Event Lighting & Composition

Perspective & Settings for Couple’s Portraits

A big part of how a final image will look depends upon where you are positioned and what equipment and settings you choose to use. Are you going to take the photograph from below or from above? From a lower perspective to minimize or from a higher perspective? Emphasizing an object in the foreground or cropping in close to have the couple fill the frame? Are you going to choose a slower shutter speed to emphasize movement, or are you going to choose a shallow depth of field to separate your subject from the background? Are you going to try to incorporate flare in the photograph?

Couples portraits

The same position/interaction from a different perspective can yield a very different photograph. If you mix and match the positions and interaction/actions, you will come up with more than a hundred potential poses. If you add perspective to that as well, you can double the number of possible photographs.

When choosing a perspective, here are some things to think about:

1. Minimize the background. Get low and shoot up at your couple. You may find that your background is only what’s in the sky (which may be some interesting cloud patterns).

2. Minimize everything except the couple. Crop in closely on the couple. It doesn’t matter where they are at that point, since they are filling the frame.

3. Maximize the foreground. Get low on the ground and shoot straight at your couple. If you choose a shallow depth of field, you can either sharply emphasize the foreground and keep your couple out of focus or you can emphasize the color, shape or texture of the foreground only, while keeping your couple in sharp focus. Or, of course, you can stop down and keep both in focus.

This classic car was an important detail at the wedding. I moved in close with my 24mm lens to increase the size of the car in the frame relative to the tree behind it.

4. Emphasize the sky. Think about doing a silhouette and expose for the sky. Or, think about adding a bit of fill flash or video light to balance the proper sky exposure with the proper couple exposure. I rarely add any light to my scenes, but I know that there are people who use external light sources with fabulous results.

5. Include flare in your shot. Stop down to ƒ/13 or beyond, choose a lens that flares easily, and dance around your couple until you get the amount of flare you want.

6. Shoot a detail with the couple in the background. Choose a shallow depth of field and fill your frame with as much of the detail as you can without pushing the couple out.

The scrollwork of this gate framed the couple nicely. I photographed this at ƒ/1.6 with my 50mm lens so that the swirls would add to the scene rather than competing with the couple.

7. Emphasize the couple and the immediate surroundings. Position your couple on the ground and shoot down on them or place the flowers/leaves/ferns in the foreground and shoot the couple through them.

In order to draw attention to the water and the interesting landscape, I put my 28mm 1.4 on the camera and crouched down close to the water. I didn’t want my couple to get lost in the trees on the left side of the frame, so I pulled them to my right until they cleared the trees entirely.

Excerpted from The Wedding Photography Field Guide by Michelle Turner ©2011 Taylor and Francis LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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