It's photo week on CB! You just learned a few tips on taking your own great honeymoon photos ... now we're going to take a step back and learn from another great photographer about curating fantastic wedding photos and avoiding crummy cookie-cutter wedding photos.
G.E. Masana is a NYC wedding photographer who has been featured in countless wedding magazines and was privileged to shoot the wedding of Vanessa Penna, the Editor of ELLE, as well as the wedding of Diana Bloom, the photo coordinator for Victoria's Secret, among many others. He's obviously coveted in the wedding world and knows his stuff which is why I was rather excited when he shared his fresh vision with me and asked to share a few honest and unfussy tips on achieving meaningful and fabulous wedding photos. Hope you enjoy and learn a few things. From G.E.:
Warning: This is not the kind of information you’ll ever see written in a bridal magazine. These are insights of my own - honed as a working wedding photographer from photographing hundreds of brides and grooms in the NYC area (and sometimes elsewhere).
Be "Camera Unaware"
Have you ever felt the best photos of you were when you didn’t know there was a camera there? So it is on the wedding day. Ignore the camera. Seriously! When you’re involved with your real life moments, having a great time at your wedding, feeling emotions, laughing, crying, interacting with your closest friends, celebrating this amazing day with those you love... you’re not only living your life to the fullest (as you should be)...Your photographer is then free to capture all the natural moments you’re experiencing, getting genuine expressions, reactions of you and everyone and as a result, getting your real memories for you to remember your day with always. But if most of your photos are of you stopping what you’re doing to look at the camera and smile, pose or mug for it, then real moments are being interrupted, missed, overlooked - or worse, stopped from ever happening. And so, in every case, never documented. Forget the camera’s there and get real moments of you enjoying your wedding!
Like this father + daughter moment:
Your Attitude's Showing In Your Photos
Be sure you've given yourself permission on your wedding day to relax, let go, and have fun so you can take in and savor all your great moments! I photographed a wedding where the bride seemed like she was floating on a cloud all day long. She really was! I asked her about it and she told me she was "taking in every second - and loving every moment." The more you can do that, the more you're going to experience an amazing day, have amazing memories - and have the photos which capture it all.
Tip: You can assign someone else to handle anything which needs to be taken care of so you’re free to have fun, enjoy great meaningful moments, and to be yourself, on your day.
The Photographer's Style Matters, Too
Make sure to hire a photographer whose work, style, and personality you connect with. That rapport is key because when the photographer is more like a familiar face, you’re relaxed in front of their camera and free to be yourself. As you look at photographers, check their photos for proof of their ability to capture spontaneous "height-of-moment" interactions without stopping the action or interrupting or making people to pose, to get their shots. Having trust in your photographer that they’re truly unobtrusive (and not just saying so!) frees you from having any concerns about what they’re getting, second-guessing them or feeling like you need to check on them - which in turn means you’ll be enjoying your wedding more... while your photographer documents great moments.
How to avoid this major cause of cause of stress on your day
Poor scheduling of planned photo sessions creates stress and undermines the best efforts so allow some additional time - just in case it's needed. This is one part of the day you shouldn't rush through or try to squeeze in. Your photos will show it if you do. Also the time of day, season, climate and location have an enormous impact on your how your photography turns out. Keep in mind that because "cameras don't take pictures, people do" and that "all photographers are not created equal," one photographer's ability to create stunning images under less than ideal conditions will differ from another's.
So Here’s What To Look For: When you look at their portfolios, you want to see the photographer consistently creates exceptional imagery under many diverse situations, and no matter the type of wedding. The best way to do that is make sure to see different weddings from the same photographer, not just their best shots from their best wedding.
How to Guarantee You Look Gorgeous in Wedding Photos
Just as you'd do a trial run with your hair and makeup to determine how you'll look to everyone in real life, schedule a Pre-Wedding Session with your photographer to see how you'll look in your photos. I often do that with my bridal clients. Contrary to popular thought, great makeup, great hairstyle, and even great genetics are not the biggest factors to looking amazing in photos because when it comes to how you look "in camera," it’s not so much about being photogenic. It's really up to optic principles.
The three big optic principles are:
 Highlight and Shadow Contouring,
 Camera to Facial Angle Selection,
 Lens Compression Optics
A photographer schooled in classic training knows how to use these to have you look stunning in your photos. Knowing up front you’ll look incredible means you can have confidence in your photographer on your wedding day, and be free to be relaxed, natural looking and be yourself in your wedding photos.
What Makes A Wedding Photo Great?
The best wedding photos aren't mere snapshots. Guests can take snapshots. But the best wedding photographers make photos that tell a story. That’s because the better photographers don’t simply "aim and shoot" but purposefully picture sequences of how your day unfolded. Looking at your photos is a richer experience for you every time you view them for the rest of your life when your photographer tells stories with them. I know this for a fact because I still get thank you notes years later from couples because looking at their wedding photos again on their anniversaries and family get-togethers, they’re moved - and so they write to thank me yet again. They mention "story telling" in their photos as a big reason they’re touched.
Thanks for sharing these great tips, G.E.! If you want more on the subject, G.E. has additional tips on his website entitled "20 Questions You Absolutely Need To Ask Every Photographer You Interview" ready for download.
G.E. Masana has been interviewed in the two leading professional photography journals, RANGEFINDER and STUDIO PHOTOGRAPHY MAGAZINE, and published in nationally renowned wedding magazines such as MARTHA STEWART WEDDINGS, THE KNOT, BRIDES, ELEGANT BRIDE, BRIDAL GUIDE and TOWN & COUNTRY WEDDINGS among others. His wedding client list includes Jen Chapin, singer songwriter and daughter of the legendary Harry Chapin; Vanessa Penna, Editor, ELLE; Gaines Peyton, co-owner Sears-Peyton Gallery, NYC; Diana Bloom, Photo Coordinator for Victoria's Secret, NYC; Evan Galbraith, son of Evan G. Galbraith, former Ambassador to France; Randolph Pratt, son of Pfizer Pharmaceutical's Chairman Emeritus Edmund Pratt; Timothy Breese Miller of the New York City Metropolitan Opera; Rebecca Odes, author and co-founder of gURL.com; Barrie Gillies, Writer, BRIDE'S magazine, among many others.