One of the popular misconceptions about documentary wedding photography is that it is simple. After all, how hard can it be to just sit back and photographically record the day as it unfolds? Because the events dictate what documentary DC wedding photographers capture, it can seem that there is no room for creativity. The reality could not be farther from the truth. Being a photojournalistic Washington, DC, wedding photographer actually requires tremendous skill and vision.
We are committed to using our cameras to tell the story of our clients’ wedding days in pictures. That entails following the action intently and photographing what happens. It is true that achieving our aim also often requires sitting back a bit and not making our presence obtrusive. We avoid disturbing the sanctity of the moments and the genuineness of the emotions whenever possible.
Even though we are not involving ourselves in the action, however, we are far from passive when photographing a wedding. Throughout the day, these DC wedding photographers are constantly making editorial and creative choices about how we capture the proceedings. Effective photographic storytelling is more complex than just pointing a camera at whatever is going on. We also want to tell a couple’s day in a compelling and engaging way. The photos we deliver to our brides and grooms should not just be a collection of images. Each one should contribute to the overall narrative of the day. When taken as a whole, they should transport the viewer on an emotional journey through the marriage celebration. And for that to happen, we need to be creative.
For starters, we have to decide what to take pictures of. Some moments on a wedding day are simply more important than others. The exchange of vows, for example, matters a whole lot. It is the entire reason why everyone is there, after all! The relative importance of other events in a marriage celebration is not quite as clear. A great Washington, DC, wedding photographer, however, knows what to capture and when.
The next choice that we need to make is how to compose the photographs that we take. Properly documenting a wedding day does not mean just finding our widest-angle lens and getting everything into the frame. That approach would lead to so much clutter and so many distracting elements that the moments would be lost. We want to tell the story of each moment in as simple and as straightforward a way as possible. For that to happen, our compositions should have exactly enough to make the narrative clear. There should be nothing more and nothing less. We also use our post-processing editing to highlight the most important elements and remove anything extraneous.
Finally, we need to decide how to shoot the scene. By that, we are referring to how we use the camera’s aperture, shutter speed and ISO settings. Obviously, the image needs to be properly exposed. But there is a lot of room for creativity within that parameter. We can make the background blurry or incorporate it into the frame. We can blur any movements or freeze the action. We can make areas selectively brighter using artificial lighting.
The image featured here shows how that decision making process can lead to an image that tells a compelling story. We took it at a wedding at Bluemont Vineyard in the wine-growing regions outside of DC. After a moving outdoor marriage ceremony, the couple moved inside the venue’s barn-like structure for their wedding reception. It was there that we took this picture, which we absolutely love.
For starters, we captured a moment that matters. The bride tossing her bouquet is one of the funnest parts of a wedding day. Though the tradition is perhaps a bit old-fashioned, the participants always seem to enjoy it. It is also a nice moment for photography. It is a chance to highlight the connection that the bride has with her female friends and relatives.
The next thing we like is the composition. To effectively communicate what was happening, we needed to compose the shot in a particular way. We wanted the image to have only three things: the bride, the women behind her and the bouquet. Though there are several different options for getting all three in the frame, we like the particular angle we chose here.
Finally (and perhaps most importantly), we like the way we shot the photo. We wanted to make sure that the viewer got a sense of motion from the picture. Tossing a bouquet is a dynamic event, and we did not want a photograph of it to look flat and lifeless. To avoid that, we slowed the shutter speed on our cameras so that the bride’s hand and the bouquet are slightly blurred. We also wanted to highlight the bride while making the women behind her a secondary focus. So when we edited the photo, we left the bride fairly bright. We darkened the women a bit, but still left them clearly visible. Lastly, we blackened the remaining background completely. The combined effect of this is that the eye goes first to the bride and the bouquet. It then goes to the women and their expectant faces. It thus narrates the event in a nice, progressive fashion.
The end result of all this is the type of photo that tells a story of a moment and contributes the broader narrative of the wedding. It is the kind of shot that any bride or groom would love to have.
© 2019 Potok's World Photography - Husband & Wife Washington DC Wedding Photographers