Thursday, December 23, 2010

"Look for Light, not for Backgrounds"

I saw this piece of advice from Jenna Cole recently and felt like it applied really well to our group portraits, and the advice I now give people getting married - look for light, not for backgrounds.  Or more specifically, "eff obsessing over backgrounds."  Because the thing is, the backgrounds don't really matter as much as you think they do.  In fact, they barely matter.  They matter a bit for your individual pictures, but for group pictures? Not really.  You take group pictures so you can focus on the people in the pictures.

I know, I know, you're thinking, "that crazy girl, what does she know, she doesn't have my super perfect amazing venue with the fantastic places to take pictures."  Have you met our venue?  When I tally up my list of regrets a big one is how much time it took up to go back to the gazebo and the fields when we could have gotten some really beautiful shots at our ceremony site or thereabouts, without going all the way back to the gazebo.
We wanted to use the tree stumps for group pictures, but then we wound up not doing it because we prioritized being in the woods.  I think it would have looked great, and meant not going very far.  I think we could have saved 20+ minutes this way, which would have made a huge difference in reducing our stress and maybe let us enjoy more of the cocktail hour.
We took exactly three pictures in front of the gazebo before Kiersten told us, "now lets get out of these dark woods and into the light!"  Just look at the differences:
I do love these pictures, but I think we could have achieved them pretty well in the areas closer to the ceremony site.  This set though, was totally worth the extra walk for the pretty lighting and background.  But again, we could have gotten these without asking our bridal party to trek through the woods.  
We took our formal pictures closer to the ceremony site, and they came out fine (except we took them at the wrong angle on a hill and some people look shorter than others - again, this was because we wanted the woods as a backdrop instead of something "lame" like the ceremony site.)  
This one's not so bad, but in some of them the person on the right looks GIANT compared to the person on the left.  My mom just looks a normal height here, even though in reality she is two inches shorter than me.
My point is though, the woods don't look that different in any of the pictures, and in retrospect, I would rather have had the extra time and not felt quite so stressed.  
So what have we learned? 
1.) Eff the fancy backgrounds and go for "not in a parking lot" with formal portraits.  (Especially if your formal portrait plans involve your ceremony guests driving to a different location for portraits - formal portraits are like herding cats. You will lose so much time.)  I wish we had done these right after the ceremony, and not towards the end of the cocktail hour.
2.) Don't take group pictures on a hill, or if you do, put the short people at the top of the hill.  
3.) Pictures will take twice as long as you think they will.  Budget your time wisely, and don't impulsively decide to take pictures with any pretty thing that suits your fancy.

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