Pittsburgh Wedding Photographers | Aaron Varga Photography | Blog » Modern Pittsburgh wedding and portrait photographers

  • Hello! Thanks for stopping by! We're Aaron and Amanda, exclusive wedding and portrait photographers based in Pittsburgh, PA that specialize in creating modern, glamorous, and timeless photographs. Our photography is much more than just the images; we try very hard to provide a photography experience that allows all of us to get to know each other and to genuinely have fun during your wedding or portrait session. Your photos should tell a story, from "he put a ring on it!" to "I do". To capture that story we truly believe you need to just be yourselves, have fun, and leave it up to us to make you feel comfortable. Usually this involves Amanda and I making fun of each other, but hey, whatever works, right? :)

  • Wedding Info

    Click here to view wedding information and pricing...

    About Aaron & Amanda

    Get to know Aaron & Amanda

    Engagement Info

    Click here to view engagement portrait session information and pricing...

Brenizer Method Portraits

If you’re not familiar with a photography technique called the “Brenizer Method”, then I definitely encourage you take a look at it from the man himself, Ryan Brenizer. It’s a technique that allows you to achieve the appearance of a really wide lens with a ridiculously impossible shallow depth-of-field, by taking a bunch of photos and then stitching them together in post-processing software.

Let’s take the following photo as an example (click here to view larger):

01 Brenizer Method Wedding | for photographers

At first glance this may seem like I just used a really wide lens at a large aperture, but the wider the focal length the less depth of field you have, so you’d never quite get a result like this with a DSLR, even with a f/1.4 or even f/1.2 lens. The above photo was made from stitching together 22 separate images, all taken with an 85mm f/1.4 lens at f/1.4. The resulting depth of field is the equivalent of using a 32mm lens at f/0.5. f/0.5 people! That’s insane. Here’s a look at one of the images from this set:

brenizer method example | for photographers

This photo is perfectly fine by itself and I actually delivered it as-is, but I also wanted to showcase the location they were at which the  Brenizer Method was perfect for. Before I cropped it a little, here is the result of all 22 images stitched together:

brenizer method how to1 | for photographers

 

Now while I obviously wouldn’t try to take a bunch of these during a typical wedding or engagement session, it’s certainly a great tool to have at your disposal. Here are a few other examples:

02 Brenizer Method Flower Field Engagement | for photographers 14 images with the Nikon 85mm f/1.4G (equivalent of 30mm f/0.49 according to Brett’s calculator). Click here to view larger.

 

03 Brenizer Method Mellon Park Engagement | for photographers 22 images with the Nikon 85mm f/1.4G (equivalent of 31mm f/0.51 according to Brett’s calculator). Click here to view larger.

 

04 Brenizer Method Hartwood Acres Engagement | for photographers 9 images with the Nikon 85mm f/1.4G (equivalent of 36mm f/1.2 according to Brett’s calculator). Click here to view larger.

 

05 Brenizer Method Phipps Conservatory Wedding | for photographers 15 images with the Nikon 85mm f/1.4G (equivalent of 35mm f/0.57 according to Brett’s calculator). Click here to view larger.

 

06 Brenizer Method Fall North Shore Engagement | for photographers 8 images with the Nikon 70-200mm VRII (equivalent of 110mm f/1.54 according to Brett’s calculator). Click here to view larger.

 

07 Brenizer Method Engagement | for photographers 9 images with the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G (equivalent of 22mm f/0.61 according to Brett’s calculator). Click here to view larger.

 

08 Brenizer Method Wedding Vineyard | for photographers 8 images with the Nikon 85mm f/1.4G (equivalent of 34mm f/0.56 according to Brett’s calculator). Click here to view larger.

 

09 Brenizer Method Succop Conservatory Wedding | for photographers 16 images with the Nikon 85mm f/1.4G (equivalent of 33mm f/0.54 according to Brett’s calculator). Click here to view larger.

 

10 Brenizer Method Pittsburgh Engagement | for photographers 14 images with the Nikon 85mm f/1.4G (equivalent of 40mm f/0.66 according to Brett’s calculator). Click here to view larger.

 

11 Brenizer Method Downtown Pittsburgh Engagement | for photographers 5 images with the Nikon 85mm f/1.4G (equivalent of 55mm f/1.16 according to Brett’s calculator). Click here to view larger.

 

12 Brenizer Method Bokeh North Shore Engagement | for photographers 8 images with the Nikon 85mm f/1.4G (equivalent of 40mm f/0.66 according to Brett’s calculator). Click here to view larger.

 

13 Brenizer Method Pittsburgh Downtown Engagement | for photographers 5 images with the Nikon 85mm f/1.4G (equivalent of 73mm f/1.2 according to Brett’s calculator). Click here to view larger.

 

14 Brenizer Method North Shore River Engagement | for photographers 12 images with the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G (equivalent of 24mm f/0.66 according to Brett’s calculator). Click here to view larger.

 

15 Brenizer Method Mexican War Streets Engagement | for photographers 25 images with the Nikon 85mm f/1.4G (equivalent of 41mm f/0.68 according to Brett’s calculator). Click here to view larger.

 

16 Brenizer Method Mt. Washington PIttsburgh Engagement | for photographers 6 images with the Nikon 85mm f/1.4G (equivalent of 45mm f/0.75 according to Brett’s calculator). Click here to view larger.

 

17 Brenizer Method Apple Orchard Engagement | for photographers 21 images with the Nikon 85mm f/1.4G (equivalent of 28mm f/0.46 according to Brett’s calculator). Click here to view larger.

 

18 Brenizer Method Mt. Washington Park Engagement | for photographers 18 images with the Nikon 85mm f/1.4G (equivalent of 35mm f/0.58 according to Brett’s calculator). Click here to view larger.

Tips for Photographing in Harsh Light

Ahh, shooting in direct, harsh and/or unflattering sunlight. One of everyone’s least favorite situations. I’ll be the first to admit that if I have a choice between putting a couple in harsh light, or putting them in open shade, 99% of the time I will avoid the harsh light. That being said, sometimes you just can’t get around it. Maybe the wedding venue or chosen portrait location is just devoid of things to stand behind or under; no trees, no buildings…nothing. Other times the shaded areas with somewhat-decent light are just ugly. As a professional photographer, you can’t just say “Sorry you look so bad in the photos. It wasn’t my fault, the light was just terrible.” See how many more clients want to book you after that :) So now what? Embrace it and learn to work with it.

And even when you don’t have to, put your subjects in harsh light once in a while to practice, that way when you do have to you’ll have a few tricks up your sleeve. There are a few other techniques I could mention, including the use of reflectors, using off-camera flashes or strobes to overpower the sun, etc., but the focus of this post is mainly how to deal with harsh light without those. A lot of the time I don’t have an assistant with me to use a reflector, or to hold lights, etc.

Okay, so let’s get to it!

Proper Posing
Posing is so important and can make the difference between a great image and a terrible one. You always want to pose the subject in such a way that flatters them, and that’s never more true than when you’re in direct or harsh sunlight. Dark shadows in the wrong place, spotted light, blown-out highlights, etc. can all ruin an otherwise good image. Here are a few general posing guidelines I follow…

  • Turn the subject’s body away from the direction the sunlight is hitting them.
  • Turn the subject’s face back towards the sun.
  • If it’s too bright to keep their eyes open, just tell them to close their eyes (shocker!). Or if you really want their eyes to be open, the trick of “on the count 3, quickly open your eyes” and taking the photo then usually works pretty well.
  • Expose for the skin.
  • Always photograph on the shadow side of the face, which is also known as short lighting. The shadow part of the face should always be closer to the camera than the lit part. This is much more flattering as it allows the face to appear thinner and the shadows around the nose and chin provide depth.

Here are a few examples:

04 posing harsh light photo | for photographers 07 engagement photo harsh sun | for photographers

Once I started getting comfortable with harsh and direct light, I actually started seeking it out. I like dramatic and contrasty photos, and bright light and dark shadows are perfect for drama. Take a look at the following photo. I noticed the sun was hitting the staircase part of the building in such a way that most of it is in the shadows, but the stairs were being brightly lit. I had the couple turn their bodies away and their faces back towards the light, and this is the result:

01 south side pittsburgh engagement1 | for photographers 02 wedding photography harsh lighting | for photographers 03 posing in harsh light | for photographers

Now this next one was obviously later in the day and we weren’t dealing with midday sun, but it was still very bright and very direct. Instead of avoiding it, I had the couple get right up in there:

05 photograph short side of face | for photographers 06 photographing in harsh sun | for photographers

This was one of those “beautiful location, terrible light” situations. We were at an apple orchard in the middle of the day, and it was BRIGHT and it was HOT. The only shade around was tiny little patches under the trees, which wasn’t an option. Instead of trying to make a tiny patch of shade work, I embraced the sunlight and had the bride turn her body away from the sun and then turn her face back into it while keeping her eyes closed.

08 wedding in bright sunlight | for photographers

You’ll notice that I broke my own rules on this next one. Their bodies are facing the light and the bride is turning her face away from it. I’m still okay with it and like the result :) They’re just guidelines after all, not rules that have to be followed :)10 photographing in harsh direct light | for photographers

09 how to pose in harsh light | for photographers

11 tips on posing in direct light | for photographers

Often times it’s okay to just have neither person looking into the light or worrying about short-lighting someone. Here the sun is hitting them straight-on:

12 engagement session harsh light | for photographers

 

Backlighting
Backlighting is always a go-to for a lot of folks, and for good reason. It’s beautiful. You don’t have to worry about unflattering shadows on the face. Posing the couple so the light is coming from behind or to the side of the couple works well in so many situations, and offers that amazing rim lighting around the hair and body that separates them from the background. Here are a few examples:

13 backlighting | for photographers 14 wedding photo backlight | for photographers

 

Backlighting is wonderful for group photos also….

15 photographing large groups in harsh light | for photographers 16 photograph group in harsh sunlight | for photographers

 

Silhouettes
Another great technique for bright direct light is silhouettes. Look for areas of contrast, or interesting background elements.

17 silhouette | for photographers 18 engagement photo silhouette | for photographers

 

Zoom Out!
Try zooming out and capturing more of the surrounding scene. In the next photo, I had the couple stand right in the sunlight, even though the light wasn’t flattering them at all. A tight, close-up shot wouldn’t have worked here; if you look closely you can see parts of the face and body that are blown out. But zoomed out you get an appreciation of the location we were at, and by putting them in a bright spot surrounded by dark shadows, it created a dramatic, contrasty image that leads your eye right to the couple.

19 photograph couple in harsh light | for photographers 20 portraits in harsh light | for photographers

 

Hide the Face
Sometimes you’ve already taken a variety of photos using the above techniques and want something different. Other times the light just sucks. Don’t shy away of getting a few photos of the subjects looking away from the camera, or covering their faces, or just not having their faces in the photo at all :)

21 pittsburgh city engagement | for photographers 22 wedding photos in direct sun | for photographers 23 photos in direct sunlight | for photographers

 

Hopefully that helps a little bit!