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The fine art of wedding photography

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I knew when I first saw Susana at work that here was someone who loved her job. Her smiling face immediately made her subjects feel at ease, not an easy task with a day so full of stress and expectation. I watched her work and it soon dawned on me that this was no ordinary wedding photographer.

Somehow I knew that her work would be excellent though I had no idea until I took a look at some of it. I was quite blown away by the quality and the depth of her images. Simply put Susana is a photographer to watch. Somehow she sees things that no one else sees and captures the moment with a beauty that is so natural it makes the hairs stand up on your arms!

When you think about it, the pictures of the big day are possibly the most important part of a wedding. The dress, the cake, the ceremony are all over and done with in a few hours but the images of the day will be looked at for years to come. That’s why it is so important to do it right.

Chatting with Susana after her work was done I learned a bit more about her technique. She doesn’t just take pictures at the church. For her the whole process is much more involved. She’s there while the bride and groom are getting ready, at a time when there’s not so much stress and she has some control over the mood and the lighting, something that just isn’t possible during the wedding itself. By spending time with the participants she gains their confidence so that on the big day she is more of a trusted friend than an employee.

Susana only shoots weddings in black and white which I think is very brave. Not only for her as it’s so much harder but it also takes great faith from the people getting married. However they need not worry, Susana’s black and white wedding pictures transcend photography and become a kind of timeless art, a series of beautiful images that do justice to such an important day.

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"When you photograph people in colour, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in black and white, you photograph their souls" – Ted Grant

Until now I have never been excited about wedding photography but that was because I had no idea it could be done so well and with such style. I could go on but instead, I’ll just let Susana’s images speak for themselves. As they say, a picture paints a thousand words if that’s true then each one of Susana’s images is more like a book!

Susana has also won many awards, check out some of the winning images here

Susana is available for weddings anywhere in the world but book early as she is in serious demand. Visit www.susanabarbera.com for more details

Scroll down to see some of Susana’s work. Enjoy.

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There are many more like this. Please visit Susana’s blog to see more of her fantastic work http://susanabarbera.com/blog/

What follows is some of her favourite shots.

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Categories
Leica m9

A lucky fluke

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All shots: Leica M3, 21mm f3.4 Angulon 400 ISO

One of the problems of developing one’s own films is that there is always the chance you might mess up and lose all your work. Having spent a great weekend celebrating a mate’s 50th birthday at an amazing house in the heart of the French countryside I was looking forward to seeing how my pictures would look. The house was very old and very big. My friends, characters every last one of them (even Sancho the dog) made perfect subjects for photographs. I was hoping to see some really nice shots.

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The film was duly developed, rinsed and then fixed. To my horror when I lifted the spool out of the tank I saw that the film was milky and not clear as it should be. The fixer must have died. As soon as I saw that there was a problem I put the spool straight back into the tank. It was only exposed to the light for a very short moment but I suspected it was long enough to ruin it. I was very angry and annoyed at myself. I mixed up some fresh fixer and fixed the film anyway on the assumption that one never knows. Always the eternal optimist.

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When I looked at the film it seemed that my worst fears were confirmed. The negs were completely black. I held one up to a strong light and saw that there was actually an image to be seen. Maybe I could get some prints from the film after all. Instead of the usual few second exposure, they required a few minutes but in the end I did get some interesting shots. In fact, I was amazed that they were as good as they were.

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The prints all had a lovely grainy old look to them which really suited the subject matter and the only sign that something wasn’t quite right was some mild solarisation in places. Considering how black the negs were I was very pleased with what I got. I even have a feeling that the prints turned out better than they might have done had I not messed up the film.

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Leica m9

Learning all over again

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Picture of a French cat sitting on a car. Leica M9, Elmarit 21 Asph, f8 @ 125 sec 160 ISO. Worked on in Lightroom. See below to see the original.

 

When I had my Leica M3 I used to guess the exposure and often the focus too. I used to get away with it most of the time. Imagine my surprise when many of the first pictures I took with the M9 were badly exposed, out of focus or had camera shake. What was going on? I thought I was an OK photographer but here I was making the most basic of mistakes.

All the pictures I take with the M9 are uncompressed DNGs and I work on them in Adobe Lightroom which came with the camera. It is a very powerful program which takes some learning. I was lucky that I have a mate who is a Pro who has been using it for a few years and he showed me the basics so I could at least get started.

The problem is that the images from the M9 are enormous at 18 mega pixel (4 times more than the Digilux 2 it replaced) so when you zoom in to 100% you really can see any faults. Before, these slight issues were never a problem, I never printed anything bigger than 5 x 7 and at this small size they were not noticeable.

Apparently I was not such a good photographer as I thought I was. Must do better. One of the advantages of not having a mirror behind the lens is that the camera can be held at much lower speeds. That said, one must still hold the camera steadily and not jerk it when you press the shutter. It is entirely possible to take good hand held pictures at an 1/8th of a second but only if you take great care, I had not been taking care.

My exposures were not too bad but I had been spoiled by the Digilux 2 which had three different metering options. Often when shooting into the sun, I would put the meter on ‘spot’, move the camera to the area I wanted exposed correctly, lock the exposure, then move the camera to frame the shot. This was very effective but it’s not quite the same on the M9. I can lock the exposure but I lose the soft shutter option which is a shame.

As for my focusing, well the less said about that the better. It didn’t help that the first lens I put on the M9 was a 50mm as I’d been used to a 21mm before. Again, I had become lazy. The autofocus on the Digilux worked very well and I rarely focused manually.

The great thing about the M9 is that you HAVE to use it manually and thus you regain the control like it or not. Dropping back into the M philosophy after five years  of letting the camera do everything for me was initially a bit of a shock but it didn’t take long until I was feeling more at home with the camera.

The thing is I took some fabulous pictures with the Digilux but as good as they were, I always felt they were lacking some vital ingredient. Now I know what that was. It was the photographer! It does seem strange to be going back to a completely manual system but it works. I like the way it forces you to consider everything before you take a picture.

Not only did I have to learn to use a camera properly but I also had to learn the program I needed to view the images. I used to be a bit of a purist when it came to taking pictures, I never messed about with my images or even cropped them. A true photographer does not need to correct mistakes. His pictures are perfect straight out of the camera. With the advent of digital I am beginning to change my views.

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Leica M9, Elmarit 21 Asph f8 @125 sec, 160 ISO. After much work in Lightroom. See below to view the original shot.

After all, I can shoot in colour and convert to black and white if I want. DNGs are amazingly tolerant and I can easily adjust the exposure if I get it wrong. That’s not to say I am slack when I shoot but it does mean that I have often managed to rescue an image that would have been lost using film. It seems that adjusting images post camera is perfectly acceptable these days.

Now that I am losing my purism I am having a lot of fun with Lightroom. I still prefer not to mess about or crop but I cannot deny that some pictures are improved amazingly. The quality of my work has improved because of the extra care I have to take. It’s a continuous learning experience and very satisfying because of it.

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Completely untouched as it came out of the camera. Picture was a little under exposed to begin with. Even after adjusting the exposure it was still only a mediocre shot so I gave it some more colour and contrast and a bit of a vignette too. I rather like it.

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Here again, a perfectly ordinary shot. Nothing very interesting at all. Change to black and white and increase brightness and contrast (mainly) and you have something more interesting.