The 30 Second Classic Portrait

Styles come and go, and then come back again. Hair, clothes, music… Wedding photography is no different. In the ’80s wedding photography was entirely about classic, posed portraits with few candid photos (if any at all). Starting in the late ’90s completely candid, photo journalistic photography became all the rage with almost no posed photos.

If we look at a purely posed or purely candid as the extreme left or right of the wedding photography spectrum, lately we’re seeing a return toward the middle with a mixture of candid and posed photos. Many brides love the classic style that posed photography offers, but hate how traditional posed wedding photography is terribly intrusive upon their day. We all know that the momentum of the day has to stop while a pose is being set up. That’s no way to make the day fun.

Ideally it would be nice to get the best of both worlds; get a few classic portraits mixed in with the candids while not intruding on the fun of the day.

Enter the 30 Second Classic Portrait. Traditional posing techniques meant stopping the action to set up lights, pose, shoot, pose again, shoot again, and so forth. But the 30 Second Portrait means stealing just a few moments here and there for a classic image while not being a burden on the flow or fun.

A couple weeks ago at Carissa and Eric’s wedding we had just a few minutes to get some bridal portraits before we had to dash to the ceremony location. We were in the lobby of the hotel at the Ameristar Casino in St. Charles. Seeing a swooning couch (low arms, no back – more like a padded bench), I asked Carissa to strike up a pose.

• I modeled the pose I had in mind by sitting there myself. (5 seconds)
• Carissa sat in place and adjusted her dress while I pulled my flash off camera. (10 seconds)
• I asked her to look straight at her maid of honor (behind and to the left of camera) then turn her eyes toward me and give me a slight smile. (5 seconds)
• Holding the flash at arms length to provide a much more flattering light I fired two quick shots (5 seconds).

If you’ve been keeping count, that’s just 25 seconds for a classically posed and glamorously lit portrait. It’s also a good example of how I try to keep posing unobtrusive as well – I’m not one to spend minutes obsessing about the position of each finger. While she was there, I took an additional ten seconds to spit out a stupid pun or something that made her laugh and I captured another couple quick images.

Boom! Less than a minute and Carissa had several versions of her classically posed portrait. Better yet, it didn’t kill the momentum and we kept it fun. We could have stopped right there and moved on with the day. However, we were having a good time and spent a few more minutes to get another dozen photos that I’m really excited about.

At the end of the day, the vast majority of the photos were completely candid and unobtrusive, but we also have a smattering of classic images that make great display pieces for the wall or album. I feel that it is important to provide that sort of variety, but most importantly I always remember that the day is about the fun of the wedding celebration and not about setting up a photo shoot.


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