To his myriad international fans he is known as Greg Moment. But Polish admirers of the award-winning photographer know him by his given name, Grzegorz Placzek.
“It’s—how you say—a mouthful, isn’t it?” says the 42-year old photographer as he chats from his Poland-based photography studio. He explains that long ago, after realizing many international clients had trouble pronouncing his consonant-rich name, he opted for something simpler. “I used the English equivalent of my first name, Greg, and for my surname chose Moment, a term that resonates with photographers everywhere,” he says. “It was the best professional decision I ever made.”
Anyone who peruses his portfolio sees that Moment was an apt choice. He captures, time and time again, the elusive moments photographers and clients crave. Indeed, he’s become world-famous for both his technical expertise—the mastery of lighting and posing—as well as his skill in capturing ephemeral, spontaneous moments in time.
Moment has photographed more than 1,000 weddings and wedding sessions in some 35 countries over the past two decades and regularly conducts workshops at home and abroad. He enjoys offering education to photographers around the world but is quick to add that he’s less interested in “teaching” than “sharing” what he’s learned. “I’m still always learning,” he admits. “And if I can inspire anyone to be a better photographer, I am humbled.”
At Imaging USA 2021 in January, he’ll share advice on how to create the best light for wedding portraits. Here, he offers a wide range of tips and techniques he’s learned over the years.
“I love this picture (above). This happened in Poland just before the wedding, outside the church. We were in a real rush and I had just 30 seconds to take this. There were many people behind the bride and groom, and there was lots going on with cars, traffic, etc. I did not plan this image, but when I saw it coming together in the camera I told them, ‘Let’s try this.’ I knew they’d love it. I asked the groom to bend a bit at the knees so he would be aligned with the bride. It’s a symbol of them being together. The bride later called me and said it is her favorite image from their wedding and the one they would put on their wall. I never repeated the composition in another wedding. It reminds me that I always need to experiment when shooting. Sometimes I am successful; sometimes I fail.”
“It is not enough that the bride and groom are wearing beautiful attire at a wedding. I see many pictures of elegantly dressed couples that suffer from misplaced and awkward hands, fingers, and shoulders. Proper posing helps you tell a story. Photographers have to learn how important it is to understand posing techniques and how they can communicate these to their subjects.” He notes that many subjects believe simply arranging themselves “naturally” will make them look their best, so it’s up to the photographer to educate clients about how images are improved with posing. “This was taken in Mozambique on this bride’s wedding day. The light was very strong, and I posed her knowing that I had to be careful to not create bad shadows with, for example, her arms. I also had to keep her face in the light. It’s an example of how proper posing can help fight against unfavorable elements—in this case the strong sunlight.”
“At every wedding I try to find a moment that gives me a wow result. Even if the wedding day is full of candid shots, I always make it a point to stand with the bride and groom away from the chaos on this crazy day and find this special moment. As this reflected image (above) shows, it’s not necessary to have a spectacular background. What is necessary is an image that shows the heart of the bride and groom. I use very soft lighting and make sure I am always creating highlights on their faces. I don’t want them to look like models but want them to look natural. Here, a simple pose works. And they are in love!”
“This image (above) where the bride is having her makeup done is part of a simple story. This very same moment occurs at every wedding in the world so I enjoyed being challenged to make it something different. First, I needed the cooperation of the hair and makeup people. I had only a minute to shoot this. I chose to use a simple reflection, but I had to know exactly how to set it up. For example, the level and angle of the mirrors is so important; not everyone will look good if shot from below. Also, you cannot be too high; that also can be unflattering. You also have to make sure there is not a window behind the mirrors because you may then have a problem with highlights. The lesson here is that you need to know your craft to be free enough to be creative.”
“Both these pictures (above) employed a wide-angle lens to help me tell the story of the wedding couple. In the image below an American couple is posing on the top of a hotel in Amsterdam, where they were married. A wide-angle lens was perfect to include the beautiful background as well as the couple’s embrace. The image presents more than just the beauty of the couple; it also shows where they were married and how much in love they are. “The other image, another wide-angle shot, helps tell the story of the wedding preparations and gives us many more details than a simple 35mm lens could capture. It helps tell a little narrative. Incidentally, when using a wide-angle lens it is important to remember it may not present the bride and groom in proper (or most flattering) proportions. You have to be careful and remain aware of those limitations.”
“The commingling of guests is my favorite aspect of a wedding. Witnessing members of absolutely different families coming together is seeing the beginning of something beautiful. This moment is the keystone of a couple’s new life together. It is our job, our privilege, to show the love these people have. “When it comes time to take a picture of the couple with parents and friends, some photographers just put them together, take their shots, and people love it. But for me, this is such an important event that I always try to show how moving this moment is. I need to see them hugging, kissing, their smiling faces. That is the essence of this shot. Don’t let it slip by.”
“Photographers, and I include myself here, are too often attracted by the unique and new. We are often looking for different, unique-as-possible ways to tell the story of a wedding. But we also need to remember we are creating pictures for some people who prefer a classic portrait. And by classic, I am thinking of the wedding portrait a grandmother of the bride or groom will place on her bookshelf or hang on her wall. “Don’t forget older generations when shooting a wedding assignment. Often, we will even create a special album for the grandparents whose eyesight may have deteriorated. These images may be less saturated or even printed in black-and-white. Little things like that can mean the world to someone.”
Robert Kiener is a writer in Vermont.