Portrait photography

Creative portrait photography: Jason Vinson on making the ordinary look epic

As a father of two young children and a former mechanical engineer, Jason Vinson is uniquely good at solving problems on set in a quick and decisive manner. Named one of the 25 Best Wedding Photographers in the World by Fearless Photographers, he runs his photography business, Vinson Images, with his wife, Chasnie, in Northwest Arkansas and is a senior editor for Fstoppers, as well as ‘a DVLOP community leader. . During Rangefinder + WPPI’s recent free webinar, After Dark: Wedding Portrait Breakout Sessions, Vinson showed photographers how to approach creative portrait photography by acting when inspiration strikes, preparing clients for the possibilities, and finding simple ways. and creative to add light and drama to a scene. (Vinson will be one of the guest speakers at WPPI 2021, which takes place this summer, August 15-19, at the Mirage in Las Vegas.)

What sets Vinson’s creative portrait photography style apart from its peers is that it usually makes it look epic. When shooting a wedding, he doesn’t research the locations or plan his shots in advance. Instead, he taps into a deep well of creative ideas to execute plans as they develop over the course of the event.

Watch webinar button

In the recent RF + WPPI webinar, After Dark: Wedding Portrait Breakout Sessions, Vinson kicked off by listing the arguments some photographers have made against creativity when shooting a wedding, including the fact that ‘they don’t have enough time or they don’t. know how to convince their clients to adhere to their ideas. The photographer opposes these arguments with his own solution, which consists in channeling all his creativity into portrait sessions in small groups. It should be noted that for Vinson, “breakout portrait sessions” is a fancy way of saying “unplanned portrait time”.

[Read: Off-Camera Flash Photography: 5 Techniques for Dramatic Portraits]

And while many photographers rely on natural light for classic portraits, Vinson often waits for the sun to set to get the images he envisions. “Once the sun goes down, your possibilities of lighting the scene really increase,” he notes. “In the blank web of darkness, you can light up a scene however you want.” This is why he particularly likes taking portraits at night in the rain: “lit correctly, they can be magical,” he says.

When properly lit, portraits in the rain can be magical, says Vinson.

Vinson also enjoys good challenges, like turning a boring hallway in a wedding venue into an epic entrance, placing two lights, one with an orange gel and the other with a blue gel, strategically around the bride as she ‘she is standing in the doorway (see video below).

The final image: from a boring hallway to an epic entrance.

Of course, it looks easy on video. But how do you convince a bride, in the middle of a wedding, to walk away from her family and friends and pose for an unconventional shot in an ugly place? Vinson has three surefire ways to rally a couple so that the small group portraits you desire at a wedding are easy to achieve:

1. Small Group Portrait Sessions: Get customers excited before they book.

Vinson, whose style has been described as “documentary,” notes that 90% of what he shoots at a wedding is completely undirected. It includes candid shots of the couple dressing, listening to toast and dancing to the couple’s favorite music. “We want couples to remember how they felt at the time and not remember we told them what to do,” he says. The remaining 10% of what he photographs are posed portraits, including portraits in small groups.

It always shows a few iconic portraits from past weddings to get them excited about having their own unique imagery. If they’re not willing to be away from the front desk for a few minutes to try something experimental, he thinks they won’t even book it.

2. Know your gear, have your gear.

Having your gear kit and knowing how to use it makes the difference between getting a “golden light” portrait on a rainy day and having to simulate it in post-production. “When situations arise, not only do you know how to settle down quickly so your relationship doesn’t have to wait, but you also know what you can do with your surroundings,” he says. Its own gear bag includes a Sony A9; three lenses, including a 24mm, 35mm and 85mm; a Flashpoint eVOLV 200 PRO, which he uses for 95% of his shots; an Elinchrom 500TTL; a “portfolio” of Magmod modifiers; and the StellaPro CLx10, Clx8, 5000Pro and 2000 lamps, which can be used in humid conditions.

3. Always work.

It can be tempting, Vinson says, to take a break when the couple are eating or waiting for the wedding members to finish dressing. Rather than eating or sitting, Vinson uses these minutes to create unique images. For example, the silhouette of a bride backlit against a lamp, standing against a brightly colored floral wallpaper.

“Once the couple are on board, you need to choose the right times to take your portrait in small groups,” he says. More complex scenarios? No problem, Vinson said.

Complicated creative portrait photography sessions handled in minutes

Vinson’s small group portrait sessions can get very creative, like this image of a couple standing under a shower of thrown masks!

You might not think it possible at first, but it is possible to add portrait shoots and “hugely creative” setups to your shot repertoire that can be organized outside of the wedding reception with just a few minutes. minutes, Vinson explains. For example, he recently shot a portrait of a couple standing under a shower of thrown masks (see video and image above). To set up the shot, he placed an Evolve 2000 Pro with grids on either side of where he wanted his couple to be, then backlit the area with an Evolve 3000 placed on the sidewalk of a parking area and partially obscured by a barn door to prevent light from shining on the ground.

[Read: How to Freeze Rain with Off-Camera Flash]

After trying to get his wife, Chasnie, to throw a handful of masks on the spot, which was “anti-climatic”, he realized he needed four different sets of hands to fill the space. portrait with flying masks. He asked four guests standing outside the room to participate, then grabbed the married couple. Within three seconds, he had an iconic image of the couple laughing as masks floated around them.

For another breakout portrait shoot, he asked wedding guests to blow bubbles on the married couple as a storm blew across the street they were standing on. “Always be open to let the images progress,” he advises.

Installation of the bubble portrait (final image below).

“One of my couples got married on a day so foggy it was like living in a cloud,” he recalls. Rather than giving up in desperation, Vinson placed the couple outside in a field and framed them between trees. He then placed a big, 600-watt flash of power behind the torque and turned them on so that they stood out against a smoky, dreamy landscape with a rear foggy feel (below).

Watch: Configuring Back Fog Feel.
Back Fog Feel: Final image.

With all this creative portrait photography energy flowing, Vinson also likes to point out that he makes sure he never takes the same shot twice. If a couple likes any of their previous images, they find a way to reproduce it in a very unique way. “Part of my creative process is to go out and be inspired in the moment.”

Check out the other free webinars in our Reset series that focus on creative portrait photography:

How Susan Stripling Creates Vivid Portraits

John Gress on the transition from window light to flash

Caroline Tran’s pickup points for family portraits