I think my work has always been bright, bright, bright. If you look at photographs from when I first started shooting professionally five-ish years ago, you’ll see very little contrast – light falling cleanly and evenly on smiling faces. Pretty. But boring if that’s all you ever do. I’ve been backlighting or pointing my couples directly at the pretty light source, so everything in the frame is lit the same – the result is a clean image with very little depth.
I’m constantly evaluating my work – pushing myself to try new things and create more dynamic photographs. And it occurred to me sometime last year – my photographs are sometimes so flat. I’ve been chasing light so much that I kind of forgot that photography is as much about shadow as it is light. As much about what you don’t see as what you do. I’m so good at finding the pretty light – it’s completely second nature. Finding the nice shadows… that’s a little harder. And not just finding nice shadows, but finding a nice balance of light and shadow together so that they compliment each other. Because when shadow is bad… it’s really really bad. (Think people pointed directly at noontime sun – talk about scary, uneven under eye shadows.)
It’s really silly that it took me this far into my career to start embracing shadows. I don’t know why I ran from that for so long. Understanding light was always easy to me; understanding shadow has been a (fun) challenge. But I think in the year or so since I pushed myself to change the way I shoot (which isn’t an easy thing to do… old habits die hard), I’ve been able to take a big step forward in my work.
I think there’s a place for clean, evenly lit photographs and a place for shadowy, darker photographs. And often that place is in the same wedding or location. It’s one of those really obvious things that was staring me in the face for a long time and which I just completely ignored. I think one of the things I love most about my job is that I’m never going to stop learning. I’ll never reach a magical point where I’ve learned it all and every photograph is perfect. The way I shoot now, and the way my work looks now is totally different from even a year or two ago. And completely unrecognizable from the way I was shooting when I decided to start this business. And my work now most likely looks nothing like it will in five or ten years. That’s such a beautiful, amazing thing about this career. We’re all always going to keep evolving. There’s always something you could be doing better. Some people may see that as a negative… but I love it. It means my job is never going to be boring. It means I get to keep growing in my chosen path. That’s pretty cool.
What is something you’ve learned lately that has impacted the way you shoot?