Suprise proposal at sunrise on Oahu.

Family portrait with Jenn & Edric with Oahu photographer Ryan Sakamoto.

The art of photography is so much more than just taking a picture of someone or something! As a portrait photographer on a wedding or elopement, it’s not only seeing that special moment unfold in front of me. It’s also the lighting & more so, the emotions & gestures! Here in Oahu, there’s no shortage of natural light. For the most part, we normally have sunny days & beautiful rainbows when it rains. 

Lighting sets the mood of a portrait, not the camera. The camera is the tool that helps you capture these moments. As the photographer, “seeing” the moment is the most important part of making a beautiful image. The eye behind the camera determines the mood based on the moment, subject, vision & lighting. Without light, there is no picture, only a dark void. The untrained eye cannot see beautiful lighting or anticipate a stolen kiss when the flash is not pointed at my couple. 

The word “photograph” means “drawing with light.” Personally, in my opinion, a good photograph will invoke an emotion, such as happiness, sadness, anger, calm, or even confusion. However, special moments don’t always wait for the “perfect” lighting, so with or without the “perfect” lighting, you have to take the shot. I’d rather have a grainy image with bad lighting than no image at all. I get this question from beginning photographers all the time & my answer is always the same: get the shot first. The couple will appreciate you telling their story with small, intimate moments more than the grainy picture! 

I put lighting into these categories: natural ambient lighting-sunlight & moonlight, artificial ambient-street & indoor light or flash, strobe, constant, & LED. As a portrait photographer, I use natural lighting & flash or a combination of 2 combined lighting depending on the scenario. There really isn’t a right or wrong way of using light, so long as there’s enough light to take a picture to set a mood.

In the past, I’ve always been a stickler for having the sky, foreground & subject in “perfect” exposure! As a seascape & portrait photographer, there were workarounds to capture that perfect seascape image using ND filters & bracketing my shots. 

Then, there was portrait photography using VND’s (variable neutral density) filters & strobes (flash). Exposing for the background, mainly the sky & using flash to light my subject. The difficult part was to find that balance between the camera setting, VND filters, flash power & what mood I wanted to portray in the final edit.
Sunrise family portrait on Oahu at Makapuu Beach Park.In my opinion, capturing an image in natural light is an art in itself! It’s definitely something I had to learn & embrace in this past year! For myself, being a strobe photographer, it was a very difficult concept to grasp. I wanted the sky to have some form of detail; this is the seascape photographer talking,  but I’ve come to learn that it isn’t always necessary & the moment is what counts!

Senior portrait on the east side of Honolulu.

In my opinion, the ability to bend natural or artificial light to your vision is crucial to creating a beautiful image. Think of light as water being sprayed onto your subject. The more water you have, the larger the area will get wet. Less water focused on a specific area will carve out just a part of the subject. Water can also be focused into a pinpoint stream & so can light. I truly believe every photographer sees light in a different way & that’s a good thing, as we’ll capture beauty with our own vision!

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