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Book Review – Contemporary Wedding Photography by Julie Oswin & Steve Walton

Title: Contemporary Wedding Photography by Julie Oswin & Steve Walton – Buy Here

MSRP: US$24.99

Book Description
“Essential Know-How for a New Era in Wedding Photography*Wedding photography is one of the most lucrative areas for professional and aspiring photographers *Working photographers must master the less formal contemporary style of wedding photography to win clients *The highly acclaimed authors are featured regularly in the bridal and photography pressToday’s wedding photography has to tell a story and capture the emotions and atmosphere of the day in a natural, photojournalistic style. This user-friendly manual reveals the techniques necessary to shoot in this contemporary style, whether for professional photographers looking to update their methods or aspiring photographers wanting to break into this high-end market. This comprehensive guide:*Guarantees successful shooting by using comprehensive checklists, professional tips, proven templates and step-by-step photographs*Includes advice on pre-wedding planning, presentation of images to the couple and everything in between 

*Inspires achievement in photographers of all levels through the authors’ inimitable shooting style An A to Z directory of professional tips makes vital knowledge easy to find.”

The book covers a lot of essential information for the relatively new and intermediate wedding photographer. The chapters are separated into the following:

  • Preparation
  • Directing Poses
  • Photographing Details
  • The Wedding Story
  • Editing and Digital Darkroom
  • Designing the Album
  • The Business of Marketing

I’ll go through the book review, chapter-by-chapter in terms of usability and content later on.

The book contains a lot of quality photographs, in colour and monochrome, mostly taken with a digital SLR. Exif information are provided in each photo along with meaningful captions on why or how the photo was chosen.

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Chapter 1: Preparation

This chapter is a very good inclusion for the book. It covers “background” preparations that are not related with equipment. The chapter talks about how and when to meet with clients, how to plan for the formal and informal shoots, how to work with suppliers, and interestingly, know when to refuse a client before getting yourself into more trouble than it’s worth.

The section about selecting locations is very well constructed as it includes options on what venues to shortlist depending on the personalities of your clients, such as whether they like it in a private place or a public park, for example.

The chapter also mentions the gears expected to be brought when going out for a shoot. Interestingly, the authors prefer natural, available lighting photographs instead of relying on artificial lighting, so they made sure that the discussion of using natural light modifiers are included later on in the book.

The authors included an sample checklist and schedule for photographers to use as reference when they go out for a shoot, which I find to be quite useful.

The key quote for me in this chapter would be “Communicate with your couple at all times. Remember, every couple has different personalities and different expectations of their day.”

I wish this chapter was longer, though. Most less-established wedding photographers spend most of their time figuring out how to shoot rather than the business and preparation aspects of wedding photography.

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Chapter 2: Directing Poses

A lot of photographers need this chapter. Portraits, especially weddings, are about poses. Without good direction from the photographer, images will look static and boring. The book included 13 pages of text and images for the reader to explore captivating poses and ideas on directing the subjects creatively – which, I think is insufficient, like the previous chapter.

“Soft-skills” like directing poses and patter are hard to learn and experience will be the best way to improve. The book illustrates several classic (read: common) poses that works almost 100% of the time. Candids, romantic poses, outdoor/environmental, dramatic, and group poses are covered in reasonable extent but lacks technical instructions on how to “correct” imperfections in common facial or body features for couple and individual poses. Nevertheless, there are a few great pointers in this chapter that I haven’t read in other books such as:

Keep all the family and guests away from the couple when you are photographing intimate moments. They will thank you for this precious time together without disturbance.

and

As a professional, you will only be as good as your last commission. Handle the formal family and group photography well and your reputation will soar.

Overall, I’d prefer more instructions on directing and less hypothetical “what ifs” described in the chapter.

I find this paragraph the most useful:

It is far easier and quicker to remove people from a group than it is to add them.

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Chapter 3: Photographing Details

This chapter is written very well. The illustrations and examples provided are very easy to follow in an actual even and the authors provide you the intricate details on what to look out for, how to position them, when to shoot the items to avoid schedule conflicts, among others.

The chapter also mentions another side of wedding-details photography — the business side of using the still captures for your own advertising and portfolio as most wedding detail items are universal in nature, void of obvious corporate branding. On the flip side, it also mentions how you can foster business partnerships and relationships with suppliers of wedding accessories, florists, designers, car rental companies, etc. How your photographs can be a great leverage for mutual advertising exposures.

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Chapter 4: The Wedding Story

The fourth chapter is the “meat” of the book, and rightfully so. The authors spent most of their time writing this section and it covered a lot of useful scenarios and technical content to please anyone. While the authors clearly stated that they’re illustrating their style of coverage, it is pretty contemporary and I’m sure most photographer, regardless of culture and religious requirement, will be able to relate to.

The chapter starts with covering the events occurring in the bride’s home, as well as the groom’s (which they indicated why it’s best to shoot in tandem as a single photographer won’t likely be able to cover both unless the couple are already staying in the same place during preparation). Samples are provided specifically on intricate details like make-up, hairdressing moments, candids with close family and friends, etc. It’s also nice to see that the authors didn’t chimp on discussing the groom’s side of the coverage. Most books concentrate too much on the bride (yes, it’s pretty much the bride’s moment, but it takes two to tango, right?) and ignore the groom’s importance before the ceremony. The insights of following the groom is refreshing and very useful to say the least.

The chapter then moves to the en-route stages between home and church. The authors suggest a very useful tip where they suggest that you should scout the areas between the house and the venue as there may be interesting and captivating sites that you can squeeze into the clients’ schedule for some portraits before arriving at the church. As you probably have experienced yourself (either as a client or the photographer), the time between travels are usually ignored, but there are a lot of unique places you can shoot if you do your homework ahead of time. Simply schedule 15-30 minutes for a couple of shots en-route to the church can add a whole new dimension to your final product. The people who’ll be viewing the photos will undoubtedly say “where and when did this happen???”

The Ceremony itself was dissected properly and there’s not a lot of grounds that were left uncovered by Oswin & Walton. I love the fact that they cover their events with available light most of the time and the photos are very natural and spontaneous, but not having enough discussions about flash usage is a bit limiting for me as most venues don’t offer adequate, usable available light and an artificial lightsource must be utilized.

The authors then covered some considerations when shooting reportage photos such as the couple’s privacy, the expectation of parents, how to interact and photograph children, and how to shoot in sequence for the album itself. Like the previous section in poses, this chapter covers a lot of group shots as well. This is an important topic to discuss over-and-over again as the difficulty in directing a group is almost directly proportionate to the number of subjects involved. The more elements and subjects, the more complex the arrangement will be. The book covered group shots adequately and that alone is worth the cost of the book.

The coverage moves from the confetti throwing, en-route to reception halls, then to the indoor reception hall itself. The topics will then include the customary toast, cake cutting and dance sequences. This is the only chapter where flash usage is discussed the most. I like the repeated suggestion of using a monopod as well in conjunction with flash to control the ambient-to-flash lighting ratios. Unfortunately, technical instructions are not discussed in details for flash and low-light photography in here. This book is clearly not a beginner’s resource, so keep that in mind if you’re just starting out.

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Chapter 5: Editing and the Digital Darkroom

The concept of editing is not well transferred from the days of film to digital. Nowadays, people think of “editing” as post-processing only. Turning zits into flawless skin, making people 10-years younger, adding funky effects, etc. Fortunately, Oswin and Walton covered the basic fundamentals of digital editing and workflow that’ll benefit any digital photographer without going into too much detail that’ll detract from the purpose of the book.

The post-processing covered in this chapter are almost direct transfer from the film workflow involving basic things like cropping, desaturating, adding vignettes, toning, etc., basic things to ENHANCE instead of RESCUE photographs.

The chapter covered the imporatance of duplicate backups and basic printing information as well.

The digital darkroom is a very complex subject matter and a lot of the topics lean heavily on subjective, personal artistic preferences. I strongly suggest getting a dedicated book or two about the digital darkroom if you’re already familiar with the basics and have established a proper workflow when working on digital images.

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Chapter 6: Designing the Album

The sixth chapter covers some basic justification on why the photographer should invest in learning how to design albums instead of outsourcing the product. The chapter shows a couple of album-authoring applications such as PhotoJunction and JA Album Designer, which I think are very solid starting points for those who doesn’t want to venture into the more complex (but also more customizable) PhotoShop route.

Basic layout designs are presented along with comprehensive checklist on how the sequence of photographs should be presented and what should be included as well.

There aren’t many techniques discussed in this chapter and the approach is very generic. As mentioned earlier, PhotoShop isn’t described in this chapter hence the usual discussion of blend modes, textures, and other technical elements are not available.

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Chapter 7: The Business of Marketing

The last chapter involves the marketing side of wedding photography. As it should, it stated:

It should not be forgotten, however, theat for most practitioners, wedding photography is a business and, like any other, itmust attract customers and it must be profitable.

The authors provided basic glossary terms and key points to refer to on every marketing task. Tips on how to maximize exposures through trade shows, portfolio creation, self-marketing, websites, and it even discussed the standard strategic marketing matrix – The Boston Box.

Very useful, but like the rest of the book, it skims through the basics and expects the reader to obtain further reference materials if they want to know more.

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Conclusion:

The book contains a wealth of information that’s written with a budding wedding photographer in mind. It bypasses a lot of basic photographic instructions as it assumes that the reader has some level of fundamental photographic skill set and I think that’s a good way to approach ANY book that discusses professional (paid) coverages.

Contemporary Wedding Photography covers most of what you’ll be facing during a typical western/Christian wedding setting and spent a tremendous amount of time discussing the most important part of the event – the actual day coverage.

While I would’ve preferred a more “hand-holding” instructions, it really wouldn’t be appropriate for the book’s purpose and target audience. An accomplished pro may still get a tip or two, but this is not an advanced level reference material.

There are some obvious editing lapses in the book (such as DSRL instead of DSLR in the last chapter), and other than the fourth chapter, the book tends to skim through the topics and leaves you hanging for information. On the other hand, the way the authors provided the high-level info allow readers to narrow down the reference materials they need to use to supplement this book.

The price is just an absolute bargain for this much quality illustration and text. At US$24.99, you can find a lot of junk photographic books that are merely extended version of user manuals in the market.

I give this book a 4 out of 5 rating for sheer value, casual writing, and well chosen illustrations. Buy it if you’re getting your feet wet in wedding photography.

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