Albany Wedding Photography: Pre-Wedding Day Scouting
Apr 18, 2018 | By: sally carpenter
As a wedding photographer in Woodstock, VT I am familar with most of the local wedding venues, but whenever I am hired to photograph a wedding in a location I have not been to before, I always try to visit that area ahead of time, at the exact time of the ceremony. I like to arrive on a day similar to what the wedding day will be like, so I can "scout and shoot", usually with my assistant as the "model". In this case, the area for the pre-ceremony wedding photos was Albany, NY and the images of the bride will be taken at noon....not the best scenario, but perfectly workable. Unfortunately my assistant was not around for the pre-wedding day scout, so I decided to go ahead and take some shots of the buildings and area where we would be photographing on the wedding day. This post is more of a tutorial on the advantages of a pre-shoot in a new location, as well as a little wedding blog regarding an unexpected turn of events and a fun filled afternoon.
The first thing I saw was this beautiful staircase:
Just gorgeous, but at 12:30 there is no getting out of the direct light and although we can all visualize a wedding party staggered on the steps, or the bride descending them, the light would be very harsh and the area too large for a diffuser. I knew I needed a "model", not only for composition, but also for the difficult light and to see exactly where the shadows would fall on the bride and her bridal party. What happened next was rather hilarious and turned a routine scouting shoot into an interesting and eventful afternoon, with laughs, smiles and some very strange looks now and then!
I was standing by my car when I took the image above and a stranger approached me and asked if I had some "spare change" as he had fallen on hard times. Incredible as it seems, he was wearing a white shirt, so I knew right away it would photograph like a white wedding dress. I then asked him, with a mischievous smile, if he was intereted in "working" for a little money as my "model" while I scouted the area for wedding photography ideas for the wedding I would be photographing the next week. His face lit up like a child and I knew we were in for a fun filled hour. Since he was "local" he also knew of some areas, I might not have found and believe it or not, he came up with some wedding photo scenarios I would probably not have thought of either.
Let me introduce Kevin (my "bride" for the day):
You can see in this image, the light is still very harsh, but it is side lighting which is great for detail and texture and can be softened for the bride and wedding party. I also needed to remember NOT to have the lightpost protruding from the bride's head or anywhere near her, this is basic portrait composition 101 and "yes" sometimes I still forget to double check....not often, but it does happen. Perhaps moving the bride over to the shaded area and using my off camera flash as a directional light from the right would be interesting and something I will do on the day.
I asked Kevin to move to the shade and I tried several angles and "poses" along the railing:
Although the light is much softer here and was bouncing off the cement and filtered through the trees, it was still a little bit flat, so I now know when I photograph this with the bride, I will use my off camera flash for a little "pop". I will have it high up on her right side, viewer's left, and then photograph her on the soft, or shadow side of her face. This is a very flattering set up for most people. Photographing on the shadow side not only adds interest, it also defines the jawline and scuplts the face. I also think this image is a perfect example of the saying, "The eyes are the window to the soul!" :)
From here, we went to the stairway in the first image to see if there was going to be anyway to capture the bride in the direct, harsh light of the afternoon.
A few of my images were blury from laughing so hard as I was trying to take the pictures. Kevin was a real trouper!:
So, "yes!" I will be able to get some shots of the bride here, but I'll need to get as far to the soft side of her as possible. I love highlighted images, with the sun directly behind my subject, but in this case the scene did not work and now I know not to waste any time on the wedding day trying to photograph it that way on these stairs.
As we ventured around the corner I fell in love with the arches and red carpets in the front of this building:
And....here is that awesome, unexpected monent that just happens now and then. Obvioulsy, I thought: "Man, he just walked right into my frame"....but when I saw the image I realized this would be a perfect photo of the bride with the bridesmaids, out of focus in the foreground looking back at her! Not to mention those wonderful leading lines on the left.
My goodness....it happens again. This will be another great photo, with the bridesmaids in the background. For me, the light is perfect, soft, side light but a bit bouncing off the columns to fill in the shadow side ever so slightly. I know for sure, I want to concentrate the bridal party session around this building and it's entry way.
I forgot to mention, Kevin kept asking every stranger that passed by to come pose with him. This was great as I was able to see how the scene might play out with two subjects and how the light hit caucasian faces as well.
Normally in a situation such as this, I would have switched the two around so Kevin was on the outside, catching the side light and the other man was on the inside. Since he is a lot taller, he would also catch some side light...also I know not to include the plants in the wedding shoot, at least not in this scene. They are not relative to anything else and I find them distracting. However, I might get down below them and photograph the bride through them. I do know one thing, this corner of the building is going to be the frist place we photograph on the wedding day. The light is beautiful and the architecture could not be better, with leading lines, red carpets and interesting arches and columns.
Not really a pose for the bride, but it seemed to fit Kevin quite well:
Behind the image above you can see the sunlit balcony, it was an area I wanted to photograph the bridal part in but once again the light was brutal there. This is another instance where having a model and pre-wedding photographyn session will cut down on the time required on the actual wedding day. We tried many different angles and scenarios and when Kevin suggested the set up for the image below, I was not all that convinced, but, it's digital, so why not?
Guess what? I love it! Here is my dramatic sidelight and the view is great, I can just see the bride leaning over the railing looking out over the city of Albany. I'll photograph this in two ways, one at f2.8 to get a bokeh effect in the background and one just like this. I'll also have the bride face both ways and might ask her to sit in the corner like the image below, but I wil have a towel or fabric handy for my bride to sit on!
So, now our hour was almost up and Kevin asked me what "normal" photography models got paid. I tried my best to dodge the question, laughing it off and saying, it did not matter, he was getting paid what we agreed upon in the beginning. He laughed and said he was enjoying it and having a great time. I shot a couple more pictures here and liked the effect, looking back towards the arches:
The light is very harsh in this angle, so I know, once again to try and move more on the shadow side of the bride, but I want to keep the basic composition if possible. I also see the great leadning lines in the columns and will be sure and use those in the photos on the wedding day.
So our hour was up and I remembered I wanted to try out my infra-red converted Canon 7D. To get the best infra-red wedding images, you cannot just use filters or Color EFX, you really need to have a spare camera converted for infra-red only. I had not used it for a wedding yet, so asked Kevin if he would humor me and do a few more poses, down on the lawn. "Okay....will you buy me a hot dog, if I do? I love the hot dogs at that little stand over there." "Sure", I laughed, "I'll buy you a hot dog and a drink as well."
Infra-red wedding photography, isn't for everybody, but I happen to like the bizarre effects:
I went with Kevin to the hot dog vendor and just happend to shoot this parting shot as he walked away after our quick snack:
The texture of the pavement is beautiful and I am ashamed to admit I had not noticed it on the day. It was not until I got back and started to edit the images, it popped out at me. I'll be sure and bring the bridal party to this spot acoss the street and photograph them from ground level. It will be the weekend and the week day vendors will not be set up, so the background should only be the Albany state buliding. It just goes to show how important it is to be open to anything and eveything when it comes to your wedding photography.
To book your wedding or protrait sesison, or just to chat about your wedding photography requirements, please feel free to contact me anytime: contact me