It’s taken many years for New Jersey-based wedding
photographer Jay Cassario to train his eye into seeing
the potential for stunning portraiture in almost any
setting. Over time, he’s learned that the best way to
capture the beauty and spontaneity of a wedding day
is to simply work with the scene you’re given. “Don’t
be afraid to use what’s in front of you,” he advises.
Of course, that doesn’t mean he clicks away
at random. On the contrary, his approach begins
as soon as he gets to the shoot, giving him time
to mentally transform any setting into a special
memory for his clients. “A lot of it comes down to
looking at the environment from the moment I get to
the wedding,” he explains. “I’m looking at everything
around me rather than just focusing on the venue or
where the ceremony will be. It’s about opening up my
vision and seeing more of the scene.”
Cassario makes a mental note of spots that will
offer a meaningful backdrop for the couple when
it’s time for portraits, especially wide-angle shots. “I
could shoot a whole wedding with just a 24mm and a
50mm lens,” he says, noting that he typically carries
two Leica SL bodies with different wide primes
mounted so he can quickly adapt his perspective.
Shooting wide “is not just to put the couple in a big
scene for no reason,” he explains. “The whole idea
is to show off where they are on their wedding day.”
He also pays close attention to backgrounds.
“When you take an environmental shot, you have to
make sure the couple doesn’t get lost in the scene,” he
says. To achieve this, Cassario looks for backgrounds
that contrast with the couple in color or tone, and he
isn’t shy about lying on the ground to use the sky as a
backdrop. With the Leica SL’s streamlined interface,
he can quickly adjust his settings and underexpose
his shots by about a stop to retain the detail not only
in bright sky backgrounds, but also in the bride’s
dress. And he’s a stickler for placing horizons well, an
easy feat given the SL’s electronic viewfinder. “I like to
either have my couple completely under the horizon
line or mostly above so that they stand out,” he says.
Another lesson Cassario has learned after years
on the job is to stop waiting for the perfect light (it
rarely, if ever, exists) and instead find the beauty in
different kinds of natural illumination. “Mid-afternoon
sun doesn’t scare me anymore. You can learn how to
use the sun so that lens flare doesn’t ruin the image
but instead draws your attention to the subjects.” His
use of light runs the gamut from backlit silhouettes
to high-key shots with hard shadows, with every
new variation in natural light and every new scene
opening up new creative possibilities. “That’s what
I love about weddings,” he says. “They’re never the
same. At every wedding I try to do something new.”
Visit a Leica dealer today to Test Drive the Leica SL.
To retain the details in his portraits, Jay Cassario says he likes to
underexpose his shots by about a stop.
WEDDING PORTRAIT IN
1.LOCATE THE KEY
Environmental portraiture, for me, is all about
storytelling, so a lot of my work shows a large
scene with the couple appearing much smaller.
2.LOOK FOR SHADOWS OR
It’s one thing to learn how to locate shadows and
sunlight, but learning how to use them creatively
is another. For example, you can use a large
shadowed area as a backdrop to help draw
attention to the couple, or you can even put
one subject in the shadow and the other in the
sunlight for a creative portrait.
3.NAIL THE FOCUS.
Using Leica’s Liveview is one trick that I use all
the time when backlighting. Other times I’ll
place the couple between myself and the sun,
blocking the sun out so I can nail the focus. I
can then recompose and be more creative with
backlighting the couple, or even getting creative
4.USE GOLDEN HOUR LIKE A LARGE
I like to backlight my couples while the sun is nice
and bright, but as soon as it starts to get to the
golden hour, I turn and shoot with the sun to
my back. Some of my favorite environmental
portraits have come not from incorporating the
sunset into the shot, but instead using the warm
light as a tool to illuminate my subjects.
5.PAY ATTENTION TO
BACKGROUNDS AND HORIZONS.
To add separation, try and use natural light to
make the couple brighter than the background.
For variety, try keeping the sun behind the
couple to create a brighter background and
silhouette your subjects. You’ll also want to get
low to the ground to keep the couple above
the horizon, leaving only the sky behind them.
JAY’S TIPS FOR SHOOTING
IN NATURAL LIGHT