“I’m like an illusionist,” reveals Jerry Ghionis in his opening statement at the WPPI University seminar, “Wait for the Moment or Create a Moment” at PPE2012. If you’ve already taken one of his seminars, you know where he stands on the side of this debate. To Ghionis, while capturing a moment may be ideal, a photographer could spend a lifetime waiting for that perfect moment. Most wedding and portrait photographers don’t have that kind of time—usually it’s only a few hours squeezed in between make-up and the ceremony. So in order to make the kind of images that will impress couples, you have to create them.
Ghionis began the seminar with a question: “What is the most important thing in a photo of oneself?” Seminar attendees shouted answers: “Expression!” “Eyes!” “Pose!” To which Ghionis responded, “making someone look beautiful.” He directed this answer to women in the audience but said it applies to men too.
As Ghionis noted, he often encounters brides who tell him, “Make me look beautiful, but don’t pose me.” This is a problem because he often has to shoot couples that don’t naturally exhibit the tension or emotion that makes for great wedding photos. His response is a gentle push in the right direction. “As beautiful as you are,” he tells the bride, “I can make you shine brighter with a little direction.” This, according to Ghionis, is almost never refused.
Ghionis’ style of posing and directing is what he calls, “massaging.” It’s a combination of putting together contrived poses and then using his affable personality to break the tension and bring out real moments. “You have to build trust,” Ghionis tells the audience. To demonstrate, he brings up a couple from the crowd to help illustrate what he calls, “Action/Reaction.” It’s his method of evoking emotion.
Ghionis’ “Action/Reaction” is a series of directional cues that he uses with different couples to get them to show their natural personalities. They play out like improv games. He tells the groom to do everything in his power to kiss his bride without moving. He tells the bride to do everything to avoid the kiss. A humorous scuffle ensues and Ghionis shows off the result—a fun, laughing photo of the bride and groom displaying the lovable tension between them. Other “Action/Reactions” include telling the bride to whisper something dirty in the groom’s ear (without the groom anticipating it), or for the bride to tease the groom with her lips and to tell the groom not to kiss her. “If you want a bride to look sexy, you have to make her feel sexy,” explains Ghionis.
A common photographic axiom is that emotion beats perfection. “You know what beats that?” asks Ghionis. “Emotion and perfection.” Ghionis’ motto is to photograph the bride through the eyes of the loved one. If you do that, he says, she’s always beautiful. And that is the goal of a wedding photographer.