Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wedding photography and shoes

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What's the hardest picture to take at a wedding?  Is it the first kiss?  The formals?  The bouquet toss?


It's the shoes.

That's right... the bride's shoes can sometimes be the most challenging shot I take all day.  You would think that it would be easy to take a picture of these little inanimate objects but it can be very challenging at times.  Things that don't move on their own require a lot of attention to posing (shoes, newborns, Kirstie Alley...)  It's easy to fall into a rut and shoot the shoes the same way at every wedding so I'm always looking for anything I can do that might be a little different from the norm.

Also, here in Tampa Bay I see a lot of flats and sandals at my weddings.  Taking a majestic picture of a pair of sandals is a challenge, believe me.

In an attempt to show you just how much work can go into what appears to be a quick and easy shot, here's a series of images from a recent wedding that show my thought process.  I'm sure that there are many photographers who will laugh at the time and energy I spend on these shots sometimes but that's me.

Christa and Mike were married at Shephard's Resort in Clearwater.  Looking around their room I didn't see anything that jumped out at me as a great place to place the shoes so I moved to the small balcony.  I liked the brick floor so I set down the shoes and took a quick shot to get a feel for the light and texture:

Then I added flash:

I didn't like the angle so I got as low as I could in the small space:

I just didn't like the railing in the shot and decided to trash the entire idea.  This happens all the time when taking a picture of shoes and jewelry... it's very much trial and error. Looking at these images I can see ways I could have made it work but at the time I just decided to scrap it.

So, I moved inside the room and tried a different location.  What if I put the shoes on a chair and back lit them with the door to the balcony:

Keep in mind that it can take several minutes just to get the shoes to stand up correctly.  Looking at this I liked the reflection on the chair.  I also liked the contrast between the black chair and silver shoes.  So, I tried it again.  This time I exposed for the window and added bounce flash to light the shoes:

The shoes were still too dark so I increased my flash power:

It was at this point that I decided two things:  First, I didn't like the properly exposed window and second, I really liked the way the shoes looked when they were "blown-out" by the flash.  So, I dropped my shutter speed to overexpose the window but kept my flash hot.  I also added the garter for a burst of color:

Now I'm starting to see things I like.  I grabbed the jewelry (which was also silver) and started to drape it on the shoes:

Now I'm seeing things I love.  The reflection on the chair... the way the garter bursts with color against the blown-out window..  This is the shot.  I re-positioned correctly and shot one more frame.  In Photoshop I did a little tweaking and removed all trace of the railing outside the door to get my final image:

In all I probably shot 10-20 frames of these shoes before I got the one I wanted.  That's a lot of pictures of something that most people don't give a second thought, but sometimes that what it takes to find what you're looking for!

See more of my Tampa Bay wedding photography on my website..