I’d like to finish off my 3-part series on planning a wedding with photography in mind, by sharing a few words about spatial organization and how it is essential to great imagery. I’d like to focus on Perspective and Composition….and no point in procrastinating…let’s get to it!
From the most compelling landscapes to the most recognized artistic masterpieces, one key ingredient that draws the eye into a view, photograph, or painting is perspective. Take a look at Da Vinci’s The Last Supper and Ansel Adams’ photograph of the Snake River winding its way towards the Tetons, for example. When perspective is used effectively, lines (either those constructed by nature or by man) moving toward the horizon or towards a vanishing point lead our eye through the image, enticing the viewer to linger rather than move to the next photo or painting. In a society over-saturated with imagery, it’s a powerful image that can keep a viewer’s attention, and creating a strong perspective is one way to do just that.
While envisioning your aisle, head table, cake stand, or anything else that will find itself at the center of attention consider what guests, and later viewers, will see when they look behind you as you say your vows, eat your meal, or cut your cake. Take some time to look for distracting elements that may draw the eye from the point of focus (you!) and get creative with how you align your stage, table, and seating. For instance, wedding parties are usually placed next to or slightly in front of the bride and groom when standing in the ceremony. What about creating a ‘V’ shape by placing your attendants behind you and fanning them outwards. What an amazing visual effect that would be! Or, how about putting your archway at the beginning of the aisle to create the feel of a doorway. If your aisle is short but you want the illusion of a longer aisle, broaden the space of the aisle at the beginning (that row at the back) and narrow it towards the end (where you say your I Do’s). Planning on putting your cake stand in a corner? Build some perspective by sprucing up that corner with greenery and white lights. Want to avoid the standard head table lined up along a back wall or window? Use smaller tables for the wedding party and have them staggered, or seat the wedding party amidst the guests and put a smaller table for the bride and groom in a place of honor that has both a great view and a great background. When in doubt, drag a photographer friend or art major, (better yet, your wedding photographer) along to the venue and ask for their advice. Don’t be afraid to try something a little bit unconventional. After all, that’s how those famous artists GOT famous!
So ultimately a wedding photograph is going to be as composed as the photographer deems, but composing your venues in order to draw out the best in a photographer’s skills, (or heaven forbid, help a bad photographer’s work look better) can only make your day look its best. I like to talk about composition by referring to ‘positive and negative space’–positive space being the subject, and negative space being that space surrounding the subject. When considering a backdrop for your vows, portraits, head table, etc., think of yourselves as the positive space and then think about the fact that not enough negative or ‘blank’ space behind you will distract the viewer’s eye from the central focus. Again, that’s you. This is why I always ask the officiant to step to the side when the bride and groom kiss for the first time as husband and wife–so that I can photograph the clean, simple shapes of a man and woman embracing without some random arm or head popping out from behind! That’s why I like photographing family portraits or wedding party shots against a neutral, and usually darker, background such as greenery or brick walls. Keep in mind that bright/light colours advance and dark colours recede, so when subjects are photographed in front of a pale sky, that sky is going to compete for attention, whereas dark green shrubbery is going to take its humble place in the background and allow the subjects to get all the glory. One major problem spot I see at a lot of weddings are archways or arbors that are used during the ceremony to draw attention to where the bride and groom say their vows. The archway is often tight and crowded, and the couple is often positioned directly underneath. Not too bad if the arch is of simple design and decor, but if large floral arrangements are draping down to within inches of the couple’s heads, the space is left feeling busy rather than intimate. And then I get the stellar job of editing twigs and whatnot out from the negative space that’s meant to let the eye rest. My solution is this: if you’re building an archway, make it bigger than you think is necessary. If you’ve already got a small archway, try leaving space between where you stand and where the archway will be, and snap a couple of pics to determine whether or not this adds depth and reduces distraction.
Overall, the old adage, less is more, really does hold up when it comes to designing a great-looking wedding day, because the focus should really be you as a couple. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get creative with producing gorgeous details like handmade favours and letterpress place cards, because photographers LOVE photographing those details and we think they really help to tell your individual story, but just don’t let those things clutter the space around you or your loved ones. Let those details enhance, rather than detract from, the telling of a beautiful love story.
Got questions? I may have answered them in Parts I and II, but if not, shoot! I’d love to hear from you! Got tips for other brides? Things that worked or went terribly wrong? Help brides-to-be design the perfect day!
Hope you have a fabulous night and don’t forget to come back at the end of the week for Friday’s Favourite!