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This Is How: ‘More Than A Feeling’ by Liam Shaw

For the twenty-ninth of our documentary wedding photography guides, I’m excited to welcome the brilliant Liam Shaw of York Place Studios to the site (who was also one of our Collection One judges), sharing his thoughts on this fantastic capture. Really great insights into capturing atmosphere and the true essence of a scene, utilising dance floor lights to intensify emotion, visual impact, composition and more…

One of the main things I focus on at a wedding is to try to capture how it felt to be there, and bringing the atmosphere of the wedding to my photography is never more important than on the dance floor.

The key element of composition that’s often forgotten amongst the headline acts of moment, framing, layering and balance is texture. Photographs are at their most effective when they somehow draw you into the world of the image and replace the photographer’s perspective with that of the viewer. It’s not enough to just tell someone what happened, for them to invest whole-heartedly in the story we have to set the scene and make the world around them feel tactile and real.

Key to the texture of the image is the way that you alter or embrace the lighting of the scene. Whether consciously or unconsciously light alters our entire perspective of what we see in front of us and is intrinsically linked to memory; so changing the light changes the colour, changes the feeling and changes the mood of that moment, effectively changing the truth behind it. The most powerful memories are immersive: you feel them before you see them and if you alter the texture then the memory can never be quite as raw or poignant.

I look to utilise the lights on a dance floor, any smoke that’s in the air or unusual shapes and shadows to create a rich visual texture that can make a simple image more dynamic. Not only should the vibrant colours cutting through the smoke get my (and hopefully your) attention, they intensify the emotions and heighten the realism of the image. This is a technique that is used constantly in films; it’s why for example in film we see moments of high drama take place in the rain. The rain acts as a trigger to our own memories which makes it feel real and in turn makes us feel more connected to the scene.

Whilst we don’t have the luxury of all dance floors being as fantastic in their complimentary colour choices as the shot above, a mix of colourful lights and smoke can almost always give a photograph instant visual impact. The real reason to use the ambient light though isn’t just about briefly grabbing attention, it is to up the emotional intensity, create a tactile world to the image and put the viewer right there in the middle of the scene.

You can see more of Liam’s work over on his website, or here on his This is Reportage profile.

Found this interesting? We have lots more ‘This is How…’ posts by TiR members.

Aga Tomaszek

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