light composition moment

Favourite Frames – Light, Composition, Moment

The elements of light, composition, moment are often referred to by documentary photographers as three elements needed to create a good image. There are of course others, such as colour, and less tangible elements such as creating narrative and an overarching concept or message to the picture or series of pictures, but for the purposes of this little blog post, and the reason why I like this particular shot above so much, I’m going to focus on light, composition and moment.


“David, Thank you for doing such a superb job for both our vow reading and ceremony days.”

Janice & Mark



This shot was taken at the end of Janice and Marks ceremony at Artington House Register Office in Guildford, at the very moment they are pronounced as husband and wife. It’s a venue I know extremely well, and although the space is limited, I’ve come to enjoy the challenge of working there, and looking for new ways of shooting. Throughout Janice and Mark’s ceremony there had been lots of laughter, which set the tone for a very relaxed ceremony. I felt certain that as the marriage was declared, that there would be a great moment, and my hunch paid off! I took the decision to move round to the aisle, knowing that I could shoot into the light “contre jour”, to give it it’s proper title, and expose for the couple so that I’d see their expressions and they’d be surrounded by the soft window light from behind.


It’s a well know rule within photography that to divide the image either horizontally or vertically into thirds can create a particularly pleasing composition. While these kinds of rules are of course there to be broken, I find that rules like this one do help to keep me on my toes in pressure situation such as the ceremony, and make me more aware of other things going on and how I might include them in the picture. The fact that the edge of the curtain and the edge of the registrar’s desk line up perfectly and help to define the right hand third of the picture, brings a smile to my face, but it’s the fact that this division of the frame allows for the parents to enter into shot that is the real bonus, and in doing so creates more of a storytelling image. Furthermore, the fact that Janice and Mark occupy the lightest part of the image, helps to draw the viewers eye towards them while the painting in the top lefthand corner helps to contain the composition in an area that would otherwise be dead space.


I’ve already spoken a little bit about the moment captured, but what I also like is those little serendipitous moments that can’t be planned for. Like the way the registrar has looked up from her work and is involved in the moment and the way both her hands are framed against her dark jacket, and dad’s mobile phone, which acts as a frame within a frame as he captures the moment for himself. I used to find it frustrating the way guests would hold up their smartphones and cover their faces, but I prefer now to incorporate them into the pictures. The phone seems to signify in a way the importance of the moment.