What kind of wedding photos do you find most compelling? Which ones can you not take your eyes off of? Which images in a Washington DC wedding photographer’s portfolio have that special something that makes you take a closer look?
You might be tempted to mention pictures in which the subjects look beautiful. A gorgeous bridal portrait, for example, might be the type that you think will most capture your attention. And you would not be wrong about the allure of those images! We know from our experience as DC wedding photographers that brides-to-be spend a lot of time looking at those kinds of portraits. As you flip through a portfolio of images, you pause to imagine what you would look like as the subject of the bridal portraiture. You inspect the way that the photographer has lit and posed each of the brides depicted. Then you ask yourself internally whether you would be happy to be photographed in those ways. Would those elements and style of photography highlight your best features? Would they deemphasize or conceal those about which you are less confident? Bottom line, would they make you look as beautiful as you deserve to look on your wedding day?
Another thing that might think would make a wedding photo compelling is if it captures something related to your own planning. An example would be if the scene depicted took place at one of the Washington DC wedding venues that you are considering. Were the DC wedding photographers documenting a marriage celebration at a location you like? If so, then you will definitely take a closer look at any images from that site. You will want to see how it photographs and whether it would give your wedding album the look and feel you desire. Similarly, a photo of a bride in a wedding dress you love is likely to make you pause. You will certainly have a look at the style and fit. As with a stunning bridal portrait, you will try to picture how it would make you look. You think about whether it will show off what you want to show off and conceal what you want to conceal.
Both of these types of photos are certainly likely to make you stop and take a second look. But neither is going to make you really pause to study them. Evolution has made your eyes and brain are very good at sizing up scenes and imagining yourself in them. Years and years of consuming advertising images have made us even more adept at judging how we would look in a specific lighting, composition or article of clothing. So we see an image and quickly form an impression of how we would look as the subject. That becomes the basis for whether we like the shot or not. And once we form that opinion, we move on to the next one. The contents of the picture matter to us, but we still do not spend a lot of time considering them.
Years of experience has taught us that photos that really draw you in belong to an entirely different category of images. They are not necessarily the most beautiful — though that certainly does not hurt! No, they are photographs that depict scenes with complexity and depth. They are ones that tell multiple stories within the same frame. The most compelling images have many different layers. There is something happening in the foreground and background, as well as in the area in between.
The most compelling pictures start by drawing you in with something interesting. Very often, that is whatever is taking place at the center of the frame. That is the case with the image featured here, which we took after a bouquet toss. It was during a wedding reception at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, which ranks among the most opulent of DC wedding venues.
If you are like us, the first elements you notice are the two ladies on the floor. There are several reasons why. The first is that they are in the middle of the frame. That is usually where our eyes go first. The second is the visual incongruity — another element that attracts our interest. The women are on the floor, whereas everyone else is standing. The third is the way the dress of one of the ladies stands out. She is wearing bright blue, not pink, black or white like the others.
From there, we try to figure out what is happening in the scene depicted. We scan the entire image looking for context. We stop on the left side of the frame, where a bridesmaid is holding up the bouquet. You do not need to be a professional Washington DC wedding photographer to figure out what that means. Obviously, the bride just threw the bouquet, and this bridesmaid ended up with it.
But how? That question takes us back to the two women laughing on the floor. We can see a bunch of flower petals strewn around them. Following the trail of pieces of roses up and to the left brings us back to the lady holding the bouquet. These clues suggest that the bouquet ended up on the floor. Several of the women grabbed for it, the two in the middle fell down and the one on the left picked up and held it aloft triumphantly.
If that were all there was to this image, it would already be very compelling. But there is quite a bit more going on in this scene. In between the women on the floor and the bridesmaid with the bouquet is a girl with her back to the camera. That positioning suggests that the flowers landed on the floor slightly behind her. As does the fact that she is standing a little in front of the woman on the floor wearing a black dress. This small scene within a scene begins to add depth and three dimensionality to the image.
The positioning of the girl’s face (looking backward) also leads our eyes to examine what is behind her. We see one bridesmaid (the one between the girl and the winner) looking disappointed. Another is looking down and laughing at the pileup on the floor. Our eyes then move right and rest on the woman with mouth agape and one arm pointing at the action in the center. Her expression is priceless — the sort of reaction that demonstrates that a photo has captured a genuine moment of significance. Her positioning (well behind the entire group of women) adds even more physical depth to the image.
At this point, our minds are wondering what is happening in the relatively quieter and less colorful right half of the frame. We scan across the line of women standing there. The first looks fairly phlegmatic. The second looks mildly entertained and excited. The third lady, by contrast, has another one of those facial expressions that really makes you take notice. She looks surprised and a little bit scared for some reason. We were at this wedding reception (obviously!) and have examined this photo a million times. And we still have no idea why she is reacting like that. Maybe she was worried that someone was going to get hurt rolling around on the floor? We have no idea. But this little bit of mystery — enough to make you take notice but not so much that the scene is indecipherable — adds one last dash of flavor to the photo. And combined with everything else in the scene, it makes it the kind of compelling and complex image that you will want in your wedding album.
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