New Workshop - Unscripted!

WPPI 2009 -Bambi Cantrell

February 28th 2009 5:06 AM

Speaker: Bambi Cantrell


Lecture Title: The Wedding, A Photographic Essay

SLR Lounge Lecture Usefulness Grade: A-

Overview: Finally, a speaker that actually talked about what they said they would talk about! Bambi Cantrell’s platform lecture was designed to inspire and educate wedding photographers in the area of using lighting and posing techniques to capture decisive moments in the wedding. While Bambi covered some other general business areas as well, her speech managed to stay pretty much focused around the topics of lighting, posing and composition. Read on for the notes.

Notes & SLR Lounge Commentary:

For the most part, the following notes were taken in the order presented. We did do a little bit of organization on the speech topics to make them flow better.

Bambi Cantrell’s Equipment and Software List

Bodies: Canon EOS 1D Mark III & Canon EOS 5D Mark II
Lenses: Canon L Lenses
Lighting: Frezzi Video Light w/ dimmer
Production: Wacom Intuos3 9 x 12-Inch USB Tablet
Calibration: X-Rite Eye-One Display LT
Printing: Epson Stylus Pro 4800and 9800 (want’s to upgrade to the 9900)
Music: Triple Scoop Music
Software: Adobe Lightroom 2 Software, NIK Software
Actions: Cantrell Actions, Kubota Actions, Marcus Bell Actions

Shooting Style

Anyone curious as to the details of Bambi Cantrell’s typical shot, will find these facts interesting.

1. Shots taken during typical wedding: Bambi typically shoots around 1200 images for a full day wedding

2. Delivered images for a typical wedding: Bambi delivers only 500-600 images from the 1200 images that she shoots for a full day wedding

Pye: I would think 500-600 images is a little low to deliver to clients. Depending on the length of the wedding, we typically deliver 800-1200 images to each client.

3. Camera settings: Bambi Cantrell’s typical camera settings are as follows: Spot metering in Manual mode shooting in RAW using AWB (Auto White Balance).

Pye: Our studio shoots the exact same way. You can’t go wrong with these camera settings.

Client Service

1. Identify your clients: Identify the most important people and serve them first, the general order is:

i. Bride

ii. Mother of the bride

iii. Father of the bride

Pye: This is a decent rule of thumb. We all know that the groom really only cares about whether or not the bride is happy. Though I would like to mention that it is important to make sure you are showing enough attention and care to both the bride, groom and their respective families. Nothing would be worse then hearing after the wedding, “the photographer was great, except he/she didn’t really pay much attention to the groom’s family.”

2. Get to know the client during the engagement session: Get to know their personalities. For example, are they more relaxed, or more serious individuals? Do they like having fun doing silly things? Are they the kind of people that would be OK sitting down on the ground in nice clothes (i.e. wedding dress and tux).

Pye: This is a great practice that we try to stick to whenever possible. There is no better time to get to know the bride and groom prior to the wedding than at the engagement session. For clients that can’t afford engagement sessions, we even offer them discounts so that they are persuaded to try it out. Doing so ensures that we get comfortable with the client and vice versa. This allows us to deliver much more natural imagery and in the end, a product that is much more catered to that individual client.

Lighting Techniques

1. Lighting is the foundation: Lighting is the foundation for every picture, so look for it first.

Pye: This tip is obvious, but it is a good reminder.

2. Direct sun: When shooting in direct sun, do the following:

i. Meter the face and let the rest fall off – Get the best light and create the “perfect” image under the circumstance.

ii. Dramatic fashion lighting – Direct sun makes for great dramatic lighting for fashion shots if you use it correctly.

iii. Wind always rules out – Don’t try to pose your subjects against the wind for light purposes, the hair and veil will cover the face and ruin the shot.

3. Short lighting: Short lighting always makes your subjects look thinner and is generally the most flattering form of light. A quick tip to make sure you are shooting short lighting, is to make sure you are shooting from the shadows.

Pye: These direct sun lighting tips are quite useful. I should say that often times there are beautiful scenes that you don’t want to let “fall off” by just metering the face. In those situations, you want to meter for the background, and use off camera lighting (i.e. pocket strobes such as the Canon 580EX II) to illuminate your subjects.

I have to say that Bambi Cantrell had some amazing fashion-esque shots where she just used direct lighting from the sun. I think the key in these images is to make sure you use the shadows to your advantage since they will be so strong. Also, while we always use short lighting for our subjects, I loved that rule of thumb. It was such an easy way of remembering exactly where your position should be when shooting short lit subjects, simply stand in the shadows.

4. Lighting from above: When lights are above your head, like ceiling lights and what not, pose the subject and get them to look up into the lighting. Turning the face towards the light source eliminates the harsh shadows underneath the eyes and nose.

5. Highlights for emphasis: Use highlights to emphasize certain features with short lighting. Bambi used an example of a woman sitting in a chair that was shot with short lighting with a nice highlight along the edge of her leg outlining her figure.

6. Exposing dark skin: For darker skinned subjects, you will need to under expose the shot a little when you are using spot metering. Otherwise, the camera will try to compensate and make their skin too bright in order to reach a “proper” exposure.

7. Light the background: Make sure the background is lit, or even use a background light to bring out the background. Otherwise, the background will not be separated from the subject.

Pye: Bambi’s lighting techniques are quite useful. While most photographers will quickly grasp and use the concept of short vs broad lighting, often we forget about using highlights to outline our subjects.

Posing Techniques

1. Tummy press: Always have the female subjects press their tummy’s forward thus straightening up their backs.

2. S-curve: Make sure that you are always getting the girl to form an S-curve with her body. These poses are more flattering and emphasize the female form.

3. Posing communication: These are tips from Bambi on specific verbiage that is appropriate for posing the subject.

i. Don’t use words like “left” and “right” that are relative and hard to understand.

ii. Show them examples without getting all touchy-feely with everyone

iii. “Feet shoulder width apart” rather than saying “separate the feet” or “spread your legs” (inappropriate)

iv. “Push your hips toward your back leg, then lean your front should (opposite of the hip shift) down

4. Don’t stand flat footed: Ask them to “turn your feet towards me” then proceed with the hip shift shown in step iv above.

5. Get the arms away from the torso: When the arms are touching the sides of their chest, it looks like one big piece of chest, thus making the female subject appear much larger.

6. Cross their legs: Have female subjects cross their legs while standing by putting one foot in front of the other to create an hourglass shape with their figure.

7. Shoot from above when possible: When possible, shoot a little from above the subject to minimize double chins.

8. Lean together: Have your subjects lean together to make them seem closer and more intimate.

9. Lean forward from the hips: Leaning the chest forward from the hips pulls the shoulders back as well as tightens the skin around the face. Making your subjects appear younger.

10. Bend the elbows: Bending the elbows on female subjects makes the composition more graceful.

11. Putting on earrings: During prep shots, such as putting on earrings, elbows can tend to become large and compete for attention with the face. So, it is important that you shoot from the side or even crop out the elbow so it doesn’t scream for attention.

12. Posing on a chair: When sitting on a chair, ask them to sit forward so they are barely on the chair. Then ask them to scoot back in the chair as it will make them sit up straight in the chair.

Pye: These are wonderful posing techniques. If you want a way to differentiate yourself from other photographers, learn how to pose well. Look at the details which is what turns a good photograph, into an amazing image. Bambi is definitely a master of posing and lighting techniques.

Bambi Cantrell’s Shooting Technique

1. Shooting ideas/poses:

i. “The Walk” – The Walk is a great shooting idea, especially for shy girls. Have the bride walk towards the camera walking with one foot in front of the other. Be funny with her and tell her that the first time wasn’t good enough. Tell her to “get her runway stuff on” and play with her to get a good reaction. Instead of shooting full length shots, focus on her face as she walks and laughs at herself.

ii. “The Hang” – The hang is a standing pose for guys to get them to just “hang.” Have your subject shift his weight to one of feet by asking him to lift the other foot off the floor. Once he is standing with one his weight on one foot, have him relax and stick a hand in his pocket.

2. Shutter speeds: Bambi Cantrell is typically shooting with shutter speeds around 1/60 – 1/125 of a second.

3. Available light: Bambi loves to shoot available light wherever possible. While she will use a flash when necessary, she tries to avoid it.

4. Apertures: Bambi hardly ever shoots above f/2.8 in order to get her subjects to pop off the page (except for group shots which are taken at f/5.6).

Pye: Shooting at low apertures is key for really making your images “pop.” Making your images pop, cropping garbage out of the image, and such are all techniques that will differentiate yourself from the amateurs with “nice cameras.”

5. Flash bouncing: In normal sized churches with nicer high ISO cameras such as the Canon 5D Mark II+ or Nikon D700+, try turning up your ISO a bit to 1600-3200 and bouncing your flash off of the wall behind you. The higher ISO will pickup the light flash and create a really nice exposure.

Pye: I thought this was a unique tip that I am going to have to try out. Whenever I use flash, I am always bouncing, but I have never had good success with bouncing off the wall behind me. I will have to try out this technique on my 5D Mark II.

6. “Save my seat”: During the wedding ceremony, Bambi asks the person in the second row of the chapel that the bride and groom have requested she shoots from that spot, so you request that the person “saves your seat.” Bambi states that requesting this favor gets the person on your side, rather than asking them to move. Then during the ceremony, Bambi likes to shoot from that seat.

Pye: This “save my seat” idea sounds interesting. I will have to try this at one of our next weddings; with the bride and groom’s permission of course =).

Products and Deliverables

1. Proofs: Bambi provides a complete set of proofs to each client along with a digital negatives DVD. She states that she charges what she deserves up front in her commission and doesn’t expect to make anything off of print orders. Since she is already well paid up front, she doesn’t mind people copying and distributing her work. Whatever she makes on top of her commission she just considers icing on the cake.

Pye: I really like this pricing strategy. Eventually, I think we will modify our pricing to match this style of charging what you deserve up front, and not relying on prints to make up the rest.

Pricing & Payments

1. 3 Equal separate payments:

i. The 1st payment is Bambi’s retainer which is required to book.

ii. The second payment is due 90 days prior to the wedding.

iii. The third payment is due a week prior to the wedding. This payment is required before the wedding rather than on the wedding day. Doing so ensures that you don’t have to worry about collecting the day of, or after the wedding.

Pye: This is another great tip for payments which I think our studio will start doing as well. Collecting everything up front gives you one less thing you need to worry about the day of.

General Advice

1. Attitude: Don’t let you clients rule your photography. Bambi states that when she has aunts, uncles, or relatives that try to be “backseat photographers,” she gently tells them, “your job today is to just relax and be dad/mom/aunt/etc. Let me worry about the photography.”


Bambi Cantrell’s platform lecture was quite useful. The best part was that she actually talked about what she said she was going to talk about, ha! Anyway, we would like to thank Bambi for her informative lecture. We wish you the best Bambi and we look forward to hearing from you again next year at WPPI 2010.


Article written by:

Pye Jirsa

Lead Photographer | Partner

Lin and Jirsa Wedding Photography



Founding Partner of Lin and Jirsa Photography, LJP Studios and SLR Lounge.

Follow my updates on Facebook and my latest work on Instagram both under username @pyejirsa.

Comments [1]

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  1. Scott Trombley

    Thank you for the tip breakdown!

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