When taking couples portraits of Washington-area brides and grooms, we always try to stick to our guiding principles. We believe that the best DC wedding photography features candid and unscripted moments. Photos of a matrimonial celebration should capture the genuine emotions people feel on a wedding day.
In our experience, most brides and grooms want to use their marital pictures to relive their big day. They want to be able to savor again every feeling they had experienced when tying the knot. For that to happen, the images they revisit need to look and feel real. And what kind of pictures are the most true-to-life? Certainly not the majority of those in which everybody is looking at the camera and smiling! That sort of thing does not generally happen spontaneously. Photographs of “moments” that a Washington, DC, wedding photographer has staged ahead of time do not look genuine either. Newlyweds and their guests are likely to remember that the photographer paused the proceedings to ask them to pose. And that is not what we want them to recall when they think about their wedding day!
Obviously, the most genuine DC wedding photographs are those that are natural and unposed. If the moment was real, the images of it are pretty certain to reflect that. That is why we spend most of a wedding day trying to blend into the background. We want our brides and grooms to forget we are there. More importantly, we want them to forget that our cameras are there. When that happens, Washington-area couples relax and experience their day in an authentic way.
Not every part of a wedding celebration lends itself fully to this approach, of course. Couples portraits and family formals are clearly not moments that occur spontaneously during a marriage event in Washington, DC. It would be a rare thing indeed if an entire family happened to congregate in the same room at the same time. It would be stranger still if a person happened to be standing in that exact spot with a camera! No, couples portraits and family formals invariably require direction from and posing by the Washington, DC, wedding photographer.
Though couples need some assistance posing for their post-ceremony portraits, we can still make those photographs more natural. We start many of these sessions by letting the newlyweds interact as they normally would. By seeing how they hold one another, we get a sense of their body language and how they fit together. We are also able to get photos of them that are more natural and unscripted. During that process, however, we also sometimes discover little things that need tweaking. For example, a DC bride might inadvertently cover her new husband’s face with her arm when they embrace. In those cases, we will usually step in to make adjustments in how they are posing. As DC wedding photographers, we try to do that as little as possible. But we do want their couples portraits to look fantastic, so losing a little genuineness is a sacrifice we will make.
In the pursuit of stunning Washington, DC, wedding photography, we will also sometimes introduce posing tweaks that are non-cosmetic. Over time, we have learned that small details or flourishes can turn a good portrait into an unforgettable image. It can be as simple as having the bride and groom kiss or snuggle. Or something like asking the groom to make his new wife laugh. We do not want to introduce too much unreality into the scene, but a little prompting usually does not hurt.
The image featured here is an excellent case in point. We took it at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, one of DC’s best spots for couples portraits. We brought these newlyweds and their wedding party there after a lovely marriage ceremony in Washington’s northern suburbs and before their reception at 101 Constitution. After taking some shots of the bridesmaids and groomsmen with the couple, we moved on to the couples portraits.
The bulk of the posing in this picture came from the newly-married couple themselves. We used the photographic techniques mentioned above to encourage a very natural look to the images. In other words, we largely this DC bride and groom them pose themselves. We noticed, however, beautiful light flooding into the part of the Reagan building where the newlyweds were. It was illuminating them from behind, and we wanted to utilize it to the fullest. In particular, we saw how the white of the bride’s wedding dress was catching the light. And we wanted to amplify that effect. So we asked the bride, a former classical dancer, to toss the train of her dress in the air. While she did that, she struck a particularly artistic pose. The result was this image — one that is both natural and visually pleasing at the same time.