Friday, June 11, 2010

Photographer Q & A

I got a question in my email inbox a few minutes ago and I thought it would share it with you all, as well as my answer! Maybe this will help someone else out there too. :)


I came across your blog and I saw that you don't mind if people ask questions...
I am shooting my first wedding where I was the one booked and will have a second shooter with me next saturday (i'm only making $---) I am super nervous because we are doing the couple/ group shots from 2-5ish which is the time for hard lighting with bad shadows... do you have any suggestions for getting good images at this time of day? thanks so much!!


The two most important things keep in mind while you're doing the group shots is to be 1.) Assertive and 2.) Confident. This isn't a pep talk though... what I mean by that is early on when I first started shooting the couple or a family member would speak up and say I want to take all of the portraits over here in the rose garden (in full sun and backed up to a street or something) and because *I* was nervous and not sure, anxious to please and afraid to speak up, I'd go ahead and do what they asked, even if I thought it was a bad idea.

Further compounding the problem would be when I got them set up in that area, and I'm looking through the lens at them in that horrific lighting and tacky background, I wouldn't speak up and say, "This isn't working, we need to move somewhere else." I might readjust them where they were, but mostly I would let the client, or more usually, the client's family control the session. This is a big mistake. Don't ever be afraid to speak up if something isn't working. It happens. It didn't mean you screwed up... if you don't speak up and something looks bad, THEN you have officially screwed yourself.

When you get to wherever you are going to take the pictures, step up to the plate, act like you've done a 1000 weddings, and find the absolute best place for photos. I usually strive for a evenly shaded area. Sometimes in a retarded place- like, say, on the backside of a building, and the family is yelping, why don't we do the pictures OVER THERE, in the pretty, sweaty, hot uncomfortable garden? This is where the assertiveness and unwavering confidence jumps in.

You tell them that the absolute most important thing about pictures is lighting- spell it out,

"if we take pictures over there this really bright light is going to make everyone look like
they have bags under their eyes and and like you're sweating under a heat lamp! So, we're
going to take these pictures over here, because remember, the group portraits are just about
the people, we want to focus on your pretty faces in your fancy clothes, not so much the

And stick to that; keep it closely framed with little background if it's not so pretty or artistic. The most important thing, again, is lighting.

Remember that by taking pictures in a bad area under pressure from any other person only means that the CLIENT will be punished in the end (even if they don't realize it at the time- this is why we always explain what we're doing), and YOU will end up with poor photos for your portfolio. Nobody wins.

You can also pacify the family who want pictures taken in X unsuitable location by telling them we're going to save the rose garden for just pictures of the bride and groom, so it's just special for them and their pictures, because it's so romantic. (INSERT BIG GRIN HERE) (This is also true, and logical, by the way.)

Then use a light disc when you do those couple's portraits to bounce light onto their faces, or you can use a fill flash (I don't, I hate how it looks but that's what you're *supposed* to do. [rolls eyes]). It's much easier to fix crappy lighting when you're only doing it with two people. Also take a look around you... are there any natural light reflectors? A big white building facing the sun perhaps that you could use to get their faces properly exposed? (Having them backlit by the sun, and then lit indirectly by using the building- so they are facing the building.)

Also, I don't know what area you are from or where you are shooting, but I was in Tiburon in the SF Bay Area last weekend and it was blindingly bright outside at 3pm, when we were supposed to be doing pictures. BUT... the sun was at just the right angle that we could put the groups facing away from the sun- and me shooting right into it, that it was just perfectly giving everyone just a little light halo, but still overhead enough that their faces weren't pitch dark.

Here is are some example images from last weekend:


So remember.... seek out the best place to do group pictures, wherever that may be- try to find a shaded area without the spotty sunshine so your subjects aren't polka dotted with overexposures from the sun peeking between the leaves of the tree or whatever. Be assertive and firm, but always kind and always explain what you are doing and why. Look for natural reflectors, and worst comes to worst, whip out your flash.

Emily Heizer
Emily Heizer Photography


April said...

This was very helpful for me as well Emily. I am shooting my 10th wedding today actually, and I still have trouble with group shots at the wedding. I live in the south, so it's never just the wedding party, it's the whole damn family. It's getting easier each time, but it's still by far my least favorite part of the wedding day.

Mom2my10 @ 11th Heaven said...

Hi Emily! I've been thinking about you because I did my first baby photo shoot today! I know I have a lot to learn, and I loved reading this post on doing weddings in mid-day. So fun and thanks for the great info!

Becky said...

Group shots are always so tricky. All of this was excellent advice!