Wedding Ceremonies in Philadelphia
Susan Stripling Photography
Susan Stripling Photography

Wedding Ceremonies in Philadelphia

While it can be very easy to focus only on the bride and groom during a wedding ceremony, I find that there are often incredible emotional reactions from their families and friends as well. 

Christ Church wedding in Philadelphia

During this particular Christ Church wedding ceremony in Philadelphia in 2011 I noticed that the bride’s mother was becoming increasingly emotional as the ceremony progressed. 

This incredible old church had a wraparound balcony that surrounded three sides of the sanctuary. Midway through the ceremony I went into the balcony to document the scene from a different angle. I realized that this unique bird’s eye view gave me a great perspective on not only the bride and groom, but on the bride’s mother in the pew behind them. 

Philadelphia wedding photojournalism

In situations where emotions are running high I have noticed that many photographers frantically click the shutter out of fear of missing the moment. 

I prefer to work more deliberately, observing the scene around me and only firing when I know that I have my shot. I kept one eye on the bride and groom and the other eye on the bride’s mother as the emotions developed. 

The second the mother of the bride raised her tissue to her eye I knew that this was my chance. This final photograph shows not only the action of the bride and groom, but the reaction of her mother. 

I chose to process this image in black and white so that the viewer could focus solely on the moment occurring. This remains one of my favorite photographs from the entire 2011 wedding season. 

Wedding ceremony images in print competition

I entered this image into the Wedding Photojournalism category of the 16x20 International Print Competition at WPPI where it scored well.

I used to run a wedding photography education blog called The Dynamic Range.  I wrote a series of reviews of my experience with prints in the WPPI 16x20 Print Competition, and I wrote a write-up of this particular image!  The description of the judging process, my score, and how I felt read as follows:
Shot in 2011 and entered in 2012, this image was entered into the Wedding Photojournalism category of the WPPI 16x20 print competition.
This image received a score of 84.  This means that it's "above average...good standard of professional skill, creativity and technique."  It's so close to an 85, putting it in the 85-89 range, meaning that it is "excellent...very good use of imagination, skill and technique."  An entry that is scored an 84 receives a silver award, and an image scoring 85-89 receives a silver distinction.  An 84 receives 1 point, and an 85-89 score receives 1.5 points towards your Honors of Excellence distinction.
Now, the Wedding Photojournalism category is a tricky one.  For one thing, you have to enter your RAW file side by side with your finished print so that the judges can see clearly that the image isn't manipulated.  You can adjust your white balance.  You can dodge and burn, just like you would with film in a darkroom.  You cannot liquify.  You cannot spot color.  You cannot retouch.  You also have to capture the image without manipulation of the scene.  This means you cannot have had a hand in directing the moment.  It has to be purely journalistic.
This image is a testament to the fact that in a print competition, the quality of the actual print matters.  Online competitions are one thing, but at WPPI you actually enter a physical PRINT.  I am not a print artist, I don't know how to make an excellent print.  I employed someone for a few years to print for me, but the quality started to falter.  Then I tried someone new.  That didn't work either.  This print had blocked up blacks, too bright whites, and sloppy shadows.  It was a great image, but the print fell apart a bit, which held my score down.
I eventually started working with Rocco Ancora, a tremendous photographer and excellent master printer, and all of my previous print issues are now GONE.  Collaborating with a master printer really can help bring your game to the next level.  We work together to perfect the prints, and it's his skill and talent that really help make the actual print sing.  Every year I promise myself that I'll learn to print...maybe next year!

Location: 20 N American St, Philadelphia, PA 19106.

Keywords: philadelphia (438). 1/320; f/2.8; ISO 7200; 125.0 mm.

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