Photo of the Day

30 Rising Star Johanna Rosenlew’s Painterly Mood

November 3, 2019

By Jacqueline Tobin

© Johanna Rosenlew

Throughout the month of November, our Photo of the Day series will be taken over by each of Rangefinder‘s newly minted 30 Rising Stars of Wedding Photography in 2019. The 30 honorees are featured in our November issue, and each of their full, 30-photo submissions, reviewed by the competition judges, can be found in our online gallery. For more behind-the-scenes insights, follow us on Instagram.

Johanna Rosenlew, who’s based in Helsinki, Finland, turns to paintings from the Dutch Golden Age for inspiration in her work. Though it isn’t always easy to create chiaroscuro (the strong contrasts between dark and light), Rosenlew always looks for ways to use natural light with rich, moody tones.

She never lets the pursuit for this aesthetic get in the way of the day as it would naturally unfold, observing and capturing sincere or energy-filled moments without disturbing the party or faking a scene for the camera. “The biggest compliment is when a stranger says [the photos] make them feel something,” she says, “even when they don’t know the person in the photograph.”

Below are her behind-the-scenes insights on three of the photos from her submission this year.

Light plays a big part in my photography. I have always been inspired by Dutch Golden Age paintings and how the artists used light and shadows to create their incredible masterpieces. For me, the simpler the lighting, the easier it is to create something emotionally impactful. In this picture, the only light in the room was coming in from these beautiful big windows in the bride’s atelier. It created the perfect scenario for this image, and I love how I could almost create a modern-day painting of the bride: a painter, in her own atelier. 

This picture is taken as the bride and groom were arriving to the cocktail hour after the ceremony. I was photographing the couple as they were entering and decided to turn around for a second to take a couple of photos of the guests greeting them.

I think phones on a wedding day is such a controversial topic for wedding photographers. The lit screens are always in our way, or the guests are looking down on their phones instead of being in the moment. But the truth is that the wedding day is not about our pictures; it’s about celebrating the couple, and I don’t judge the guests for also wanting a great photo as a memory for them to hold on to too. Our job is to document what is actually happening, and sometimes if we are lucky, that ends up being a really hilarious photo. 

I feel that pictures like this one are as important as the portraits I take on a wedding day. For this picture, I knew that I had to wait in the moment. It’s taken during the last hours of the day in a very dimly lit room that was quite challenging to shoot in. The only place with some sort of light was this Polaroid wall, lit with only a couple of candles. I stood there and waited for a moment to happen for quite a while, because I knew I wanted to capture the feeling of the room, but needed the people to stand around the only light source available for the image to be impactful.