Category: For photographers
“WPJA proudly recognizes Sergio Cueto as a TOP International Wedding Photographer. Members holding the most contest points at the end of each year are ranked as TOP Wedding Photographers.”
These words head the ranking of the 100 best documentary wedding photographers in 2018 according to the WPJA (Wedding Photojournalist Association). When I joined this association in mid-2018 I did not expect to even appear in that selection of the 100 best photographers, so finding my name in the 39 position has been both a surprise and an honor.
The precepts of the WPJA, with which I feel specially identified, is summarized in this paragraph extracted from their website:
“As wedding photojournalists, we measure ourselves against our ability to capture moments in space and time. It therefore follows that we do not create such moments nor stage tableaux to reenact them. WPJA winning photographs are candid portrayals of actual people participating in an actual event expressing genuine emotion — or, at times, the internal struggle to avoid too much emotion.”
Awards should never be the motivation for wedding photographers, but give our clients the best possible testimony of their wedding so that, over the years, the photographs will thrill them the same as the first day. This recognition is dedicated to all “my sweethearts” of 2018, those who have trusted my vision to photograph one of the most special days of their lives.
In the same way, being recognized in the 37th position among the best international art photographers by the WPJA Artistic Guild has been an even bigger surprise, since I only entered in half of the year’s contests. In this category, instead of real moments, pictures and details of the wedding day are awarded.
“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”
As a photographer I believe that constant education is a must in order to keep growing and evolving, so every year I invest an important amount of time and money on it.
Since 2013 I had considered to attend the Foundation Workshop since several colleagues and friends of mine had attended to previous editions and their references have always been very good. However, it seemed that the stars never aligned for me to be able to do it, since it usually takes place in the United States. So when Aurora Lechuga told me that there would be a new Foundation in Spain, I said “yes!” without a doubt.
The statement of Foundation Workshop is clear: intense learning mentored by some of the best teachers and wedding photographers in the world, personalized work to determine the weaknesses and strengths of each student in one of the hardest photojournalism workshops.
What has the Foundation Workshop meant for me?
At the time of writing this post, it has been 8 months since I attended the workshop and not a week has gone by that I have not reviewed any of the ideas or lessons learned. There has not been a wedding in which the voice of my mentors, Ben and Craig, have not resonated in my head.
Not only that. Foundation has meant a reencounter with photography and with myself. A point of inflection at a time in my life when I needed more than ever an impulse to move forward. A renewed vision about photography and about myself.
Is it worth the investment?
There have been several colleagues who have asked me this question.
I answer the same to everyone: it depends on what you are looking for.
Attending to Foundation (or any other type of workshop) will not automatically make you a better photographer, and even it’s possible that you’ll not see a tangible evolution in your photography immediately after. Nor will you earn recognition, contests or anything like that just for the sake of attending. Foundation is not about learning new tricks to make more spectacular photographs, so if that’s what you’re looking for you should probably look for another type of workshop.
To make the most of the experience you must open up and have a receptive mind to change, to criticism, to see things from a new perspective, be willing to roll up your sleeves and work hard on yourself. Because Foundation is not about to look outside as to look inside of you. Having an honest and clear vision of what you do and why you do it will help you to photograph equally honestly and clearly. And these kinds of changes, being so deep, are not immediate.
Foundation is not a destination to reach but the beginning of a path. You will not receive magical answers, epiphanies or miraculous solutions but the indications to find your own way. And it’s up to you to want to follow that path or not.
In my case, I can not be happier to have started it. It’s the best investment in education I’ve ever made.
I will be eternally grateful to my mentors, Ben Chrisman and Craig Fritz, for so many lessons, cherish and support. Your human quality far exceeds your enormous photographic talent. My house is your house in Spain!
Thanks Aurora Lechuga and Zoe Lammin for your efforts to make this Foundation possible in Úbeda, to take care of ourselves so much, to make everything so easy and to make the experience perfect.
The (fantastic) mentors of the other groups were also a great source of inspiration and learning: Sergio Lopez, Citlalli Rico, Candice C. Cusic and Tyler Wirken.
Virginia Gimeno, Alec Seeger and the mythical Dennis Berti. A luxury staff! Thank you for your constant support, smiles and advices. It would not have been the same without you.
My dear teammates Donatella Barbera, Daniel Ribeiro, Rares Pulbere and Diego Méndez, of whom I learned almost as much as from the mentors. Also the other students with whom I shared laughter, experiences and some tears: Isabel Rojo, Cristina Quilez, Manuel Castaño, Chomi Delgado, Javier Asenjo, Soven Amatya, Manuel Puga, Geni Laso, Miguel Bolaños and Manuel Medrano. You have a friend in Madrid.
Thanks Pedro Cabrera and Andrea Giraldo for that incredible making of, great documentary work thanks to which we can relive this FE4 again and again.
Last but not least, thanks to Huy Nguyen: for creating the best and most important workshop he has ever attended, fo bringing it to Europe and for gathering the awesome Fearless Photographers community.
Wedding photography has totally changed in last years. Most of the couples run away from classic and overly posed wedding photos, looking for a natural approach with candid photographs.
This way of photographing does not consist of simply aiming the camera and shooting constantly; nor is it an excuse to create careless framed or bad lit images. It requires a series of skills, attitudes and aptitudes to get that candid photographs while being unobtrusive.
In this post I will share some ideas and tips that I hope will help you to improve your candid wedding photography.
1. Know your equipment and use it wisely.
Knowing your equipment is basic, both in wedding photography and in any other photographic discipline. When it comes to capturing moments that barely last a second, you can not afford to be fighting with the buttons or looking at the back screen of your camera.
It is highly recommended that you turn off the flash unless it is absolutely necessary, as flashing people’s faces won’t help to go unnoticed. If your budget allows you, choose prime lenses with fast focus, you will greatly appreciate it when the light conditions are not good (that is in 80% of churches).
Try to travel light luggage. Leave studio flashes, generators and tripods for other types of photography: not only will it help you to go undetected, but also you will be able to move more freely.
Also, using smaller camera bodies can help you to go unnoticed. There is a clear trend in the photographic industry towards creating more compact bodies and several wedding photographers have embraced the mirrorless systems from Olympus, Fuji or Sony. Maybe in the future we can have the power of a DSLR camera in a pocket sized camera (like the Light project).
2. Think fast, move slowly.
As a wedding photographer you must make several technical and aesthetic decisions in a matter of seconds, you should be agile of mind to not waste moments with indecision. See the light, the environment and the people, process them and make your decisions as fast as you can.
Move, change the point of view, look for different angles but without running from side to side like a headless chicken. Not only will you be late for those moments, but you will also get the attention of the bride and groom (especially if you are 1.90 m tall like me). It’s not about running around chasing moments, but going ahead with what you suppose (or know) that is going to happen. And this leads me to the next tip…
It is probably one of the keys to candid wedding photography: to have a nose for anticipate when and where an interesting moment can happen.
If you can predict an action (or your instinct tells you that something can happen) you can put yourself in the best position so you can be in the right place at the right time. Having yourself well positioned will give you at least a 50% chance of getting a good candid wedding photo.
4. Pay attention.
This may sound simplistic, but open your eyes and ears to everything that happens around you.
There are dozens of stories that occur simultaneously beyond what the bride & groom are doing. Keep both eyes open even when you are looking through the viewfinder and listen: follow the sound of a laugh, or a cry, or a rumble, probably they lead you to something interesting.
As the saying goes, information is power.
Make an effort to get to know each couple, know as much as possible about their wedding and what will happen throughout the day. That way you can foresee the actions more easily.
It is also essential that you know who are the most important people for each couple and be very attentive to the connections that occur between these people. Our work is not limited to showing how handsome the bride and groom are, but also to tell the parallel stories that occur along the day of the wedding.
What are your tips on candid wedding photography?
Do you feel comfortable photographing this way or do you prefer another approach on your wedding photography?
Feel free to comment with your ideas and share this post if you liked it 😉