Let The Scene Develop
So what's important with this is that, you know, you really let the scene develop. So it starts off as something and you don't really know what's gonna happen but its kinda your job to just stay there and figure out your framing, figure out your angle, make those small adjustments that Daniel mentioned, and then just let it unfold in front of you. And its so important to stay focused on that one thing that you've committed to shooting in that moment. So, you know, your mind might be distracted, there's other stuff going on, should I be over here, should I be over there, but its really a matter of just committing to just one shot at a time, and that is so important and hopefully we're gonna just keep talking about it and keep drilling it in.
We're gonna keep drilling.
Yeah. So we, I wanna say something before this. We had an associate studio for several years that we actually sold last year, and when we would train the photographers to come work for us they would often start off, I ...
mean, the mistake every single person made was the jumping around and never letting these scenes develop. So they would maybe see something interesting or there was a good moment that they were attracted to, but they just wouldn't see it through. So what ends up happening is you're jumping around all day long and you don't actually have, like, a really nailed photo from these moments that have happened. So you're like, "Oh, that was a good moment," but you weren't quite ready for it, you didn't anticipate and you didn't, you know, wait it out and perfect your frame, so you actually ended up, you know, having a less than perfect frame on a really great moment. Or you had a really great frame, you really had figured out, like, your angle, and it was really great, but you didn't wait for the moment to really come together. So really just committing to that one shot at a time, seeing it all the way through, I can't emphasize that enough. That's how we get moments, and we don't just catch moments, we don't just get lucky and fire off at things that are happening, we are deliberately waiting for them to come together and really taking our time with them.
So in terms of letting the scene develop, this is simply between different courses during their dinner, they're just walking around and talking with their guests and there's a lot of good moments that happen, but the best one will come near the end. They're just going around, interacting with their guests, saying hi, they're saying congrats, just a lot of good little moments and great images to deliver to the bride and groom, so they're definitely gonna get a lot out of this, but I'm always letting the scenes develop and try to get one where something a little bit more interesting than them just talking. And it sort of happens with these guys, they are, you know, embracing them a little bit more and really just sharing slightly deeper moments, then the groom goes back to talk to his other friend and the couple there on the left side is gonna have their moment as well, they're laughing at the same time, and that's that, like, split second where it really, like, the scene comes together. Final photo. And often times, like these peaks, they literally last a split second and you just have to be watching the scene, shooting all the way through, and letting the moments finish rather than you walking away from them.
So I wanna say that you will screw up and you will miss moments, and it happens to us too many times per wedding, the important thing is to know that this is what you need to be doing to get in there, get your frame, and just follow the action, let the scene develop, but also, you know, not let your missed moments that you've saw happen bring you down and, you know, prevent you from doing what you need to do at the next photo. So every new image is a new opportunity to create something really great, and you know what you need to do, you know the steps you need to follow, so just continuing on with that. Yeah, good time for a question.
So you talk a lot about framing and moments, so I'll be honest, the type a personality in me is like, "Why isn't the bush straight? Its not straight." And I think that my style, obviously, is a little like, lines are straight, horizon lines, eyes specifically, like, that's one of my pet peeves in my photos. So do you feel like it lends more to the story telling aspect when everything is not exactly straight? I'm sorry, I'm not trying to sound critical. So please take it as I'm intending it.
Do you want to answer or do you want me to?
So the thing with the tilt, again, it has to be purposeful, and here in this case, if you were to straighten it out, I think you would lose too much of the couple down there, and maybe, perhaps like the elbow as well, so the tilt here is really to fit in the right bits of our subjects into the frame. I do agree, especially when you have, like, a strong horizontal line in the background the tilt can kind of make the viewer, you know, go sideways a little bit, so we do try to avoid it, but generally for the most part its really to include or exclude certain parts of subjects into the frame.
Yeah, I really see it as like how the elements come together in the frame and having these guys kind of take up more space, being the main subjects, and then your secondary subjects in the bottom left, and then, you know, extras in the background. So yeah, definitely I'm more concerned with those elements coming together, we are sticklers about straight lines and stuff like that when things are shot in a really straight on way and lines are clearly, you know, architecture is clearly a part of the photo, then we are gonna be really picky about that, but in moments like this its not something that really bothers me and we do hear that pretty much every single time we teach a workshop, there's someone that's gonna mention our crooked lines to us, so don't worry, and I'm happy to, you know, to talk about that, and I think its really a personal thing. I think people will hate this and think its terrible and breaking all sorts of rules, but I think that for the moment it works and its not something that personally bothers me. But yeah.
I was just gonna say, I think, I know that I personally, my husband and I obviously, because we're sticklers for those straight lines, but I think just hearing that, I feel like, oh, you're giving me permission to like, not have it exactly straight? (gasps) So thanks.
Now you'll get a lot of permission here over the next little while. (laughs)
So speaking of like, perfection, do you deliver photos, like lets say that the focus is soft even if its the bride and the groom and you have a really great expression, if they're in soft focus are you still gonna deliver that or are you gonna not even show them?
That's a great question. I think what's important, and this will actually come up as well, sometimes our couple's favorite photos are ones that we, like, could critique the crap out of, you know? And we're like, "Oh my gosh, look at this jarring mistake we made, but the moments good and I know they're gonna love it, so we'll deliver it anyway." And then it ends up being like their favorite photo, so I think its important with moments to remember that that's really what its about, so if the focus is a tad soft, assuming it doesn't become a huge distraction from the photo or it really feels like its a mistake, then I think its fine, you know? If its still a good moment and its something that you want to deliver to them. I think its important to have really high standards for composition and lighting and all those things, but also to allow yourself to make those mistakes and not to withhold those photos from your clients because they could still be really meaningful. We're actually gonna touch on that.
Alright so letting the scenes develop obviously brings us to, you know, creating a bit of a scene within our frame, and that still relates to anticipation, so really being patient with yourself and letting the scene build up and create more interesting photos. So for example, it could be a photo of just the groom lounging on the seat, but as I'm being patient all the way through, the hand goes in and out and his friend comes in and starts, you know, grooming his beard.
Sorry, his mustache, so the scene really develops and becomes a more interesting photo rather than just a groom on his own.
We mentioned a scene earlier and it comes up a lot, we get questions about these environmental moments with layers a lot, so its important for us to talk about that, 'cause they are tricky to piece together. One of the things that's important, especially in this situation that you kind of see, is that the setting makes sense. You know, there's nothing distracting about the setting, everything kind of adds to it, its neutral, the color is neutral throughout, you know, its yellow, there's the wooden elements, there's the beer can which is relevant, right? Its part of the story. If it was a water bottle it would bother me, but its a beer can, its relevant. He's holding the tie, you know, everything kind of adds to the story or at least doesn't distract from the people in it.
Yeah, and in terms of like, my physical presence, is I'm in this spot for like, two, three, four, five minutes, and I'm focused on the groom and I just let the action go in and out and kind of happen around him until, eventually, the curve goes up and down and all the way up. This is sort of the all the way up version of that scene, nothing more happened, but its where the more interesting elements on the sides really came in and added to the photo.
I love that its like a hand on the left and a hand on the right that kind of gives it, you know, that makes it interesting.
And here again, like just to go back to the tilt, if you were to keep this photo straight it wouldn't work, like it wouldn't have the same feel, it wouldn't have the same composition, the subjects wouldn't line up the same way in the frame, so it is deliberate in this case.
But if he were centered in that fireplace and it was being shot completely straight on, you know, centered, the line was, you know, that piece above the fireplace, he was centered in there and it was shot straight on, and it was crooked, that would drive me crazy, that would definitely need to be straight, but the intention here is not to shoot it straight on and not to have straight lines necessarily.
You mentioned water bottles, if you saw things that were distracting, would you move them? Because I find for my weddings I'm like a klepto chipmunk, I'll just start collecting everything and putting them in my bag if they're distracting, would you guys leave it there and just present the mess as it is, or would you kind of clean it up a little?
No, if that beer can was a water bottle I would probably, you know, I would start clicking and I would realize there's a water bottle there, I'd just go grab it, remove it, and go back to doing the same thing. Again, we're wedding photographers, we're not photo journalists, and in that case, like the water bottle doesn't add anything to the story. The beer does because, you know, its guys getting ready, they're drinking beers, its cool.
Our friend Tyler Wirken who is an amazing, he's a photo journalist at a wedding, he's a wedding photo journalist, and he would just, I can hear him yelling right now. He would not move a water bottle, but, you know, I'm not against that because I think that we're trying to make really great images that are not for the news, they're for families, and you know, there is a glamorous aspect to weddings and beauty is a part of that, and a water bottle is not really beautiful, so. (laughs)
Unless its Voss water.
Maybe. So a scene, this is like the easiest way to photograph a scene, a neutral background, the characters are almost like, on a stage, like in our next example where they will be literally on a stage, and then, you know, the scene really just develops. This was many years ago, we're a little bit less sticking to the bride and groom as we are now, so I really got lucky, 'cause I went to the bathroom and came back and this was happening in front of me so I just like, dove down to get the right angle and I got lucky that they're fixing her dress and the groom just looked over at his watch, so yeah, whenever something is happening in front of a neutral background, that is a really great opportunity to take a step back and let a scene develop, because there's no lamps and weird other stuff cutting through, you already have your set, its just a matter of, you know, things coming together there, and we also had the advantage here of having a lot of backup space, I shot this with a 60 millimeter, so, you know, it was quite a bit of space for me to back up.
In those moments nothing else should really matter unless the fire alarm goes off or if something really bad happens, like don't let yourself be distracted, really stick to the moment, stick to the scene, and get the best version of this photo that you can. That's how the best photos are gonna come about is by trying to get the best version in every situation.
Yeah, when the bride and groom are involved, sometimes its easy 'cause you're like, okay, well all the important people are here, but its harder to do when you're photographing other people outside the inner circle, but the same thing needs to apply, you know, you still need to give yourself that time even if the subject matter seems a little less interesting. Sorry, you clicked a little too soon.
My apologies. (laughs) But like Davina was saying, this is on an actual stage during the ceremony, and visually it was very clean, very graphic, so it was, you know, easy to compose a scene, but there's still an element of patience that is there to wait for something good to happen. So the bride wiping her tear, you know, the officiant having, you know, a good expression as well, this is all of the elements in that scene really coming together to create the best version of that photo.
Can you guys, like, imagine the curve for this kind of moment? You know, can't you see that they might be, like, a little dull, or they might be just standing around and then something happens and she's talking, so maybe she says something funny, you know, they're smiling, so something amused them, she's wiping a tear, like, this would be probably this kind of curve going on to achieve this, but the idea is, this is all that matters, as Daniel said, in that moment, and not just in terms of moment, but in terms of your commitment to you composition and your commitment to your lens choice, your commitment to what you're choosing to include and not include, this is what you're working on and you have to stick to it until something good comes out of it. And that's what's really fun about weddings is you don't know what its gonna be, you know? What's the moment gonna be? They had a dog there, so we thought maybe something fun was gonna happen with the dog, and there were some good moments, but you know, the dog could've peed, like, you know, there's so much that can happen, its up to them to deliver. That's my cousin, by the way, she's probably watching right now, she works for us at the Image Salon, hi Cassie. (laughs)
First dance, we're in a log house in Colorado, so this is like a very, very, very tight space, but they still did some of the formalities, you know, for the wedding itself, so the bride still had a first dance with her dad, and kids were running around, people were blowing bubbles and there's candles everywhere, really just wanna show what this scene looked like and really let the scene develop, it really came together once the kids started running around and they filled in sort of negative space within the frame, and once the light is figured out and our focus figured out we don't move from that spot, you really stay focused on it, be patient with it, ride the curve, and let the scene develop.
Kids are amazing for this kind of stuff for scenes, you know, there's something going on and its kind of static and, you know, people are watching and people are dancing, but then kids, they're gonna be like that wild card factor that's just gonna bring things to another level, and that's super fun to see how kids can add to a frame and really add their own personalities to a scene. On a technical note, we did have a video light on them for this.
We did, yeah.
So we do use video lights sometimes, we probably had it perched up, I think on some of the furniture, its just a living room, it was really a house, so yeah, I think we just hd it facing them, and that's me in the background over there, probably shooting safe because we do, you know, if one of us is shooting a bit more environmental the other person will shoot a little bit tighter in moments like these, you know, the moments that you really can't mess up, just to make sure we have that.
I actually think you were photographing through the candles.
No, I'm not high enough, I thought about that. I'm not standing on something.
Are you short?
No, what are you talking about?
Alright, along the same lines of, you know, letting the scene develop, there's also an element of letting the layers develop, so what's in the foreground, what's in the background, and how all of the elements interact with one another. Again, that element of that anticipation really helps create those layers.
Do you guys struggle with images with layers? I know its something that comes up a lot, I still struggle with it a lot, but its also, like, the ones that are most rewarding when they do work out, its also probably the types of images that I'm gonna mess up most often, and by mess up I just mean it won't come together.
Mmhmm. Its so important to just, you know, stick to where you are and not go from one angle to the other angle. Stay focused on your subject and whatever adjustments you make they're really, really small, so just like, left, right, up, down, and that's gonna help realign the different elements within the frame.
What Daniel just said is really important because its not always about your subjects moving, its about you moving. Here you see that her head is framed within that space, like, she's my subject, so that's what I'm focusing on, and then I will continue aligning myself, so moving around to keep her in that spot, and then the foreground, I'm placing myself so that, as they play with her veil and different things happen in the foreground, that just becomes another element that I don't really have control over, but that I know will emphasize the moment. But my job here is basically just to keep her in that frame by adjusting myself as she moves.
And again, being really close to our subjects, this was shot with a 35, so everything is very, very close, they're used to us at this point it was like, a few hours into the day, so everybody is just acting very normally and that's what allows us to really layer the subjects together.
So this is that wedding in Bhutan that we talked about earlier, so remember Daniel had his little mental breakdown which is something I'm very proud of because I am usually the one who has mental breakdowns. (laughs) So when he went into this getting ready situation he got there earlier and he saw they had set her up inside in terrible lighting and all this stuff, and he's like, "No, no, no, we're gonna do this outside," so he actually got them to move the getting ready to the balcony so that we would have a much better light, and also just a much better background. So getting involved, again, not photo journalists, getting involved just to give them the good photos, 'cause we are all on team good photos, right? So this is a super fun opportunity to work with layers when you've got these mirrors and people coming in and out, and prep is often the time where I'm gonna be working on an image with layers because the bride is sitting in one place for a really long time and there's a lot of action going on around her, so here its just a matter of getting her framed up in the mirror and waiting for things to align in that other mirror, and just for everything to come together.
Yeah, when the main subject is stationary that's really a good opportunity to try to layer the different subjects around her, because you know that she's not going to be moving, and then you let the rest of the action go in and out and hopefully come together.
So I was two weeks postpartum when I shot this wedding, I was very proud of myself for even just not being at home, our daughter was at this wedding tied to my sister and I would just take breaks to feed her and then give her back and yeah, so she was at her first wedding at two weeks old, and I sat here, squatted here for this photo for a really long time, and I had been doing groom prep this time, and the groom was, you know, doing stuff, and mentally for me to like, not go and see what he was doing and to really believe in my commitment to this photo, it was hard. I had all sorts of doubts, like, "Maybe I should be with the groom right now, maybe he's doing something more important," but, you know, I stuck to this because I know this bride well and she loves kids, and the kids in her life are huge. She's not a mom but she has a lot of nieces and nephews, and so I knew I was gonna commit to this because I knew how important kids were to her. So layers, just focusing on these guys, sometimes this guy was at the tree, sometimes this guy was here, you know, everybody was moving around, but I've got all these stories going on which is what I really love about this image, and it was a matter of me aligning myself properly so he would be clearing the horizon, this little boy's head was clearing the horizon, these kids were just underneath that line in the back, you can see that they're posing for a photo in the background, just aligning myself so all this stuff would be clear, basically, and waiting for the moment to come together. I get really excited about photos like this, like these are really fun photos to work on 'cause then when it comes together its just so much payoff.
Its so deliberate, like, the working on that photo, we've got some very deliberate mental decision, and its really important to stick to the images.