People often ask Jose how he developed his style, and how he create images that stand out in today’s highly competitive wedding market. Well, Jose is a fine art wedding photographer. His approach applies fine art photography to the living, breathing, fast-moving phenomenon that is a wedding. Yes, he does do some documentary photography, Jose thinks that you need to capture the important moments at a wedding, but also compose and direct. For Jose, it is all about making something beautiful, even if he has to insert himself into the situation and recreate a moment. Ultimately, his goal is to craft vibrant, energetic, fine art images that are as unique as the people in the photographs.
Jose’s fine art style shines through in every image with the emotional component determined, Jose sets about forming a specific artistic look. Jose came up with an avant garde fine art approach that combines progressive shooting with a vintage feel–all captured on film. Film that has amazing grain, and soft pastel color.
Jose do as much as possible in camera. First, he sets his camera so that he is overexposing his images by a stop to a stop-and-a-half. This produces a nice, soft glow. Jose wants light wrapping around his subjects and giving off a sense of warmth. Typically, he will expose for the shadow. Jose will use a variety of Fuji films, which are all forgiving enough to give detail in the black of the groom’s tux without washing out the bride’s white dress. Jose also like to shoot with an extremely shallow depth of field. The shallow depth of field works well with the overexposure to create that soft, wrap-around glow.
During the course of a wedding, Jose will shoot the fast-paced documentary images with a 35mm Canon EOS-1V, artsy selective focus photos with a Holga camera, and broad panoramas with the Hasselblad Xpan. But his Contax 645 medium format camera is his most important tool. Using a Carl Zeiss 80mm f/2.0 lens, he can engineer a really shallow depth of field while keeping the subjects in tack-sharp focus. When he overexposes images on Fuji color films like Pro 400H or 800Z, the colors come out almost pastel. To augment this look, he will back light and let the light wrap around the subjects for beautiful color that’s reminiscent of a painting. A lot of his clients book him specifically because of this approach to color.
The Contax 645 is pretty fast for a medium-format camera. Jose treats it a lot like a 35mm SLR. He will put it on aperture priority, hand hold everything, and just let it go. Jose will use this camera for most of the detail shots (flowers, place settings, rings, etc.) and for the editorial-style images with the bride and groom. It’s especially useful for a couple-only portrait shoot as the sun is going down. With the excellent Zeiss glass, he get the couple in very sharp focus and then let everything else go soft. Also, when he sets the aperture to f/2, he can create a little motion blur, which gives a sense of activity. Brides love this style because it reminds them of a fashion spread in a magazine.
You can see all of Jose’s latest work on his blog over at: http://josevilla.bigfolioblog.com/