagram and what some famous wedding photographer is doing. Or asking whats in their bag? We fill the answer to getting better is to use the lens they use. Or maybe we need this new light because they have one. Well, guess what some of those guys and girls have issues too. I love some of the great west coast wedding images you see. You know the images of the bride and groom out by the ocean or on a cliff at sunset. Those great photos get featured in all the popular blogs too. So we say well we need to shoot just like that. Have you ever looked at a dark reception image from some of those photographers? Some you will never see one? Why? When you see one now its about lighting and the confidence is not there. Using an off camera or even on camera flash is tough. So they don’t turn out well so they don’t get shown. So from now on do we tell a bride and groom sorry you can’t get married there because it has no windows? Sorry I can shoot the beautiful outside wedding and we can stop at a field afterward but I leave after that because it is too dark to shoot? No we can’t do that. We must learn how to light with and without natural light. I heard a great quote one time. A wedding photographer was asked if he shot with available light? He answered yes and sometimes my flash is available too.
I also feel many of the styles our brides love today come from hiding imperfect techniques. They are created using the latest popular presets. You have seen it right? A group of images that look washed out. They call it light and airy. If an image was shot too dark or the lighting on a subject’s face is too light what can we do? I know lets lighten it up in lightroom. Oh no the color is off when I do that now. That’s ok we can tweak the colors for a nice pastel look to hide that too. Does this sound like a preset you bought?
A challenge for wedding photographers.
Now what I challenge wedding photographers is to take time and learn some basic skills that will make your images look better and save you time. Spend more time shooting and less time editing. Learn those skills that can help you during those trickier lighting situations. It’s also not all about lighting. There are some basic functions of our camera and how it works that will go a long way too. This is not a blog where I try to sell you something later. No over the next couple of months I will write a blog about some of the following things to work on. Some might be simple others I might point towards a video or 2 to look over. It’s all about where we can go to become a better technical wedding photographer.
- How to hold a camera and camera shake
- What is a grey card
- How does shutter speed and aperture work
- Creating shape with light
- Depth of field
- 3 basic lighting techniques
- Exposure range
- The zone system
- Color management
- Flash skills
Never stop learning. Work hard at perfecting your skills. Being a wedding photographer is something I love and I want you to love it too. Keep following this blog for the posts on the topics above.