Finding props in nature: Frøydis Geithus and the Z 8
Illuminating a couple’s romantic journey through nature and props is a balancing act, says Frøydis Geithus. The wedding and fine art photographer shares her composition approach, the trick to props and why the Z 8’s Eye Detection AF is her standout feature
When Frøydis Geithus asks for 3m-long palm leaves, the stem cut diagonally and the leaves brown, you don’t question it. Instead, you note the light and precision at the core of her composition – and how gracefully the light dazzles amid the darkness.
The Nikon Ambassador from Norway is well known for her Nordic Noir approach to wedding reportage and fine art photography and is greatly influenced by Baroque artist Rembrandt and her own family, many of whom are painters.
Recently returned from testing the new Nikon Z 8 along the west coast of Spain with eight other creators, Frøydis chats to us about her style, finding props in nature and the new game-changing Nikon Z 8.
Nikon: How would you describe your photography style?
Frøydis: A Swedish magazine journalist interviewed me a few years ago and he said that I was the ‘Nordic Noir’ and you can say that because when you first see my photos, they can seem super dark. For me, that’s the way I show light. I’m influenced by the Old Masters like Rembrandt and how he used light. Light is what drags you into the photo. But in order to get the light you need the shadows.
What makes your style and approach to photography stand out?
I’ve been in the game for so many years, and this is such a cliché but also the total truth: your photography has to come from inside, you have to be brave enough to look inward in order to find the true photographer in you. When you start out, you want to be like the best photographers – you want to do the same thing. But you can never be them. You have to be you.
I come from an artistic background, and I come from the fjords and the mountains in Norway so that’s a big part of my nature and my landscapes and where I’m from. I also love paintings. I have a lot of painters in my family. My photography is saturated – it never has super bright colours, it’s more like the old painters from Holland such as Rembrandt. But for me it’s important to dig inside and find what I like and love.
Was there a particular shot from your bus trip across Spain that really stood out for you?
I had a particular vision in Spain. I talked with the couple beforehand, and I had this vision of one of them in black and the other one in a white dress. There was originally a miscommunication with Nikon because I sent over a mood board with my hope of a boho Western style wedding dress and they didn’t have the dress I wanted. The night before, the designers went out to buy a new dress but then in the morning, we found the bride was quite short. So, we cut the dress off at the bottom and made sleeves because I wanted long flowy sleeves. I love the photo below with her arms up. Nikon has this new lens called the NIKKOR Z 85mm f/1.2 S and you can see straight into the bride’s green eyes and it’s super, super sharp.
So sometimes what you’re least expecting can turn out to be the best photograph?
Yes! If you watch me when I’m shooting, I could seem to be in a rush, but I always know when I have the shot I need. On the wedding day, we don’t have a lot of time, but I will never give up until I have met the couple’s wishes and have that photo in my head that I want.
Talking of framing the shot, could you walk me through your approach to composition?
Before I shoot, I have the vision of what I want. Obviously, I want the composition to be great but sometimes I have to remove things after in post. Sometimes you have to do that because there’s no other way around it.
I see a lot of photographers struggling with composition. Photographers, especially those starting out, don’t think about composition a lot. But, for me, composition is crucial. I’m obsessed with composition. Today you have thousands of photos every minute, so to make people stop, you need to create impact. Impact is an important word. The image doesn’t have to be technically perfect, but you need to have something in your photo that will make people stop and get dragged into the image. For me, a lot about that is composition.
What advice do you have for beginners or enthusiasts who are looking to start using props within their compositions?
Get in the car or look around your home and try different things. You can use leaves, branches and, of course, flowers – flowers are beautiful. In order to stand out today, you have to be different, you have to think different. For me it’s quite strange because different today means going into a studio. I started out in a studio so for me that’s so old school, but today actually a lot of photographers are going inside, and they have never done that before. I’m going back to my roots with fine art photography and being in a studio, but I think that is what’s so amazing with the Z 8 – it doesn’t matter what kind of photographer you are. The Z 8 is great for any kind of photographer and, for me, obviously, I’m travelling a lot and it’s light. It’s the Z 9 in a new body and it’s crazy amazing.
Destination wedding photography with Frøydis Geithus
What did you think of the new Z 8?
I was blown away. Two things stood out to me: the ISO and the Eye Detection AF. With the ISO, I don’t have to worry about shooting in the dark, and stabilisers on the mirrorless system and autofocus tracking mean I can shoot handheld, and my photos are always spot on. The autofocus is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It’s a game changer and my photos are razor-sharp as a result.
How important are props in telling the story and romance of the couple?
I love nature and organic-style props. If I was to shoot you now, where would you put your hands? It’s easier for the couple to have something to hold on to. These days I tend to find things in nature. It could be antlers, for example, or something that’s connected to where they are.
Is there a perfect balance to using props? When is it too much?
You won't know until you know and you know when you look into the camera and think, ‘This is not OK’. And when it comes to couples who have wishes and they want certain things, I would do just a few photos. I would never tell them, ‘No, this doesn’t look good.’ I will just think, ‘OK, this is not working the way I want it to’, and then if I have an alternative idea I will tell the couple in the moment. Sometimes I have all these ideas for things that will look amazing, but the instant I look into the camera, I can see it’s not working.