Christina Craft: Top 10 Fearless Awards

Art & Beauty Wedding Photography is all about creating iconic images that transform wedding photographs into works of art. These photographers employ a variety of artistic techniques (light, composition, pose, etc.) to wow their creative clients with stylized imagery that is beyond the ordinary.

Guest curator Christina Craft shares some thoughts about her top choices from curating 3183 entries in the ART & BEAUTY category of Collection 44.

Based in British Columbia, Canada, Christina is one of the original members of Fearless Photographers since 2010 and has earned 24 Fearless Awards.
Cafa Liu (Toronto, ON) Photo by Cafa Liu (Toronto, ON)
There is a lot to like about this image. First, it's original. It's also quite clear the photographer saw an opportunity and executed a great composition on the spot. There's a story here as well... with the bride's driver looking towards her while she finishes touch-ups before presumably heading up to the altar. You can feel the tension of anticipation. There are a lot of triangles here... there are the two triangles of light pointing towards the car, the blur triangle pointing towards the driver, there are triangles in the negative space in between the driver and the bride, there's a triangle framing the bride and there's even a triangle of light on the car. And all of these triangles serve to point the eye directly towards the bride. I'm not sure if it's created by a prism or another reflective object, but the blur on the right perfectly distorts the driver as well so it almost looks like a dream sequence... by not seeing the driver's face, our eyes are also pulled towards the bride.

The light on the car is exquisite. I can see the driver was probably sitting in too much sun and had to be burned down since he's wearing a white shirt and some of it was over-blown with light. However, the burning was well done. The shirt still pulls the eye slightly, but it's better because it's been toned down. When I look at the image for a while I also notice the symbol in the bride's mirror... (it's a minor distraction but I might be inclined to clone it out). Overall, a really interesting shot, one I found myself looking at for a very long time.
Kemran Shiraliev (Moscow, Russia) Photo by Kemran Shiraliev (Moscow, Russia)
A photo of a bride looking out the window and someone's reflection on the car window looking in on her. I've seen this kind of images lots and it's a common technique and I've done this many times myself. This particular image stands out from the crowd for a few reasons. First the side-lit raindrops are well done - no raindrops seem to be blown out either. The bride is quite close to the window and the distortion from the window makes her look larger. If the photographer asked her to have her face close to the window it was a good choice. The groom is then positioned to perfectly create balanced negative space between the bride and groom. By luck, the shape of the bride's gown (the way it's bunched) creates a little negative-space triangle that brings the eye from the groom's chin to the bride's lips. Their lips are aligned in a way that almost looks like they could come in for a kiss.

I also like the lighting on the groom. My guess is some off camera flash/video light or a lucky ambient light source that ensured both the bride and the groom were lit similarly (which, if it was OCF or a video light it was well executed). The groom is positioned in the dark shadow area of the reflection, just past the bride's white dress. If he was positioned with the white dress behind his reflection it would have pulled the eye differently. There are a few distractions - the white of the car above the bride's head pulls the eye to the right... and the groom has something white near his elbow that seems to be burned down but still distracts slightly. The top left corner window also has a bit of extra light that pulls the eye. However, these are very small points on an otherwise beautifully executed car window reflection shot.
Vivek Kashyap (Bengaluru, India) Photo by Vivek Kashyap (Bengaluru, India)
This photo drew me in for several reasons. The negative space helps frame the building. The birds form an almost perfect triangle in the corner... leading the eye to the bride. The three lit arches add another layer of framing. The color of the sky indicates this was taken in that perfect window of time between sunset and dark. The rich blues really complement the orange tones and again, help to pull the eye towards the subject. Perfect composition almost always contains elements of threes - triangles, rule of thirds, etc., which is why this is so pleasing. But beyond that, I also like how the bride is lit and posed and I like that the building itself is dark all but the arches. Well done.
ChuQing Ye (Wenzhou, China) Photo by ChuQing Ye (Wenzhou, China)
Can we all agree this image is exquisite? Yes, it's a perfect sunset scene - you can't get much better for background. But the photographer made a wise choice to position their lens so the stream of light directs you to the lens flare when then perfectly frames the couple with a circle. There were A LOT of images of beautiful sunset scenes with equally gorgeous backdrops, but this stood out because of its incredible framing.
Tin Martin (Danang, Vietnam) Photo by Tin Martin (Danang, Vietnam)
First, it's a pretty unusual shot so you're immediately attracted to it. I keep trying to figure out if the couple was standing and someone threw an umbrella down at them from the roof and the photographer snapped just as it was passing their face - or if maybe it's a reflection of some kind. Regardless of how it was achieved, it's very original. I definitely haven not seen this before. The photographer was clearly trying for something dynamic - juxtaposing a found object with a standard "couple holding hands and looking at the camera." The negative space is also well done, with no extra distracting elements pulling the eye.
Hendra Lesmana (Jakarta, Indonesia) Photo by Hendra Lesmana (Jakarta, Indonesia)
This photographer saw an opportunity in a beveled reflection. They didn't just take a standard picture of a bride and groom kissing... that would be too easy. Instead, they used the bride's hands and bracelets (an important symbol for the wedding day), wrapped around the groom's shoulders. It tells a story of connection, symbolism and it's just plain interesting to look at. I have never seen another photo like this and it would never occur to me to set something like this up. The side light adds an extra mysterious element since it means only part of the groom's face is illuminated. I also like the negative space created. What a brilliant execution of composition, story, and art. If it was me in that photo I'd proudly hang it on the wall as an art piece.
Anderson Sachetti (Florianópolis, Brazil) Photo by Anderson Sachetti (Florianópolis, Brazil)
I think it is probably obvious to anyone who sees this photo that it's fearless. Every once in a while we all have a nice, reflective bit of wet sand or ground that creates a brilliant reflection. However, the composition is what makes this image sing. Placing the groom in the centre and the bride and car slightly behind means there is a perfect triangle created by the posing (and the triangle in the reflection is even more exaggerated, which is cool). With the car being white, and the bride wearing white, they both serve as an anchor on either side of the image. The clean backdrop also helps.
Gerhard Nel (The Hague, Netherlands) Photo by Gerhard Nel (The Hague, Netherlands)
In this round there were a lot of high-contrast images with dark, blackened shadows and some sort of gobo effect on the couple. So, why did this one stand out? First, the gobo effect is evenly distributed across both the bride and groom's faces. The positioning of the couple is well done and I like that the gobo light doesn't shine anywhere except on their faces. Therefore, your eye is anchored on them and only them. Their expression says happiness and joy. The smiles look natural like this could have been a completely candid shot. If it was candid, then even bigger kudos to the photographer for seizing the opportunity. One suggestion... either in camera or cropping... I don't think the groom's ear adds anything to the image and it does pull the eye. The photographer could have done an even more brilliant job by cutting out the ear and allowing a bit more black negative space on the viewer left side of the image.
Alex Beckett (London, UK) Photo by Alex Beckett (London, UK)
I was quite surprised to see so many prism-type reflection shots in this round (perhaps a lot of people have been inspired after seeing Sam Hurd speak?). It seemed like every third image used this technique (with the ground looking like it was a lake or pool caused by either a cell phone or a prism reflection). There were also A LOT of images with tiny people in a big landscape either with or without a reflection. I admit, I use these "create your own reflection" techniques all the time as well and I liked quite a lot that were entered in this round. However, this one sings because the photographer wisely asked the couple do do something dramatic - instead of just standing there and kissing or looking at each other. The dance adds some extra joy and story to the image. I also like that the photographer chose to only show a tiny bit of the reflection in the bottom of the screen. It was a nice little extra element in an already pretty incredible silhouetted scene.
Hong Fei (Taiyuan, China) Photo by Hong Fei (Taiyuan, China)
Oprah always said, "I believe luck is preparation meeting opportunity. If you hadn't been prepared when the opportunity came along, you wouldn't have been lucky." In this case, luck and preparation created a completely surreal, unique and unusual, yet incredibly interesting scene. The photographer created art from chaos in a very striking way. The reflected light off the bride's glasses alone bring the eye in and just makes you want to look forever at the image. The extra elements in the reflection look very industrial, which is an interesting juxtaposition for a portrait of a bride and groom. The bride looks more serious/fashion-forward and the groom is carefree and laughing, which is also an interesting juxtaposition. I also like that you can't quite make out all the groom's features, yet your eye fills in the parts of the face you can't see. The positioning of each person suggests this might have been caught on the fly and not posed. If it wasn't directed then an even bigger bravo for creating this composition in a fraction of a second where all the stars aligned.

Another thing I like are all the circles -- the circles of the bride's glasses, the circle of her fan, the circles of the industrial pieces in the reflection, and even the curve cutting into the groom's neck is done in a way that frames instead of distracts. And the circles are juxtaposed by the rectangles and straight lines in the reflection, one even going through the groom's eye in a way that adds even more interest. And if you notice, the groom's shoulders are positioned at almost the same angle as the straight lines and rectangles in the reflection. There is a small light grey rectangle at the top (just above the groom's hairline) that is a tiny bit distracting and I'd suggest cloning it out. But this is a very small point on an otherwise pretty incredible image. Once again, I'd be proud to hang this on my wall. Who wants a picture of just what you looked like on your wedding day when you can wow your friends with the coolest abstract photo you've ever seen?

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