Lots of Wins in the WPJA Mid-Season Contest!

Whew, the mid-season 2019 Wedding Photojournalist Association’s contest was good to me – I took in a haul of four awards! The judges are all Photojournalists who are Pulitzer prize-winning photographers and create some incredible work themselves by documenting everything from portraits and stories from marginalized communities to capturing the devastation from catastrophic events worldwide.

These images are from three different weddings, and all were so very different from one another which is exactly what I love about photographing wedding days. The unique stories and the untold moments that happen behind the scenes or briefly while the rest of the wedding is moving at breakneck speeds, are what I am always on the lookout for.

So much can be told in an image that captures a real moment and it’s why I prefer to not stage or manufacture anything, but instead let real life unfold before me. The truth of a wedding day is always far more interesting than what can be directed or planned – I believe in that wholeheartedly.

So with this blog, I’m going to do my usual breaking down of the images to give you a little insight into the what was happening and what my thought process was behind the angle, the light, or the framing to give you some insight into what rolls through my head.

But before that, if you’re interested, feel free to take a look at my full profile on WPJA to see the rest of my award-winning wedding images by heading HERE!

Ok, onto the pictures! Scroll below the image to read more about each one’s moment.

The bride fans herself on the record breaking heat on her York Maine wedding day

Ok guys, this day was HOT. Like HOTTTTT. It was the record-breaking day of heat today that I later heard other brides were putting ice packs under their dresses to try and stay cool. Thankfully, Bri and Justin had their wedding on the water in York Maine so that not only was the breeze off the ocean there to cool us off, but there was also plenty of shade on the grounds of the Dockside Guest Quarters where people could cool off from the sun.

But there was a liiiittle hiccup with the bride’s suite and with a couple of the girls using the space for hair and makeup at the same time, the overtaxes breaker would blow when you combined those things and the air conditioner. So they’d lose the cool blasts of air each time one too many things was run.

With a decent number of people packed into the small space, that room was getting TOASTY! So while Bri was doing her best to calm her nerves about having to soon say in front of the intimate wedding crowd her vows to her soon to be, the temperatures were rising and rising as the curls were put into her gorgeously long hair! After her trying to fan herself off with whatever she could grab, her maid of honor remembered they’d bough fans last minute and that was just what the doctor ordered.

She started off just fanning her face and arms but then she was like “F this, I’m going in and I’m gonna fan my chest too!” and I quickly came in close and captured the moment as she laughed at the ridiculousness of it all!

I loved photographing Bri so much because all day she was just perfectly herself, and she didn’t bat an eye at my getting angles or working to tell her story as truthfully as I could. In fact, she completely encouraged it and that only pushed me to not feel any concern on my end and to just tell the stories from each part of the day.

If you want to see more of their wedding day, head on over here to Bri and Justin’s Dockside Guest Quarters wedding day!

Bridesmaid gets into the music and the party at The Preserve at Chocorua wedding day in New Hampshire

The next two are from the same wedding at one of my favorite venues, The Preserve at Chocorua. This wedding fell into my lap almost literally – it happened when the couple’s original wedding photographer ended up needing to cancel on them THE WEEK OF THEIR WEDDING and thankfully I still had space available!

Needless to say, we hardly knew each other but through her somehow steady voice and description of their day and the two of them, I knew it was going to be a great fit.

And MAN, was I right.

I’m so glad I was able to come into this wedding and be a part of their history because the amount of love they have between them combined with how they damn sure know how to have a party meant this day was everything I could have hoped for and more.

And once the reception opened up, her bridesmaid Alexa who is jumping and shouting along to the song here is the one who really led the crew into the celebrating. She is exactly who I love to photograph on the dance floor!

So for the way their wedding was set up, I placed two lights on the dancefloor facing one another and had them positioned directly across from one another so that no matter which way I turned, my flash on camera could trigger the lights to burst and illuminate the party-goers.

With each venue and location, it’s a science to figure out where exactly to place the lights for the reception to make sure that everything from the toasts, to the cake cutting, to the dance floor is getting the best light possible.

Sadly, there are A LOT of photographers who don’t know how to use this kind of lighting on a wedding day (it’s called “off-camera flash” or OCF in the wedding photography world) either because they can’t afford the gear or because they are unsure about learning how to use this sort of light properly. It IS confusing at first, for sure, but when it’s used it’s far superior to only using a flash on your camera because the additional lights add so much dimension and a dynamic look to the photos.

So while I don’t use flash typically at any other parts of the day (unless it’s needed), I always bust it out for the reception since it’s going to be later and indoors and if I don’t, the pictures will look flat and boring in my opinion.

You can see that Alexa is lit from behind by that burst of light just over her left shoulder. That light is actually lighting up her hair and shoulders and giving her dimension – otherwise, her hair and some of the shape to her body would get lost and blend in with the background making it look less interesting to the eye.

That light behind her is also backlighting some of the faces to the left and giving them dimension and on top of that, she’s also acting like a reflector and some of that light is pushing backward and lighting up faces and things too.

The other light that’s facing her (as well as my on-camera flash) is illuminating the front of her and making sure that we can see her awesome face as she screams along to the music, and it’s also helping light up some of the faces of the crowd too. Again, this gives depth to the image and it makes it more three dimensional rather than flat.

And the moment? Well, that’s all Alexa! I definitely cue in on the people that will be brightening up the dance floor with their own light and am always at the ready to get in and capture those wild moments as they unfurl!

So what’s the lesson here? Ask your photographer if they know how they will illuminate the reception and definitely try to make sure they will be using off-camera flash so that you have images that have light coming from different angles which will always be more pleasing to look at over one bright flash aimed right at your guest’s mugs as they celebrate with you :)

Groom dips the bride at their barn reception at The Preserve at Chocorua wedding day

That dip though! Fred did it so well and Calli was all about the bend and the kiss!

What to know a little secret about dips and photographers? They can be REAL hard to capture.

We never really know where you’ll be standing when the dip happens (even if the couple has planned it perfectly, their footing may shift some or they may do an extra spin at some point and the way you WERE supposed to be facing for the dip could now be entirely different!) and it’s something that sometimes can be nailed perfectly, and then other times we’ve found ourselves in a spot that was just not as cool.

And then there’s also the times where it’s not planned at all and the couple is in the moment and BAM! someone goes for the dip and all the preparation in the world won’t replace being a mind reader :) Dips tend to be a really spontaneous moment and if I know one is going to happen, I will do my best to track and try to be in the best spot but life happens sometimes and it isn’t as spectacular as I hoped.

However, for Calli + Fred from the aforementioned Preserve at Chocorua wedding from above, I was in just the right spot and I was able to press that shutter to get that oh so perfect kiss and dip!

Again, my ability to use and set up off-camera flash ups my odds of being able to not only capture the moment, but to also have the light in such a way that it looks beautiful in that aspect too.

My setup with two flashes pointed at each other across from the main points of the dance floor set up the light for this image perfectly so they were illuminated and so there’s some dimension to the image. In this one, the dimension you can see is the light on Fred’s back which is also the same light that’s hitting some of the guests too.

To see the rest of their wedding day blog, head over here!

The groom and his best man get the party going as they make their way to the Kitz Farm wedding reception in NH

And last but DEFINITELY not least is Jared and his best man (who is also bride Jess’s brother) getting into party mode as the reception kicked off in the barn at Kitz Farm in Strafford New Hampshire!

This night was full of flips (remember this image?), singing at the top of their lungs, and a wild dance floor so I was constantly on the move. Throw into the mix that the dance floor for Kitz Farm is a little different because it’s a long rectangle shape that goes the whole length of the barn which means flashes were constantly being adjusted and moved to follow the guests and the party so the light would be awesome for as many of the moments as possible.

And I know I may sound like a broken record, but here’s another example of those off-camera flashes coming in handy!

You can tell that I’m not relying solely on a flash atop my camera by the light as it falls across Jared’s face and his best man – the right side of their faces don’t have as much light as the left. And you can also see the shadow from Jared’s raised arm on the person who is coming in from the right of the image letting you know that the primary light source is my flash that’s out of the shot on the left.

What that means is, you guessed it, dimension.

It adds interest to the eye, looks better than just washing out the things that are pointed right at my lens, and it results in a more natural look in the end.

You know the look of a cell-phone shot at night with your phone’s flash being the only source of light, it’s washed out, it’s flat and just doesn’t have as much oomph to it. It’s fine for a cellphone picture but I’m definitely always aiming to do better than that!

And for the moment, like I said, there was always something happening once the reception hit so I was moving all over the place to get the moments and with this one, in particular, I remember hearing some shouts off to my right and I turned and saw this happening so I ran over, got close (with this lens I am actually really close to their bodies because it’s a wide-angle lens and is my preference for lenses at the reception) and got the framing just right to get their faces, all of Jared’s outstretched arm, and the people around them.

Lens choice, like knowing flashes, is definitely a key to many great images and knowing that this one was the best to use so I could get everything in the frame and still get close so you can feeeeel the excitement of these two guys is something else that you need to have down pat.

So there you have it folks! Thanks for reading all of this and if you have images YOU want to know more about how I did it or what the thought process was for me, let me know! I’m planning on doing more of these in the future and one ones that didn’t necessarily win an award so send your requests on over!

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