The majority of articles written (and classes taken) about wedding photography focus on taking better pictures of the bride and groom. By now, every photographer knows at least 20 poses they can compose in 5 minutes or less, plus several clever ways to make a plus-size bride look slimmer and her mother younger. But what about the rest of the wedding, such as taking better cake-cutting, bouquet-tossing, first-dancing, or champagne-toasting photos? It is at the reception where a photographer’s technical—and anticipatory—skills are most likely to come into play. Working in banquet rooms with poor lighting and questionable architecture are just two of the many challenges photographers face. With that in mind we talked with three top pros, Lisa Lefkowitz (www.lisalefkowitz.com), Cliff Mautner (www.cmphotography.com), and Kate McElwee (www.katemcelweephotography.com), who offer their experience in helping you make great wedding reception shots.
What I want to capture in my photography can be expressed as the character of a place. I have to aim for images beyond “this is what it looks like here” because in my business photos have to tell stories, have to illuminate, even educate; my images should always reveal something of the culture, the history, and, most important, the lives of the people.
Cristian Movila, who was born in Bucharest, Romania, in 1983, has four sisters whom he says taught him all about “emotions,” a trait he’s been able to successfully incorporate into his work. He also says he was drawn to the arts early in life. In elementary school, he learned to play the piano and the trumpet. Later, in grade school, he became interested in journalism while hosting a children’s radio program. Although he studied electronic engineering at the University of Polytechnic, Bucharest, over time he found himself increasingly concerned with social issues, and so he decided to become a photographer so he could capture the complexities of life “in a snapshot.”
Mar 13, 2012
Published: Feb 01, 2012
“Earlier this year, I was invited by JIB TV in Tokyo and Olympus, Japan to help document the recovery taking place after the terrible earthquake and tsunami that hit the northeast part of the country in March 2011. I agreed to do it even though I knew it would be a traumatic experience.
“Our family came to America from Vietnam in the 1960s. When I first came to America, I came with fear. I was unsure of what I was going to find, my family had to be broken up. I had no clue if they had made it to America safely.”—Khanh Duong (Excerpt from Liana Bui’s student photo/oral history project.)
Portrait photographers are responsible for a lot of happiness among a wide variety of people, because well-done family pictures grow more valuable yearly. They usually portray infants, seniors, friends, and relatives, though sometimes portraits are interpretations of unusual subjects. Thomas Balsamo knows this because he has 30 years of experience photographing families and children. His work has also led him to a personal project that originated when his good will and curiosity were extended toward individuals or groups who found their portrait sittings emotionally and psychologically unusual, as well as uplifting.
I don’t have to light up rooms or freeze fast action very often—travel photography doesn’t usually call for that, and, besides, I really prefer to shoot in natural light. Fortunately, most of the time I can, but there are instances when a flash will make the difference in a picture by narrowing the scene’s contrast range, making it possible for the camera’s sensor to capture the details in shadow and highlight areas. Often flash is the only way for me to make a picture, as I don’t have the luxury of coming back when the light is better.
After almost 40 years of making platinum prints, chemical fumes had harmed Tom Millea’s lungs to a point where he could no longer go into the darkroom. He says, “Closing my studio was traumatic in the extreme.” He didn’t believe that anyone else was capable of printing his work as he envisioned it. He liked computers but had no desire to try to make digital prints look like his platinum prints. “One technique could not replace the other,” he says. He selected prints from his inventory to sell in gallery shows and considered himself retired.
But by 2004, when the color palette of digital inks had changed, Millea thought his prints were beautiful, and comparable with his darkroom images. He began making digital color photographs full-time using an Epson 2200 printer. Over the next five years, he says, “By myself, step by step, I learned to use the computer to make images I felt were uniquely my own.” He eventually put together a complete digital studio with Apple computers and two Epson printers, the 4800 and the 9800. He could then make his own prints up to 40x60”.
Jeffrey Totaro (www.jeffreytotaro.com) didn’t plan on becoming an architectural photographer. After graduating Drexel University in 1991, he became an architectural engineer. In his job, he found himself working alongside architectural photographers and was soon assisting them, until finally he found the allure too great and switched careers. Now he runs his own studio near Philadelphia.
Chase Jarvis is one of a new breed of successful young photographers who’s at the top of his game. His use of social networking has brought him an enormous following while his exploration of radical business models is opening new markets. Best known for his lifestyle and sports images, the creative and financial success of his personal projects has earned him top corporate clients like Nikon, Reebok, and Microsoft.
Shutterbug: You have no formal training as a photographer, yet arguably you’re one of the top photographers working today. How’d you get there?
Chase Jarvis: I wish I could answer that in a sentence. I think maybe the shortest description is by being incredibly curious and very hardworking. And throw a whole bunch of luck in there, too. There’s a lot of timing and luck involved in anything I do.
The last thing I ever want to do is pose someone. On my travels I want pictures of people acting naturally, doing what they normally do, and if they acknowledge the camera at all, or pause for a portrait, I want them to do it in the most natural way. The people I photograph are always aware of me, but I never want them to play to the camera—which can be tricky because the very presence of the camera changes the situation.
“Say it isn’t so!” exclaimed photographers all over the world when they heard the news about the end of Kodachrome film. Due to dwindling sales, Kodak made the difficult announcement they would no longer manufacture Kodachrome on June 22, 2009. The one remaining developer in the world, Dwayne’s Photo in Parsons, Kansas, ceased processing the film early this year.
Many commercial lifestyle/portrait shooters turn first and foremost to studio strobe to light their subjects. Not Ann Elliott Cutting. Her studio features a south-facing window that she utilizes to the max. I know, it’s not the proverbial north-facing skylight that we’ve been taught to strive for, but it does the job—and quite nicely. More than that, her penchant for employing window light doesn’t mean she shuns brawny power pack systems. She owns and uses those as well, but they’re not always the go-to gear even on commercial assignments and often play a subordinate role.
Nov 21, 2011
Published: Oct 01, 2011
Ever since I was a kid, I have been fascinated with 3D viewing of photographs. In grade school, in the 1960s, the school library had a simple viewer with pairs of black-and-white stereo images. I loved to look at those over and over again.
Oct 12, 2011
Published: Sep 01, 2011
Shooting architecture has always been a complex matter and while the challenges remain the digital medium has helped overcome many hurdles. Challenges such as color balance, lighting consistency, and the need to hide every single light and cord have been lessened. In this article I will describe one challenge that exemplifies how I now use digital to make images that would have been logistical nightmares in the past.