Here’s another photo from Shallen’s wedding a couple weeks ago that speaks to me. It’s a true documentary image in the sense that it tells a story within its borders. Here’s Shallen’s first peek at her cake on the wedding day. As we can see, she’s not alone in the room overlooking the city. In fact, the cake was quite the center of activity in the minutes before the ceremony began. Thus including others in the frame helps convey this accurately.
Yet it’s very clear who the subject of the photo is. It is true that there was strong backlighting, but leaving our bride somewhat in shadow helps to visually separate her from the bright background. Additionally, as viewers we’re inclined to follow her gaze to the much brighter cake where our eyes pause for a moment before returning to Shallen to take in her expression. In one photo we have both action (the gaze) and reaction (her expression, which we visually register a few moments after seeing the cake).
A photo like this requires a certain instinct and a carefully trained eye to capture. Honestly, there is no way that all of that thought ran through my head in the 1/10th of a second that I had to react and capture the photo. But on an unconscious level my mind recognized all these elements and told me “capture this now you fool!”
Of course, there is work to be done after the fact as well. I choose what to emphasize, what to make brighter, what to make darker, and how to crop the image. The original photo captures the facts, but the enhancement imbues a certain emotion and artistry into the finished product.