Wedding And Portraiture Just When You Thought You Knew Me
Monte Zucker• Posted Dec 1, 2001
One thing you should remember, however, is that all of my work is based on years of classical studies. Just as in music, photographers have to have a base knowledge on which to build. Perhaps, that's why I find myself so free to experiment. The posing and lighting are really not my experimentation. How I derive/arrive at that is where the fun is!
Some of these images were created on Kodak film with my Hasselblad. Others were done with my Canon D30. Does it really matter? I think you'll agree, regardless, that they're all "Monte Style" through and through. So, let's see how they were each done.
Image 1--This bridal portrait was created late in the afternoon. The bride was posed in a location that would let the afternoon direct sunlight backlight her veil and hair. The sunlight was too strong, so I placed a 4/6 ft translucent panel (#1707 Westcott Illuminator/Diffuser) so that it would soften the backlighting. I then used a Monte Illuminator (#1305 Westcott Silver/Black Illuminator/Reflector) as a source to bounce the main light onto her from my right. That's all it took. Of course, bringing her veil over her shoulders and arm helped to focus attention on her face and eyes. Be aware that a smile is not always necessary for a successful portrait, as witnessed here.
The face-to-face posing was an idea that I had carried with me from past successes with couples.
The background was selected for its depth and the fact that the trees formed a rather solid background behind the figures. The tall grass on the left side of the portrait further enhanced the feeling of different levels of depth in the picture. Light clothing on all three of them blended the bodies together beautifully. In particular I'd like you to notice the way the bodies and hearts are all connected. This is a growing part of all my family groups. It is, perhaps, the most missing ingredient in some family portraits.
The prop was an artificial rock, easily placed anywhere I needed it. Her pose was a result of having posed many women on their side, the upper knee brought forward toward the ground.
I needed to connect the two of them visually and physically. I had him hold his head up, but look down at her. Otherwise, I would have photographed the top of his head. Her profile showed up beautifully against his white shirt. Her hand up to his face was my way of completing the circle between the two of them. Exposure was based on the light that was falling on them. It worked perfectly with the trees behind them.
The light on their faces was simply light that was reflected off the white building behind me. All natural sunlight throughout the entire picture. Lots of depth--front to back!
Image 6--Another difficult family group culminated with a winner! The little girl actually smiled! This was after a succession of trying all or most all of my tricks. I was finally able to capture her smiling while her mother and brother looked to see what she was doing.
The casualness of the portrait covers the fact that there were other concerns. I needed to capture detail throughout their various skin tones. The "trick," of course, with people of color is to have the light come into them at cross angles, not directly onto their faces. I photographed them late in the day under very weak lighting conditions. The ability to turn my ISO up to 800 on my digital camera really helped a lot.
I had to lay flat on my stomach to position their faces up against the sky and keep from picking up a lot of unwanted background distractions. I actually straightened out the horizon line in Photoshop. I couldn't think of all those things at the same time. I was just lucky to pick up the one smile that the little girl had for me.
Image 7--Who else combs everyone's hair before going into the pool, except for a family posing for me? This family group that you probably remember seeing recently took place in seconds! It had to. The water was freezing! I had recently made a more formal picture of this same family, so I had to come up with something different. Since they were visitors of my next-door neighbors, I thought of dumping them into the pool and going with that.
Exposure was based on my previous successes of exposing for the bright sunlight--1/125 at f/16--and using a strong on-camera flash set for the same intensity. Could not have been easier, at least, from my vantage point. The family loved it! Plus, they could see the results on the back of my camera seconds after they jumped out of the pool.
Image 8--This portrait of mother and son was made in the midst of outrageously gorgeous countryside. So who cares? Not me! I was more interested in the bond between the two of them. Dressing them both in denim was only the beginning. Her holding him in her arms was the anchor to which I tied my vision.
I saw the sense of comfort that he had in his mother's grasp. That was all. I selected a "nothing" background for the portrait. It was merely the side of a building where I could control the main light that was coming from my left. The mother looked at me, but I directed her to see only her son.
My lens was wide-open. I focused on him. The whole world was in his eyes. That's what I saw. That's what I felt. That's what I photographed. All available light, but not out in the open. It was in a confined area where the light was blocked from overhead and from my right side. The directional light took my eyes--and yours--directly to the child. That's the story in a nutshell!