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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Need a reminder about composition/context


Okay, so yesterday I put my first 6 weddings from 2013 on my website...and it gave me a chance to look through my recent photos. As I did this, I found myself viewing them more as a spectator or outside person rather than as the photographer, and so how I thought about the photos changed.

The first thing I noticed...#1...some, perhaps many or most, were uninteresting or had an unwanted element. To detail:

In many cases, I captured simple, straightforward photos of X hugging or Y laughing, but while that was happening something else may have been in the frame that was not so pleasing...especially someone else doing something with their face that was un-good, or even making eye contact towards an invisible subject. I don't like this...for one, because the images are typically not filled with context or storytelling (and are, often, not very interesting as a result), and for another because I am getting stuff that I don't want in my photos fairly often without even realizing or noticing.

In other cases, my simple, straightforward photos of X or Y were just generally uninteresting by themselves.

Once in a while I would notice a photo that I liked, and it seemed that most photos I liked had a lot of strong energy (dynamic smiling/interacting with good emotion) in them.

Then there were photos of...things...which, when I would come across said photos in my search yesterday, would prompt me to ask...what the heck did I take THAT picture for?...omg.

Whenever I look at my posed photos in a conglomerate, I find that most of my compositions are very plain. They aren't complex or deep, my angles are usually just a few, redundant and simple...blah.

Now, there have been a few very good documentary photographers I have seen...most of them were, in fact, not wedding photographers but rather some kind of journalist for news or other media...and when I would like their photos, it would be often because there was so much of a story going on in any single photo. It makes me envious of that ability to see so well, and I know that such a photographer could see just as well in a wedding as in any other scenario and put together very good photos virtually anywhere.

I wish I could do that. Candids and documenting the wedding are a big part of my work.

I also wish I could - like many photographers do - have more dynamic creativity in how and what I photograph when shooting posed photos. I know now that it's not just about the faces, nor about the poses, but often the meaning behind certain contact, certain looks etc...and how to express the meaning in a picture. It's difficult for me, but I understand the general idea. I'm not able to actually compose it in the frame, but I think I know what to go for...I just don't know how to go about it.

I will use some of my latest blog photos to illustrate:

I kind of like this photo, though I don't like the TV behind, or the overtight crop of the bride's head:






I like this photo, but I had nothing to do with her posing. It was all about her own personality...and I wish I could actually think of ways to get people to do this without it being innately something they are prone to:






I don't like this photo because I feel it is compositionally weak, but I'm not sure how I would have captured it in a more interesting way:






Generally straightforward idea, contextually OK, but I don't know if the photo isn't still just trash:






I try to "fill up" missing things at other times by making up for it later. Sometimes I also find shooting inside the limo lacks anything interesting going on after I've caught someone smiling, the whole thing, some drinks passed around, etc...so I look for stuff like details during that time. So I see the bride's bouquet...but I don't know if the photo is actually any good or if it's just a waste of time:






I like this because it feels more spontaneous and the overall capture doesn't have much interfering with it:






I don't know how to take good "getting into/out of the limo" photos of the bride. I need help with this:






I've taken a recent liking to shooting photos like this:






Simple, straightforward, and boring...how do I make it more interesting?






I like the focus on her shoes, but on second thought I should've asked him to move away his watch hand:






Kind of boring, get's the job done but...still kind of boring to me:






Next wedding....

Eh. Trying to capture the interaction with the young girl, but not that interesting...how would I do it different? Not sure...






Lacks interest, I see the subject but it's just not that interesting and other elements that don't make sense IMO...






Plain, boring:






Don't know how to shoot pool/games very well...but wanted to capture it somehow anyway:






Don't like, I didn't get the right angle, I couldn't figure it out, but I wanted to capture the entire length of the table:






Like the more dynamic idea, wish the sun didn't completely white out his shirt but I didn't notice at the time:






I like this one better than the other table shot, but it's taken at a different time:






Just Ok, not sure...just not that interesting, not sure how to capture it better:






Ok, she's laughing with the mic...what else? Seems inadequate:






Similar, just OK, I wish I could capture the interaction with the group without minimizing the speaker but I don't know how:






What the ring really said inside (but I added the glow):






Elvis comes along...and lighting him plus everyone else becomes difficult at nighttime...plus I have a whole set of photos where the visual interaction between the guests and him is virtually nonexistent (just like this one):






Same:






Incomplete capture, see only a piece of it on the left side:






Next wedding...

Okay. Straightforward, simple. Nothing really great. Not sure how to improve these:






What I often capture in the limo:






When the faces of some people really don't go well in the image, but it's too late or I can't fix it...:






As said before, I don't know how to capture good getting-in/out-of-limo shots:






One of my favorites of the year, that same flare-prone style that seems to soften things so much:






How could I have made this stronger?






Just OK, couldn't figure out a good angle for this:






I find this shot amusing, though the composition isn't probably very good:






I find circular toast photos difficult, not sure what to focus on or how to frame it...




and






I think the context is OK in this one:






Next wedding...

Would this be better if I moved my framing so the entire area was filled with them instead of having a blank area in the lower left?






Boring detail shot:






Boring dressing shot:






Why do I like this detail shot?






I need to cut out these diagonals:






So many things avoided, trying to isolate focus on this groomsman...ends up being kind of bleh, lacks context again:






Okay, but...just okay. Don't think the framing is good, kind of just simple, straightforward...






Excellent example of complete lack of context...since the dance happens basically in a vacuum and by itself, how would I even get the context without minimizing them since the table settings are all 30 feet away?...would I need a really long lens or something and shoot through people?






In contrast, I kind of like this context:






Again, this subject...30 feet from the tables...how, without making him very small in the frame?






I like this shot, dynamic:






While this one, also dynamic, is boring:






One of my favorites from this year, somehow the interaction with me actually makes part of the interest for me:






Dumb luck 100%, but I was really grateful for it:






Next wedding...

Okay, not much else going on...wish I could add context without minimizing her:






The girl was excited about a gift from the bride...it's OK, maybe more of the left side of the frame?






Absolutely 0 context...sigh.






One of the times when I like some isolated direct sunlight for a detail, but it's lacking by itself and needs additional objects:






One of my better creative moments, the challenge was how much to cut her face without it making her look bad:






BOooring...






Needed foreground or something, lacks context:






Better than the others:






I kind of like this one too, but not sure how I would have made it better:






Carefully framed, it came out ok IMO:






Better context than some, still not great in overall IMO:






Undecided:






Also undecided:






And this, I kind of like but not completely...






Kind of like:






Context isn't bad:






One of my better food photos:






Kind of like it:






Though the end result framing is this, which I don't like because the groom isn't in the image:






Just OK, I tried finding good leading lines but didn't succeed:






She has a wide frame, but I am somewhat attracted to brides that are broad across the front so I don't avoid it that often...






I actually kind of like this poorly lit, motion blurred image of the bride getting into the transport:






Limo had these things in the wall paneling, so I tried to use them for a light source:






Next wedding...

Ok, lacks context and bad framing:






Similar poor context IMO:






Creative effort, not sure about it:






I don't know how to frame these big room, everyone staring/helping with the dress shots:






Similar to above:






This is OK:






And yet another framing of getting-out-of-limo:






Groom's personality showing, I don't like my framing:






Backlight used after bride read her note to the groom:






Bad framing, but I like the dynamics:






Love-hate:






Tried to capture the "guestbook" area in context with people present:






Not sure about this framing:






Dad dance, not sure about framing, context, etc..






Just OK:






I like the motion of this:






Hawaiian dance from one angle that doesn't show the viewers...






I want to capture the whole dance area being full of people cheering, but I don't know how...this is usually my kind of result and I don't like it:






I like this better, but still not right:






Ok way of showing b&g listening to performers, but I want better...not sure how to do that:






The groom is enigmatic enough to carry this IMO:






I absolutely could not figure out a good framing for the performers for this song:






That's all from the last 6 weddings, based only on what is showing in the blog. There are lots of other photos, and the ones I selected for blog were all chosen from large thumbnails...that is to say, I picked the themes but not the exact best photos of any particular "scene."

So, for those who have often said...post examples...here is one big example set.

Edited on May 24, 2013 at 07:16 PM · View previous versions



May 24, 2013 at 06:48 PM
jeremy_clay
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Need a reminder about composition/context


Tons of shots. Must have taken a lot of time. Only picking out a few.

a) Generally, quit tilting so much IMO.

This is probably the worst way to shoot this unless it's a shot to add to a collage of limo ride shots. Better would be focus on his face. Better more would be shoot the reflection in the champagne glasses, or through it.






Crop this tighter from top left, leave main subj. and other two. Would do in a strong B/W as well.







Focus on the woman in pink for 1000% more interesting PJ shot. Leave foreground hug to add context. Leave your secondary to shoot the standard frame, or shoot them both yourself.








May 24, 2013 at 06:54 PM
widjayaman
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Need a reminder about composition/context


Joey, I'm sure you know this much - you think a lot. We are our own harshest critics.

There are certainly things that can be improved on - I really admire your persistence in analyzing how you can do better - it truly had pushed me to start being more a little bit more analytical with my work.

That said, everyone will have those shots you mention on their wedding gallery unless you're one of those people who only delivers 100 amazing shots from the wedding. These people just don't show them on the blog. I'm talking about good enough - not amazing shots.

I personally believe that there are 3 elements of a good picture, and they are moment, composition, and light. If I can get 2 out 3 then the photo makes the cut.

You are a very good photographer and should never think otherwise.

And oh, charge more



May 24, 2013 at 07:07 PM
form
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Need a reminder about composition/context


jeremy_clay wrote:
Tons of shots. Must have taken a lot of time. Only picking out a few.

a) Generally, quit tilting so much IMO.

This is probably the worst way to shoot this unless it's a shot to add to a collage of limo ride shots. Better would be focus on his face. Better more would be shoot the reflection in the champagne glasses, or through it.
http://www.joeyallenphoto.com/LasVegasWeddingPhotographer/Apr13_13/MariskaWesley-006.jpg

Crop this tighter from top left, leave main subj. and other two. Would do in a strong B/W as well.

http://www.joeyallenphoto.com/LasVegasWeddingPhotographer/Apr25_13/MikeShelly-022.jpg

Focus on the woman in pink for 1000% more interesting PJ shot. Leave foreground hug to add context. Leave
...Show more

All interesting ideas, thanks. I don't ever have a second photographer so I'd have to do it myself...and yes I have been reminding myself recently to try NOT to tilt so much. Bad habit.



May 24, 2013 at 07:18 PM
CMB Photo
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Need a reminder about composition/context


From what I see (my level/experience is below yours) I can see that you have a lot of good shots. I see a lot of solid/save shots. More traditional angles. What I'd like to see more is more your subject interacting with YOU. So far, your style is more posed/journalistic style. You might go for more "crazy" camera angles as well. However, you just might have this "kind" of clientele in the market where you work. Your work, as it is right now IS your brand. Hence, your past clients hired you just for this kind of work. Therefore I'd be happy about that. Another extreme is that people don't care about the clients likes and views and go all the way crazy and artistry and then what? Clients don't like what they see, photog don't get booked. See where I'm coming from. I think you're growing which is awesome. Get these safe shots and try something new. Try to interact more with your client. Get connected with them. That will require more of your energy, as a result you should see it in them. Those synergy shots that you're looking for. I'd just keep somewhat healthy balance between all around solid and safe shots with somewhat artsy/new ones. It will affect your brand though. Hope for the good! Good luck and thanks for analyzing and sharing your own work! There's 1000's photogs looking at this now and saying "whoah..i wish I'd have shots like theeeseeee...."

P.S. After looking at the batch - you might crop tighter - will bring more emotions, power and your personal contact with the client. Don't be afraid to get up close with them and personal. By getting comfortable with yourself, you'll make them 200% comfortable in front of your lens.



May 24, 2013 at 07:33 PM
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Need a reminder about composition/context


form wrote:
All interesting ideas, thanks. I don't ever have a second photographer so I'd have to do it myself...and yes I have been reminding myself recently to try NOT to tilt so much. Bad habit.


I'd say - tilt more! (sorry)...



May 24, 2013 at 07:40 PM
asparkes
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Need a reminder about composition/context


Ok, so I'll admit that I stopped reading about halfway through, but I think you're too hard on yourself.


May 24, 2013 at 08:11 PM
 

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SloPhoto
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Need a reminder about composition/context


"If your pictures aren't good enough, you're not close enough" - robert capa

Get close, shoot wide, be ok with some distortion/bad effects in some shots. You push so hard for perfect with each frame, you are going to miss interesting options.

Your photos are good, to go past that you will have to (IMO) give up some of your fear. Take some shots that may be unflattering, take some shots with uneven/risky lighting.

My only direct comment, with the pool shot I would try shooting at below table level and shoot up the pool cue using the pool cue as a leading line up to his face. I see this same fear of getting into the action in several of the shots you posted.

But you are a better photographer than me, so take this with a grain of salt.



May 24, 2013 at 08:33 PM
form
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Need a reminder about composition/context


Thanks, I hope someone might have suggestions for some of the other photos I really don't know how to do right (which I described in this set)...


May 24, 2013 at 10:31 PM
scottam10
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Need a reminder about composition/context


Great to see you analysing your own work. To me, several of these shots are weakened by facial expressions and where people are looking.

Of course this is just my opionion, feel free to disagree (no images numbers so I'll reference your comments)

"I kind of like this photo, though I don't like the TV behind, or the overtight crop of the bride's head:"
- I like this shot, the interaction between bride and bridesmaids is good, the TV is fine and doesn't detract too much from this type of shot.

"I don't like this photo because I feel it is compositionally weak, but I'm not sure how I would have captured it in a more interesting way:"
- I'm not keen on this photo because the expressions are boring and nothing much is happening - I'd ditch it.

"I like this because it feels more spontaneous and the overall capture doesn't have much interfering with it"
- Great shot, nice moment, the heads on the sides of frame add context, tilt doesn't detract too much

"Lacks interest, I see the subject but it's just not that interesting and other elements that don't make sense IMO..."
- I agree, not that interesting, bottle is unidentifiable orange ??, why focus on the bottle? This might work with a champagne bottle

"Elvis comes along..."
- as you say, lots of empty space, no interaction between Elvis and guests. Nothing much you can do to make this interesting besides going tighter on Elvis or waiting til people are looking at him

"I find this shot amusing, though the composition isn't probably very good:"
- The guy's mouth is wide open, people hardly ever look good while eating!

"I think the context is OK in this one:"
I agree, B&G are in focus, and we see enough of the speaker to give context

"So many things avoided, trying to isolate focus on this groomsman...ends up being kind of bleh, lacks context again:"
I agree, boring expressions, no context.

"Okay, but...just okay. Don't think the framing is good, kind of just simple, straightforward..."
Simple, good expressions, nothing wrong with this one!

"Dumb luck 100%, but I was really grateful for it:"
Gotta get lucky sometimes!

"Though the end result framing is this, which I don't like because the groom isn't in the image:"
I think this works well, we don't really need the groom in the image because he's OOF anyway, bride is in focus and we have the watchers in the BG. Nice shot.

"Tried to capture the "guestbook" area in context with people present:"
All I see are people's backs. We need to see faces to make this interesting.

"Hawaiian dance from one angle that doesn't show the viewers..."
How about getting getting behind some of the viewers, and looking through them OOF in the foreground with the dance in focus in the BG

"I like this better, but still not right:"
- I think this is great - nice and close to the action with a wide angle, lots of action and lines leading to B&G in the centre

"Ok way of showing b&g listening to performers, but I want better...not sure how to do that:"
I agree, this is a good way of showing this.








May 24, 2013 at 11:26 PM
morganb4
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Need a reminder about composition/context


I enjoyed looking at most of these. Thanks for sharing.
Particularly liked the mono of the asian chick looking at the camera with the flair behind her.
Really nice.



May 25, 2013 at 11:37 AM
form
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Need a reminder about composition/context


Today I revisit a related issue I am having. This time my biggest problem, as it has been before, is thinking of creative poses - and also thinking of ways to shoot between poses and get the b&g simply happy and laughing and having fun.

Yesterday was the one good wedding out of all the ones from this weekend. All others were difficult in one way or another, and the one before last night didn't seem to regard the photographer as anything except a tagalong with a fancy camera. But last night...bride looked great and was willing to do some photos, not burnt out by a chapel photog and not demanding. A bit on the side of wanting the photos to be more dynamic and natural...which reminded me of my deficiency.

I found myself unable to think of many ways to pose them together, let alone creative ways. I felt incredibly redundant and limited in ideas. And I felt like I couldn't seem to get those candid in-between-poses shots off at all, or create a situation where such a thing was possible or would come out nicely - with one exception.

The walls of creativity closed in on me. I've been feeling it creeping in for some time again, and now it's back like it was last year. That blah rut of feeling like I don't know jack. It seems like it comes back every time I take some months away from photography. Each time needs a kind of hard reset to get things going again...and I suppose things will come to me better again sometime soon. But I really want to stop being so plain and average as a photographer. I want to be an expert at posing people - turn one of my weakest points into a strong one.

And then...I would like to be able to even conceive of creative uses of environment like Jclay's latest single photo post. I never think of anything like that. My mind just doesn't do that stuff. And that sucks. I want to be able to pull stuff like that off with every wedding.

Examples of the posed photos below:

The most natural and spontaneous, I like this one in some ways but I probably should have had a different background:






Struggling to properly pose the arms, body and face of the bride:






One of the favorites from the day:






Going to remove the hair, but otherwise I think it's ok - however it is redundant to many other photos in the set:






One of the "creative" ones I tried using the environment for:






This was a stretch, my idea was to see their shoes - but the foreground and background are very busy:






Traditional, kind of boring, more awkward posing:






IMO not very good, but I was trying to get the background at night:






So my poses...static, boring for the most part, and contrived. My use of environment is redundant (many of my photos of the cityscape are similar), and I'm sure I'm not seeing the lines...it's all very frustrating to me right now.



May 28, 2013 at 03:25 PM
Nikon_14
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Need a reminder about composition/context


form wrote:
the one before last night didn't seem to regard the photographer as anything except a tagalong with a fancy camera.



Sounds like some others I've shot recently... like the dove-tender who "instructed" me on how to capture the dove release. Oh well, every occupation has its drawbacks.



May 28, 2013 at 03:58 PM





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