Colourful Wedding photography
Recently I’ve been drawn more and more to using colour in my wedding photography. Don’t get me wrong I’ve always included colour photographs but there was often more artistic weight placed on the documentary photos that were in black and white. Somehow black and white seemed more suited to ‘pure’ documentary – colour being the crass newboy on the block*. The vast majority of ‘classic’ documentary photography (war, poverty and the such) always seemed to be in black and white.
*(sidenote – commercial colour photography has been around since 1907 and then Eastman/Kodak gave it to the masses in 1935)
In Colour Photos you Look at Clothes First(?)
The line about the difference between colour and B&W photography always was ‘In colour photos you look at the clothes first, in B&W you look at the emotions’ – not universally true but true enough to draw the nod from anyone listening. Stripping out colour from a photograph is a great way to get the viewer to focus on light, composition and emotion without the distraction of having to read a colour palette too. But I don’t think it always creates stronger images.
Some Photos Work Great in B&W
Some photos work great in black and white but I’ve been challenging myself to get the same impact using colour as well. Colour can be an added ingredient that lifts emotions, makes stronger contrasting compositions and gives a great depth within the frame.
I’ve feel quite confident with the three classical elements that make up an effective photograph – light, composition and moment. Colour adds a forth element to be aware of and this is what I’ve been challenging myself with.
Colour distracts – our eyes are drawn immediately to a colour like ‘red’ in a frame. It’s like a car crash, we can’t tear our eyes away from it even thought we want to.
Colour confuses – a too rich colour palette and our eyes won’t rest on one thing long enough to read it properly.
Colour overwhelms – kaleidoscopic colours keep merging into each other constantly changing the frame we are looking at like twisting the cylinder of a child’s kaleidoscopic toy.
Colour to Emphasise and Heighten
I find I’m having to bear all this in mind as I’m working. Looking for elements of colour in a frame that will draw the viewer away from what I want to focus on. But colour is also useful for giving emphasis and heightening a situation. Contrasting colours can add real impact to a photo. Harmonious colours give a sense of calm or bright, impactful colours a sense of fun/enjoyment that can heighten the sense of being there.
The Timeless Wedding Photography Myth
(some indeterminate weddingland of romance and joy)
Black and white has been seen amongst some photographers as a way of making a wedding photograph ‘Timeless’. It’s B&W ergo it lives in the past in some indeterminate weddingland of romance and joy. Rubbish.
I never think my job is to create a ‘timeless’ photograph that will last through the ages – because that approach I think is impossible. Weddings cannot live outside time and place, nor should they. ‘The more specific you can be the more universal the image’ – this was written in a review of Diane Arbuss’s work and I can’t think of a truer statement.
I don’t think I’ll stop delivering some of my wedding photography in B&W – but I’m thinking more and more about why. It’s true some photos seem more impactful stripped down to their basic elements without colour but I’m rising to the challenge that colour gives me now, more and more.
Using colour is hard. The situations wedding photographers find themselves in often doesn’t yield the best quality of light and therefore colour – but this shouldn’t be a reason not to try to embrace it.
I’m going to keep learning and pushing myself every time I pick up a camera – trying to do the best for myself and the couples I work with.
The future’s bright, the future’s every colour under the sun.
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