When Bethany asked me to guest blog for her, I was elated.Â Me?Â Guest-blogging?Â Really?!Â â€¦I guess Iâ€™m part of the fancy-pants bourgeoisie wedding photographer elite now.Â (And donâ€™t you dare tell me that guest blogging just once doesnâ€™t earn you a direct ticket to Bourgeoisie Central.Â It totally does and I can tell everyone Iâ€™m fancy now.Â End of story.)
In my brief window of guest-blogitude, I want to talk about a subject thatâ€™s difficult to voice without sounding overly self-indulgent: how one can view wedding photography as a fine art, and how I personally approach my work this way.
Some quick background: I was educated as an artist.Â I learned to paint, draw, and sculpt before I ever took photography classes, and my degree is in Fine Arts.Â Iâ€™ve worked in galleries and as a studio assistant to established fine artists; but Iâ€™ve also worked as a second shooter for wedding photographers and as a fashion photographer when I first graduated college.Â I believe that this diversity of experience influences how I see, inherently, and how I approach my practice.
So, without further ado, letâ€™s take an illustrated adventure through fine art wedding photography!
Viewing wedding photography as a fine art is something I naturally find myself doing, even in the case of simple â€˜objectâ€™ photography.Â If you give me an item (say, the brideâ€™s shoes), a camera, and a task (shoot â€˜em!), I have an inborn desire to do something â€œartsyâ€ with them.Â Oftentimes, the â€œfine artâ€ aspect is as simple as doing something different, something interesting, and thereby creating beauty.
To illustrate what I mean, I started off photographing Alexaâ€™s shoes in a familiar environment: a sofa with a nice upholstery that isnâ€™t too distracting or dated-looking.
The images I got from this scenario were fine, but something about them just wasnâ€™t striking me quite how I wanted it to.Â I had a feeling that with a little exploration, I could find something that really spoke to the mood and location of where Alexa was getting ready.
Taking the shoes into the private library gave a better sense of ambiance, but it wasnâ€™t until I utilized the gorgeous banisters and soft light in the lobby that I could really make the images sing.
And often a large part of creating this beauty is, for me, playing with the light. Whenever I see good light through a lens, I just go nuts.Â Thatâ€™s all there is to it.
Itâ€™s one thing to photograph inanimate objects with lighting and composition that complement them well, but one of the most important aspects of fine art wedding photography is the most human aspect: emotion.
Emotion in itself is abstract.Â Genuine and fleeting, capturing emotion is about setting the subjects at ease, and making sure they feel safe and comfortable with me and my camera around them.Â People canâ€™t open up themselvesâ€”and, therefore, their expressionsâ€”if they feel stiff or uncomfortable.
Steph and Bobbyâ€™s engagement session is a good example of two people that I felt comfortable with, who felt comfortable with me, and had a blast in their photo session.The story behind the above imageâ€”one of my favoritesâ€”is kind of silly.Â Steph had been perched on the wall of a footbridge, above Bobby, I had asked him to help her down.Â The result was sort of an awkward effort as Bobby attempted to lift Steph up and off of the ledge, until Steph finally laughed and questioned â€œWhat are you doing?!â€Â At the moment that she was leaning on Bobby as he lifted her down, hugging him around the neck and laughing as he smooched her cheekâ€”clickâ€”something very visceral and real was captured.Â A joyful moment between two people who love each other, goofing around, having fun.Â Itâ€™s a pretty simple equation, really, when you think about it; but the sentiment is unmistakable and full of joy.
Joy isnâ€™t, however, the only emotion I feel compelled to capture.Â When you have two people who are so much in love that theyâ€™re getting married, the tenderness in their intimacy is unmistakableâ€”and I love bringing that out.
When Iâ€™m alone with one of the subjects (the bride, usually), I believe in something I describe to myself as â€œThe Gaze.â€Â Not â€œa gaze,â€ the gaze.Â That look, full of intensity and trust, that can only be achieved when thereâ€™s trust and understanding between the photographer and subject.Â I honestly believe that building a relationship with my subjects is paramount, and, while a little bit of nice light and a trusty lens doesnâ€™t hurt, at the base of every remarkable wedding photograph is that friendship.
The final part of being a fine art wedding photographer that I want to discuss is the element of capriciousness.Â This is the major difference between being a portrait or fashion photographer and being a wedding photographer: as a photojournalist, essentially, who is witnessing a series of events, you donâ€™t have very much controlâ€”and shouldnâ€™t take very much controlâ€”over how they unfold.Â You simply have to learn how to work with what youâ€™re given, and fast.
But hereâ€™s the big idea: a good wedding photographer is a person who takes these events in stride and captures them correctly, without missing anything.Â A fine art wedding photographer is someone who manages to take what theyâ€™re given and work with it to create something that is, well, art.
There are some photographers who can do this, time after time, in any situation, and it is positively breathtaking.Â I donâ€™t claim to be one of those photographers.Â They are, for the most part, internationally famous, and rightfully so.Â But I have my moments, and I wanted to share one of those with you.
On Prachi and Shreyasâ€™ wedding day, I had an hour after the first sighting to take photos of them before the ceremony.Â For the third location for photographs, I had a risky suggestion, but felt like they would be open and receptive to it.
It was the last day for a Mike & Doug Starn installation in an abandoned church called Gravity of Light.Â In the center of the exhibition was a 20,000 watt arc lamp.
Long, dramatic shadows crept away from Prachi and Shreyas, who were haloed in the bright illumination of the electrified carbon.Â The light was actually constantly changing colors, alternating between tints of purple and green and blue (a natural part of the reaction).Â It was incredible.
And then the light went out.
Instead of throwing my hands up and waiting for the attendant to fix the light, I noticed a single beam of light falling ethereally onto Prachi and Shreyasâ€™ hands.Â I cranked down my shutter speed, slapped on my 50 prime, and tried to contain my excitement.
It was cold, it was serendipitous, it was funâ€”but it was also art.Â That light, that moment, that mistake, had all conspired to create something incredible, and I just happened to be there to work with it.
And work with it, I did.Â When the arc lamp came back on moments laterâ€”I was actually disappointed!Â But the thrill of seizing that one beautiful moment was engraved forever in my camera, and the feeling was overwhelming.
Laura Fisher has been anÂ independentÂ fine art wedding photographer for over five years.Â You can view her portfolio at www.laura-fisher.com, and catch up with her latest adventures at www.laurafisherphotography.wordpress.com.