Tips + Techniques

Lessons in Creating More Dynamic Wedding Photos That Wow Clients

April 30, 2019

By Natalie Licini

Photo © Sergey Ivanov

By adding elements to create atmosphere and depth, Ivanov takes the drama and uniqueness of his wedding work up several levels.

WPPI is my favorite week of the year. Where else can I spend quality time and take classes with so many artists that I love and respect? This past February, I was particularly fortunate to meet Kiev, Ukraine-based photographer Sergey Ivanov, known around the world for his unique and fantastical wedding imagery. 

I was lucky enough to be able to hire Ivanov while at WPPI for an impromptu editing class, using a translator. He started by telling me that once an image is captured in camera, it is at most 49 percent complete, with the art portion awaiting the maker in post-production. 

The best part of this approach, for me, is that it sends the message that anything is possible, and that you can create a niche for yourself and find clients who will respond. A lot of how Ivanov creates images stems from his background: He went to art school and worked as a painter for many years, and before he was shooting weddings full time, he had worked in television for several years. “That experience gave me the opportunity to observe pictures of wedding photographers,” he explains. “I sensed a void that no one had really tapped into. When I first started out, my clients would often ask me to implement their ideas, which they first saw someplace else. Then I’d give them my own suggestions, which they always liked more and agreed to try. As I continued shooting through the years, it became such that the couples wouldn’t come with any preconceived ideas. They would wait to see what I had concocted.” 

One thing I learned from him was that accents in your photos are so important, including elements that attract the eye of the viewer—like flare, illumination and texture.

“Use visual effects to set the mood of the photo with rain, snow, smoke, fire, leaves, petals  and other flying elements,” he told me. Creating depth and airiness is key, as are flying fabrics, veils, ribbons and other elements of the wedding clothing.

While Ivanov always look for the ideal location and composition to frame his clients in, he also creates dramatic imagery with two lights: sunlight and off-camera flash. Initially, in post-production, he adjusts the dynamic range in Capture One, adds drama in the sky, and creates motion with a veil or with leaves blowing in the wind. His goal is to always create enough atmosphere to make his images three-dimensional. He finishes by drawing light and shadow as a painter would. He implements these steps to finish his images brilliantly as one-of-a-kind creations.

I am excited to see how much more dynamic my work will be by applying Ivanov’s techniques from our class (which you can learn in detail by attending one of his workshops). 

I light my clients using a Profoto B10 off-camera flash or natural light; I’ve never used both outdoors. I’m intrigued to see the difference it will make on my work since the B10 is light and versatile and battery-operated. Some of my images have the emotion and drama Ivanov’s work has, however my lighting is not as dynamic…yet! I make adjustments in Lightroom, but after seeing the Capture One interface he showed me, which is more intuitive, I’ve made the switch to Capture One. Next, I edit and clean up the image, do some frequency separation on the skin and adjust the clothing. I have never altered the sky as Ivanov does, but I can’t wait to try it in my next shoot; I may add in sun or clouds. After my class with Ivanov, my options are limitless. 

I started out with a standard wedding portrait taken at the castle studio where I do my work.
My final edit, using Ivanov’s suggestions. Photos © natalie licini

5 Tips for Images That Wow

1. Search for unique ideas and locations to hone your style.

2. Create a story in a photo. Don’t take photos like a balloon (beautiful and shiny on the outside but completely empty on the inside).

3. Work with light to create volume and depth in a photo. This is what gives your images life and adds a new dimension to them.

4. Create contrasts in your imagery: up vs. down, static vs. dynamic, warm vs. cold.The more contrast, the more you’ll captivate your viewer.

5. Evoke emotion in your viewer. Good or bad, the image should trigger
a reaction. ”That’s nice” is the worst possible response you can get.

Photo © kristen McCandless

Natalie Licini is an award-winning photographer who runs her flagship brand, Je Revele, out of an historic New Jersey castle. She has been published in the NY Times, Loan Collection book, The Knot, Rangefinder, Professional Photographer and more.

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