Portrait And Wedding Photography In England & Ireland; Unique Locations And Period Costumes
By
Monte Zucker
• Posted July 1, 2006

The Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers (SWPP) invited me to come to England and Ireland to do a series of lectures and classes. The SWPP is fast becoming one of the world's leading groups dedicated to advancing the professionalism of portrait and wedding photographers throughout Europe. Not only were the photographers receptive to my instruction, but they were also anxious to be my models.

Classic Locations
Two photographers in particular, Patricia Fernandez-Li and one of her employees, Patrick, added immeasurably to the classes by providing magnificent costumes that they use daily in their business. Patricia's studio, Castle Photography, is located in an historic district, almost adjacent to Windsor Castle. They have an incredible collection of period costumes for dressing up tourists and photographing them either in their studio or on location.

We had the benefit of Patricia and Patrick with their costumes both in England and Ireland. The areas abounded in great locations. At an old church I posed them underneath a carriage pass-through, covering them from overhead. I kept them closer to one side of the openings so that I could have a natural main light. Later in Photoshop I burned-in the edges of the picture and opened up the detail in their clothing by using Image>Adjust>Shadow/Highlight.

At the same location I posed the local vicar in front of his church. The light was overcast, as can be seen on the church. A black and white rendition of the picture looked much better than the original color. A 16-35mm Canon wide angle lens allowed me to keep the vicar close to the camera and as the most important part of the picture, while keeping his church a secondary interest--far in the background.

Inside another church in Ireland Patricia and Patrick posed as our bride and groom. Just within the entrance to the church Patricia kneeled at an altar in a small side room. Natural light coming through the window was all that I needed. With the ISO set to 1000 I was able to hand hold the camera. I toned down the window and sides of the picture (focusing attention on the central theme of the picture) by adding an adjustment later in Curves and painting out the center to create the darkened edges.
Within the main sanctuary I took advantage of the natural light coming in through a high window, placing the bride and groom strategically so that I could show both of them as well as some of the architecture of the church. I explained to all the photographers how important it is to observe the natural light and use it whenever and wherever possible to maintain the integrity of the church interior.

Dressing Up
On another day Patricia and Patrick posed in the same costumes...this time on the front lawn of the hotel where the class was being held in Ireland. I took advantage of the early morning sunlight, using it as the main light. Again, a wide angle lens allowed me to keep the couple up close to the camera and still show a lot of background detail. The fence happened to catch the light more than I wanted it to. To darken the fence behind them I changed the mode of the picture to Lab mode, selected the Brightness Channel, darkened the fence with the Burn tool, and then converted the photograph back to RGB.
Outdoor Options
One thing that I can almost always count on when teaching my classes is that photographers pretty much don't know how to create portrait lighting outdoors. They go outside because there's light everywhere. You don't have to look for it. There is, however, one tried and true technique that will always work--look for cover overhead and a directional light coming in from one side. Nothing could be easier than going to a covered area where the light is blocked from one side.

A nearby cabin with a small porch provided exactly what we needed. I used the black side of a Westcott black/white background behind the photographer who posed for me and two silver reflectors--one below him to open up detail in his eyes and the second one to his left to open up some of the shadowed area on the left side of his face.

The finished portrait shows that I tilted the top of my Canon EOS 5D to his higher left shoulder, achieving a strong diagonal composition of his head and shoulders. I toned down his hand below the camera with an adjustment layer as noted earlier. I toned down the writing on the camera in the Brightness Channel of the Lab mode.
Group Posing
A similar technique with just a slightly different twist is this family group picture that was created just outside the edge of a covered porch. I was under cover. The light was coming from behind them and to their left. A high camera position simplified the background to the area just behind them. My use of an ExpoDisc made custom white balance quick and easy.

The portrait was made with all available light. One of the things that I constantly point out to photographers is the need to physically connect each of the family members. Look and see how the arms and hands help to bring the family feeling close together.
Posing The Bride
One of the main things I emphasize for studio portraiture on location is the benefit of learning simple posing and lighting techniques. Everyone learned a simple lesson when a very young teen-ager was brought into the classroom to pose as a bride. She entered the classroom in a strapless wedding gown, bare arms and all. I had to do something to dress her up for a portrait.

The problem was solved when I took a piece of fabric that almost matched the fabric of her gown and draped it around her shoulders and over her arms. I have done this quite often when a bride with a long train comes to me with bare shoulders and arms. The cape-like effect saved the day and pleased everyone. This portrait was created using two Westcott Spiderlites and a reflector.

Similarly, for the background of this bridal portrait I had two people hold up the back of her wedding gown. The detail of her gown, slightly out of focus, served to create a beautiful setting for her and at the same time showed off some of the detail in the train.
A Studio Visit
A visit by the class to the studio of Maz Mashru was a highlight of the class. Within his very successful studio he has both a low-key and a high-key setup. I was particularly interested in demonstrating some of the techniques I had just picked up myself for creating portraits in a high-key environment. I first got an exposure meter reading of his white background, using a flash on either side. Then, I used a single main light that was two f/stops less than the background exposure. When I exposed for the main light the background went completely white. I even used a fan to blow her hair for a more contemporary look.
The bottom line was that Juliet and Phil, the people in charge of the entire SWPP organization, were great hosts to my assistant, Jeff, and me. They're doing a superb job preparing the professional portrait and wedding photographers of Europe to expand their knowledge, grow, and prosper. Their website is www.swpp.co.uk. You can contact them directly for more information about joining their organization.

I will be returning to England to teach another educational seminar January 6-9, 2007. Visit www.montezucker.com for details.

On another note, I have recently added these and many more of my recent images to my CD "How'd He Do Dat?" You can order it through my website at: www.montezucker.com.

Join Monte and Photoshop guru Eddie Tapp on the IMAGINATION TO REALITY TOUR this fall. Explore their world of digital imaging and immediately apply techniques that will help you achieve both financial and artistic success. Learn the complete digital workflow from capture to final output. Monte and Eddie cover concept to completion--posing, pixels, Photoshop, and printing--everything needed to create beautiful digital photographic portraits.