As promised it is the first post of a series of photo critiques of my own photographs that I have taken at weddings or even just out and about. I aim to get the photography enthusiast side of my readership (or even potential wedding clients) some little insight in what is the photographic process from vision to print. As a photographer I analyse images all the time, where ever I see them, magazines, the Internet, television or ads at bus stops. I look at each photo and try to deconstruct it, the lighting, the equipment and anything else that makes the image, doing this makes me a better photographer and it adds to my own vision.

You will here me harp on about vision all the time, it is the foundation for photography. Most people think it is a matter of point and shoot and better the camera, the better the picture, but before I even raise the camera to my eye I will have some sense of what I’m going to take a picture of and what the final print will look like. I even consider what post image processing I will need to do to bring that photo to match my initial vision.

Here is the first photograph I will look at, it is of good friends of mine Nicole and Tim Holmes, who’s wedding I shot in January this year, this photo is one of my favourite from the day.

Nicole & Tim Holmes Wedding, The Briars Mt Martha, Victoria

I’ll first start with the equipment as that is the most asked question from keen photographers, but the least important. I used a my Canon 400D DSLR (something you can pick up used for under $500) with a vertical battery grip and a Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 zoom lens. This choice of focal length (in this case 17mm on the lens, which is 28mm on the old film scale) was chosen simply due to the distance I was from the subject. I was pushed right up into spider infested grape vines to get the framing I wanted. Most photographers hate the main focus of the subjects to be in the centre of frame, here i was being deliberate. If I tilted the camera down more I would have resulted in an unusual distortion causing the heads to look too big and the bodies taper off to really skinny which is not true to reality and isn’t flattering. If I tried to bend my knees more and get lower I would have been taking the photo from an unflattering position for the bride, but the main reason was to capture that lens flare which I find pleasing. In the past you were always told not to shoot towards the sun or any bright lights in the fear you would get lens flare. I also wanted to have the greenery as a frame for the couple as this gives isolation to the subject and they stand out more.

The image appears relatively natural and I simply captured a fleeting moment, but this was very posed from the start. The groom is quite tall, so he is standing behind the bride on the lower part of the slope (the vineyard was on a slight hill). I had the bride shove in close and connect their bodies for a sense of intimacy and I told them to look at each other. Simply telling them to do this, they must of remembered the reasons they were there that day and both of them broke out in a natural smile. Forced smiles never look the same in a photograph, so I consider this as something that I won’t do at a wedding. The flowers were brought up into frame simply for something for the bride to hold and to add an extra point of interest. I utilised this location in many different ways to result in several pictures to used in the wedding album. This is so I can capture a great range of images if the location is fantastic as well as if any other locations are not great with poor light I have safety images to fall back on.

Metering in this lighting condition is usually quite difficult but I was aware of the problems the camera might face when it came to metering the scene. Due to the massive contrasts between shadows and highlights the camera would go for something in-between, but to make sure my mid tone areas exposed properly I used the centre-weighted (or a.k.a Spot Metering) metering mode  and metered off the grooms face. My camera was set to manual mode and already set fairly close to the setting I wanted as I had taken already a few shots prior to this one. While the couple got into position after directing them I took a quick snap shot to make sure the exposure was right. I then quickly reviewed to see what my camera’s histogram was showing to me and then I composed the shot properly. The aperture used was f5.6 which is the sharpest aperture of my lens and I wasn’t too concerned what the depth of field (or depth of focus) was. I simply wanted a sharp image of the couple from top to bottom. The shutter speed I selected was 1/50th of a second which was the minimum I would go to avoid camera shake. Finally the ISO setting, which is the last I usually set was ISO100, so I would get a nice, clean and noise free image. You camera is always going to produce the best files at this setting.

No flash or reflectors were used so the image is totally natural light. Lastly there is the post processing. I keep my processing fairly guarded as this is my own recipe that makes my style, but I will say the white balance is quite warm, there is slight colour toning introduced and there is a vignette applied to darken the edges to make sure the focus of the viewer is on the faces. The images besides the toning is totally straight out of camera and all that was needed to retouch was a few bits of dried flower petals on the suit from earlier in the day and a very low amount of skin smoothing in Adobe Lightroom.

If I was to take it again, I would compose more to the right to get rid of the space to the left, I would try to introduce some space between Nicole’s arm and her body and maybe see if Tim could bend his knees a bit more because he’s as tall as me! There you have it, feel free to comment and ask any questions.

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