How to get awarded in wedding photography contests - Part 2

(...follows Part 1)

The errors not to commit, the ambitions to pursue.

 © Alessandro Avenali - Master Piece WPJA 2018-v06

© Alessandro Avenali - Master Piece WPJA 2018-v06

COMPOSITION, AESTHETICS AND MINIMALISM:
FINE-ART PHOTOGRAPHY

Shooting minimalism, as well as everything celebrating pictorialism, the quest for perfection is fundamental. Details like wrong falling lines, imperfect framing, halos, brush paintings, chromatic dissonances and, in general, a non appropriate post-processing inevitably undermine the chances to get awarded.

Is it possible to look for a minimalistic photo and end up with a skewed horizon?
Or to cut key elements of the composition?
And if you look for a symmetry, shouldn't it be perfect?

You are looking for a fine-art shot... how can you cut those few Bride's dress centimeters, or an ear, or a hand?
Is it possible to cut a foot during a posed portrait in which you have the maximum control of the situation and the pose?
Is it possible to commit such rough errors shooting something that can be repeated as long as you want?
No, it's not a master attitude and it betrays an approximation that's incompatible with an award.

In minimalism, negative space is widely used.
To find it in shots that are not aiming to be minimal betrays a composition error: to leave an unjustified void in the frame.
Very often, instead, especially in presence of multiple subjects, distributing elements to fill in the frame is a winning condition.

 © Alessandro Avenali - Editor's choice - MyWed 2016

© Alessandro Avenali - Editor's choice - MyWed 2016

BANALITY

Today we continuously assist to copies of the copies.
You will never have my vote to have put the bride and groom among the clouds using a mirror, or to have photographed them together with farm animals, except if their pose is totally new and brilliant, or the composition enriched by an unexpected an unique element. 

And where is photographic research in shooting a single subject which is doing something completely normal, if the shot ins not accompanied by quintessential light, geometries and mimics?
What superior skill, in the photographer, should we award otherwise?

Looking for an award is looking for something that still doesn't exist.

 © Alessandro Avenali - Sixteenth Place ISPWP Spring 2015 cat. "Framing the subject"

© Alessandro Avenali - Sixteenth Place ISPWP Spring 2015 cat. "Framing the subject"

POST-PROCESSING

The aesthetics of photography is not only composition, light and content, but also development.
Post-processing - aka grading - affects visual impact and it's responsible for a photograph colours.
In film photography, shooting Velvia, Portra or Neopan leads to completely different results, each one having an aesthetic impact able to arouse different emotions in the observer. In digital photography, expecting less than that is foolish.
Avoiding to care about the emotional result that grading will provoke in the observer is simply naive and unprofessional.

I have no mercy for bad post-processing, for dissonant chromatic choices, halos and blatant dodge & burn marks. Brush marks are just of bad taste. They make the photo look unnatural, breaking observer's illusion. They betray the narrative pact.

I found shots broken from post-processing. Things that make us regret film photography and its perfect and gratuitous aesthetics.
If you are among the ones not been awarded, try to change the processing of your photos. The problem might be there. I examined very, very good photos, that were dramatically penalised by their color grading or black and white conversion. Improve the post-processing of your photos and re-submit them in the next contest.

 © Alessandro Avenali - Masters of Italian Wedding Photography, 2016

© Alessandro Avenali - Masters of Italian Wedding Photography, 2016

COLOR OR BLACK AND WHITE?

Why choosing to process a digital photograph in black & white instead of color?

Color has the power to enhance or penalise the readability of a photo. Sometimes it shifts its focus from content to aesthetics.
The choice should never be underestimated nor made by chance or that easily. You should be convinced about your choice and be able to justify it.

I found photos whose post-processing dramatically penalised the content of the photos themselves. Those processing actually hid the content, confused it, camouflaged it.

I'm not going to award a photographer doing bad post-processing. A photographer who's got no idea of how to replicate the good black and white of a film, or who gives preference to black and white despite the content, no matter if it will affect and penalise photo's readability. 

I found shots deliberately (and unreasonably) underexposed by even 2 stops, in full daylight. Probably digitally underexposed, in the raw converter. Those same photos, with the right processing, the one that's appropriate to content's energy, would have been fantastic.

Do you want to stand out? Forget about the flavor of the month.
The current trend is to underexpose? Is to apply a dark post-processing? Is to clip blacks, or to clip whites? Is to apply an orange & teal or vanilla & peach color-grading?
Go follow the trend and look for your award in the boring cauldron of standardisation. You won't find it here.

 © Alessandro Avenali - Masters Of Italian Wedding Photography, 2016

© Alessandro Avenali - Masters Of Italian Wedding Photography, 2016

POSED PORTRAITS

When shooting posed portraits, geometries, compostion, originality, light and - most important - the pose itself of the bride and groom must be flawless.

During this kind of shooting, the shape of the pose contributes for more than 90% of the result.

If you find yourselves shooting in a dreamy place and you have an excellent composition or a mighty light, but the pose is unconvincing, forget to be awarded, at least by me. You will demonstrate only to be unable to make use of the great chance that's in front of you.

Those poses in which the bride and groom, one or both of them, look unnatural, clumsy, awkward, under strain... are absolutely to be rejected. You shouldn't even press the shutter button in those cases. Instead, improve your communication skills. Learn to talk to your subjects.

A lot of posing couples seem to SHOUT their discomfort being directed by the photographer, when they should look, instead, natural and spontaneous in their behaviors of intimate and mutual sweetness.

In the last contest I found a lot of couple portraits with potential, but either the processing was wrong, or the pose was clumsy. The two things together, well done, seem to be quite rare to find.

 © Alessandro Avenali - Tenth Place ISPWP Summer 2015 cat. "Bride and groom portraits"

© Alessandro Avenali - Tenth Place ISPWP Summer 2015 cat. "Bride and groom portraits"

 

WEDDING REPORTAGE, PHOTOJOURNALISM AND DOCUMENTARY STYLE

I love to award photography of truth: that one that tells a story. It does, using a clean grammar, of easy reading also in its complexity. It's a kind of photography in which light and color have their own place and their own narrative task.

Do not underestimate the "decisive moment". I found a lot of photos with potential, that would have been awesome if the photographer shosed a slightly different moment to shoot: a different nuance in subject's expression, a more harmonious gesture. Wedding reportage is based on capturing the moment, on the "stolen photo": are you sure there was no better instant to shoot? If a candid photo doesn't catch the apex of the action, is a missed shot. I wouldn't even publish it.  Maybe train on this.

 © Alessandro Avenali - First Place WPJA 2017 Tri-2 - cat. "Toast/Speeches"

© Alessandro Avenali - First Place WPJA 2017 Tri-2 - cat. "Toast/Speeches"

Almost always, in documentary photography, "content is King" (said a man in 1996). A very intense moment may prevail over photographic research. The emotion transmitted to the observer, the power of the story told, the conditions under which that photo has been taken are elements that may (and should) overcome technical flaws.

It's important to consider how, in documentary photography, perfection is not mandatory for beauty. In all that's spontaneous, candid and natural, rather the (historical) equivalence "beauty is truth" works definitely better.

- Alessandro Avenali