Thursday, June 11, 2015

Seeing and photographing details at weddings, mitzvahs and other events

This weeks blog is all about capturing details while photographing events. You know...the small things that some people overlook, but you as a photographer need to capture to help capture the spirit of the day.

I am going to start with weddings. These are major events in people's lives, and the bride, along with her family and friends (and yes, even the groom might even be involved) have planned the day down to the smallest detail. As a photographer who has been hired to capture this special day, you need to look for these details and photograph them in a meaningful way.

Anyone who has photographed weddings for a living knows that you must capture a macro shot of the rings. I like to photograph the rings in a surrounding that shows additional details of the wedding. In this case, I used one of the bouquets to rest the rings. In a western themed wedding, we put the rings on some cowboy boots.

I photographed this at my sister's wedding. I wanted to get a detail shot of her bouquet, with just a hint of her in the background. I used the Canon 100-400 lens at f/5.6 to get in close.

Here is another photograph highlighting the wedding bouquets. For this, we arranged the flowers in front of a small fountain at the hotel. I photographed this with the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 lens at f/1.6. I shot at this wide aperture to make sure that the focus was only on the bouquets and not anywhere else.

Unlike the rings and the bouquets, there are often other details which are important to the bride, groom and their families. You should talk to the members of the wedding party to get as much information as possible. While talking to Alina, she mentioned that these earrings were important to her. So, I zoomed in to 200mm, set the aperture at f/4 and focused only on her earrings. I used the bouquet and her smile to frame the shot, but the subject is the earrings and nothing else.

A couple of days before their wedding, my wife and I were having drinks with the family, and the bride's father told us that he had carved some wood with Trey and Lauren's initials. I knew that this was something I had to photograph as part of their story. We asked if we could photograph these pieces, borrowed the bride and groom to be for a couple of minutes and I took this.

While photographing Trey and Lauren's wedding, I moved back to shoot a long shot of them down the aisle. I had seen this sign earlier in the day and knew that it would make a good photo. I moved into a position where I could see the wedding party in the shot, using the Canon 70-200mm II lens mounted on a Canon 1Dx, I rolled the aperture to f/2.8, focused on the sign and shot this. It is one of my favorite shots from their wedding.

Details are not just important when photographing weddings. I find that there are details in almost everything I shoot. Next let's look at Bar and Bat Mitzvahs.

I almost always start my day, before the family arrives, with a photograph of the program. Like the wedding rings, I try to put the program somewhere interesting, not just on a table. Since this family had a beautiful flower arrangement at the front of the Temple, I decided to put the program and yalmacha (cap) carefully into the arrangement. I do this for two reasons. First, it is a shot that many of the families like, and secondly, it is a good way for me to have the correct spelling of the participant's name and their date...

Here is a detail shot of the torah (hebrew scroll). Like many of the previous photos, I chose to have the tip of the yad (pointer) in focus with everything else out of focus. This draws the viewer's attention to the torah and yad, not the child. I shot this at f/2.8 to have narrow focus on the torah, but still wanted to give a hint of the pattern and colors of her dress. If I had taken this at f/1.2, I feel that the foreground and background would be too diffused and unrecognizable.

I was photographing this young lady's mitzvah practice when she mentioned something special about this yad. It had the hebrew letters that spelled her name. After hearing this, I asked her to hold it out towards me, focused on the yad, and shot this. 

Almost all the previous photos had a person in the shot, even if they were not the focus of the photo. But that does not mean that they have to be in the shot. While photographing a mitzvah practice, there was a point in time when the rabbi and child were away from the torah. I saw the yad laying on the torah and grabbed this shot. I used the Canon 5D Mark III with a Sigma 85mm f/1.4 lens and took this wide open at f/1.4 . I was careful to focus on the very tip of the yad.

Just a week ago I was photographing a Bat Mitzvah where the young lady opted to play guitar during her service. Just minutes before the start of the service, she was practicing, I went very close to her, using the Canon 24-70mm II lens and photographed this tight shot of her hands at f/2.8. I love that this shows the detail of the guitar, and the color of her fingernails. You don't even need to see her body or face to know what she is doing here. 

This young lady had a really pretty yalmacha made of silver. I asked her to turn around and captured this photo to show that detail. 

Unlike the simplicity of the silver yalmacha, these were really intricate caps imported into the country for a high-end Bat Mitzvah in San Francisco. I stood in a place where I could fill the frame with all these colors and took this photo. I chose to shoot this photo at f/4 to have narrow focus, but still have all of the orange yalmacha all in focus,

I usually get to mitzvah party about 45 minutes before the guests are expected to arrive. This gives me time to get all my detail shots. One of the photos I always look for, is the place cards. In this case, they were really unique. The theme of the mitzvah party was New York and they had everyone's names on taxi cabs. So cool! It would be a shame not to have this photo.

Here is another detail shot of an elaborate mitzvah party. Not only do these make beautiful photos, but these photos are also highly requested by the coordinators and other vendors for their portfolio and websites. My wife, who does all the album design, also loves having these types of photos to use as backgrounds in the family's album.

I usually check out the food before the guests arrive in the room. No! I don't do this to get early grabs on the good chow (well...maybe). I am looking for good photo opportunities. Again, these are usually requested by the caterers.

As I mentioned earlier, details shots are not just for weddings and mitzvahs. These next two photos are detail shots that I captured at the Summer Olympics in London.

I love that this detail shot shows the field hockey ball, the stick and the shoe. But it also shows the colors that were used during the 2012 Olympics.

This is one of my favorite photos from the London Olympics. No, it does not show the face of the player or anyone defending against them. But it shows the athletes Olympic tattoo with a matching logo on the ball. 

Look for the details in everything you shoot. It allows you to be more creative and will likely get you some of your favorite photos!


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