« Of course, no problem at all! » was my reply to the bride and groom when they asked me to take a picture of them at a wooden construction, yet inside my head it was PANIC!!!! As a wedding photographer I push myself hard not to just take pictures, but to make every picture one that people will love. So during the 20 meter walk my brain quickly had to come up with something special.
TIP #1: The best pictures have emotions, good lighting, extraordinary foreground and/or background, a great composition, and/or a special moment. If your picture doesn’t have any of these, then it’s likely not a picture that will stand out
What are the elements that can make a picture special? It can be emotions, the lighting, the composition, movement, and/or something original in the picture. Look at any good picture and there’s a big chance you’ll find one or more of these elements. This means that if you’re taking a picture of beautiful people in a beautiful setting the picture itself can be very nice, but you might not get captivated by it. I already had lots of photo journalistic pictures of the two of them in this setting since their wedding ceremony was held there (i.e., the special moments), so this particular picture required one or more of the other elements.
TIP #2: Make sure people are having fun!
This brings us to the most important part of my work: make sure people have fun!!! I do not believe in ‘posed’ pictures, but instead believe in creating memories and spicing up things. Smiles have to come from the heart and not when asked for, what could I let them do that they would enjoy? The answer to this was simple: during their photo sessions in Antibes they had shown me their first dance with a dip at the end and that picture had been one of our favorite shots of that session. So instead of just asking someone to stand there and smile, I asked them to try that dip again. After that anything can happen! The best picture can either be that moment itself or (as is most often the case), it’s the moment JUST afterwards when that you get their best expressions filled with genuine emotions and happiness.
TIP #3: Use anything you can find around you
In this case it was a bunch of rose petals and (luckily also) a couple of guests. As the expression goes, the more the merrier. Adding friends to moments like this means that it’s no longer just a picture being taken, but a fun activity with friends that all of us will remember, in particular since everyone was a part of it. The picture all of a sudden become a lot more powerful, since it becomes a special moment that « happens » to be taken on picture.
TIP #4: Search for the best light (in particular a back light and a gentle light on the faces)
The best kind of light is back lighting (that causes people to stand out from the background due to the halo around them) combined with a very smooth light on the faces (so that there are no harsh shadows visible). When they asked me for the picture I was luckily standing right next to a flash stand I had put up so as I walked with them I simply picked it up and carried it with me. The sun had been a fantastic backlight the hour before but it had just started disappearing behind the trees so improvisation was called for. For this a second bare flash was used (also remotely triggered) around 50 cm above the ground. To place a flash at the right height the options are either a flash stand, a chair (which needs to be hidden behind something) or a person holding the flash. Since working fast is important and there was no flash stand nor chair close by so luckily one of the guests was willing to help out.
TIP #5: Get everything perfect in the camera
The people throwing the rose petals had to immediately move out of picture and the person holding the flash had to hide himself as good as possible. There’s almost nothing more frustrating than having a special shot and not being able to use it because some small part of it wasn’t right. Some things can get corrected in Photoshop (e.g., a person standing in front of trees) and other things are nearly impossible to correct (e.g.,a person standing behind right behind a flash). After two or three practice runs we ended up with the final picture and some Photoshop magic added the final touched.
That’s how this picture was made in almost the same time as that a ‘normal’ picture would have taken. Remember the second piece of advice about making sure people are enjoying themselves? Look at their expressions. This is one of the reasons why this picture worked.