Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Ziser Wedding Series: Experiencing The Complete Wedding Weekend – Part 3

Good Afternoon Everybody,

Summer school2I can't believe it's Thursday already. It seems like the week is flying by. I think a large part of that has to do with the fact that we have a lot of projects were working on at the studio. LaDawn's been VERY busy getting a couple of client orders out and editing our recent weddings. And, I'm busy with wrapping up the loose ends for this weekend's PhotoPro Expo Summer School, getting closer to completing the book, and keeping blog posts coming your way.

That said, I'm still pretty excited about my new wedding series that I began sharing with our DigitalProTalk readers on Monday. Today will be the third installment of the series. One thought I had as I was putting this post together was that I wanted this series to be a more extemporaneous collection of my thoughts and my observations of the wedding over the three days we photographed the event. For me personally, I want to share with you the simplest of the details to the more complex challenges we faced over the weekend. Today's installment is just the beginning of the series narrative that I'll be sharing with you over the next few weeks.

So, let's get right to it.

Experiencing The Complete Wedding Weekend – Part 3

Checking in with my clients:

Michigan tripWhenever I'm doing a location wedding, I always like to check in with the clients upon our arrival.  Our two day drive had us landing at Frankfurt, Michigan late Thursday afternoon. With all the gear we packed, (better come prepared - safe not sorry) it was quite the chore to get everything unloaded into our hotel room and organized for the long weekend.  Once we were settled, I gave the client a quick call to let them know that we were in town - we made plans to meet at noon at their home the next day, Friday.

The first meeting with the client:

After we arrived at the family property and parked the car and there were lots of cars – as they were having a little pizza party with a lot of family members and friends. I carried my Canon 5D Mark III over my shoulder with its Tamron 28 – 300 mm lens attached. I wasn't really planning any kind extensive shoot for our visit but did want to be ready to record whatever caught my eye in our short visit with the client.

0001Wed Series3_0304-DZ_SchulerW12The first thing we noticed was the sign “Welcome to Crystal Lake Were Unabashed Merriment Abounds.” As I mentioned in a previous post, this was a common theme throughout the whole weekend so I quickly grabbed a photograph of the banner.

After being invited into their home and making our hellos I spotted a beautiful bouquet sitting on a cocktail table in the family room. The bouquet, let's call it the weekend bouquet, was carefully hand assembled by the bride's mother. Each ornament of the bouquet represented something special and had special meaning to the bride and her mother relating to memories as the bride was growing up. I took several photos of the bouquet and a few close-up photographs as well.

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Setting the scene:

Next, I wanted to show the family property. These are just sort of reference photographs that I may choose to use as backgrounds or as scene setters in the overall presentation wedding coverage. As it turns out, I ended up using a number these photographs as background images for the title slides for the special slide program we presented for the client over the weekend.

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Meeting old friends:

Even as we were wandering around saying HI to the family and their guests I noticed over my left shoulder that the bride was surprised and extremely happy to see two friends who made it in for her wedding weekend. I quickly excused myself from the conversation I was having and shifted into action to capture the the bride greeting her friends.

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For me, it's about capturing the expression – the big smiles and hugs that friends share with each other after not seeing each other for quite a while.

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I wasn't really there to photograph the pizza party but I was happy that I had grabbed a few photographs that I thought I might be able to use elsewhere in the final presentation.

It's rehearsal time:

The rehearsal was to take place later that evening with all of us meeting at five o'clock at the country club on top of a mountain overlooking Crystal Lake and Lake Michigan. The building was quite beautiful and the vistas were amazing. Once again, I took a few images just to set the scene for where the main wedding was going to be taking place. These two images also note the beginning of the weekend's festivities.

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0011Wed Series3_0371-DZ_SchulerW12I’m pretty much “hands off” photographically speaking when photographing this kind of event.  My main goal is to photograph the people just being people. I want to show the family and the friends interacting with each other. I want to show everyone having a great time.

The wedding rehearsal is usually a time when families and maybe even friends are coming together that haven't seen each other for many months and sometimes even many years. The expressions that we can capture during those moments can be a wonderful memory for the bride and groom as we put their finished collection of images together.

As I’m moving through the crowd, I'll always take what I like to call coaxed candids. These are candids of groups that's happen to be standing around visiting with one another. In our first photograph below we see the three guys, friends of the groom,  just hanging out. I quickly call for their attention and get a simple photograph of all three of them.

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The same is true with our next photograph with the groom's mother in the center surrounded by her sisters. You always have to show the cast of characters in these coverages. I'm trying to keep my lighting and the photography as simple as possible. The main goal is to capture the people, know the main characters for the big event and show natural responses and expressions.

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0015Wed Series3_0415-DZ_SchulerW12In our next photograph we see the groom's father on the right and his brother-in-laws on the left. I have to admit, for me it was quite a surprise and thrill to see the gentleman in the middle. We have been good friends for over 25 years here in the Northern Kentucky area – he is a wonderful local attorney and good buddy of mine. 

When he first saw me and called out to me, I looked up and was surprised to see him in northern Michigan at my wedding.  We both thought what a small world. Here we are 900 miles away in a very rural part of northern Michigan and bump and into each other on this wedding weekend. It turns out his wife is the groom's aunt. We had a good laugh and a nice visit over the next three days.

Capturing the details:

0016Wed Series3_0399-DZ_SchulerW12In the various conversations I had with the bride and her family earlier in the day, I discovered that the bride made the dress she was wearing for the rehearsal evening out of her mother's wedding gown.  That means, photographically speaking of course, that it's important to capture the dress details. And, one of the details included the appliqué from her mother's wedding gown which the bride was wearing in her hair that evening.

It's important when having your conversations with your client that you make note of these very small details and be sure that they become part of your coverage for the wedding event. It's all about paying attention, not to just what's going on around you, but also to the nuances of the day that could go overlooked by the casual observer. But, should never go overlooked by the main observer – you, the photographer – who has been charged with capturing all the nuances and subtleties of the day.

Show all the beautiful people:

Look at the next image below. This is a photograph of the two girls the bride gave such a warm welcome to earlier in the day. I saw them sitting there enjoying each other's company and pointed the camera in their direction.  They stopped their discussion, looked back at me and smiled.  I clicked off the first photograph – and it’s underexposed of course because of the strong backlighting. As you can see the challenge in this situation was extremely strong backlighting on the both of them. I wasn't using any on-camera flash but I still knew I have to get a decent exposure in the final image.

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This is one of the challenges as an event photographer we face when doing candids in constantly changing lighting situations. After looking at my first image I saw that I was severely underexposed. I quickly made an exposure adjustment exposing the next image about a stop and a half more than the first captured image.

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As you can see I got a better image with great expressions.  This is exactly what I try to do when photographing these candid events. A few simple tweaks in Lightroom to bring down the highlights and add a touch of vibrancy to the colors finishes the photograph.

Don't forget the kids:

I knew that there were going to be a lot of kids at this wedding. As I recall from our previous conversation, we had a total of three flower girls and one ring bearer present for the wedding.  The children were at the rehearsal too and I learned an important lesson a long time ago. Always capture great photographs of the young kids.

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I zoomed in closely on the little ring bearer cropping tightly to just see the very soft, gentle expression on his face. The natural light was coming in from camera right which gave me the exact lighting I wanted.  See my Image of The Day post above.

Next I turned and spotted his sister. Once again I zoomed in close and captured this soft, gentle expression of her as well. Both images I think will be favorites.

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Next the bride wanted a photograph of the kids and quickly kneeled down between the both of them and asked me to take the photograph. Once again I was NOT using on-camera flash and fired away.

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A quick look at the back of the camera told me that because of the strong backlighting  I was severely underexposed again so, after making a quick exposure adjustment – shifting exposure to plus 1 2/3 stops – I shot away a second time and got this quick candid photograph of the bride with her two nieces , the remaining two  flower girls. The lighting isn't perfect but the expression sure is and that's what's most important in capturing photographs like this. They are candid images, not formal portraits, that need to be captured quickly and without much interruption. 

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I could review several more photographs and burn through several more words on this post but let’s not.  Today I just wanted to give you an indication of my thinking and my technique when photographing this event. It's not about creating these dramatic photographs of the bride and groom - it's mostly about capturing the real emotions and the real expressions of the principal players of the wedding weekend.

In my follow-up post on Monday I'll share with you some more photographs I captured during the actual wedding rehearsal. We were challenged with extremely severe lighting conditions that I'm glad we had a chance to evaluate during the wedding rehearsal. We were going to be faced with the same conditions the next day, during the actual wedding, and I knew I needed to have a game plan in place to be sure I got the optimum result.

Plan to stop back and read the next installment of our wedding series. I hope you enjoy.


Hey gang, that's it for me today. We’ve still got a few more loose ends to tie up before we head off to Louisville, KY for our PhotoPro Expo Summer School.  We push off tomorrow around noon and the start of an exciting and very full weekend.

Don't forget, keep your pixels smiling.

Everybody have a great weekend and I'll see you soon.  – David

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