Behind the scenes with a wedding photographer
By Damion Hamilton
Allow me to set the scene… It’s Napa. Rich, warm colors created a feeling of luxury as Dave and Jeanne’s guests entered the ceremony area overlooking the valley’s bucolic surrounding hills. The richness and depth of the wine culture was reflected in the layers of purple, reminiscent of a delicious red wine and highlighted by touches of gold. After the ceremony, the guests were treated to a cocktail reception on the Manor Lawn. Dinner was even more magnificent with an intricate design by Sasha Souza Events taking the party to the next level of opulence. As the sun set over the vineyards, the guests continued their feast outdoors and enjoyed dancing and dessert inside the hotel later.
All in all, it was a picture perfect day. Or was it?
To capture this wedding, getting the best event photo, my team and I faced a couple very “real” photography challenges. Here’s how we were able to overcome these obstacles to create the “picture perfect” images we wanted.
Souza sums up the particular nuances of this venue that we had to work around: “The venue has a western facing ceremony and reception site which makes for gorgeous golden sunsets over the Mayacama mountains. But the challenge here is the photography – the timing of the ceremony, where the sun will be at the prescribed ceremony time (4 – 5 p.m.) is not in the best possible location. When you need to shoot the ceremony, the sun is still hot and creates a washed out background. For dinner, we often hold the cocktail party for an extra half hour so that we can ensure the sun is just lowered over the tops of the mountain. Timing is crucial and I don’t have an issue pushing the meal back a bit in order to make sure that the client’s wedding images are as perfect as they can be.
Clearly, the bride was at ease and not worried that we’d get the shots!
Challenge #1: Direct sun washes out the ceremony details. As Souza mentioned above, one of our biggest challenges with this day was shooting straight into the hot sun at the ceremony. It was almost impossible to capture the richness of the design colors and details without lots of glare.
Solution: We worked together to come up with the solution of having the ceremony re-set just like it was pre-ceremony and waiting for the sun to go down before returning to capture the details AFTER cocktail hour. The nice, even lighting of twilight gave us the perfect opportunity to capture the ceremony site and the reception in its best state.
Challenge #2: Capturing a clear wide shot in the middle of a busy hotel. Due to the nature of being in the main thoroughfare of a bustling inn, getting the space cleared for just long enough to capture a wide shot was a big challenge. As with any setup in a public space, there were plenty of curious onlookers taking their own pictures of the design and hotel guests passing through to their rooms in addition to the normal servers and vendors finishing the setup.
Solution: Solving this challenge took some good old-fashioned people skills. At the moment when the light was just right, the staff blocked off all points of entry and held everyone out of the frame just long enough for us to capture the wide shot. Luckily, there was a perfect balcony to shoot from, so I also ran up to the top to get a higher perspective on the setup. This was all done in just a few minutes, as we couldn’t hold the hotel guests back for too long. What you don’t see in this picture is that just outside the frame on all sides, faithful staff members of Sasha Souza Events are holding people back from entering the space. This complete set of full room shots was capturing within three to five minutes. Enjoy!
Once all the big shots are done, and the challenges faced and solved, it’s our great joy as photographers to find those beautiful details that sum up the day.