Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The One That Got Away: Taking Better Wedding Silhouette Photos

Good Afternoon Everybody,

SegallsDSCF0146Hope the weather is good in you part of the world. We are still enjoying those perfect Cabo skies, cool breezes, and beautiful beaches. Although it's been a bit on the chilly side here only making it into the low/mid 80's by mid-day, but I'm not complaining.

We only have three more days in beautiful Cabo and then head back home on Saturday. We plan to make the best of it so let's get right on with today's post.

The One That Got Away: Taking Better Wedding Silhouette Photos

Bridal silhouette photographs can be some of the most striking images you can create for your client. I've seen some good ones and I've seen some not so good ones. Let's take a look at the image below. It's got a lot going for it, but it still misses the mark in some key areas.


First, what do I like about this image:

1- I like how the bride's gown leads from the foreground.

2- I like seeing the bride's reflection on the floor.

3- I kind of like the position of the the bride's bouquet close to her face. It draws the viewer's eye to that part of the image.

4- I think the maker has a good start on creating a beautiful silhouette.

OK, I probably didn't sound too thrilled about this image. Like I said, I think it's a good start. So, what would I have done to finesse this image to the next level?

Hit the “Read More…” link below for the rest of the story.

1- First off, I would have arranged the gown and the train a bit better. The gown is slightly wrinkled where it first meets the ground. The maker needed to give it a good "fluff" and then while still holding on to it, let it touch the ground softly. That would have added lots more volume to how it looks. Fine tune the veil the same way.

2- I would have used a longer lens to compress the scene. I find the furniture on the left a bit distracting. A longer lens would have minimized the situation. No room for a longer lens, then move the furniture.

3- My biggest suggestion is to NEVER have the veil obstruct the profile of your subject. In this image, the veil is pulled forward right under the bride's nose and consequently blocks the bottom third of her profile. This is a HUGE no-no.

4- My second biggest suggestion for this image pertains to the bride's position against the window. She is framed up against the rightmost window pane. But that let's the center wind divider hit her in the top of the head - not a very good compositional play.

She should have been framed up to the left of left panel with the left panel acting as an "interior frame" for the bride.

5- I also think a lower camera position would have helped to add dramatics to this image.

I know I've come down a little heavy on his image but hopefully in a constructive way. There is such a wonderful opportunity here and I think these small changes could have really made the image "sing".

Let's take a look at one of my images I made in the same location - it was a different window though. See how I positioned the bride slightly left of center in the window frame. It looks as if she is moving into that space instead of out of it as we see above.

grace Sillo

My choice of longer lens also allowed me to isolate on the bride within the framing of the heavy drapes.

I think the fact that the bride's profile is unobstructed by anything allows the viewer to really enjoy this profile view. That's why we want to ALWAYS keep the profile clean.

Now take a look at my next image. The key point I want to discuss in the image is the positioning of the subject against the window pane. Notice how I have the bride's face framed up within the smaller window pane carefully adjusting her position so that her head is NOT bisected by the vertical element but instead, framed by it.

Lauren SilloI also took the photograph from a much higher vantage point in order that the window's horizontal element didn't hit her in the face or de-capitate her at the neck.

Folks, these are all small things to keep in mind when considering your overall composition of the image. It's why they hired you - they want YOU to pay attention to the small things that make their wedding images a wonderful remembrance of the day.

It's like anything else in life - keep you eye on the small details and your final result will always exceed your clients expectations.


Hey gang, that's it for me today. We are making the road trip up to Todos Santos. Todos Santos in a small Mexican town that is home to a thriving art community. The drive to Todos Santos is also quite beautiful.

Have a great rest of the day and I'll see you sometime tomorrow for another episode of Business Day Thursday.

See ya' then, David


  1. I loved the first image until you opened my eyes... then, I still love it with the errors and small mistakes.
    But you are right !

  2. Good example. Yes, the first image is a sellable image, and 99 times out of 100, the client will be wowed. But the improvements Mr. Ziser has noted are also valid, and will make the difference between a print the "merrits" in PPA competition, and one that doesn't, or, one that could be in your portfolio, and one that shouldn't be.

  3. D - I really like these, although I don't shoot weddings. Why? It's become "what did I miss?" and I'm disappointed to say I miss more than I'd like. But I'm getting better, which I suspect was your point all along. Thanks.

  4. Mr. Ziser, as the "maker" of this image, perhaps I could comment for your readers.

    1. I tried to arrange the gown as gracefully as possible, but I remember clearly this is how it fell on her. This day, and probably like most wedding - I had competing elements for my time. So, with shooting quickly to get my shot, I deemed this the best after 4/5 tries and move on.

    2. I could have used a compressed lens; I believe the room was large enough, but not for this wide angle shot I was after. If I used a compressed lens, it would have been a close up (and to jump ahead, attention to detail like #3 would have been fixed). Another reason for not using a compressed lens was because the camera body I used at this time was not-so-good on higher ISO's and with this low light condition, I used my Nikon's Continuous low-speed [CL] mode - a trick I learned from you - on a wide angle to capture rapid frames leaving one sharp enough to use. The one shown was the sharpest. I'm with you on the furniture for a competition photo, but I am comfortable with this natural room element for her album.

    3. This is a good point, I'll go with you on this. It kind of competes again with what I mentioned in #1 -time, but I think my goal at the time was "get the dress".

    4. I only positioned the bride in the dead center of the largest interior frame (the window), because it felt natural and I think, still does. Especially with my composition directly behind her and not to the sides like your image. If I were to move her to the left of the interior frame of the window panel, I would feel more space to her right. But, then of course I could remove the middle panel in Photoshop if it distracted me.

    5. Another good idea. I think it would have worked well.

    I enjoyed your detailed criticism and you present it constructively. My goal was to make a nice image, not necessarily a PPA competition photograph. As one of your readers commented, the client will be wowed and after all, this would be my only goal. In my final result, I made this image a black and white, boosted some fill in Lightroom and purposely overexposed it.

    Should I review your photograph underneath mine? Maybe some other time ;).

  5. To me the most distracting elements were the furniture and the vertical line growing from her head. I agree that it's tough to get everything just right in wedding photography, so no argument there. But, to get the most out of this image, I might have cloned out the furniture legs and added a very dark vignette to de-emphasize the furniture. For the vertical line in center of the window a quick clone would have worked. Then, to hide the crease in the dress, I would have cranked up the contrast, clarity, and blacks to darken that area and emphasize the silhouette (which might have also brought out the reflection more). Finally, a sepia or bw tone would have gotten rid of the amber color on the walls. All of this could be done in LR in a few minutes.

  6. John I love your image!! Someone with an untrained eye would have to look closely to see any imperfections! : )
    Out of curiosity, what camera settings did you use?