Thursday, July 22, 2010

10 wedding or engagement Photos I love to hate (but sometimes do anyway)

Yes, it's overdone (and I even toned it), but I did it anyway and I like it. Read more to find out why.

My wife tells me that I hate these photos because I see them all of the time, whereas most people don't spend so much time around wedding photography. It may be true in part, but sometimes the psychology of the shot rubs me the wrong way.

I wanted to recreate all of my pet peeves with the help of a Barbie and Ken bride and groom, but my daughter doesn't own a set and I'm not about to seek them out in Paris, so descriptions with have to suffice. Sorry. You will just have to imagine the photos.

But before I mock, let me say that (almost) every one of these photos has its place. I have done and will continue to do a few of them, because I think that detail and nuance can make all the difference. In other words, this isn't entirely about flat-out rejection. It's more about pausing to look at what a photo says.

1. The" kiss under the veil"
The recipe: Bride's veil covers both bride and groom as they kiss.

The problem: Too little veil and it looks silly. Too much veil and it looks like they are 6-year-olds building a fort or that they're in Africa trying to hide from mosquitoes carrying malaria. And then there's the kiss...too much and it makes the viewer feel like a voyeuristic perve.

A solution: The reason I like the photo at the top of the post is that I took it in December and I like how it shields them from gently falling snow. I also like how the folds of the veil hide the lips in just the right way. The kiss is not too much, but don't think I didn't have to delete some that were before ever showing them to the clients.

2. The "swan princess takes a bow"
The recipe: The bride (usually in a very full-skirted gown) sits on the ground with her gown spread all around her. She looks up demurely as the photographer snaps a shot from above.

The problem: The pose is so contrived that only a prima ballerina can get away with it. Unless you're wearing toe shoes, don't go there. The angle makes the head appear larger than the body which further gives a cutesy childlike look.

A solution: I can't think of one. I have never done this shot and don't think I ever will.

3. The "American Gothic couple reluctantly holding hands"
The recipe: Couple faces camera straight on about four feet apart, outer arms to the side, inner arms extended in a sharp diagonal line to hold hands in a symmetrically rigid manner. Expressions are blank as if posing for a 19th-century photo with heads held in vice determination. This is usually done as an engagement shot.

The problem: You're getting married, people! Ostensibly, you are in love! Yes, it looks good from a compositional standpoint, but it also looks like the photographer cares more about composition than message.

A solution: Smiling is OK. Having the couple look at one another is OK. Just remember that this is for an invitation to a wedding, not a geometry class.

4. The "playful piggyback"
The recipe: The bride (or usually, bride-to-be) hops on the back of her (future) hubby for a playful piggyback ride.

The problem: If the guy isn't strong enough, or is about the same height/size as his fiancée, she will end up looking fat. If the guy is more than a few years older than his fiancée, it will look like he's really robbing the cradle. If it isn't in your personality to do playful things like piggyback rides then the pose will look forced. Finally, this pose can also say "my clingy fiancée is strangling me."

A solution: In my opinion, the only way this shot works is if you take it just after she has jumped on his back or in some other natural moment that suggests real playfulness and not a pose.
In the example above, ideally her arms might give his neck some room, but I still think it works because 1. the couple requested the pose (hence, it was natural for them), 2. the groom is a lot taller than the bride and can easily carry her, 3. their smiles were natural because they were still laughing about her trying to jump up onto his back.

5. The "look at my ring!"
The recipe: A variety of potential poses, the two most popular being the engagement shot where the girl places her hand on the guy's chest in a way meant to show off her trophy of a ring OR the wedding shot of the two hands together with the rings showing.

The problem: The engagement version of the shot is such a cliché that most people mock it. The message seems to be "Look at this trophy I just scored. I'm totally a ten cow wife." What is meant to be a symbol of love and commitment can easily turn into a display of materialism.

A solution: Let's face it. We are all complicit in making the ring so important, so I understand the desire to showcase it. For the engagement shot, it's a matter of restraint. Show it, but not like you're a game show hostess. Be subtle. For the wedding shot, I think a close-up of the hands works great in the context of the whole story, and obviously the ring ceremony is something to capture.

6. The "shoe fetish"
The recipe: In the version that really bothers me, the bride's shoes are photographed perched on a nice occasional chair in all of their glory.

The problem: I know how much women like shoes, and this might be one of the cases where I hate the shot because I've seen it a thousand times, but still...doesn't it also just emphasize the materialistic side of things?

A solution: I prefer shoes on feet, preferably in a way that has more story to it. I know people who hate any shoe shot whatsoever, but I have done photos that I like of the bride and groom's feet with the bouquet next to them—it makes the story be about the couple (and also has more elements than just a pair of shoes on a chair) rather than about just an object.

7. The "lurking groom"
The recipe: Bride in front. Groom way in back and out of focus.

The problem: It's a fine line between interesting composition and a message of isolation and detachment. The groom could end up looking like a stalker or an afterthought, either way, not the best message.

A solution: The expression on the bride's face and the posture of the groom make all the difference. You need to look at it on a case by case basis. If the bride looks too stern, you're in trouble. In most cases, I would say that keeping the bride and groom close is a safer bet.

8. The "like a virgin"
The recipe: A variety of possibilities ranging from the ever-popular cleavage shot to a boudoir pose featuring cleavage and/or legs as the bride gets ready. Sleeveless or off-the-shoulder gowns are a must. Poses can be ripped from Madonna circa 1984 or from many bridal magazines.

The problem: Fashion photography and wedding photography should not (in my opinion) be the same thing. Fashion photography is meant to sell clothes by creating striking and provocative poses. Angry brides, brides with vacant soulless stares, brides with contorted postures, etc.—these are the brides that populate magazines, but your wedding isn't there to sell clothes.

A solution: If your bride's gown is showing off her décolleté, you don't need to emphasize it even more by taking shots straight down her dress while she leans forward. It's like the ring shot—keep it subtle and sophisticated. Think Grace Kelly rather than Lady Gaga. If you do a "getting dressed for the wedding" shoot, steer clear of anything that belongs in a Victoria's Secret catalog.

9. The "back-alley make-out"
The recipe: The woman has her back against the wall, the man leaning into her, possibly kissing her.

The problem: As an engagement shot, this can make recipients of your invitation feel awkward. It can easily look exhibitionistic rather than romantic, or predatory rather than passionate.

A solution: Watch the position of the legs. Does it look like too much is going on? Think twice about using an actual kiss. Keep it in playful mode.

10. The "this is all about me and my Photoshop filters"
The recipe: Bride and groom are there as props. This is all about drama and dramatic angles. The drama is heightened by the use of multi-colored gradient filters or by cgi effects ripped from films like 300 or Lord of the Rings. The more surreal the better.

The problem: If the people become only incidental to your oeuvre, then you I guess it has become the photographer's wedding. The oh-so-tired "Lord of the Rings" look is dramatic, to be sure, but it can often lead to photos that look like they were taken on Mordor. If "with this ring I thee wed" turns into "One ring to rule them all," you've got a problem.

A solution: It's like jewelry. Even if the trend is to wear a dozen strands of pearls and/or wrists full of bracelets and/or rings on nearly every finger, you probably wouldn't do that on your wedding day. Wedding photography, in my opinion, shouldn't be so trendy that you would be embarrassed to look at it in five years. If you want to do something really trendy, do it for the engagement pics, but for the wedding, it's better to use effects in moderation.


What do you think? What are your own pet peeves when it comes to engagement or wedding photography? If you've been married a while, what photos have stood the test of time? which ones have not? Comments?

5 comments:

Brenda said...

I have to agree with the "back alley make-out". My sister-in-law had an engagement beach shot with her legs wrapped around her man and the two of them engaged in something other than a peck on the cheek. I felt dirty looking at it. It's displayed in their living room now. Can we add the "wedding party jumping in the air" to the list? Do women really do that in heels when not required to? Just sayin'.

Emma said...

my mother and i just read most of this post outloud to each other and to my sister who is getting ready to get married. haha! we hate most of those shots too! also, my mom said she hates the "twilight picture" where the bride and groom are laying down on their backs with their heads opposite ways. *shudder* haha! thanks for the post!

Kiersten said...

This was hilarious. Thanks!!

Life with Kaishon said...

I don't really have any pet peeves yet. I have seen some great wedding shots and some terrible ones. I shot a wedding this spring and it was SO stressful. I don't know if I ever want to shoot one again. It wasn't just the stress, it was EXPENSIVE for me to shoot and then the bride was *itchy as all get out and I can't stand mean people. I lost about 1,300 shooting the wedding. Very bad experience. I was going to say that she wanted the dress spread out all around her shot and also the kissing under the veil too. She only gave me 4 minutes after the wedding to shoot her and the groom. I thought that was CRAZY!

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