Behind the Scenes with Aaron Feldman #1: Getting Great Night Shots

By, January 29, 2013

We strongly believe that everything is an opportunity if you choose to make it one. With photography, having the technical knowledge to support your creativity can bring an image to the next level.

During a wedding, we are often faced with nighttime photography. Although the night can bring technical challenges, we see it as an opportunity to get amazing shots, like this one of Amanda during her wedding at the Shady Canyon Golf Club.


If you take a snapshot at night using a point and shoot camera, and keep the flash on, something interesting happens. Even though subject is lit up, the background is very dark. What gets lost is the full range of detail – the darkest darks and the brightest whites – that really make an image stand out. The trick to shooting night photography at a wedding is to know how to handle the lighting scenario very quickly. For example, this photo of our bride, Linda, was taken while it was pitch black outside at The Grand Del Mar.


Rather than testing everything on the wedding day, we test out every possible scenario beforehand. That way, we are extremely prepared when we encounter tricky lighting, like during this wedding reception at The Darlington House. The more experienced a photographer is, the better they should know how to handle any lighting situation.


To properly achieve a good nighttime shot, a few steps need to take place.

Step 1: Try to bring out as much natural light as possible, either by using a longer exposure or a higher ISO. Being successful at night shots starts night starts with a camera that can photograph at a high ISO (your camera’s level of sensitivity to available light). The top of the line cameras can shoot at 10,000 ISO and still look nice, as compared to a point and shoot that may go up to 1600 ISO before the quality is greatly diminished. By shooting with a longer exposure and higher ISO, we are able to take a nearly black sky and pull out the remaining blue that is invisible to the eye.


Step 2: Balance the flash (if needed) with the natural light. This takes away the “flashy look”. When the flash and natural light are balanced, the image will have a nice range of detail, like you see in these images below.


Step 3: Decide if you want to add a lighting style to help enhance the image creatively. Sometimes a side light or back light can add an extra edge. For example, in the image below, the cigar smoke stands out against the light source coming from behind it.


To produce this next image, we added a backlight behind the bride and groom at Boettcher Mansion, to make the photo more dramatic.


Step 4 (a): If we’re going for a posed shot, we want to make sure that the subjects are arranged in a cool, flattering way. This makes all the elements more interesting, including the subjects, lighting, and composition.


Step 5 (b): For candid night images that are not posed, we follow a similar practice. We try to pull in as much of the natural light as possible, so that you can feel the ambiance of the moment. In these photos from bride and grooms’ grand exits, we utilized the headlights and the sparklers to light the scene.


For the images below, we used a tripod and timed exposure to capture the mood and atmosphere of the moment. By looking at the images, you can feel the emotions of a warm summer night reception under the lights at Rancho Valencia, or the energy of the US Grant in the Gaslamp. If these photos were taken with a quick snap and  flash, or a low-ISO camera, the images would not contain the same level of detail and emotion. By controlling the lighting, we took advantage of the ambient light to enhance the “feel” of the images.


By using longer exposures during night photos, like this one from Jessica and Dan’s destination wedding, you can be creative, showing motion and blur in a positive way.


Letting light into a photo allows you to grab the detail in the scene. If you fight the natural light that is available, an image can appear sterile and flat, like a snapshot. Instead, we take the light that exists and use it to our advantage. For example, if used in the right way, a little bit of grain created by light sources can give the image texture and feeling.


Night photography is a slower way of shooting versus daytime photography. It’s not about getting a thousand shots. Instead, it’s about getting a handful of portofolio-worthy images, like these from Estancia and Park Hyatt Aviara!


That’s it for this “behind the scenes” look at our process. Until next time, keep practicing those night shots :) Aaron


Wedding Images in Color or Black & White?

By, June 04, 2012

True Photography is known for loving color! It grabs your attention. Color can be beautiful, realistic and alive. However, black and white is timeless, understated, and honest, and it allows you to focus on the moment being captured. One question our clients frequently ask is how we decide when a photo should be produced in color or black and white. There’s always a reason behind the way we present each image, and we’re here to give you a peek at our process. 

Since you can always convert a color photo to black and white, but you can never go the other way, we photograph entirely in color! Then, during the enhancement process, we review every image and decide which ones should receive the b&w treatment. Each of our enhancers has a trained eye, and they know how to present the image in the best possible way.

“When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in black and white, you photograph their souls!”- Ted Grant, (godfather of Canadian photojournalism)

In this post, we show you ten color photos, as well as black and white variations of the same images. On the first five images, the color versions are stronger and present better. For the second five images, black and white brings out a little something extra. Take a look below and let us know what you think! 

Five photos we prefer in color:

1) We took this photo during an Indian wedding ceremony, which is a colorful occasion! It is the colors that really brings this image to life. Also, colors have cultural significance in Indian weddings that can be lost in black and white photos.

Black and White vs. Color Photos for weddings with True Photography Black and White vs. Color Photos for weddings with True Photography

2) Sometimes, color just looks prettier. Though we also love this photo in black and white, we miss our bride’s unique red hair, magenta lips, and bright blue eyes. Also, the small details help to finish this image, like the pink in the groom’s boutonniere.

Black and White vs. Color Photos for weddings with True Photography Black and White vs. Color Photos for weddings with True Photography

3) Color grabs your attention! A burst of color (like the red umbrella) draws your eyes to the main focus of the photo – the lightening!  Also, a color image can capture a range of hues and tones that is absent in black and white images.

Black and White Vs. Color Wedding Images by True PhotographyBlack and White Vs. Color Wedding Images by True Photography

4) Colors can enhance any mood if used correctly. For example, take a look at this bride and groom with their wedding party just after the ceremony. In this image, the colors enhance the humorous and playful situation.

Black and white photo of bride and groom during San Diego WeddingBlack and white photos vs color photos for wedding photography

 5) Colors makes images come to life so they seem more real and vivid. Because flowers are vibrant and have lots of texture, a color version is going to be much more satisfying to the eye.

Black and White Vs. Color Wedding Images by True PhotographyBlack and White Vs. Color Wedding Images by True Photography

Five photos we prefer in black & white:

1) Black and white reminds us of our past, which we often romanticize.  In this photo of the boys sitting on the curb, the black and white treatment creates a moment in time that takes us back to being young. Also, because we see the world in color, an image like this becomes more interesting and distinctive.

Black and White Vs. Color Wedding Images by True PhotographyBlack and White Vs. Color Wedding Images by True Photography

2) A photo in black and white allows us to concentrate on the image itself, rather than the color.  In this photo, the groom is emotional as his bride walks down the aisle.  The use of black & white helps to mute the background to focus on the moment.

Black and White Vs. Color Wedding Images by True PhotographyBlack and White Vs. Color Wedding Images by True Photography

3) Black and white is stark, and it makes people can look more powerful and serious.  The absence of color in this photo really suits the stern expressions of the men and their “Godfather-esque” stances!

Black and White Vs. Color Wedding Images by True PhotographyBlack and White Vs. Color Wedding Images by True Photography

4) Since a majority of old photography was done in black and white, it can help a modern moment feel timeless.  There’s nothing more classic than a bride looking at her love through the window of a 1930 Chevrolet Packard!  There is no indication in the b&w version that this photo was taken circa 2012!

Black and White Vs. Color Wedding Images by True PhotographyBlack and White Vs. Color Wedding Images by True Photography

5)  There is so much emotion in this photo of the bride reading a note from her groom just before the ceremony. The black and white version brings out the facial expressions of the bride and her maid of honor, adding more real drama to the photo.  

Black and white vs. Color wedding photos by True PhotographyBlack and white vs. Color wedding photos by True Photography

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