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There’s a Baby in that Bathwater

September 28th, 2011  |  Published in Featured, Shoot

When I photographed my first wedding in 2004, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. Well, OK, I did know which button to press on my camera to make it take a picture, and was OK at getting the exposure and composition I wanted, but when it came to the point in the day that the couple turned to me for advice, I had none to give. Luckily a friend of mine knew someone who had been shooting weddings for a big studio, using old fashioned medium format cameras and old fashioned methods for capturing a wedding. She had lunch with me a couple weeks after my first wedding, to give me critique and advice. Throughout the years we have become great friends, but there were two tips that she gave me on our very first meeting that I still use every wedding: How to line up a group of people, and how to set up the cake cutting.

Let’s start with the advice she gave me for lining up a group of people. You’d think that this would be pretty self explanatory, but there are a few things that you can tell the group that will help them look their best. To begin with, I anchor the line with a couple – usually the bride and groom. If it’s the wedding party, I line the groomsmen up on the grooms side, and the bridesmaids up on the bride’s side. I then ask them to turn the shoulders that are closer to me, towards me. Guys, when left to their own, want to either put their hands in front of their crotches, or hold them behind their backs. So to prevent this, I ask the guys to put their hands in their pants pockets. The girls, on the other hand, tend to want to hold their flowers up a little too high, so I ask them to hold them right at belly button level. Finally I tell the ladies to turn the foot that is closest to me out so that it points at me. For women, this pose has a slimming effect, and for the guys it looks sophisticated. Plus it’s quick and easy to set up.

But what if it’s not the wedding party? When I have a lineup of family members without bouquets, I still tell the guys to put their hands in their pockets, but the women usually don’t have pockets. So I typically line them up so that they are behind the person that they are “with”, and have them grab that person’s arm with the arm that is facing the camera. This provides that flattering bend in their arm in a way that looks natural.

The cake cutting is another time of the day when it seems that everything should just happen automatically. I mean, everyone’s cut a cake in their lifetime, right? But how many people have cut a cake that fancy in front of an audience? The fact is, most couples look a little lost approaching the cake table, and appreciate a quick tutorial. By stepping in and giving quick instructions, I ensure that the couple will stand where I want them (so the photo will have the best possible background), that they will take their time cutting, giving me lots of time to take the photo, and that no-one else ends up in the photo by trying to be helpful. Going back to the first conversation with the friend of mine, she advised me to have them grab the knife together, then make three slices straight down on the bottom layer, then one across the back of the slices to release the two pieces onto the plate. When they make the first slice ask them to look up and smile, and for the rest they are on their own.

While modern wedding coverage has shied away from the more traditional coverages of times past, I have found that there are a few traditional methods that I like to incorporate into my coverage. The old saying goes, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater”. While we contemporary photographers have tossed most of the traditional “pose everything” mentality out the window, I believe that there are a few valuable “babies in that bathwater” that can help us to become better photographers. And I’ll bet that you have some more traditional elements that you incorporate as well. I would love to hear about them in the comments or on the Facebook page. I might find a few more babies…errr, techniques, that I would like to use!

About Jamison Wexler

Jamison Wexler has written 15 post in this blog.

Jamie is a Boston Wedding Photographer who believes every client is a rockstar.


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