If there’s a single physical place to go to uncover the year’s portrait photography and wedding photography trends, it’s WPPI. The Wedding and Portrait Photographers International Conference takes over Las Vegas at the end of February, bringing photographers from budding new professionals to well-known creatives together in one place. The 2019 show has just wrapped up — but while the conference may be over, the event is still sparking ideas for creatives.
From the winners of the 16×20 print competition to the lists of speakers and rising stars, WPPI 2019 offers a glimpse at the biggest trends in the industry. While factors like portrait lighting, lens choice, depth of field, and proper camera settings will always be essential, here are the creative trends spotted at this year’s WPPI.
Photographs that pay homage to paintings and traditional art
Several of the category winners more closely resemble traditional paintings than images from a digital camera. Using props, poses, and colors, photographers are bridging modern photography and classic artwork. Brooke Kasper’s second place fine art portrait uses a distinctive posing and props resembling a Renniasance painting; her third place teen portrait uses the dress of a classical painting. Some go beyond the pose and colors — Creative Live instructor and newborn photographer Kelly Brown’s second place family category image of a breastfeeding mother uses painterly textures.
All three images in the children’s category by Melody Smith (first place) and Julia Kelleher (second and third place) use props for a fairytale feel and colors and textures that feel painting-like. WPPI Grand Master Ryan Schembri‘s first place wedding couples image uses shutter speed blur to obscure the couple’s identity in a way that feels almost like Impressionist brush strokes. Feng He uses shutter speed blur in a sandstorm to create painter-like texture in the first place pre-wedding bridal portrait. Then, of course, there’s Mauro Cantelmi’s first place grand award-winning image where the father of the bride actually mirrors the pose of a large painting of Jesus.
Conceptual photography bringing abstractions to life
Some stories are more abstract than visual — so when a photographer manages to capture a feeling or another abstract idea, the result is impressive. Julia Kelleher’s winning maternity image of a mother-to-be balancing on a stack of books with twigs strapped to her feet makes perfect sense when you take in the image with the title: High-Risk Pregnancy. Her winning newborn image captures the struggle of post-partum depression. Marja Sullavan’s The Last Tie bleeds emotion with an elderly gentlemen sitting across from an empty chair and an old wedding photo.
Pops of color
Sure, photographers don’t have the same color choices as painters, but many of the top images from this year’s WPPI and those from the Rising Stars had an excellent command of color. From bright pink and turquoise backgrounds to brightly colored images, color takes center stage. Take a look at the bright red dress exaggerating sharp feminine curves in Sal Cincotta’s winning fashion image or the reds in Mauro Cantelmi’s composites. The colors don’t have to be bright to stand out if the rest of the image uses dark tones, like Savio Isshak’s boudoir image with the color of the cupboards mirrored in the bowl on the opposite side of the frame.
Monochromatic and film-inspired colors
While many images used pops of bright colors, others successfully created a bold statement using neutral tones or keeping almost everything in the same color family. Several photographers didn’t need a black and white conversion to keep tones in one color family. Take a look at Feng He and Chuqing Ye’s bridal portraits, Erich Caparas’ pet portrait, Joseph Cogliandro’s boudoir image, Rocco Ancora’s winning teen portrait, and Belinda Richard’s composite.
Others don’t go to a monochromatic extreme but use film-inspired colorization. Many of the winning photographers, WPPI speakers, and the event’s rising stars use dark, contrasty colors, while others favor a style with lighter pastels and a matte finish. Looking at the portfolios of Rangefinder’s Rising Stars like Petronella Lugemwa, Christopher Glenn, Jasmin Neidhart, Phil Porto, Qiya Ng, and Kuoloon Chong, each has a distinct style throughout, in particular with color toning.
The importance of story
Images tell a story — but some images have a knack for making that story so real you can reach out and touch it. Like Cassandra Jones’ Triumphant Heart newborn portrait. Some use props to tell that story — like Marja Sullavan’s winning family portrait and Keren Dobian’s environmental portrait The Toy Tinkerer. Whatever the method, capturing a story in a single image is a task that’s tough to do, but creates stunning portraits when done right.
Shape, lines, and repetition
While several stand-out WPPI images create their own trends or capitalize on growing fads, others prove that some things just never go out of style. Like using shape, lines, and repetition as compositional tools. Browsing through the entire gallery of winners shows how a simple command of composition creates a good portrait, from the spiral of a staircase to ornate windows. Repetition, too, shows in several images, like work from Chiu Yu-Jing, Celine Law, Pan Alex, and Jerry Ghionis.
DSLRs are no longer first and foremost
Browsing through the WPPI winners, the images inspire thoughts of stories, art and more. What’s not as important are things like whether a Canon, Nikon, or Sony was used, or whether it was a DSLR, a mirrorless camera, or even a drone. The debates between natural light, window light or an artificial light source, between hard light and soft light matters little next to the way the light helps tell the story.
Between the speakers, the workshops, and the contests, WPPI helps portrait and wedding photographers grow their craft and find new inspiration. Browse through all the incredible contest images here, or learn more about the 2020 show at the WPPI website.
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