Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Taking the "Wedding" cake.

Wedding photography is about a lot more than getting a great shot of the bride and groom. Of course there are plenty of family shots and special moments that need to be captured, but there are also a lot of details that you don't want to forget. And a lot of time goes into those details - the wedding favours, the bows, the decorations, and even the lighting.

One of the relative constants is the cake. Although it often comes in smaller bite sized pieces (cupcakes) these days, there is always some kind of sweet confection to be had, and the style of that tasty shared experience is just as much an expression of the bride's taste (pun intended) as the dress or the venue she picked.

Just for fun, I am posting a few of the cakes from weddings I have been privileged to photograph. I hope you enjoy them, whether they inspire you, or just make you hungry.

Some cakes may appear plain at first sight, like this simple box type triple layered cake. But they still express the bride's likes - this one was sprinkled with coconut.

Often the flowers on a cake will match the bride's bouquet - except on the cake, the flowers are usually edible... I think I prefer those kind, although it would get very sticky to carry those down the aisle.

Some cakes are elaborately decorated and express an old-world style, perhaps expressing the bride or groom's heritage as well as their own personality. Sometimes the family member paying for the cake may decide what it should look like. This very nice two tiered cake on pillars appeared to be styled like a gazebo with the bride and groom on the top and the wedding party around the base.

Like the flowers, the colours are, of course, also a big part of the wedding and the cake reflects the pallet chosen by the bride. Details usually match those found elsewhere. 

This cake also brings us to the topic of cake toppers - in this case the bride and groom getting ready to leave on their honeymoon. A nice twist on the usually simple bride and groom.

And of course, the cake topper can also express who the bride and groom really are. I'm not certain whether this one spoke to how the groom came to be at the wedding, or what the relationship was going to be like in the years to come, but either way it was a fun addition to the celebration.

These days, many brides opt for the cupcake - cake. Cupcakes are much easier to distribute, or guests can simply come and take one with them. In this case, the top layer was a fully decorated cake so it could be cut during the reception. What a great idea!

If there are a lot of guests, however, the cupcakes can seem to go on forever. Imagine taking the time to bake all of those cupcakes. It almost makes those big fancy cakes look like an easy task.

And if you really have lots of time, or lots of help, you can even package each one up in it's own box for each guest. This mound of cupcakes looked very pretty all tied up in blue bows and stacked in a pyramid on the table. Just don't take one from the bottom please.

Another trend in cakes at weddings seems to be that the bride's mother takes a course on making wedding cakes and bakes the cake for the bride. Sometimes these cakes turn out absolutely fantastic, and they have all the more meaning because of the personal touch creating them. In this case, even the bride and groom were made from fondant by the mother of the bride.

Maybe the cake is a little too cliche for your wedding, but you definitely like your deserts. In the photo above, the bride and groom chose to have a desert table instead of a wedding cake (though they had at least one cake that they could "cut"). It was really hard to choose which one to have a taste of though - I imagine many people had more than one.

Getting a little more thematic is also a fun thing to do. The groom and groomsmen each had a T-shirt on under their tux with a different superhero - the groom of course was superman. The table favours were also themed after comics and superheros. So it was only natural that the cake would also express this theme... pretty awesome.

And of course, why should the bride have all the fun? What self-respecting groom would pick big pink flowers if they had a choice - it looks great, but it's a little girly... so why not a Nascar cake? Yep, this couple had both a bride and a groom cake - take a guess which one is the groom's cake.

Details, details. Just another thing to capture in your wedding photographs. Doesn't it just make your mouth water and your sugar receptors crave the sweet stuff? 

I wonder if there is still some Easter chocolate left in the house somewhere...

(c) 2014 by Gary Scott, www.garyslens.ca

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Photoshop - is that really how she looked?

You've heard it before, I know you have.

That photo on the front of that magazine is Photo-shopped!

And you are probably right.

There has been a huge groundswell against photo-shopping photos used in marketing and promotional material, not to mention just about any other place that a photo might be used, shown or viewed in any way. 

Recently there was a huge Photoshop blunder made by Target when they placed ads that were horribly cropped - obviously cut out - and with exaggerated limb lengths. Ellen had some fun with this when she invited the model on her show (Watch video here)... apparently her arms really are that long (tongue in cheek). 

But what about your Wedding Photographs? Is it OK to Photoshop the bride?

Photoshop Wedding or Family Photos?

This family portrait was distracted by
the garbage at Dad's feet.
As a wedding and family photographer, I will admit that I use Photoshop to adjust photos. First of all for the basics of colour correction, enhancing contrast and possibly even to add some special effects to give the image an extra emotional tug. But I do also Photoshop an image for some of the more controversial reasons.

Sometimes you may get a great shot in a perfect location, but you missed a piece of garbage on the ground... no problem. Who wants to pick up those disgusting cigarette butts that have been lying, soaking in the rain for days? (See the inset image - I definitely didn't want to pick up those butts!) I'd rather get rid of them in post. 

Those kind of changes could have easily been made at the scene without Photoshop, but you don't always have time in the moment to catch those details or a desire to touch the mess. Is that OK?

Perhaps you got a great image in a park, but there's a car in the background that's just too distracting. You couldn't get quite the right angle at the time to get it out of frame, and you knew it would be an awesome photo otherwise - Is it going too far to remove the car from the image?

A little bit of clean up in post processing and the
garbage is gone. If only it were that easy in real life.
Maybe you got a great photo of Mom and Dad, but his hand is just peaking over her shoulder in a way that looks a bit creepy... easy enough to remove. But should you?

And what about the bride who is overflowing her dress a little too much. She's totally in the moment and enjoying her day and it would be impolite, not to mention emotionally upsetting when she's enjoying the most important day of her life, to ask her to tuck back in ... is it OK to Photoshop away a little bit of cellulose after the fact?

Maybe a bride or groom has some bad blemishes - the result of too much chocolate at the stag and doe party - that she/he tried their best to conceal. Would it be OK to make them disappear in the photos by using a little digital magic?

Yeah, there is probably a line you don't want to cross, but where exactly do you draw it?

Is there a line?

As a rule of thumb, I want the photos I work on to look real. That is, that it is an image of the person being photographed. That means, if a bride can't recognize herself I have definitely gone too far. That includes features that are distinguishing - such as birth marks or natural features such as moles, etc. On the other hand, if a blemish won't be there next week, why should it be in the wedding photo?

If something in the edit stands out and says "that's not right" then it's a bad edit and should never have been done.

When I do have to remove a few pounds here and there, I prefer it when the bride (or groom) views the photos that they never even notices they have been 'shopped. It should not be obvious even to the person themselves.

There is definitely a line you shouldn't cross. What do you think? Is it OK to Photoshop a Wedding Photo or a Family Photo? and if so, how far is too far?

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Boudoir: Boorish, Bourgeois or Beautiful?

One of the hottest (no pun intended) new things in wedding photography is Boudoir.

Some brides, for a number of reasons, are asking photographers to produce glamour portraits that go much deeper than your basic posed photo. The resulting images may be for their husbands, for posterity, or possibly even as an exercise in exploring who they are before taking the step of commitment in marriage.

The best photographers willing to venture into this arena draw upon their interpersonal skills to create an image that can be a very sensual expression of the person being photographed.  It takes a special photographer to be able to handle this kind of request, and those asking should be very careful, ensuring they are working with someone reputable. 

It can also be a very touchy subject. Some people are offended by the images and find them boorish. Others consider them just ordinary photographs with a particular flavour to them - they are bourgeois in their minds. Still others find them a beautiful expression not only of artistic form, but of the inner beauty of the individual being photographed.

How the images come out depends a great deal on the photographer taking the photos, the one being imaged, the purpose for which the photographs are intended, and indeed the mindset of the viewer of the images. 

Boorish

Boudoir photography is, at it's worst, boorish. It brings to mind Playboy magazine or the pin-up girl, or the fireman's calendar - images that can and often do reduce both men and women viewing them to their base instincts, drooling knuckle-dragging beasts hungry for the satisfaction of a little "meat". But just because something is often received the wrong way does not make it bad in and of itself. It does, however, mean it needs to be treated with a great deal more care.
Photo by: Simona Dumitru
http://www.sxc.hu/profile/createsima

Does the fact that boudoir photographs provoke strong base urges in some men make it less artful?  Does it mean these images are snapped without care? That they are easy to create, and have no value? Is there a way to treat the subject, avoiding these urges to some extent and accentuate the art?

Just for a moment, take a look at classical art; do we look at the Venus DeMilo or the statue of David as erotic and therefore write them off as pornographic? Apart from the titters of old ladies and school children (and maybe a few of us as well), who aren't quite sure how to process the provocative nature of the statues, most would say these pieces of art are an expression of the human condition - a faithful study and reproduction of the human form.

Bourgeois

To write it off too quickly is to reduce the images to the bourgeois; that is to say, common place and irrelevant - middle class and not of high value. Tolerable, but somehow, not really of value good or bad.

This view demonstrates a kind of deadening of the spirit, where something becomes so commonplace that it becomes irrelevant. In our western culture, we have become so accustomed to sexual innuendo and indeed blatant sexual representation in the images we view that we largely ignore them and their message; they become bourgeois.

Similarly, when surrounded by incredible art, we can become so accustomed to it that it can appear commonplace. Imagine living in a roman palace with statues everywhere - they become part of the furniture and you hardly notice them any more.

But to take this view seems to simply ignore it for good or bad. That is simply avoiding the issues.

Beautiful

At it's best, Boudoir can be beautiful. A well composed, well lit study of the human form in all it's created beauty. And not just a reflection of the outer beauty of the subject, but of their inner beauty as well and of the artistic representation of the image itself.

Many of my friends would probably argue the images are too revealing, or are provocative, but when done properly, that is certainly not the intent. But where does that come from? Adam and Eve were created naked in the garden and it was only after they had "sinned" that this became a problem. Is the problem of beauty not an issue of the images in themselves, but rather of the base feelings of the viewer? 

Boudoir images are studies in shape and form, of light and how light plays on the human body. The same kind of study that can be done with much less controversial subjects such as waves crashing against rocks at an ocean shore, or snow covered mountains gleaming in the evening sun. But because the subject is controversial, does that make the art less beautiful?

It takes a special talent to be able to create Boudoir images without being entangled in the baseness or the controversy. (Because of that entanglement and controversy, I personally avoid doing this kind of photography). Perhaps it takes a special talent to view them as well. Done with excellence, these images can be quite beautiful, not just in the form of the subject, but in the creative art of the photographer.

A friend of mine does some wonderful Boudoir photography - Shannon of Discover Photography. When you speak with her, you realize she is not creating Playboy centerfolds. Far from it! Her message is about empowerment and helping women (and men) find in themselves a strength and character they never knew was there. It is a wonderful complement to the art that she produces. She manages to bring out and capture the outer beauty of her subjects and also the inner beauty. Yet somehow, some viewers still only see the skin.

In the end, if you find boudoir images boorish, or bourgeois, perhaps it is not the subject, or even the photographer that is the issue (though there are definitely some commercial ventures who continue to tarnish the art by using it for baser purposes). Perhaps it is how the images are viewed that creates the problem. Perhaps it is the viewer themselves. 

Beauty is, after all, in the eye of the beholder.

So, is there value in Boudoir? Is it Boorish, Bourgeois or extraordinarily beautiful? Is there a place for it? Can we appreciate it? Can we even learn from it?

What do you think? I'd love to hear your comments.

(c) 2014 by Gary Scott, www.garyslens.ca