What’s Behind a High-End Wedding Image? A detailed look into the techniques in creating such images

Have you ever wondered what it takes to produce wedding photos that stand out from the rest?

With the millions of wedding photos taken every year, some shots just take the shared experience to a new level. You know the type – the ones that make you stop with your jaw dropped when you flip through a wedding album. How do professional wedding photographers create those images?

If those questions have crossed your mind, you’re in luck. I’m about to explore some of the techniques commonly used to create those stunning photos that make a wedding package more than just another set of pictures. I believe you’ll see why these shots are usually included in premium wedding packages as well as the level of commitment they require from both the photographer and the subjects.

Lighting Setups

Photography is, simply, capturing light. Knowing how light behaves and how to control it is one of the most important aspects of photography. Weddings present many challenging lighting situations and overcoming the challenges is part of what sets the best photographers apart from the rest.

What’s more, the top pros know how to utilize lighting tools to create special effects that make for truly outstanding images.

Often, a “specialty” wedding photo will utilize ambient lighting that’s challenging, in order to create a more dynamic image. That often calls for additional lighting, some of which needs to be managed by one or more assistants.

Let’s look at a couple of complex lighting setups for wedding photos.

For the engaging image above, the photographer chose to use bright sunlight as a hair light. This light had to be balanced with a strong fill light, to avoid harsh shadows and silhouetting. Because the camera angle was low and the subjects were posed casually, the correct placement of the fill light at the right moment was crucial.

While there are a few possible fill light sources that might have been effective, it’s apparent that the source was diffused enough to provide soft, flattering light without harsh shadows.

Assuming that the source was silver matte reflectors, here’s a typical setup:

As you can see, the reflectors would provide portability and can easily be adjusted, but one assistant is required for each one. Each assistant would be constantly watching for shadows and adjusting the reflector to eliminate them.

Here’s another “specialty” shot that calls for extra lighting:

In this photo, the weak ambient light would have caused the subjects to blend in with the dark background. To create the rim light that outlines the bride and groom, a strobe with a focused beam was concealed behind them. In order to light their faces softly and create subtle modeling shadows, a second, more diffuse strobe was used  to the lower right of the camera.

This setup might have looked something like this:

The strobes would need to be synced to fire at the same time, which requires a remote trigger attached to the camera. To ensure that everything, including the couple is lined up perfectly, an assistant would be essential.

These setups are only a couple of small examples of the type of lighting that might be required for specialty shots. As you can see, a photographer may need one or two assistants and a wide array of equipment to be prepared for a high-end session.

Camera and Lens Choices

The opinions on what type of camera and lenses are required for a wedding photographer vary greatly. There are a lot of photographers out there shooting with kit cameras and lenses and doing a reasonably good job. When it comes to the kind of shots we’re discussing here, however, there are some minimum recommendations.

Many of those special wedding shots will need to be done in low light or high-contrast situations, both of which can generate considerable noise in a digital sensor. That noise translates to an unpleasant, grainy appearance in the images. Full-frame sensors are much less susceptible to this.

In addition, full-frame cameras tend to have quieter shutters, faster continuous shooting rates and much better autofocus systems than crop-sensor models. For these and other reasons, a full-frame camera is a better choice for high-end photography, even though the cost is much higher.

Lens choices are also important. While it’s convenient to shoot with a zoom lens, it’s important that it has a wide enough maximum aperture for those low-light situations. Chromatic aberration, lens flare and distortion also need to be well controlled. That narrows the viable choices down considerably. In short, expensive, pro-quality glass is a must for the best results in these specialty shots.

Special Shooting Techniques

Turning out incredible wedding photos often involves mastering special techniques, too. For instance, high-speed sync flash photography involves setting the camera to work with a flash at higher-than-normal shutter speeds. Enabling this mode extends the duration of the flash, allowing the photographer to use creative techniques that produce unwanted results at normal sync speeds.

For example, when high-speed sync mode allows opening the aperture much wider than normal, to blur out a distracting background and retain sharp focus on the subject, while using the flash to provide the lighting needed and freeze any motion.

Skilled application of techniques like this is important to creating those awesome shots that make a wedding package special.

Time Commitments

Many of the shots you’ll see in high-end wedding packages require not only more time to set up, but much more effort in preparing and posing the subjects. That means that getting these photos is more demanding for both the photographer and the subjects.

It’s important for the couple or anyone involved in these shoots to be aware of this and be prepared to be patient and understanding. For the photographer, scheduling these sessions at appropriate times is crucial. People skills are also an absolute necessity, especially when children are involved. It’s important for the subjects to enjoy themselves in order to convey that enjoyment in the photos.

Summary

Creating premium-quality wedding photographs is a complex process. The best of these images are the product of the right equipment and the expertise to get the most out of each component. Assistants are also a must in many situations. While the images may appear effortless, they require careful planning and execution, as well as the cooperation of everyone involved.

Should You Adjust Your Wedding Photos Based On The Technically ‘correct’ Color?

The Bride Wore White, But Can You Tell? Why White Balance Matters

How often have you seen pictures like this one in a friend’s photo album, or even in a professional photographer’s portfolio? It’s a typical shot of the wedding party helping the bride get ready for the ceremony, but there’s something unappealing about it to almost every eye.

Check out the same photo with just one simple change:


Looks much better, right?

Suddenly the gorgeous white gown is popping off the page. The bride’s skin looks clear and smooth, and the pretty blush of her cheeks makes her appear…well, bridal.

In the first picture, the bride’s skin was nearly the same color as the wall behind her. In this one, she’s the focus of every eye.

What’s the difference?

Just a little photography trick called white balance.

What is White Balance?

Every type of visual item, whether it’s a photograph or an apple sitting on your table, has a characteristic called color temperature. Just like your thermostat in your house, colors can be warm or cool. There are several things that make a color warm or cool, but the main thing to know is that any color that falls on the red/orange/yellow side of the color wheel is warm, while any color falling on the blue side is cool. Green and purple can go either way, depending on how much blue they have mixed with yellow or red.

White is a unique “color” because it’s not actually a color at all. If you define color as the way our eyes interpret the wavelengths of light, then white is actually every color mixed together.

(There is an argument that white is not a color, based on the definition that color is made up of pigments, but let’s save that for another day.)

Because white, under this definition, is made up of both cool blue light and warm red/orange/yellow light, it can be seen as either warm or cool.

Now that you understand that, you can easily understand white balance. White balance is just the phrase photographers use to describe how warm or cool the white appears in the photo. If the whites in the photo appear crisp and pure, like the corrected image from the example above, we say that the photo has the correct white balance. White in its natural state is cool, by the way.

In many cases, the natural light of the room or space can throw off the white balance of an image. That’s what happened in the first picture above – the room’s yellow bulbs made the white balance all wrong. The photographer adjusted the white balance to create the stunning corrected shot.

Here’s another great example that shows how whites can look like other colors when the white balance is off:

In the picture on the left, the groom’s suit, the bride’s dress, and the décor behind the couple appear perfectly crisp against the pink flowers and the purple backdrop. This image has a cool color temperature.

In the picture on the right, the whites are very warm, appearing more yellow than white. Not only does this make the whites look less appealing, it also causes the flowers and backdrop to look more yellow as well. Instead of pale pink flowers, the wedding décor now looks very peach.

How Photographers Balance Colors?

Correcting white balance has to do with the lighting equipment (or natural ambient lighting) that the photographer is using, or the camera setting that is being used.

Most professionals will use a camera that has color correcting settings on it, and they’ll adjust those to get the right temperature. These settings change how much light the lens takes in as it snaps photos; depending on the type of light in the area, more or less light can make the shot warmer or cooler.

A flash is almost always a very cool light, which is why flashes are frequently used indoors to balance yellow light bulbs. Some photographers may also use manual color correction, by holding up a card or standing a white piece of material nearby. This won’t be seen in your photo, but is used just before the shot is taken to tell the camera what white really looks like. The camera then auto-corrects to ensure that all whites look the same as the color card.

When Wouldn’t You Want to Correct White Balance?

Just because corrected white balance makes a picture look clearer, doesn’t mean that you want to use it all the time. In fact, some couples may prefer the look of the uncorrected photo – and that’s okay!

Consider these two images:

The image on the left has had white balance correction applied. The image on the right has “extra” color temperature making the picture warmer, and incorrectly balanced from a technical point of view. But for many brides, the picture on the right would be their first choice. Why?

In certain photographs where the lighting is more natural, warmer photos can look more lively and fresh. Outdoor photographs are a great example. The image on the left, while technically correct, looks a little flat compared to the warmer image on the right. In the warmer photo here, the whites are still nice and white, but the bride’s face is glowing. There is more definition in her hair, and the warm yellow sunlight across their arms is very romantic.

The most important thing is always that you love your pictures. If the warmer image is what draws your eye the most, then that is the picture you should choose. However, the best rule of thumb to follow is to avoid any picture in which the whites (especially the gown) appear yellow.

Here’s another great outdoor shot for comparison:

In this image, the color corrected photograph is on the left. You can see that the white suit and gown are very pure, and that the red roses are deep in color, popping against the groom’s suit for a very eye catching detail.

On the right, the image has a warmer color temperature, and the groom’s suit does have a more yellow tinge to it. The flowers no longer look quite as dramatic, taking on a bit of a faded appearance. From a technical standpoint, the image on the left is the more “correct” photo.

Don’t forget that your preference is what matters the most. Despite the fact that the photo on the left is technically better from a photographer’s point of view, that doesn’t mean you won’t love the warm tone that highlights the couple’s skin in the photo on the right. Your view matters most at the end of the day.

Want a Fast Rule of Thumb?

Generally, outdoor shots can look great without white balance correction, while indoor shots really need the correction to get the clearest image. That is not a hard and fast rule, but just a guideline to go by. All that matters is that you love the photo, and that the whites don’t appear completely yellow like in our very first example.

Not sure which style you love the most?

Check out our blog at Fiona Image for more photographs for inspiration and comparison.


How Wedding Photo Types and Styles Affect Cost?

Have you ever wondered what makes professional wedding photography packages cost more than others?

What factors affect the prices of your professional wedding photos?

The simplest answer is a difference in the type of images you want.

Now, that answer obviously leaves a lot to be explained and that’s what we’re going to do in this article. Before we start, it’s important to understand that we’re eliminating some of the cost variables involved to level the playing field, so to speak.

For instance, when you hire a wedding photographer, experience and skills, the equipment he or she has invested in and a few other obvious differences will affect the price.

For the purposes of fair comparison, we’re going to put all those factors aside and analyze only the styles and types of images you might want to include in your wedding package.

Because “style” and “type” can be categorized in many ways, such as journalistic, classic, candid vs posed and so on, we’re also going narrow that down.

We’ll be categorizing the types of images according to one factor:

LIGHTING

Why?

Because the amount of supplemental lighting a wedding photographer needs to use will have a great impact on the price he or she needs to charge for a photograph.

Let’s take a look:

Extensive Supplemental Lighting

I should probably start by explaining that “supplemental lighting” means the equipment a photographer needs to use to balance the exposure in a photo. It may refer to strobes, reflectors or continuous light sources, as well as modifiers like umbrellas, soft boxes, snoots and other devices. Because wedding photography is often spontaneous, flashes (strobes) are the most commonly used source.

Let’s consider the photo above.

To the casual observer or client, this image probably looks like any other beautiful wedding photo.

To the photographer, this scene presented several challenges.

We’ve highlighted a few of them below:

First, the photographer had to compose the shot. The notes above on those elements speak for themselves. Because the composition involved a very busy background, it was blurred with shallow depth of field.

The challenge was: to achieve a shallow depth of field, a large aperture has to be used. Using a large aperture during daytime would result in an over-exposure for the image, which must be compensated with a fast shutter speed i.e. 1/4000 of a second. High-speed sync with the external strobe must be used in order to work with such high shutter speed.

The natural light from the upper right side of the scene provided the hair lights and outlined the right side of the subjects. To balance the exposure and better isolate the subjects from the background, a strobe with a softbox was angled toward the couple from the left front. Skillful direction of the light from this source beautifully highlighted the bride and brought out the groom’s features while leaving enough shadow on his left side to create dramatic impact.

As you can see, there’s a lot more going on in the creation of an image like this than meets the untrained eye. It takes both more time and more equipment.

Lets look at a couple more photos involving extensive use of flash lighting.

In the image above and the one below, the couples are lit from behind with a strong external flash that provides that spectacular rim light.

A second, on-camera flash fills the front side of the couple. Without the fill flash, the images would simply be silhouettes.

These two flashes must be synced with each other and the camera, so that everything fires at just the right moment. That requires a remote flash trigger and the time to set it up.

Again, photos of this style require more equipment and time than your average snapshot.

Moderate Use of Supplemental Lighting

Next, let’s take a look at a few shots that don’t need quite as much extra light. This may apply to many situations in a typical wedding shoot.


In the two bride photos above, the ambient lighting is strong enough to light the subjects. To avoid unwanted shadows and bring out the features of the lovely brides, however, a secondary light source was necessary.

The photographer used a fill flash in both of these images to accomplish that.

In the left photo, an external flash to the photographer’s right modeled the bride’s features.

In the other, an on-camera flash at a low angle illuminated the bride without causing red-eye.

In the image above, the photographer makes very clever use of a single flash.

By bouncing the light from a strobe off of the umbrella above the couple, their kiss is dramatically lit with cool, white light. At the same time, the warm light from the lights around the grounds models the structures.

These three examples should give you an idea of the time and equipment required for photos of this type.

Ambient Light Only

Still other situations in wedding photography call for using only the light falling on the scene. While these photos may have just as much impact as others, they simply don’t require any additional lighting equipment.

Take a look at the sunny bride photo below:

The room light and strong, but diffused sunlight from the window was all that was needed for this shot. The image below also made use of window light alone, but was exposed for a less high-key effect.

Window light such as this can provide a smooth, natural look that works well for the typical “getting ready” photos in a wedding album.

The photo below takes advantage of the soft, warm light of the setting sun as its only source. This “Golden Hour” lighting is a great choice for this type of outdoor wedding portrait.

Here’s one more example of skillful use of ambient lighting:

The Fiona Image photographer captured this unusual image using a telephoto lens at some distance from the window.

Note how the bride is clearly seen, even though there’s a reflection in the window. Using a flash for this image would have created glare on the window, thus ruining a perfect shot.

Conclusion

As you can see from these examples, not all wedding photography styles are equal.

Some shots require a substantial amount of extra lighting. That not only calls for more equipment, but often increases the amount of time involved in setting up the shot. Often, an assistant is required to help the lead photographer carrying/setting up the equipment.

These differences are among the main factors that affect the price of your professional wedding package.

Does this mean that you should limit the type of photos to save money on your special day?

While that’s one possibility, it certainly isn’t what I’d recommend. In fact, it isn’t the point of this article at all.

I’ve simply illustrated one of the chief factors in the cost of professional wedding photography.

So, should you expect to pay “an arm and a leg” for your photo package? Absolutely not!

 

 

When you hire seasoned professionals, the pricing should reflect the expertise of the photographer in preparing for and creating images in all of the styles we’ve explored.

Where should that pricing fall? Visit Fiona Image to find out.

Our innovative approach brings you the best of both worlds: beautifully executed, professional photo packages at prices that won’t cut the honeymoon short.

Drop by our website today!