Photography in the Past
When we flip through our parents wedding albums we can’t help but laugh at many of the pictures. Why is that? Is it because everyone is lined up staring straight at the camera or is it because dad has a handlebar mustache and long hair and mom has flowers in her perm? Perhaps it’s both. If more of the photography focused on the un-styled, unplanned moments throughout the wedding day and the bridesmaids weren’t wearing peach-colored dresses while the men don blue tuxedos, maybe we wouldn’t be snickering so much.
Shooting Style Trends
Every photographer still wants their pictures to look great in 30 years. How can we accomplish this challenge? We know that the clothes, the hair, makeup and decor will all be out of style. As photographers we cannot do anything about that. So what can we control? Some purists insist that photojournalism is a trendy and passing fad that pays no homage to traditions and classic posing. Many old-timers insist that photojournalists are delivering grainy black and white images claiming them to be “artistic.” Personally, I think they are both right and they are both wrong.
I think that photojournalism is far from a fad. Capturing a real moment, a genuine belly-laugh, or tears-of-joy make this job great.
On the one hand, the photojournalists that shoot only natural light and deliver these ‘grainy, black-and-white art-shots’ are fooling themselves too – as that really is a fad. So where does that leave us? The best wedding photographers, in my opinion, are well rounded; and I think it would be hard to argue with that. Good photographers know when and how to honor the timeless formal shots with correct exposure and posing. They also know when to use only natural light and when adding flash is necessary in and how to do it tastefully. Just because Terry Richardson can use terrible flat light, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.
Photojournalism, at its core, is documenting life as it happens without getting involved. This very well means that you could have 2000 pictures of your wedding without one where you are looking at the camera. That’s probably not ideal. On the other hand, most brides and grooms want to simply live their wedding day. They want to take it all in and enjoy the small moments without someone asking them to move a foot to the right or put their hand on their hip. Additionally, some wonderful photojournalist years ago probably photographed a dress on a beautiful hanger in a window where the brides mother had hung the dress because it made her happy. The photographer captured the photo in a true act of photojournalism. Now today, almost every “photojournalist” stages this shot because it’s trendy and expected in the genre to be documented. This is not a bad thing, but it’s worth noting. It speaks to the fact that in order to be great, compromises to purity and compromises to photojournalism must be made.
Years ago, in the age of film, the ‘film stock’ you purchased determined the look of your pictures. Not anymore; today, most wedding photographers shoot in RAW format and then edit their pictures on a computer using Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop. This means that the look the camera creates is not necessarily the look that goes into the album. This can get a lot of photographers in trouble because the options in the computer are nearly infinite.
Every picture has a story to tell. There’s a reason for the old saying, “a picture says a thousand words.”
There are many photographers using a lot of filters and presets and actions to change the look of the images that came from their camera. That’s okay, but as a bride or groom shopping for a wedding photographer it is our job to educate them. They should make sure that the fundamentals are there. Anyone can run a Photoshop filter and make his/her photos sepia-toned; but that doesn’t make them good. I’ve always believed that lightroom or photoshop can take a picture from a wedding and move it 1-2 points on a scale of 1-10. That is to say, if your picture rates a 6/10 – Photoshop or lightroom could elevate that image to a 7, but not a 9. Good pictures happen where they begin. In the camera – that sees good lighting, that sees great catchlights in the eyes, that sees a wonderful moment or a prefect pose. More before and after photography.
Sure, we style our images. We try to style them appropriately to tell the story and capture the feel. I won’t use the same color-processing for a shoot in winter that I will in summer. I want to convey the feeling of the day, and that’s where lightroom presets or photoshop actions can help. They can tweak those white-balances and curves to make the image resonate and evoke the emotion and ambiance of the day. An image, like the attached in this post was made intentionally very warm – as it was 94 degrees at a barn wedding. The heat and humidity were thick – this gives us motivation to work the image the way we remember it to be – like an artist with a canvas.