Shooting Pictures with Passion ~ technique

Jan 20, 2010 | Location, Wedding | 12 comments

It was right at the beginning of my career as a photographer that I realised I needed to be able to capture the emotion between people in my pictures rather than just shots of the people themselves.

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In this grid you can see how I’ve often used very tight shots to eliminate distracting elements and to add impact to the shots. The collection shows shots from, Cherish the Dress workshops, Passion on the Streets workshops and a wedding. Notice how in some of the shots I’ve directed the girl to place her hands on or around the guys head.

The easy option was to adopt a reportage style of shooting and capture what was there in front of me but I was put off this idea after having spent three years shooting news for the BBC. I was more interested in being able to create moments then capture them. The drama shooting style I had many years of experience of prior to jumping ship into news. The great thing about setting up your shots is that you can light them and choose backgrounds to suit. It’s a bit like being the director, camera operator, location arranger and lighting designer of a Hollywood movie, you have total control of every aspect of the process. The only problem is then the casting. With weddings, Julie and I have had to pick our clients carefully. We need to be able to work with them in a controlled and fairly structured way. There needs to be love of course but perhaps more importantly we need to spark it off with our couples so that we can create the moments to capture.

Close proximity a lack of eye contact are just two important factors im my strategies.

A happy yet intimate shot like this is far more wedding than fashion. I sat the groom on a step higher than the bride and brought him in to embrace her. The calm warmth of their feelings combined with their beauty makes the picture. I shot this frame eight years ago on a classic Fujifilm S1 camera with just 3.2 million pixels. ISO 400, 1/600th at f/4

In the early days, back in the late 1990s I wasn’t inspired by the shots used in mainstream advertising. Model brides who looked miserable and sultry, grooms that looked like wife beaters and a whole lack of love. Then came a Calvin klein advertising campaign with a couple embracing on a beach. It was shot in black and white on grainy 35mm film and the shots were taken of action, evoked emotion and passion, rather than static poses by models who were obviously not an item. The dramatic effect of this action was accentuated by a tilted camera angle. The shots looked reportage but were under extreme control of every aspect of the shooting process. That was enough for me to set out my style. Fortunately, Julie and I dropped the tilt and the grain before it became passe.

Capturing emotion in a created moment is not easy and initially I had to resort to the strategies that film directors use when working with actors. I had plenty of experience of this in my previous career at the BBC. Now though, I have strategies of my own. A system of posing people that stimulates emotions and a patter to go with it. It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I had the maturity to earn enough respect with clients to make the process fairly straight forward.

You can’t stifle sheer joy. When Julie and I put this shot together back in 2002 we just let the true emotions flow. This couple are still our clients today. Fujifilm S1, ISO 400, 1/800th at f/4

You can’t stifle sheer joy. When Julie and I put this shot together back in 2002 we just let the true emotions flow. This couple are still our clients today. Fujifilm S1, ISO 400, 1/800th at f/4

If I am shooting using natural light, I select the subject position first so that the light is right. I bring my clients into the light, create the moment I want to capture using a combination of rapport and event sequence, then I capture the moment relying on timing an intuition. The emotions are genuine and the results look real yet polished. At a wedding Julie and I are always engineering ideal scenarios so that we achieve the shots we want without the need to wait for the right moment. This process has allowed us to shoot a lot more keepers and sell far more pictures than we would have done using a waiting game process.

If you want to take these kind of shots, your customers need to be up for it. This is a full on maximum intervention picture taking process and about as far removed from reportage, candid or fly on the wall as it is possible to get. When it all comes together it is amazing.

By 2003 Julie and I were using Fujifilm S2 cameras. This shot from that era caught the perfect moment of a kiss. This frame became our blueprint for kissing shots from then on. This couple are still our clients too. Fujifilm S2, ISO 800, 1/500th at f/4

By 2003 Julie and I were using Fujifilm S2 cameras. This shot from that era caught the perfect moment of a kiss. This frame became our blueprint for kissing shots from then on. This couple are still our clients too. Fujifilm S2, ISO 800, 1/500th at f/4

A close proximity is a vital ingredient for a passion picture. You want to get your customers in each others personal space and you want them to look completely at ease with the situation. I often ask my brides to close their eyes and just lean into their grooms trusting them to be their support. Then the couple need to totally immerse their thoughts into each other and bingo, magic happens.
I have many set poses that I’ve rehearsed and used time and again. Not all my poses will work with all couples but I find it very useful having a repertoire that I can call upon at any time. There’s no getting away from the fact that you have to inject direction and encouragement throughout the shoot stage and I wasn’t mature enough to earn the respect of couples and handle this with sufficient ease until a few years into my career.

I research my poses by studying adverts for perfumes and clothing in fashion magazines and online. I keep tear sheets and screen grabs and I mix and match ideas and styles. Just about any product or garment that is supposed to make you more attractive to the opposite sex is sold on imagery of passion.

The cool colour in this shot came from using a tungsten white balance with my Broncolor Mobil flash kit. The couples expression work well with the steely cool look of the shot. Canon 5D mk2 ISO 100, 1/100th at f/4

The cool colour in this shot came from using a tungsten white balance with my Broncolor Mobil flash kit. The couples expression work well with the steely cool look of the shot. Canon 5D mk2 ISO 100, 1/100th at f/4

The kiss is a subject matter in it’s own right. A great kissing shot it’s not about the process of kissing, it’s about the shared thoughts, the ‘in another world’ experience. The physical process of kissing is rarely attractive but the intimacy and expectation of the moment just prior to the kiss certainly is. Some moments are so monumentally happy for our wedding couples that the kiss is laced with smiles and joy. Other kisses are smolderingly lustful.

I’ve chosen to crop all of these pictures to square. Squares make powerful crops and never go out of fashion.

My forthcoming shooting workshops include two Passion On The Streets workshops in Amsterdam to be made available for booking soon at www.lovegroveconsulting.com

Please feel free to comment below.

12 Comments

  1. Tim Hind

    Great insight Damien. I agree it’s so true that you have to pick the right clients. Although some need holding back from the full on face crunching snog, in my experience!

    Reply
    • damien

      Cheers Tim, If they want a snog at times I never stop them. I just don’t take pictures because they’d be awful. Damien.

      Reply
  2. MGiddings

    Thank Damien it all makes perfect sense and like others I can’t wait to try this out.

    Reply
  3. Roy Barnes

    The great thing about these lovely shots is that there is nothing special in terms of background – the image is all created through emotions, which is what every couple (at least the bride anyway!) wants.
    From my experience, most couples WANT to be directed as they have usually spent a lot of time and fair amount of money to get the photographer they want, and therefore trust the photographer knows how to get the best from them. The knack is doing it in a fun way.

    Reply
    • damien

      Wise words Roy. Thanks Gwyn.

      Reply
  4. dave cooke

    like it like it like it and will now adopt this style with maybe a few of my own tweeks, cheers damien more good stuff as usual.
    dave

    Reply
  5. DaveT

    Thanks Damien – it all makes sense.

    Dave

    Reply
  6. damien

    Thanks guys.

    DaveT, It’s really important to ensure you can exceed your clients expectations, never more so than when you are starting a business. The wrong client can destroy you emotionally and financially. We only work with ‘warm fuzzies’ and never with ‘cold pricklies’. We suggest that the cold pricklies would be better off with reportage shooters;)

    Being able to say no whilst retaining a clients respect is one of the most powerful tools in business. After all, it’s sods law that a far better client will come along and want you for the same date.

    Cheers, Damien.

    Reply
  7. Coventry Bob

    Pure logic mixed with feelings, compassion and maturity creating fantastic images that will never go out of style. Superb shots well done again Damien and Julie.
    Wasted £400 last year on a session with an expert of reportage wedding style photography. He didn’t even speak to the bride and groom during the big day, never again. Give me direction, posing and interaction a la Lovegrove style everytime.

    Reply
  8. Will Pateman Photography

    very intimate, great emotion. I never liked the term reportage as Jerry Ghionis says.. create your own magic dont wait for it to happen. I totally agree that you need outgoing couples or people who want to get the most from their wedding day.

    Reply
  9. DaveT

    Very interesting post and lovely shots with great emotion.

    When you say you ‘choose your clients carefuly’ do I take it that you turned couples away? That must have taken some courage in the early days when establishing your buisness.

    DT

    Reply
  10. Dave Packer

    Lovely shots Damien they all show true love between the couples, which is not found in camera manuals but by a photographers people skills..

    Cheers

    Dave

    Reply

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