How I Work

Shooting For Natural Light

I’m often asked why it takes several weeks to deliver wedding photos when guests email images (or post them to Facebook) the day after the wedding. I mean, don’t you just push the button and you’re done?

For my top packages, I’m not trying to create a finished picture at the touch of a button, because I would be sacrificing a lot of the potential quality the image offers in the name of convenience and instant results. Instead, I am trying to capture the maximum amount of available information which I can then mold into a finished image. What comes out of the camera doesn’t look very nice, but it has far more potential. (That’s why I usually refuse to show photos on the back of the camera on the wedding day.)

Let’s take a look at an example of how even good shooting technique requires some post processing to bring out a photo’s potential. We’ll use a photo of my daughter from an afternoon at the park which illustrates the point as well as any wedding photo.

Straight out of camera

The photo on the left shows what happens if we try to make the photo look “done” straight from the camera. We want to expose for the face because that’s really the most important part of the image. She’s in shade with strong backlighting. To capture a well exposed face in this instance means over exposing the entire frame. Notice how the highlights are completely blown out and the sky is almost white? There’s not a lot more we can do with this photo (you can’t recover details once they’re gone.)

Next to it on the right is a photo exposed to capture the most potential information. It’s actually well exposed, but notice how it’s fairly flat and my daughter is much too dark? However, notice also that all the bright details are preserved and the sky is a rich blue. This is a photo that we can work with.

So, let’s do a little magic. I did some subtle cropping to tighten the composition and straighten it slightly – you gotta shoot fast to capture the perfect moment. Then I brightened the shadow areas, manually “painted” her face and body a bit brighter, and added a bit of a vignette to draw the eye toward the area if interest and away from any distractions around the edges.

Before and After

See the difference between shooting for out-of-camera results and shooting for maximum potential? Look at that deep blue sky! There are no large blown-out areas. And, frankly, it looks more natural. And, we did it all without using the flash, which can be intrusive and distracting when you’re trying to have a tender moment on your wedding day.

Yes, it took some time to get these results. Now, multiply that by five hundred or more for a typical wedding day and you start to see that I spend a lot more time enhancing photos than actually shooting them. I could save a lot of time if I just shot for out-of-camera images, but it comes at the cost of quality.

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