Experiment with Your Photography
All right, play. We love to play around and really just bring different elements into our creative portraits especially. Again, we're wedding photographers. We're not photojournalists and it's okay to use props and different techniques to bring a little bit, some interesting elements to our photos.
So, we are story-tellers and we prioritize moments, but when it comes to portraits, that's kind of where... Or doing abstract photos on the wedding day, that's where we give ourselves a lot of permission. It's almost like we have needs too. We're photographers with needs and we want to keep excited about weddings and I do get a lot of my excitement about weddings through the stories and getting to know my clients, but I also get it from just being creative and playing and trying new things and constantly trying to find new ways of doing that keeps me excited about photography. So I mentioned previously that I acquired this block in my life recently. That was part of my 2017 resolutions was...
that I was going to play more so I just acquired various props that I would just keep in my pockets and try them out and try to add just another dimension or a more creative spin on certain situations. So, we actually saw it when the bride was getting ready that I reflected her when she was in the simple light getting her makeup done. Actually, this is the same wedding, their day-after session. So, in this case we had them walking along the shoreline. There's tons of people on the beach so my challenge in this case was just how do I isolate them on the beach but also kind of make it more interesting and the reflection allowed me to eliminate all the people who were there and then also reflect the water from the other side and because the sun was setting, we get more of that warmth on the other side.
Max will give us a very important tip when it comes to playing and doing creative portraits.
And he's cute. I know he's my son, but I just can't help it. So, it's really important when we're doing creative portraits to take it all the way and what that means is that if we're doing something abstract and something creative, make sure that it's that all the way. So, don't leave any literal elements in the photo, because they're just gonna take you out of that abstract mindset and put you back into the literal and you'll know exactly what is happening.
This is super-important and actually on... Recently when I was judging a contest, this is something I saw a lot as well. Cool abstract elements coming into a frame, but seeing that the photographer hadn't really taken it all the way, because as a viewer, I knew too much. Oh, I see where that situation is and it's like, oh yeah, this is abstract, but also I know what the room looks like and there's too much information.
This is more play by Davina. Note, she's using a compact mirror that has two different reflective surfaces and just using...
Also known as mirrors.
That's right. So she's using those to really frame the couple and eliminate anything that's literal. So, anything with the ground, anything with buildings, anything with bushes, anything with people, all of that stuff is hiding behind those mirrors and what that allows the viewer to feel is well, where are they? Where is this taking place? How did they get there? Are they floating on an island? Are they standing on water? It just creates this sense of mystery and it's important to remove anything that's literal in this photo.
So, oftentimes these sort of props and things that I use to play, they're to make things creative and more interesting, but they're also to solve a problem which is there are people here. There are other tourists. How do I eliminate those people or how do I take it all the way and make it completely abstract? This is the same compact mirror. I used it in a different situation, in a different country. This is in Germany. Just off the side of the road, we saw there was a stream so we got them down there and I just by reflecting the trees with the light coming through out of focus into my compact mirror, I was able to isolate them. You don't see the shoreline. You don't see any of those more literal elements.
So what do we play with? Well, sometimes just something that we find in our kids' play box. This is a kaleidoscope. It's pink and green and blue. Really like a...
It's from Hanukah actually.
Oh, is it?
It's got little dreidels on it.
There you go. So you know it's really a toy for kids, but it's cool. When you look through it, it reflects things in a very different way so it piques our curiosity. Let's use it to play around at a wedding for portraits and use it in our photography as well.
Yeah, I'll literally just grab something the morning of sometimes and throw it in my pocket and it may or may not come out but that's fine, it's just for play and the important thing is you don't want to overdo it with stuff like this, like this is it. We're done with the kaleidoscope because we did this and this was our opening photo and I feel like we can't really reproduce that. We could maybe go close up with it and not a silhouette but I don't want to be repeating the same things over and over again either.
Yeah, well, it's okay to repeat it for other clients.
But in our marketing, in our portfolio...
We'll try to put just the best version of that photo so it doesn't feel like we're doing the same thing over and over and then more recently we acquired a drone and it allowed for this whole world of opportunity to open up to us where we weren't limited anymore by the ground that we stand on but we have this whole world above us that we can take photos from.
So there are two super powers that I wanted as a photographer. Silence and levitation. So, the Sony allowed silence and the drone allows levitation. If only I could be invisible, then I'll be good to go.
And the way we like to use the drone is make it feel like this could have been taken by a human as well. So, find vantage points that are high but that aren't necessarily pointing all the way down, which is sort of the more traditional photo that we see done with drones. We've done it as well and there are definitely cool ways to use it, but we like to use it in this way where you're not quite sure if it's a drone that took it or if someone was standing high up on a mountain ledge somewhere.
You should be able to play drone or no drone.
Which is like, it could have been taken with a drone or not.
Yeah, and the camera is really great on the drone, on the Mavic Pro. It shoots raw files so we're able to edit those just as well as we edit our DSLR photos and also lengths and beautiful lens flare when you have sun pointing at it. It's definitely a really nice camera, especially when you consider the size of it.
Play, Daniel's obsession with slow shutters. Let's discuss.
So, a few years ago I just got inspired by something I saw online and I felt like slow shutter brings a lot of energy and a lot of motion into photos and at first, it was in the context of portraits that I really wanted to use it. I wanted to do something really, really simple so this is the final photo with the bride and groom. This is actually what the image looked like. So, it's shot as a vertical. All I was looking for was a dark background and good light. I knew that this background could be taken down to be made a lot darker just by pulling the blacks, pulling the shadows and then we made it a horizontal and extended the edges. So, that's version one in 2013 I believe and then a couple years later, in 2015, I still like slow shutters. Let's try something else. So now it's the bride alone just spinning around. Good photo. It's that evolution that allows us to keep playing and reuse ideas that we've had in the past. This is more recently, just last summer in 2017. Instead of having the subject move, I just had to move the camera. So slowed down the shutter to 2.5 seconds, hold on them for maybe about a second, and then move the camera.
I was like, "What are you doing right now?" when he was doing this.
And again, I'm not trying this at every wedding. It's just something that I keep in my tool belt so to speak and every once in a while when I feel inspired again, I'll take it out and try to apply it on a different photo.
I call it my bag of tricks, my little props. It's like literally a bag of tricks.
Give yourself the freedom. We're not going to spend an hour-and-a-half on our day-after shoot doing this kind of stuff, but you've accomplished what you need to accomplish. Why not play? Take that liberty as an artist. My personal next challenge is to start applying the slow shutter and candid moments because it does add a lot of feel and it adds a lot of mood to the photos, which is something that we value a lot in our formula. So, as the bride and groom are walking in, everybody's waving their napkins, slow the shutter down just enough to feel that motion, feel that there's a lot of energy in this scene while also freezing the subject.
Remember we talked about how we swap shooting safe and shooting creative and how we swap those roles back and forth in important moments? Well, this is an important moment. They're coming into the reception so I told Daniel, "I'm gonna go up into the bedroom "where there's a view, so you shoot safe," and this is what he was doing. I was like, "You... "No." When I was looking through his thumbnails, I was like, "There better be one that worked, "because your responsibility was to shoot safe." He got lucky, whatever.
And then more recently just a few months ago, again just slow the shutter down to a 20th of a second. Here you really need to fire off and shoot on continuous high to get that one photo where the subject is still gonna be sharp enough, but there's still gonna be a lot of motion around. Again, I might not do this at the next wedding or the one after that, but when I feel that inspiration come back, it's something that I'm gonna keep working on.
The latest obsession...
Yeah, we were in Hawaii and this is taken on our iPhone during our scouting exploration and the sun was setting and just by underexposing on my phone so much, the sun became this very clear orange ball and there just happened to be people fishing in the water and I could see that they were perfectly silhouetted so I was like, "Okay, well, this could work out "as a portrait with the bride and groom. "Could we get them perfectly framed in that orange ball come wedding day?"
Or portrait session?
Cloudy. Expectation versus preparation.
So, it's something that I wanted to execute but nature wasn't on our side, so bag that idea and use it at another time.
Which you did.
Which I did and this is in White Sands and it came so close but it got hazy just at the very last minute when the sun was setting and it didn't quite come together the way that it did in that iPhone photo where the sun was perfectly orange. So, this is still an ongoing experimentation and an ongoing play that I do plan on revisiting down the line.
To be continued.
So continuing on with play, we sometimes visit locations that we're like this would be amazing if we could photograph a couple here one day and that happened when we went to White Sands in New Mexico nine years ago or nine years earlier and we always just kept that in the back of our mind that that would be such a great location and sometimes play is just asking for what you want from your couple. That's Adam and Melissa. They're friends of ours. We shot their wedding in Marfa, Texas, and this was a three-hour drive away. So close. So we told them, "For your day-after session, "our dream would be if we could go to White Sands. "We're close-ish." And they were like, "Okay, let's do it." But we did prepare them. There's no a million different ways that you can shoot in this place in terms of getting a lot of variety, so we did do portraits on the day of their wedding as well using Marfa locations, but they allowed us to go to this dream location of ours and play. So, this is basically our two favorite photos that came out of that. Equally, if you have a place you've always wanted to shoot or something you've always wanted to try, just pitching the idea of a day-after session to a couple can be a great way for you to just try things out with no pressure. We do that in Montreal. We scouted in Montreal and looked for new spots and tried to do something different.