Photos © 1999, Monte Zucker, All Rights Reserved
Some weddings take place
in obviously gorgeous surroundings. But it's not always obvious
how to take advantage of the settings. Also, it's not easy to
get to those backgrounds at the time of day when the light is just right.
You simply have to make do...or do you?
At a recent wedding I found myself in a magnificent setting. The only
problem was that I was losing the light so fast, I couldn't take
advantage of where we were. Did I let that dampen my spirits? Not on
your life. The timing and the circumstances forced me to use my own
My first problem was that although the wedding was going to take place
at an incredibly beautiful museum, we were not allowed inside until
after the building was closed to the public. By that time it would be
As a result, all the portrait and group photos had to be made outdoors.
I began by working under the cover of a tent where the floral arrangements
were being assembled. Among all that commotion, I posed the bride just
outside the tented area (Photo 1). I was under cover with my camera.
From her viewpoint she was looking into a shaded area, so there were
no squinting eyes.
She was being backlit and sidelit
by natural light. I exposed for the ambient light on her face and used
two Quantum flashes to create her portrait. The first was used bare bulb
(without the reflector on the flash) to slightly open up her eyes and
lay on some soft, direct light. That flash was two f/stops less than natural
light. The second bare-bulb flash was placed behind the subject, backlighting
the bride's veil and creating additional separation from the background.
I found a great background for the full-length bridal portraits in a small
enclosed garden setting adjacent to the main house (Photo 2, not available).
I exposed for the ambient light and added two flashes. I used a bare-bulb
Quantum flash as a main light, two f/stops weaker than the ambient light.
There was another direct flash behind the bride lighting her veil. That
one was the same as my f/stop. I kept the bride and groom as far away
from the background as possible, making them stand out from their surroundings
in the photograph.
Earlier that day, I saw a beautiful
small island next to where we were setting up for photographs (Photo 3).
The lighting perfect, I wished that the bride and groom had been there
at the time, so that I could photograph them in the foreground. I took
a picture of it anyway, and later cut out the bride and groom from Photo
2 and placed them in front of the (reversed) island. As you can see, Photoshop
has become an integral part of my life. The resulting photograph (Photo
4) was exactly what I wanted in the first place.
Photographing the bride and her attendants in the courtyard was a problem,
because the open areas were so confined. A 60mm wide angle lens on my
Hasselblad did the trick (Photo 5, below). But when I wanted to photograph
the entire bridal party I had to put them on the steps behind the bride
and groom (Photo 6). The wide angle lens kept everything nice and sharp.
The depth of field worked beautifully for me, even though I was just stopped
down to f/8.
My final photo of the pre-ceremony
portrait session was a profile of the bride, photographed through the
courtyard entrance. The bridesmaids told the bride that the entire session
was worthwhile, just for this single portrait (Photo 7). They could see
it as I was creating the photograph. I found this location while scouting
the area during the time I was waiting for the bride and groom to arrive.
Notice how I was careful to position the camera, so that her profile would
be against a clean, unobtrusive background.
The outdoor ceremony was magnificent. I found that by positioning myself
under cover of the bridal canopy, I could photograph with my 40mm lens
out toward the light (as I regularly do for portraiture) and capture Photo
8 at a moment that was just too good to pass up. The background of the
flowers and trees was the perfect setting for this tender moment.
After the ceremony, I caught
the bride and groom in several pictures as they triumphantly walked back
up the aisle. Photo 9 was one that I particularly liked. Doug, my assistant,
kept up the pace with me and sidelighting them with a second flash.
I loved the resulting image, but was not thrilled with the background
when I saw the photo. Yes, it was the natural background, but I remembered
that I had photographed the wall outside of the courtyard just before
the ceremony had begun. The lighting on the wall was so beautiful, I just
had to take the picture even though there was no one around to pose in
front of it (Photo 10). The center arch, by the way, was the area where
I had just posed the bride for her full-length profile.
So, you know what I had to
do later on and Photo 11 was the resulting image. There's a lot
of fun in Photoshop, and what a great way to go. You can photograph any
background you like and then bring in the people. Doesn't this suggest
fantastic possibilities? Wow.
Photos 12 and 13 were actually shot just as they happened. I saw the background
when everyone was going back to the main building for the reception. It
was just too good to pass up. I stopped the people momentarily and had
them wave at me. Truly, a great setting for these people, wouldn't
Inside the building I stopped
the bride and groom just for a moment, before they began their receiving
line. My 40mm lens caught them in the grandeur of the setting (Photo 14).
Exposure was for the ambient light in the room.
During the reception, the groom asked me if I could make a picture of
them with the island, lit up so beautifully, for the background. The final
picture in this article (Photo 15) was not a "paste-up." I
sat the bride and groom at a table which Doug and I had positioned, so
that the island would be behind them. Doug held a single flash behind
the couple as a backlight. The exposure was for about 2 sec, allowing
me to pick up the night scene behind them. We used this image to finish
their bridal albums.
So, as you can see, we really
took advantage of the beautiful settings in which the wedding took place.
The bride and groom just happened to be at the perfect place at the perfect
time. Seeing is believing, isn't it?
You can find more of this couple's wedding pictures on my web site
You can also find this entire wedding series at: www.photo-world.com.