A Very Cool Wedding

Earlier in the week I shared my thoughts on the wedding blog Style Me Pretty. Since I’m checking them out on a regular basis, you can expect some of their posts to filter over here with my thoughts. I’m not going to shift gears and become a wedding critic, but I feel that certain weddings – and especially their photography – merit some exposure and discussion.

On the 23rd, SMP posted “Idaho Wedding Filled with Style,” which is very, very cool (be sure to check out the link for photos by Stephanie Fay ). The location, aside from being in Idaho, is the bride’s parent’s backyard – take this as proof that a modest setting can become an amazing set. The large lawn and fields give some wide open spaces, but it’s what the happy couple did with those spaces that rocks.

Essentially, they built a rustic church on-site. Or at least, part of a rustic church. Windows mounted in pieces of walls, a framed doorway, a plank platform for the ceremony – all of it constructed out of weathered old boards, apparently by the bride’s younger brother, and propped up around the perimeter of the seats and platform.

It’s like sitting inside of a rustic American Stonehenge, open to the sky, with a startlingly yellow dresser forming the altar. This is better than a Hollywood set – it’s beautiful, it’s unique, and it must have been heartbreaking to take it down afterwards.

From a photographic standpoint, this is a no-brainer. You’ve got the best elements of a building (windows, doors) without the all-enclosing aspect that would normally leave you praying for light. Add to that a beautifully overcast day, and you’re left with lovely, diffused light that makes bright colors glow.

Check out Part II for some lovely portrait and detail work, but also for a nice example of some Strobist-style lighting. Notice that the ambient is kicked down about two stops, with a warm-gelled flash providing fill on the foreground wall. The end result reminds you of how it would look lit by an old oil lamp. It’s an edgy look, and I have to wonder if the photographer did any other shots that way.

Me, I’d have been tempted to shoot much more of the day that way. Don’t get me wrong, that diffused ambient lighting is wonderful. But mix in some strobes and you have the chance to really kick it up a notch. The colors in the sky would saturate, and the whole scene would take on an almost surreal look. You could even think about really working the whole oil lamp look and placing your strobes to emulate that light; this would be a rare occasion to make long shadows work for you, instead of trying to eliminate or hide them as we’d usually do.

I am not second guessing Ms. Fay or saying that she did anything wrong – far from it, I think she did a wonderful job. I am simply looking at the situation and seeing something that I like, and would have pursued further in terms of style. This is what we should all be doing as photographers when we study the work of our peers/competition; reverse engineering the elements we like, and then taking them a step further, flavoring them with our own personal styles.

You can teach a chimp to copy a setup; you have to be an artist to borrow an idea, work with it, and make it your own. If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to borrow elements of this setup someday. First, I have to find someone who can build it.

Brent Pennington is a freelance photographer and the driving force behind The Roving Photographer. When he\’s not working with portraiture or promotional clients, he’s usually in the field, hiking, or kayaking in pursuit of nature and wildlife shots.

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1 Comment

  1. Hello Brent!! I just saw this link on my statistic page and had to read it! Great comments. I just wanted to clarity with you on the lit photographs you were referring to (the wood with the seating arrangements) actually werent shot with any flash at all. I dont ever use flash until its just about complete dark out…. I think I feel the natural light more is more preferred by my brides 🙂 I think I also find things don’t look natural with flash. (just my opinion) but I do agree that skies do look beautiful but its just not my style 🙂 Thanks for the article!!!

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