February’s Book was Jose Villa’s Fine Art Wedding Photography: How to Capture Images with Style for the Modern Bride. I know what you’re thinking…wedding photography? What can I learn there? And guess what – not only is Mr. Villa a wedding photographer (primarily – he also takes children’s portraits – usually those of his wedding clients), he also shoots only film. Double question marks, right?
Wrong. I learned so much from this book, I don’t even know where to start. Actually, I have purchased this book twice – once when I was in Vienna. I read over it but mostly only enjoyed the pictures since I didn’t have enough technical background to understand what he meant by some of the settings. But it got packed away and is sitting in our storage so I bought this book again and this version is already all marked up with pencil marks and post it notes – it turns out that you can learn PLENTY.
First off, the photographs themselves are just gorgeous. It kind of makes you want to get married all over again. They are the kind of photos that make you fall in love with people who are falling in love. Beautiful colors and true emotion. In fact, I was surprised that I was so taken with the photographs since I normally am drawn to more saturation in my own shots, while Mr. Villa has a trademark mastery of pastel. The other thing that surprised me is that after going through the book, I realized it was okay not to be sharp, sharp SHARP. The photographs are perfectly in focus but they have a certain softness to them, much like human skin. Maybe that’s why it looks so right.
There is really so much to learn from here that I’ll do my best to capture the highlights but this is a book that I’ll definitely come back to again and again for guidance and direction. See Mr. Villa’s full portfolio for more inspiration.
Jose Villa’s Fine Art Photography Highlights
- The marketplace will appreciate a focused set of photographs rather than a “spray and pray” random collection of thousands (from Jeff Kent’s introduction)
- Consistency is critical in the fine art photography approach: images, style, product and service – I would argue that this is true for just about anyone no matter where you are in your photography
- If you want to reach a notable level in photography, “distinguish yourself” – there is value in having your own vision
- Even if you don’t shoot with film, you can learn from this book – the key is that film light sensors and digital light sensors read light differently (who knew?) so the key is to “understand how your camera saturates with light – and what rate – and you can bend the rules of exposure to create your own custom look”
- Look for 4 main types of light: window light, outdoor shade, backlight and skylight
- Expose for the shadow – it allows you to capture detail without a reflector
- Use open apertures and longer shutter speeds – with the above this gives him his signature “wraparound light” look
- If you need a reflector for window light shots, a white pillowcase will do
- “Overexposing” in digital:
- Set to AP at maximum aperture
- Determine ISO and shutter speed based on what camera tells you
- Switch to manual for those exposure settings
- Now experiment with ISO or shutter speed to get the desired soft glow look
- Beware that overexposing softens details – important for things like veils
- In dimmer light, bump up aperture to make sure all points are in focus – especially in group shots
- Don’t pose people but direct them, if you put people in the right situation it will look right and still be natural
- If you want your clients (your subjects) to loosen up, you have to loosen up as well (this is a big one to work on for me)
- Be prepared and do your “technical thinking” ahead of time so that when your shooting you are focused on the direction and the natural images
- If you’re at a standstill during a shoot, change something – take a walk, change positions
- Your subjects really you to make them look better – that’s your job as a photographer – so insert yourself if you need to in order to make that happen
- “Consider your design aesthetic ahead of time and shoot with a consistent vision in mind to make that happen”
- If you can’t move your subjects, move yourself
- Always show your best work – “show the work that demonstrates the types of things you want to do”