New, Unique, Visually Interesting, Cutting-edge Techniques for Wedding and Event photography.

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by todd frederick, Mar 10, 2005.

  1. After 15 years of wedding and event photography, I find that I'm
    getting into a rut: same old photographs, revisited, over and over

    I am trying to revive my small wedding and event business and I want
    to offer some special techniques and image styles.

    I respect the suggestions and techniques of the forum members here.

    Could some of you share some of your special ways you make your
    photography unique, interesting, and creative...even it it's just one
    or two photos per event?

    I would especially like to see some image samples with technical date
    and suggestions, of course. I am a visual learner. Just telling me
    about it doesn't do it for me!

    Thank you.
  2. God love you Todd, you keep this forum interesting. I'll think about your question and try
    to respond.
  3. Hi Todd. I was actually going to post something similar, but from my own perspective of just starting out in wedding photography. I spend most of my time at work brainstorming about different ways of photographing the wedding 'standards'.

    One idea that I have that I am going to try out is during the speeches to photograph the bride and groom from behind the person giving the speech. I will try to use the out of focus speaker and dias(?) to frame the subject. Hope this was the kind of thing you were looking for. Scott.
  4. Try using only off camera main light sources, and not a single on camera flash.I found that a 2nd light makes my images pop off the paper with an almost 3D look.

    I set my on camera, bracket mounted "fill" flash two stops below the 2nd "main" light.The 2nd light is carried by an assistant, and is always 4-8 feet off one of my shoulders.(My assistant is also a good photographer in her own right,and knows where the light will hit,and what effect it will have.And where the shadows from her light are falling).

    This, combined with shutter drag takes ordinary pictures to another level.Simple dance floor candids, suddenly have depth producing shadows, and what appears to be portrait lighting.
  5. Marc, Thanks! I'm gunna hang in there as long as I can! I want to keep this forum open and creative! Blessings.
  6. I've found this is a fun shot for the younger couples. It's not for everybody. They jump on the pose when I suggest it; this shot was ordered by the bride for their album...boy was I surprised! I expect that some readers here will think it is very corny.
  7. Your favorite song this week is absolutely HATED by the d.j. on the radio. Why? Because you've not heard the song as often as the d.j. has heard it. Same goes for what you may percieve as a rut. It's only cynical for us to think the Charlie's Angels shot is "corny." But for the bride, it's the first time she's posed like this! It's exciting for her, but for you William, you've shot this so many times before, you immediately think we'll think it's corny. The important thing is that if you are bored with any given "pose," and it shows, it won't fly. The bride loves the pose, and it works. For posed shots, I like to fire off a shot (with flash), and then say "SAY CHEESE!" Then I say, "wait, I always get those mixed up." It always gets a laugh, then I fire off another shot. But Todd, to address your initial question of what makes our photography "unique, interesting, and creative," is not what WE think it to be unique, interesting and creative, but what does the bride think? It's our response to what we perceive as mundane and what they see as creative. Balance it out. Otherwise, I get inspiration from magazines when I'm waiting for my hair cut. I'll thumb through a magazine and notice a particular pose or lighting technique. Look at album covers. Why do you know it's an Old Navy commercial on TV before they say it's an Old Navy commercial? Can it be emulated? Look at Marc's website and hire that bride and dad as models!! (GEEZ I love that shot!)
  8. ...oh yeah, I like Steve's idea too, with the off-mount flash as the main flash. I've been playing with that technique in my living room. I fear that my kids are going blind from the flashes popping every ten seconds!

    I'm just not certain how I feel about the shadows it creates. Is it acceptable for the bride? I'm not fond of it, but my opinion is secondary.
  9. Jon Jacobson:

    Now THAT'S what available light is all about! That has to be one of the best non flash shots I've seen in a while. MAJOR KUDOS! Looks like true B&W as well. Competition grade IMHO.
  10. Great shot JON!!!
  11. Todd
    As the above shot here demonstrates, most of the truly great photo's I've seen on this site are shot without flash. How about trying to give yourself a little stretch by trying to live without flash for a portion of an event, or by limiting your lens choices. This would get you looking for new images.
  12. Hardly cutting edge but a couple of things...

    I am thinking ahead to my third wedding shoot in May and something I will really try and do on the day is, in between the portraits, look for close-up details, like clothes, hats, hands, shoes, the menu card (if there is one), flower arrangements, etc. I've got an idea that some years down the line some of those otherwise forgetten aspects will bring smiles when the couple look at the pictures again.

    The first wedding I did, for my sister-in-law, was a smallish affair, around 40 guests. In addition to the normal stuff, throughout the course of the afternoon I went round to absolutely every person present, young and old, and took a good clear head shot of them looking at the camera and smiling. I don't mean couples or family groups, but every person separately. Nice mug shots you could call them, but you can see the colour of their eyes and their make-up and hair detail. The bride and groom appreciated having at least one good clear close-up image of everybody's face on the day.
  13. Todd- I like to a new film or lens every once and I find myself coming up with a bunch of new ideas. For example, I'd use a roll of IR B&W along with my regular shots at an outdoor wedding or some highspeed B&W for some bride-getting-ready shots. I'm never really sure what will come out (especially with the infared- that's a real surprise), but it always adds some nice variation to the wedding album and I have fun. I also like try a few extreme wide angle shots. That can really give you a new perspective. Hope that helps, Katie
  14. Look at your personal work and see what is emerging that turns you on.

    If you don't do personal work, start.

    You may need to find some other areas to work in if you are bored with weddings.

    On the other hand, a wedding is not about you. It's about the bride and groom and their families, and after 15 years you can help them capture the memories more than someone with less experience.

    Go deeper into your self. Study depth psychology. Go to therapy, even if you don't think you need it.
  15. After many years, there are certain routines in a wedding that become automatic. I enjoy weddings, though tiring, but for me, it's a one person event. I had a chance to have a friend work with me on a few weddings last year and that was stimulating. I also enjoyed it when I was working with a studio and we had a chance to share results (good or bad) with others at the studio. This is one reason I benefit from seeing what you are doing.

    I do agree that I want to do more in the way of available light. I like the reflection in the piano, and I also usually ask the couple if they have any special poses they want, cheezy or not.

    I also want to decrease my weddings for many reasons, and do more in the way of family portraits.

    Thanks, and keep the ideas and samples coming.
  16. Well I slept on it. Not an easy question there Todd. My real job is evaluating and coaching writers, art directors, designers, photographers and film makers, then helping them push their own personal envelope. But, as usual, it isn't easy when you're close to the problem yourself, as is the case here. IMO, I'd say that you are doing a number of things to stimulate new approaches already. Moving into digital is one of them. As new techniques become familiar, you will integrate them into your creative process. Sometimes when things become easier, you will experiment more frequently ... which often happens with digital because of the instant feed back. The other more important aspects of creativity, with-in the boundaries of a commercial job like wedding photography, has a great deal to do with establishing an intent IMO. The best way I can explain that is by stating mine and show an example. While I formulated my shooting style pretty much intuitively while doing street photography, it was the evaluation afterward that revealed an intent I could aspire to. I realized I was shooting very candid situations, but in a way that had a sort of designed formalism to them. Contemporary and of the moment, but classic. My very best wedding work does exactly that ... my worst work is that which strays from that intent. Both shooting, and more importantly editing, is how it is realized. Here is one of my personal "street" shots taken in Paris well before I ever thought to shoot weddings. Totally candid, shot with a Leica rangefinder which allowed me to see the man approaching from below before he entered bright frame. Yet, it's sort of classic and timeless in both theme and composition. From this type shooting it was a natural to use it in wedding photography ... which is how I got here ; -)
  17. nice shot jon.

    very natural.

    reminded me of the stravinsky portrait taken by arnold newman.
  18. Todd - For me the only way to keep it fresh is to approach each wedding as a unique event. For me it is all about the people, the venue (most of the time in this DC/VA/MD area we get to shoot at new places), the dress, the details and the different personalities of every couple and their friends and family. <p>Todd - I also work very hard to make a wedding easy for me to be creative. I take my husband and one assistant. They carry everything, load batteries, film etc. All I have to do is pay attention and interact. I want to have fun! If I'm having fun - my couples are too!... I also try not to work more than 6 hours. Sometimes I do 7 and rarely do I do 8 hours. This keeps me fresh and not burned out. <p>All the above just keeps me excited and looking for the right light/the right location and encouraging fun or romantic interaction with family and couples. For me there is no rut.. or "sameness". That is because the people and location are always different. I don't know if this helps... <p>ps - I've also been doing this for 15 years..
  19. Todd,
    Back when I was in the business I would do a large group shot. (I got the idea from some long forgotten famous photographer). If the hall had a stage I would get up on in or I would carry a 6' ladder. It was a birdseye view if the group.
  20. Hey Todd, You can't burn out if you have never been on fire!
  21. Todd,

    Thanks for a great question. I have been thinking along these same lines for several weeks. After I retired early from the sporting goods industry I wanted to shoot nature/wildlife/landscapes, e.g., hunt with a camera instead of a gun. There are a zillion images of deer & elk and two zillion of the G. Teton Mountains. It takes a lot of creativity to capture one of those shots that is different from all the others. I got my share of these shots but I found the creativity part needed to get that one different shot was very difficult and required a lot of hard work for me. I finally decided my artistic creativity and imagination was limiting my results.

    Three year ago I started shooting weddings, for friends at first and then for a studio. Last year I shot 30 weddings. As I started this wedding season I reviewed last years work. Wow! Different people, different venues but otherwise they all look the same. I?ve been asking myself what I can do to expand my work. Part of the problem is that the studio wants every wedding shot the same way ? traditional with formal poses ? so I have gotten in the habit of shooting to get their expected results. The few weddings I have shot on my own I have tried to break that habit and shoot more freely, but I find that during the rush of the day that it is easier to do what you always do, e.g., get the same shots that you know will go in the album and make the B&G?s mothers happy.

    Before each wedding I study the work of artistic wedding shooters. I have 31 sites bookmarked that I am constantly reviewing for inspiration. A couple of notable sites that PN?ers will recognize are Marc Williams?, Mary Ball?s, Robert Watcher?s, and Jeff Ascough?s. I think these people are artist ? they have the ?eye?. I get inspiration from their work and I?ve even been known to *copy* one of their shots. If I see a shot I like I will try and duplicate it but with my own twist. I?ve added a few shots to my bag doing this.

    I?ve conclude there are some great wedding shooters that have the ?artistic eye?. I think there are also many competent wedding shooters that do not have the ?eye? but that have found a way to produce professional results. I consider myself in the later group. I don?t think I will ever be able to count myself among the first group. I don?t know Todd, but maybe you are in that same group with me.

    If anyone has a method for a non-artistic type to acquire the ?artistic eye?, which I think was Todd?s original question, please let me know.

  22. Thats a spectacular shot Marc!Its got an HCB look to it, nice job.
  23. Thanks Steve.
  24. In terms of driving forces:

    I was home on 911 and heard about it on the radio soon after the first plane hit.

    I stood transfixed in front of my TV for hours until I couldn't take it any more.

    Then I got out my camera and lights and set out to make the most beautiful picture of a vase of roses that I possibly could.

    That has been my driving force ever since: to make the best images I possibly can.

    To that end, I do a post mortem on every shoot and look for ways to improve, and I constantly dissect pictures in shelter magazines looking for problems and thinking how I might prevent them.

    In terms of HCB moments, try this. The silhouetted guy was walking back and forth. The first shot missed, and when he turned around I got lucky :)
  25. Looking at the Charlie's Angest shot (pun?)above, I wonder how many of you get special requests. I had one of the bride pointing to her list of things not to forget. She was pointing to the rings, which she forgot!

    My photo style tends to be fairly traditional with a documentary objective, but not risky. I recall booking a wedding a couple of years ago and then got a referral to photograph her friend's wedding. Well, her friend's husband wanted crossprocessing, tilts, and cheezy poses. I don't do that and turned it down. In the end, my client received their proofs in about a week and was very happy. Her friend didn't receive anything for over a year and the shots didn't contain any of the special requests!

    I also worked with a rather pricy Austrailian photographer, while working with a studio, and he spent over a half hour arranging ties and cuff-links for a magazine style album background. I don't do that either.

    So, I'm looking for some new ways to liven up my current techniques within my confort range:

    What I've learned here is to do some B/W, do some infra-red, use a slow shutter (S.Liu is great with that and there is one really nice sample above..I like that), focus in on little details (hands, feet, portions of the dress, flowers), use available light, and so on.

    Good ideas.

    I just booked a Vietnamese engagement party next Saturday (for long time family friends...I've already done two weddings and one party for them), and I think I will practice some of these ideas there. It's a safe place to practice. I would like to share some of my attempts.

    Thanks again, and keep the ideas coming.

    Marc, great photo!
  26. How about giving your Holga a try?
  27. Todd, A great motivator for me is to look through images from sites like No greater motivator than to see amazing images from "typical"
    weddings. Great images makes you start pushing the envelope when you approach
    your wedding.

    New lenses help me start to see things differently. A new popular lens thats not to
    price is the LensBaby. When things get slow pull it out for a few shots. I'm still
    practicing with mine.

    Play with humor. Before shot of the cake and after shot of the cake as a pile of

    On the dance floor I shoot loads of shots on my knees with a 17mm. Put yourself in
    the middle of the action.

    Shoot into the sun or into your off camera flash. Put the bride between you and the
    sun and the veil takes on its own life. WARNING be careful with digital cameras
    shooting into the sun I hear it blows out pixels

    During the ceremony put your camera in the grass or on the floor in the aisle and
    shoot a wide angle of the ceremony.

    Look around for a possible unique location to place a remote camera that will give
    you an angle not possible otherwise ie. basketball shots through the glass.

    1 or 2 sec exposure of the dance floor with all of the tables around it being sharp and
    the dancers a blur.

    Everyone loves the classic shot of the groomsmen walking down the middle of a road.
    Resevoir Dogsish.

    A few of the examples can be seen at

    Hope this helps
  28. Good question to get everyone thinking. so far I've been an all-available-light wedding
    photographer and I think that has helped me have a unique take on the world I'm
    photographing. It forces you to see a photo for the light and not just snap off the 'usual'
    shots. I also pride myself as a documentary wedding photographer. Take a look at my PN
    portfolio if you'd like. My equipment isn't a lot, but I think I've done fairly well creatively
    speaking with what I have. Good luck!
  29. J Moore you are a hidden treasure. Beautiful B&W work.

    When you think of wedding work in general, it is so often that well balanced flash feel.
    Everything is "right", but something's missing. Available light is less correct, but dreamier
    and more romantic.
  30. Good question. I'm constantly working at seeing things with a different perspective. I'm very critical of my own work. Finding someone whose photography I like and will elevate mine, or at least give me the perception of raising my work, and who will take the time to help me along the way is of great benefit for me. I believe that would be true for anyone.

    Let me suggest this analogy to you by telling this true story. A group of 16 Arboretum nuts, including my wife and I, traveled to Europe looking at very specific and thusly very few sites there. We spent two weeks to see & absorb the beauty stimulating all of our senses of many gardens and castles, trying to perceive it as if in the minds of the people who created them. Each of us had photo equipment to record what we saw.

    When we got back to our homes we all got together at the Minnesota Arboretum and one of the things we did is look at each others portfolios. Every one was different. Here we all were at a given location and we all looked at it differently.

    I think when we see each others photographer we get a glimpse into how that person perceives the world. Can we learn from each other? I sure try to.

    But I also believe that my photography has a little bit of me in it and I don't want to take that away. It leads me to conclude that everyone here is a gifted human being and that when others view our work I hope they find enjoyment and excitement, conjuring up happy memories whenever they look at the images I create.

    Todd, from what little of your work I've viewed, it is wonderful and not boring. And I believe your clients will think the same as it will appear fresh and new to them because it is you they see as well with the photographs. I guess what I'm say is that I'm like you, constantly searching, but always coming back to rely on interpreting what my mind, heart and soul sees in the world.
  31. Jonathan Adams- I saw that one of your photos placed in the latest wpja contest- congrats!
  32. Many have traveled the length and breadth of the world seeking the Holy Grail.

    Most never found it because the Grail is within.

    Techniques won't save your soul.

    Equipment won't save your soul.

    Go within, and find your passion.

    Then let it flow into your pictures.
  33. Do what you always do, Todd: buy a completely new camera system. ;-)
  34. Up high/down low for fun. expressons that are not the norm for interest, or some other idea for the day. If you focus on a goal for each wedding (event) and shoot to get a couple for that goal, I find it gives you a real challenge. I often get the challenges from and use that as a starting point. Try it, its fun. This is from the week I used "transmission" as my goal. I used the tramsmission of emotion to define what I wanted to see...
  35. .[.Z

    You're right. I hadn't thought of that! (^O^)
  36. New Equipment: Just as an aside, I do enjoy buying, using, and selling a variety of cameras and related equipment. It's almost a business. I'm totally up-front about that. My current digital camera is an Olympus E-1, and I just recently bought a very minty OM-1 film outfit with 4 lenses. I have the very heavy (for me) 50-200mm lens with the E-1, but Olympus supplied me with their nice little "fourthirds adapter" ring to use with their film OM lenses on the E-1 and E-300 digitals. I've been playing with the OM 75-150 film camera lens and took it out today in high fog for one of many test runs while walking the dogs. That lens is good! There are some drawbacks with it, like manual focus and auto exposure in "A" mode, but I'm thinking of replacing my pricy 50-200 with that lens. I mention this for E-1/E-300 owners who might want to spend $40 instead of $1000! Also, I do plan to use the OM-1 for some film B/W candids. Anyone have an OM-50 1.4 you don't want? The conversion on the E-1 is 2X so that would give me a 100mm equivalent at f/1.4. Sweet! See today's test below.

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