Creating Portraits That Pop!
If you are just starting out in learning wedding photography, photographing people can be challenging because of the infinite myriad of expressions, shapes and nuances in a human face. On a wedding day, I photograph the couple, their families and friends, trying to catch the perfect shot that embodies that specific moment in time. Sometimes the expression on the face is what makes the photo work perfectly. Other times it’s the dynamics of the people and objects surrounding the subject. Very often you will need good timing and anticipation in order to capture the moment as it happens.
I often work in ‘stealth mode’, as described by one of the brides whose wedding I photographed. Remaining as inconspicuous as possible lets me capture moments that happen simply because the subjects are at their relaxed best. This might explain the popularity of black attire among wedding photographers. Black absorbs light, so we remain as indistinct shadows amongst the real action. It also ensures that if we ever do get caught on camera accidentally by another photographer, our black attire helps us remain in the background.
Oftentimes I work with available light to illuminate my subject properly. Available light usually results in the subject appearing as natural as possible.
But if available light is simply not available (pun intended) or insufficient, I use a speedlight (or multiple speedlights) to create the light. The photo below was created with TTL on-camera flash, with the ballroom spotlight providing a rim light.
Would you believe that the wedding portrait below was created with only a single on-camera TTL flash?
A portrait session requires a different set of skills from shooting the wedding day. It requires the ability to direct the couple, and choreograph their actions and poses so that you get the shot you have planned in your head.
The image below was shot with available light in a darkened church. The doorway provided just the right amount of light, which when used correctly by positioning the couple so that they faced the light at just the right angle, created a half and half lighting effect.
An overcast day is really good for outdoor portraits because the soft diffused light prevents harsh shadows from forming, even at mid-day when the sun is directly overhead. Top-heavy light will usually create unwanted shadows in the eye sockets.
In the shot below, a speedlight was used to fill in the shadows because in a true ‘available light’ scenario, the light source is the sun which was already setting and would not provide any illumination on the couple.
A speedlight was used for the hair light in the shot below, in order to separate her hair from the background. That is why it’s also sometimes referred to as a separation light.