DC wedding photographer | Amber Wilkie Photography » Photography for awesome people.

Big picture vs. detail-oriented and how it relates to photography

Most of the people who read this blog are around my age, so it’s likely you have been job hunting on Craigslist.  When I was doing it, I was mostly looking for administrative stuff because it’s where my skill-set was when I left college.  Who could really do much besides use a computer, read, write and type?  Pretty much every listing wanted someone “detail-oriented.”  Because they said they wanted it, I said I was it, even though I had this strong nagging suspicion that I really wasn’t even remotely detail-oriented.

A few years have passed and a conversation on a photo forum recently helped me solidify to myself that I am completely not detail-oriented.  I am a “big picture visionary” type.  This makes so much sense to me.  I have a hard time discussing nitty-gritty details and normally figure all of that will work itself out in the end.  I want to talk about how something will feel, the overall idea.  I always want to talk about things from 30,000 feet up and don’t have a hard time getting perspective about most stuff.  It’s when we start talking RAW vs. JPEG or Sigma 50 1.4 vs. Nikon 50 1.4 or navy blue tablecloths vs. indigo tablecloths – who cares?!  Let’s just do something.  My gear-loving friends flip out about this stuff and I really couldn’t care less.  I have some lenses and they super work and I’m very happy with them.  I don’t need or want any more.  In fact, the less stuff I have to carry around, the better.  Shock and awe from the gearheads!  But for me, it’s about the big picture – can I capture this day in an authentic, candid, joyful, artistic way?

This totally relates to photography and I’m getting there!  Now I’m going to show you images with mistakes.  And I’m going to tell you about the mistakes!  Why?  Because I want you to know the type of photographer I am.  All photographers make mistakes – we’re people, after all.  But I like to think that my mistakes are about details, while I’m pursuing the big picture.  One of the biggest things I struggled with learning photography was how to get “clean” backgrounds.  When you’re photographing someone, you have to move yourself so that they are not in front of something distracting – like a big red sign, etc.  This is something I struggled with, because I was focusing on getting the right moment.  Actually, getting the right moment is still my focus, but I’ve trained myself to get the other stuff right too (well, mostly, as we’ll see!)

This post is precipitated by an incredible sponsored post on A Practical Wedding.  I paid for it, it’s advertising, but I still get all giddy when I read it – it’s so me!  I love APW and if you are vibing on what I’m saying, you should check them out and you will love them too.  Meg, who owns the site and writes all the sponsored posts, linked to Megan and Pritpal’s Sikh/Christian wedding.  And at the very bottom there is the ring shot I did… and one of the rings is upside-down.

ring shot on indian scarf

Whoops!  But here’s the thing: I did this ring shot in – oh – 30 seconds?  Because there was lots of other good stuff going on I didn’t want to miss.  Like this:

groom helping bride with sari

It may be possible to be equally good at both, but I must admit I still sometimes skip the “details” in favor of the moment, the reaction, the emotion.  I have learned to go with my big-picture tendencies and let the details iron themselves out.  Sometimes there’s an exit sign in my photos, sometimes I chop off a bit of a hand or shoe.  But if I do, it’s because I’m trying to get this:

great falls engagement session

Or this:

wedding exit with bubbles

Or this:

bridesmaids help with bride

Or this:

camp puhtok wedding reception

camp puhtok wedding

That image above is one of my favorites from Aimee & Richard’s wedding at Camp Puh’tok. Aimee and Richard are coming into their cocktail hour from our portrait session after their ceremony and here are some of their guests and parents oohing and aahing over them.  I’m in love with this image.  But there’s something wrong with it and I know what it is.  I didn’t quite get enough of Aimee in the frame (there she is on the left).  So when I show it to potential clients or blogs or whoever, they don’t quite get it.  And I haven’t discussed this particular image with Aimee, but I have to think she loves it as much as I do – who wouldn’t?  Here’s a whole bunch of their guests absolutely beaming with pride.  Yeah, so it’s not a perfectly-composed image.  But if I had focused on the detail of getting enough of Aimee in the shot to cue everyone that here are the bride and groom coming into their party, I might have missed everyone’s initial reaction.  Aimee and Richard know what this image is about, so who cares if outsiders don’t quite see it?

The image on the right I know Aimee likes because she made it her profile pic on Facebook (yes, we photographers notice these things and sometimes flip out if our clients don’t use our photos for their FB profile).  But I’m cropping Aimee too tight on the right.  It’s a mistake but is it a mistake anyone is going to care about?  Maybe some photo judge but I doubt my clients will care.

And that brings me to my final point!  My clients and, really, any wedding photographer’s clients, are normal people, not photo critics.  Some photographers are concerned about blogs, about magazines, about images that will win at judgings.  I’m not gonna lie and say I don’t care about that stuff.  It’s lovely to win at photo judging competitions.  But my primary concern is to get my clients images that are going to fill them with joy, images that bring them back to their wedding day.  And in my mind, they don’t have to be perfect.  They just have to feel right.  Because I can’t promise perfection – I’m not detail-oriented.  But I can promise to focus on what I think is important – emotions, moments, glee.  And that probably means there are going to be a few upside-down rings.

 

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