Let’s face it. Whether you celebrate it or not, love is in the air as we come upon another Valentine’s Day. I was recently asked by Bliss By Sam (a passionately talented team of wedding consultants) if I would answer a few questions on how I portray love in my work.
BBS: How do you capture feelings of love and romance in your photographs?
CRAIG: For me, these are two distinct concepts, so my approach to each is quite different. My photographs that are romantic in nature tend to be posed and/or derived from a creative idea. The environment, the style, overall look and even the way that an image is processed can all enhance a photo and evoke a sense of romanticism. Conveying the notion of love is much more difficult. Love is unscripted, personal and authentic.
For example, this first photo depicts a sense of romance to me. It was taken at an independent movie theatre shortly after the release of the movie “Two Lovers.” I already had a preconceived idea of what I wanted the photo to look like so I decided to use a faded black and white treatment to give a nod to the early years of film while at the same time showcasing the retro style marquee in the background.
On the other hand, this moment captures the love that this bride and groom have for one another. Taken just a few moments after they were pronounced husband and wife, there’s a subtle hint of their wedding recessional trailing behind as they genuinely look at each other with a sense of joy, relief and excitement.
These next two photographs fall into the romantic category for me… but for a different reason. I used a wide angle lens to capture the first couple during their wedding reception at Washington Duke Inn. I had asked them if they wanted to sneak away for a few moments… just the two of them. Their wedding was on Halloween and October is a beautiful time of year in North Carolina. I knew that the expansive landscape and the vibrant colors would add a lot to this calm yet enjoyable moment.
I used a wide lens to capture this breathtaking photo with the same intent. Myself, the bride and groom slipped away to document this moment as they looked over the Blue Ridge mountains at Biltmore Estate. Again… the atmosphere and lighting adds to the romance.
BBS: Do you use any techniques to ensure that you can capture both kinds of images?
CRAIG: To convey romance in photographs I rely on creative thinking and tend to draw inspiration from the world around me. For candid and unrehearsed expressions of love, I pull from past experiences and attempt to anticipate any moments that are about to happen. The key is to let your subjects forget that you’re holding a camera and allow them to focus on each other and their unique (or shared) feelings during that experience.
Some of my favorite photographs are formed when these two concepts blend or collide. Sometimes this happens all by itself and on other occasions all it takes is a little suggestion from me to set these events in motion. In this photo, a light drizzle had begun in the middle of this couple’s portrait session. I had shouted out “Someone save the bride from getting wet!” I knew that no one had an umbrella and watched as the groom quickly removed his jacket and held it over her head. To me this shot is romantic, traditionally chivalrous and also shows the love and joy shared between the couple during a playful situation.
In this shot I discovered that the groom was an amazingly talented saxophone player and had arranged to play a surprise solo for his wife at their wedding reception. As I saw this moment unfolding, I noticed that the bride was standing on the dance floor about 20 feet away. I could see in her eyes how incredibly moved she was and encouraged her to join her husband on the stage. The resulting images were improved and were then filled with a increased sense of closeness through proximity. I don’t know of any women that don’t swoon when their significant other plays an instrument for them. I wanted to catch this interaction in a single photo. The love and romance are quite evident here.
BBS: What is your favorite moment to capture at a wedding?
CRAIG: Wow! I’m finding this to be a tough question to answer. There are few events more charged with emotion than engagement sessions and weddings but it’s probably fair to say that I find myself documenting a lot of photos of couples kissing. There’s the “first kiss” after being pronounced man and wife, the tradition of clinking glasses and of course those stolen kisses just because. Whether they’re prompted or not, I always enjoy photographing a passionate kiss, but I don’t think I could say that these were my favorite moments. While a kiss can obviously contain or be propelled by feelings of love, I think those are sometimes trumped by romantic ideals or lost in translation without context.
It’s the candid and heartfelt connections that deeply move me the most. If I had to choose a single moment, it would be that of a speech or toast. I think it’s the candid unpredictability that fascinates me the most. It’s a surreal experience to listen in as family and friends share their most intimate thoughts and experiences with each other. I’ve heard hilarious stories from friends in the bridal party and have heard touching reflections from father’s of the bride that proudly chronicle the journey of their baby girl to womanhood.
These raw and authentic emotions are difficult to capture through words and in photographs but the challenge to do so is exciting to me. I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t deeply touched by these stories sometimes. When genuine closeness and care inspire these interactions that’s all it really takes to create meaningful photographs.
I hope to hear your thoughts about love and romance through photography as well!