Susan Stripling: Image Space and Leading Lines
One thing that I was very terrible about in my early years of being a wedding photographer is giving my images space. I wasn't good at stepping back and letting the environment be a part of the story, and I also thought that every image had to be a crash zoom directly to the bride's face. So sometimes if I'm right up on this issue and I'm filling the frame with the entire shoe. Okay that's, great that's, really nice. But what gives this image in my opinion power is the graceful flow of the veil in and out of the frame and that lovely dark background you're I go straight to the shoe, but everything else supports it. So in my mind, I am continually reminding myself back up. Look at the rest of the scene, see what else is going on in here. See if it will help me tell my story. Can you find a bride and groom in there, down the bottom in the middle? It's a beautiful shot of the landscape. I want to give my clients things that I think that they would hang in their homes and this shows what i...
t was like on the day of their wedding, the beautiful sky, the palm trees in hawaii, the wonderful pool. And then I took the bridegroom and their baby to give it some space what I enter this into a competition no, not not really but it's a lovely image to include in the gallery to give the gallery kind of a richer feel if my clients are walking somewhere in the frame I want to give them somewhere to walk too I don't just want to zoom in on the two of them walking I want to kind of use my rule of thirds put them in one of the sides and let them walk into something into the light across the street into anything to give it a little context to give it room to breathe the bride's maid that won't stop following you around fixing the bride's dress between every single picture used to annoy me but now I realize that's a picture in itself the friend that loves her so much that she's willing to give up all of cocktail hour and follow her around make sure her dress looks perfect why not include her in some of that you know step back and look at the whole scene or the bride's parents who have given her a reception in their home and there standing in their living room that's been turned into a reception and they're looking out yeah if I do so long lens it would be a beautiful moment of mr and mrs anderson looking out of their back yard but I stepped back and opened up, gave the image room to breathe, and then it's, an environment environmental portion of them in their home are backing off in showing all of the beach while the brides maids get her dress ready for some portrait's or something like this. Sometimes little people in a big space is effective if it tells a story I'm laying stomach down at the edge of an infinity pool, they're on the other side of the infinity pool, unlike the strip of concrete before it goes down, you know what I mean? Don't let that keep on going, and I'm laying flat down so that the sky in the pool touch and shooting right into it, would it have looked cool? It two hundred millimeters? Absolutely, but it gives it a sense of space at twenty four millimeters, so sometimes it's wide angle, including the whole scene, like I mentioned earlier, very deliberately to give the image room to breathe the rule of thirds photo one o one. However, a lot of times when I see people using this rule of thirds, they'll put something in one side or the other, but they won't fill the rest of the image with anything meaningful, so here this is again that ledge at the bowery hotel when I shot in at the bride and groom what you can't see in this one in a couple of slide shows when I've used this image before, I put the un retouched version in it, my assistant's hiding behind the dress, clutching it wildly in her fist because we're afraid it's gonna fly off the balcony and in a couple of the unedited ones, you can see her head looking out at me like you got it when I get out the balcony, please let me off the balcony of the balconies slanted, so, so scary, but the reason why I feel like this is an effective images because you have the dress in your third on the side, but the other two thirds support the story that I'm telling it shows the city of new york it is meaningful to the image the bridegroom chose the hotel for the view. So if I can include the view in the story that I'm telling it's even more impactful or something like this, an engagement session on the streets of new york, but I put them in this beautiful shaft of light that was hitting the front of this building and then let the rest of the image help tell the story you've got the brick wall you've got, you know, the posters all over the kind of pull there, it tells the new york story, but you still go straight to the subjects right here this is sort of ah more loose rule of thirds but to make the other two thirds graphically interesting I shot through a water glass that was sitting on the table just to give it a little something special if I've got my client looking off into the distance in photograph I'd like to give her a distance toe look off into says the bride's next door neighbors kind of abandoned house with their overgrown front yard and she lived in a beautiful home with a beautifully manicured front yard and I wanted her to go to the neighbor's yard and stand in the high grass was crazy until you see the resulting image but if she was just standing and she's looking off well it's just a bride looking off what's she looking at well she's looking off into space when you give her space to look at or again my beautiful beautiful friend carlin with the best hair ever in the entire world having this gorgeous moment with her mother who is a wonderful, wonderful human being and I wanted to focus on the moment but I didn't want to jam mai lin's right up in their faces I wanted to show that it was her and her mother alone in this space so I wanted to give space for them to be alone in so the intentional darkness of the other two thirds is to kind of give them a little privacy sometimes your other two thirds don't have to tell an amazing story about where you are sometimes it's simply a beautiful graphic element with leading line that goes straight into your clients or again I tried to give, you know, instead of giving her something to look into, I chose to focus on the other edge of the frame as well and let that be graphically interesting and support the location that we're at. I like a lot of dark negative space or a lot of light negative space it's something that not a lot of people enjoy but for me it supports the story instead of detracts from the story like that, you know you can tell exactly where they are there in this gorgeous field got these beautiful trees behind them the trees are starting to turn and it leads your eye directly into them but sometimes your rule of thirds is something very simple it doesn't have to be a bride and groom just standing on the edge your dress lead you right into her hands. This will take us right into our next section, which is leading lines but again, it's just another thing to push your subjects your viewers I write here subject any questions you're all nodding, so this is clearly your either tired or just nodding because or you're okay, we're good is the internet collectively falling asleep yet are any questions from anyone that I can help out with their on their red bull in twenty four hour energies? But but in the meantime, they're also asking questions very because everyone's gone totally crazy and totally wired yet I know we've got some people staying up all night and other countries, so they're probably hitting the coffee pretty hard right about now, and I think they're all in on beautiful images of viewing, and we do have some some question we have one from let's see poetess ity poet to see you know your deal with the creative shots when you could be so pressed with time, that's a very frustrating thing, and to be perfectly honest, sometimes you can't get the creative shot. Sometimes you really desperately want to do something creative, but you don't have the time and you have to cover your bases instead, like if my choice is to make something really artistically creative of the bride and groom together, or take a beautiful, solid portrait of the two of them together, and I have to pick between the two. I'm going to go for the beautiful, solid portrait because that's kind of a bread and butter thing that you have to get, but for me like time to do, the create like the creative stuff is the whole day. And sometimes pressed for time you might not be ableto work a scenario a little harder than you'd like or revisit something if you want to do it in a different way but these are all just things that I took during the regular flow of the wedding day the bride in her neighbor's overgrown front yard was as we walked out of the front door to go to the limo with teresa oh my gosh are you for like two to two seconds it's like so amazing over there and she goes over there and I was like over there connected here and she walks in I said lift your face into the sun just close your eyes and she does that I said let's go to church does it two seconds done? I do a lot of like big bambi eyes and saying can you guys give me like thirty seconds and they go okay? And I tried very hard we'll also talk about this on saturday is managing expectations they need to know that I need time to do these things they need to know that if they want tons of portrait's all over the city you have to give me time and if you don't give me time, what will I be able to do for you? So I try very hard and I'll talk about this again on saturday I have a frequently asked questions on my website please feel free to read it photographers if you steal it I will find you and I will call you out on the internet so just don't steal it if that would be cool with you and your grandma too yeah priest please don't do that exactly I will say your name on twitter it would be embarrassing but I also have a frequently asked questions that is even more robust that I sent my clients so once you are a client let me help do these other things and a lot of it has to do with timing will talk through all of this on saturday a bit off topic but not really because I want people to sort of have answers to questions they don't even know they have yet again with managing expectations yeah, absolutely. Any other question we do? We have one from bethany dan photo who wants to know if you always take the safe shot first and then get the creative always okay always cover our bases first because even though they might love the really artistic picture that I took of the two of them together will be upset that I didn't also get the other one and the safe shots take two seconds and then I move on so leading lunar dirt leading lines I love them I got to teach my daughter is in a sling into seventh grade but in sixth grade she as for talent in middle school she chose photography which was awesome and then I came and guest spoke to her class which was mortifying for her she not think I was cool but all she was horrified that I was there but one of the things I talked to them about was leading lines and sixth graders are really good at leading lines but these were the examples that I showed them a leading line in on images one that takes your eye directly to where you want it to go so for example at this wedding when I'm outside I'm shooting in I've opened up the louvered blinds so that they literally line you they line you right over to the right side and then the ups and downs take you right to the light on her face and sometimes they're leading lines are incredibly literal literally I could put arrows on the end of them and they would take you right toe what I'm looking at sometimes they're a little less literal I had two seconds with this girl before we were about to leave for her portrait and I saw that in the window of the limo reflected behind me was a building it's just a skyscraper in new york and I said jessica do you mind when you get into the limo? Can you do it really slowly and if you can see down like if you see where her hand touching the seat go down about a foot I'm right there. You can see exactly where I'm standing cause I am not smart enough to have removed myself from this picture before I showed it to you but I'm shooting straight into it and I waited until her eye went right into that line and five years ago I would've frantically shot it boom boom boom boom boom that would've been worried about missing it now I'm gonna hold my breath I'm gonna shoot maybe twice, maybe three times knowing that if I wait for the moment I will nail the moment and if I aggressively attack the moment I will miss its subtlety again leading lines pull you right in to her face as she looks at herself in the mirror and to revisit this one sometimes the leading line is not a line sometimes it's a curve sometimes it's a gentle slope down to what you're looking at and sometimes it's a little bit of both where the lines take you straight into carly's face and then the positioning of her body and the veil takes you around in a circle right up to her face it's like a line and then a spiral e I left that one for last it was my favorite the thing that I get asked about most when it comes to composition is reflections because apparently reflections are like a thing now but I want to again emphasize that reflection is only a good thing if it helps you tell your story. For example, the bride is getting ready at her mother's house. Her mother had an old dress form from sewing, so I took the dress form and her dress was one of those wonderful ones where there was a top to bottom. They were separate. I couldn't get the bottom on the dress form, but I put the top on it and said it in the middle of her mother's bedroom and turned off all the lights. I also pulled down the paper blinds in the background and opened everything up on the window to the left of the frame. And then I smashed myself against the dresser mirror so that I got a reflection of the dress form, and I had my assistant pull the dress form back so that I could get it exactly where I want it in the reflect ction by the time I set my exposure so that the top was perfectly exposed, everything else in the room when even darker. So if I'm looking for a reflection, it's going to be to either be very graphically interesting or too directly push my eye to the subject, but always to enhance the story that I'm telling, like, for example, thes. We have a table that looks pretty much like this in the getting ready room that we're going to be shooting in and it's very, very simple again about eleven maybe a little bit more than that maybe f nine and it's put on just your average nicely shined table reflected down into the table like that my personal favorite are small in tables with glass on top of them like you have in ninety percent of the hotel rooms out there. I drag it right over to the window and a lot of times I don't even have to turn off the lights in the rest of the room because by the time I put them in that light from the window and exposed properly for what I'm shooting, my immediate background is going to go dark anyhow and we're only dealing with a very small area we're shooting something like this, they don't have to darken the whole room, I just have to darken about three inches behind there and sometimes some some sometimes the dark background in an image like this is my assistant standing behind the table wearing black pants were very fancy the interesting symmetry of all of the hands going into the wedding dress it's just a simple is finding the unusual angles I mentioned before being up and looking down or again, those tables that I love so much they're so shiny very simple glass coffee table I am as close to the glass surfaces I possibly can be and then I get my reflection if you're a little up or you're a little down you won't get it try to get right on the level of it and a lot of times that involves taking off my lens hood and practically putting my linds directly on the glass this is the glass door the bride's bedroom and the living room were separated by kind of french doors and in the french door there's the bevel that goes all the way around it when I shot through the bevel she reflected into the bevel so I was looking for a way to maybe shoot through the door maybe you know frame karen really well in this image and then I realized that if I got just right I made two of her kinda cool those party bus limos those terrible, terrible flashing strobe like chrome ceiling party bus limos I am laying on my back on the floor germophobe that I am terrified me to death, but I've got my twenty four to seventy and I'm waiting for them to open the door to let her out because I know that when they open the door to let her out the light will flood into the limo and light her up I got down low enough that I could also shoot into the chrome ceiling by the time I made my exposure for her face was, which was a split second decision the second the doors opened, I had to expose and shoot the rest of the limo darkened down, and I got her reflection up above her sometimes it's not about fancy reflections or what you can shoot through what you confined it's, the beautiful power of putting someone smack dead in the middle of the frame, all those back symmetrical on either side, that little girl sitting right in that shaft of light staring straight at me being up on the high line in new york and the bride wanted pictures with her antique taxi that she had rented for the day and I didn't want to do something so literally just stand her in front of the taxi and take a picture. I wanted it to look like it was part of the scene, so I put them in front of the taxi and told them to just enjoy each other. And I climbed back up the steps about halfway up to the highland and shot through the corrugated metal fence down on them, making sure that when I focused on them and I had to manually focus because the camera was really tripped up by all of the law, well circles that one of the open circles had to be directly over their faces and then manual focus and you got it sometimes your reflective surfaces the floor and sometimes it's a conference room table sometimes it's another picture on the wall or a mirror questions about any of that you guys look so happy you're smiling so hard yes now I know where you go in a room you obviously probably look for light yes after that what do you like how that what's your thought process the first yes the first thing I'm looking for his light the second thing I'm looking for is where I can position the clients and then the third thing that I'm looking for is once I do those safe things what can I find this interesting and I'll take you through all of that kind of later today and then first thing tomorrow morning especially into getting ready room questions from our friend the world wide web we do we have one from pro photographer wondering if you ever bring props with you know for you you just you know I started thinking about it had a moment where I was in a prop shop with my friend jeff he was buying a backdrop I found liquid smoke right? Right, right which is where the water hits and then it's smoke's up and I was like oh my god for ring shots and he grabbed my arm and he's like walk away when you start bringing magic tricks you have gone too far and I was like what fine so no, I don't bring anything with me I'll walk around the bride's room and just collect little weird little pieces of things but yeah no, I don't I don't bring stuff though sometimes I wish I could yes, ma'am and we will question from joanne liu bo, do you think that this kind of creativity can be learned and this is a follow up question for me? Was there a point in your career where you felt comfortable developing your own eye coming into you yourself as an artist? How did you get there was just practice was it training your excellent I mean, first of all, I don't think that I'm ever there like I don't in any way think that I haven't made it like I'm only thirty five years old, I have, you know, at least five more years before I think about retiring we should be doing this for the rest of my life I'm joking but I still feel like I have a million ways that I could be improving and the second I stop trying to improve myself I'm worthless as a wedding photographer, I'm useless to you guys as a teacher, I can't help you if I'm not continually helping myself, I had to get really comfortable with my gear before I could become creative all of these things had to be second nature andi it frustrates people that it does take a very long time. I know some shooters davina and daniel daniel was one of our wedding shooters they've been in business less than five years they're like twelve years old and they're the most talented people I have ever met in my entire life. I dont I look at some of my wedding pictures I don't know how they did them they're amazing so some people are born like joey l are born with that just insane creative knowledge and the technical the more they learn about the technical just enhances that I always had a pretty decent I but it wasn't until about two thousand eight, two thousand seven that I really became comfortable with myself is a technical shooter and the problem that I don't ever want to stereotype oh are you know say any call sexism or anything like that, but ah lot of women in wedding photography focus heavily on the marketing and facebooking and what shoes do you wear to a wedding? And you know, the little pretty skin that you put on your lenses, but I always wanted teo you know, be able to shoot with the big boys, so I had to get my technical skills to where I could just do it just like that and then I don't think about the technical I just think about the creative and I don't think that you can learn and I but I think that everyone has an eye it's just developing it, and when I'm looking for a kind of pumping up my creativity, I'm not looking at other wedding photographer's work. I'm looking at fashion, I'm looking at, I'm watching movies, I'm watching downtown abbey, you know what I mean? Like, I'm I'm I'm looking for inspiration elsewhere, yes, then we gotta keep moving. Yes, ma'am. So, you know, I'm sure everybody doesn't like in a busy room for the getting ready to clean up a little bit, you know, whatnot, but when you're looking for these reflective surfaces, are you cleaning? No. Okay, uh, sometimes I'm usually frantically cleaning with my body like a sweater like company won't be company, and then I shoot, but for the most part, pretty good unless I'm shooting it f twenty two, you're not going to see tons of dust all over the thing, and sometimes I like the dust on it because it gives it texture.