Photos © 1999, Monte Zucker, All Rights Reserved
Why do we have to choose
fact or fantasy? Why can't wedding photography be a bit of each?
That's the conclusion I've come to and that's what
I believe most people want.
Maybe, perhaps, a little
more fantasy than fact, but that's what you and your clients have
to decide. Don't forget though--you probably know more about what
to expect than they do. The typical bride today gets married only two
or three times in a lifetime. You probably are photographing two or
three weddings a month. You must know more than they do what the final
outcome is going to be--at least as far as the pictures are concerned.
Okay, so the magazines are
all hepped up on the "new" look in wedding photography--the
completely "unposed" look. But is that what you're really
selling? I'm sure that some people are. It looks good in the magazines.
It sells well on the newsstands. However, I find that the majority of
the girls who think they want just that end up buying what I've
been producing for most of my career, and showing you here in this article.
How about the couple who come in to discuss their wedding. Are engagement
pictures "out?" I don't think so. I ask that couples
come in prepared to take a few pictures--just to show them what I can
do with them and for them. Take a look at Photo 1, for instance. Not the
typical engagement picture you see in the newspapers, but certainly one
that the couple will love, themselves, and one that will help you book
the wedding, don't you think?
Then on the day of the wedding,
is there a bride alive who wouldn't want to have a memory of the
way she looked and how she felt just moments before she walked down the
aisle? What about her bouquet? Don't you think that she gave lots
and lots of thought to that, too? How could any bride resist a picture
like Photo 2? Details. Details. That's what we're capturing
here. Not just her flowers, but her hair, her veil, her whole "look,"
and mainly, her heart.
A Tiffen No. 3 Soft/FX filter was used on this portrait. A No. 2 Soft/FX
filter was used for Photo 1.
When the bride and groom agree to plan a romantic day with each other
(and a fun day with the photographer), isn't it great to be able
to capture a moment as I did in Photo 3? Pictures like this can only be
made when the bride and groom agree to be photographed together before
the ceremony, so they can then enjoy themselves afterward without having
to stop and pose for pictures.
Without a doubt, couples who
have their photographs made together right from the beginning are the
ones who truly enjoy the whole day; ones who avoid the typical tensions
and pressures of the wedding day. Plus, look at the quality of the portraits
that they can come up with.
Fact or fiction? Photo 4, the bride with her flower girl in the mirror
create a memory for countless people who want to remember the two little
girls--all grown-up now. The bride and the would-be bride are both fantasizing
on this special day. Isn't it great to capture a moment like this
that will be treasured forever? Did this really happen? Well, maybe not
exactly like this, but she did wear lipstick for the occasion and she
was pretty excited about it all. Why not capture it in a photograph?
The typical bride and groom
portrait in front of the church altar doesn't have to look like
two cutout cardboard statues against a dark, busy background. By taking
the bride and groom as far from the background as possible, exposing for
the ambient light on the church altar, and then matching the light on
them to the f/stop with a flash, you can easily and quickly come up with
a picture like Photo 5--the two of them in the aisle. Of course, a backlight
behind her veil helps a lot, too, doesn't it?
A wide angle lens shows the beauty of the church in the background. But
coming to within just a couple of feet from the bride and groom keeps
them the center of interest. Much better than having them actually stand
on the altar, itself, competing for attention with all the fancy ornamentation
on the typical church altar.
What about her gown that the
bride has dreamed about, since she was old enough to play with paper dolls?
Don't you think she wants to see it all--the train, the veil, the
sleeves--everything? No better way to show the train than in a back profile
of the bride (Photo 6). And why not bring the groom into the picture,
too? Better yet, why not photograph them right in the room in which their
ceremony took place?
Once again, exposing for the interior of the room brings out all the details
around them. Matching a flash on them to the f/stop of the camera and
adding a backlight to separate them from the background adds so much dimension,
doesn't it? Take a closer look and see how their profiles are clearly
outlined against a very simple background--essential for keeping their
faces with no distracting elements behind them.
A wide angle lens on a Hasselblad
is our choice for these pictures. I say "our" selection because
most of my new bridal pictures are made in conjunction with Tim Roberts,
Roberts Photographics, Inc., Boca Raton, Florida. As a consultant for
Roberts and his studio operation, most of my actual photography is now
being done for him. The majority of the images in this article were made
on location together with him.
Another back view of the bride's gown was accomplished here in Photo
7. Part of my "thing" is to photograph from a darkened area
toward a brighter background. Here in this walkway we exposed for the
ambient light, went one f/stop less with a flash to retain the natural
look of the lighting and then, of course, backlit the couple to brighten
her veil again.
Even in this kiss, Tim was
careful to keep their faces outlined against a very simple area of the
background. The bright archway behind them and the garden area farther
back all seem to enhance the depth of the photograph.
Another full-length bride and groom (Photo 8)--you just can't get
enough of them--was photographed outdoors to show the magnificent setting
of this Floridian hotel. The fading afternoon light was matched with a
flash to create fine detail throughout the couple's attire. The
light came from camera-left, crossing over her gown and bringing out each
little fold of her dress. Did the backlight help? What do you think? Here,
it's one f/stop brighter than the main light.
By matching the ambient light
with the flash, we layered on just a little more light than was actually
there to begin with. Thus, when my lab, North American Photo, printed
for detail in the bride's gown and their faces, the sky went a little
darker than it actually was--creating a very nice cloudy effect in the
The bride coming down the aisle on her father's arm (Photo 9) could
have been just another snapshot, had Tim's sister, Sharon, not been
holding a second light far to the side to create the three-dimensional
effect seen here. The off-camera light was one f/stop stronger than the
on-camera flash and was triggered by a Quantum Radio Control slave unit.
Both of our flashes are Quantum lights, too.
What actually made the candid
of a bride and groom coming back up the aisle after the ceremony (Photo
10) so interesting (other than the obvious glee that we always catch at
this moment) was the fact that Sharon turned her off-camera flash to the
ceiling for the recessional photographs. The light far behind them creates
so much depth that it's almost unbelievable. Yet, it's so
easy to do. We do this quite often to light up the backgrounds of these
Photo 11 is a moment that sometimes just never happens. Never happens,
that is, unless Roberts or I bring the parents together with the bride
and groom immediately after the recessional for these "huggy kissy"
pictures. We're actually "feeding" all the key people--the
parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, etc.--to the bride and groom
and having them hug and look at the camera.
Doesn't happen at your
weddings? You have to make things like this happen; the people will love
it then and when they see the pictures of it later.
What wonderful moments of total ecstasy can be captured just by bringing
all these people together at just the right moment and directing them
a little bit. No one remembers that we brought them together. All that
they see and remember is that moment of utter joy at the conclusion of
the ceremony. All the tension has vanished and it's obvious here
in these pictures. (An assistant holds the second light down, low behind
the subjects to backlight them. What a simple, yet great effect.)
Altar returns are almost a
sure thing at most church weddings, but are you keeping them off the altar?
Far away from the background? (Photo 12) Are you keeping the bride and
groom down in front, centered, the main part of the picture--with the
attendants behind and around them? Most photographers put the bride and
groom up on the top step, the farthest from the camera and the smallest
in the picture. Doesn't make sense, does it?
Exposure is based on the ambient light on the altar. The flash up front
matches the f/stop and the backlight flash behind the bride is, again,
one f/stop stronger. Notice how the men and women are interspersed, rather
than having the men on one side and the women on the other. Notice, too,
how each person is turned just slightly to the side, not turned sideways.
Much more flattering and more natural, isn't it?
One single light is lighting the group from an angle very close to the
In simple pictures like this
one of the groom helping the bride into the car (Photo 13), we took care
to have the car parked in a sunny area, so that the sunlight would backlight
the bride and groom naturally. It makes quite a difference. The interplay
between the two of them makes it look very natural, almost an unposed
look. The people love it.
Once in the car (Photo 14), I keep the door open and get the groom to
kneel down on the floor right beside the bride--bringing their heads right
to the doorway. An assistant goes through the door behind them and backlights
the couple. It's simple, yet effective. This often becomes one of
the couple's favorite pictures because it's such a happy time.
A little posing. A little coaxing for the expression. And then a completely
Photos 15 and 16 are always
great to show the couple afterward the great ambiance in the areas around
their wedding reception. Before they enter their party we pose them at
one end of the room, letting the complete setting be far behind them.
I've seen many photographers pose couples on the staircase. It's
my opinion that the surrounding areas have a much more grandeur look when
the couple are close to the camera and the background stays far behind
Exposure, of course, was for the background area, the flash matching the
f/stop for the ambient light and another flash behind the bride one f/stop
brighter. Simple with a 40mm wide angle lens on our Hasselblads. But be
careful to keep the subjects very close to the lens, rather than losing
them in the elaborate background. Notice how the veil behind the bride's
profile separates her face from the very detailed background area behind
When the bride and groom enter
the reception area (Photo 17), they have no idea how we've lit up
the whole dance floor. We've taken two of our Photogenic portrait
lights and placed them on each side of the stage. The entire dance floor
is lit up to match the f/stop at which we're shooting. What a way
to add depth to our candids. Can't do this with just a slow shutter
speed, no matter what the film is.
In this picture we've actually got one light on each side of the
stage and a third light coming in from the far side of the room. No matter
which direction you point your camera, you've got great depth.
And look what it does for our
candids (Photo 18). Just see how great it is when you pick up all those
people in the background and can see each and every one of their expressions.
People love these candids.
In Photo 19, the singer at the microphone, you can actually see one of
our lights in the picture. Photogenic makes a Fresnel lens and barn doors
for these lights, so that when they get into the pictures, they actually
add to the effectiveness of the picture.
By the way, Photos 19 and 20 were both made on Kodak's T-Max 400
black and white film. It's processed the same as color film and
can be printed in either the sepia tone of Photo 19 or the cooler black
and white of Photo 20. Wow. Those stage lights really do a number in these
candids, don't they? And the guests aren't even aware that
those flashes are going off with each of our pictures.
Worth the extra effort? What
do you think? We actually teach our prospective clients to look for things
like this in the work of the photographer they select. Without lighting
like this all the backgrounds go black. "Yuck. Is that what you
Who could resist a picture like Photo 21, the bride and groom with all
of their guests in a single picture? What a way to go. Again, it's
those extra lights that keep everyone so bright and clear in this picture.
Memories like this are part of our everyday routine. They should be a
part of yours, too.
The concluding series of pictures in this story are not usually made on
the day of the wedding. There isn't enough time. We only offer these
when the bride and groom agree to get dressed up a few days before the
These were all made on the
grounds of Michele Gauger's studio in Whitewater, Wisconsin during
my fall class there. Photo 22 is a way of showing you how I work in bright
sunshine. I let the bright, direct sun split light the bride's face,
lighting only the right side of her, while it was also backlighting her
I added a strong flash just out of camera range to her right side. This
is wrapping the light around her face and onto her groom. I've also
used a Westcott silver reflector, camera right, to help open up the deep
shadowed areas. An assistant held up her train to give it the flowing
I came in pretty close with
a 60mm lens on my Hasselblad for that picture because with my first choice,
a 150mm lens, I was getting the flash, itself, in the picture. The exposure
was based on bright sunshine, probably 1/125 at f/16.
Photo 23, on the other hand, was made by photographing across the corner
of Gauger's lake with a 350mm lens. Exposure was for the ambient
light on the couple, with a flash behind her backlighting her veil and
outlining both of their profiles. Sort of gives you the effect of the
setting sun behind them that was lighting the back of them.
The last picture of this series
Photo 24 was made on Gauger's bridge. She had it built just for
this type of photography. There's a sharp drop-off of the land below
the bridge, so that you can get down low and photograph the couples against
The picture is all natural light with a single flash behind her backlighting
her veil. Even though it was late in the day, the exposure was set for
bright sunshine. That's what created the silhouette effect. The
red color was simply a filter held in front of the lens. You can get whatever
color sky you want this way.
As a matter of fact, you can
interpret the wedding day in any way that you want. These are just a few
of the ideas that I like to use in order to add to the excitement of the
After all, if it's through my eyes, talent, lens, and heart that
the families are going to remember each wedding day, I'm going to
give it my all. Candids. Photojournalism. Portraits. Family Groups. They're
all a part of the way we photograph a wedding. We just couldn't
Is it any wonder that I'm
still excited about photographing weddings, even after I've spent
over 50 years in business? Now, wait until you/we see what's going
to be added in the new, digital era. I'm already going there, but
that's another story--in another issue of Shutterbug.
Live and learn. Never stop learning. Never stop growing. Never stop photographing
weddings. It's a part of our lives and our hearts.