Creative people aren’t creative all the time or at the drop of a hat. We can’t turn it on at a moments notice and go from sloth to creative genius in a flash. It takes a few minutes to get going.
My least creative time is when trying to do pictures in the middle of the day in bright sunshine. This is of course the most popular time to do the family photos at a wedding. Just after the ceremony when everyone is forced into one location creates the perfect opportunity to get them done. Most people, when looking at this scene, think “Wow, how much better could it get?”
Me looking at the same scene sees nothing but harsh, harsh shadows and insanely bright light. My face might look like I’m in complete and absolute control of everything. The master of the photographic universe. My mind, however, is thinking, “Holy cow. What am I going to do here?”
Luckily, from years and years of practice and extensive knowledge of my Profoto lighting equipment I can quickly and efficiently solve the problem. The very best way to solve this problem is to have a cloudy day. Yes, I know brides, grooms, and all the guests probably hate cloudy days. “The big day is ruined!” they might think. Not me. I’m thinking “Thank the gods for the clouds! I can put those lights to work and make my own sunshine. Yay!” Now it’s only picking the right slightly dark background, lining people up, and making amazing studio quality group shots of them.
The second best way is to be lucky enough to have a dark background and a giant spot of continuous shade. It helps when there aren’t 50 people in the group, too. If the group gets that big I just put them all in the sun and hope for the best. Notice the dark background and the giant spot of continuous shade is very similar to a cloudy day. Now, just set up the light and go. The light hits them nicely and the dark background makes them pop out. The resulting pictures look amazing, yet the setup was simple and reproducible.
The third way, for emergencies and when possible, is to just do the pictures inside. Sometimes this can be were the ceremony took place in a church perhaps. Middle of the day church wedding? Yep, we have the group shots instantly covered. Great Hall Sunriver wedding? Yep, right there in front and a little out from the balcony so I can put my light up high.
A location like Pronghorn gets a little tough because the weddings usually are outside and a fair distance from the lodge. Plus there’s no real big spots of shadow. In cases like this, I line people up with the sun behind them as much as possible and use the Profoto with the light up high and naked. It still works pretty good and looks way better than a flash on camera or no flash at all, but it’s not up to my usual personal standards. Beggars can’t be choosers.
Very few photographers put the group shots on their websites. Why? I think there’s two reasons: the photographers don’t like doing them and they usually don’t look very good. It’s ironic that for many photographers the group shots are below their pay grade and yet the group shots are the most printed of all the pictures in a wedding. The other problem is most photographers don’t use a fabulous light system like the Profoto to make the most of the group shots. The lights make all the difference between pictures barely better than if using an iPhone and fabulous photos looking like they were done in an indoor studio.
The best part about learning how to use the lights, backgrounds, environmental constraints, and subjects is the least creative time of the day can be turned into an opportunity to make the most memorable pictures.