Thursday, January 5, 2012

Wedding Photographer: A tough gig.

A shot of the wedding cupcakes and dancing
from this past November's wedding.
Last October, I was asked by a long-time friend to photograph his wedding.  
He is in the Navy and was "shipping" out to Japan in just a few months prior.  It was a very small wedding in his parents' backyard.  And it was about a month before his wedding.  And he knew that I was teaching photography and had experience.  

My response?  
"I am very honored, but I am not an event photographer.  I highly suggest you find a photographer who is experienced in that type of photography.  If you still can't find anyone, I would be happy to help you out."

His response?
No, we want you.  

Oh boy... here we go!  

As a photographer, I really enjoy capturing moments- more of a photojournalistic style.  I like to use a 35mm film camera because it goes back to my personal artistic aesthetic... the process!  I really love the full manual process of film, developing the film, developing and manually manipulating the prints in the darkroom.  I even prefer using a large format camera (you know, like those old time accordion looking cameras set up with the guy behind/under the fabric?)  

A moment with their son.
When it comes to subject matter, however, some of my very favorite shots have been when I am in a space with people, and just try to tell a story through a series of photos.  Wedding photography is a perfect example of this.  Except that... someone's most momentous memories are being captured.  You can't get back that first kiss as husband and wife.  You can't ask them to "redo" the walk down the aisle!  If I miss that moment... that's that!  

Of course, for these kinds of events, I shoot using a Nikon D60 and a speed flash, so I can snap away and not worry that the past 500 shots didn't turn out.  Instead, I am able to instantaneously see if I need to adjust my light or or my perspective.  That is one HUGE relief to shooting these important events.  (Again, I am not typically wedding photographer... )

Well, that October wedding was a beautiful and intimate success.  The weather was amazingly warm without a cloud in the sky.  This new experience went better than I thought, despite my anxiety.

Some of the biggest challenges from that wedding had to do with lighting and space.  I was able to get some really fantastic getting ready shots, and detail shots. The ceremony was set against the back of the house, and at the time of day, the sun came streaming over and was very harsh.  This did make it difficult to get softer shots.  Also, the reception at the restaurant was in a very narrow room with incredibly tall ceilings.  This made bounce light very difficult, especially since I was moving in and out of very tight spaces.  

When going through the photos afterwards, I was really pleased with the amount that I was able to provide for them.  I spent a lot of time afterwards manipulating and adjusting to give them a wide variety of traditional and artistic shots.  One of the biggest assets you need to have is confidence.  And even still... I was very confident in the shots I took.  I really loved some of the moments I captured, and how I adjusted some to look so soft and artistic.  But again, I am seeing everything through MY eyes, not theirs.  I had to feel confident that my clients trusted my vision from what they saw in my previous work.  I had to be confident that when they said they were happy with the photos, that they really truly were happy with their photos from their big day.  

Apparently they were pleased.  

This was a shot I grabbed after their posed photo "session."
I just thought it was too cute to let go to the wayside.  
A year later, I received an email from my friend's younger brother.  He was getting married in Tennessee and was having a second reception in Chicago.  He said that his brother was really happy with the photos I had taken of their wedding and so suggested that he contact me.  I responded exactly the same way:  I am not an event photographer.  I highly suggest you find a photographer who is experienced in that type of photography.  If you still can't find anyone, I would be happy to help you out." 

This past November, I shot his wedding reception.  It took place at the Stonegate Banquets in Hoffman Estates.  It was absolutely beautifully decorated with lit Christmas trees, garland, and candles.   

This was a much bigger event than previous, and it was in a much bigger reception space.  One big difference was that it was in a tent, so there was a lot of white everywhere.  You'd think this would give great bounce light, but it was not as easy as I had expected.  

This is a more typical photojournalistic style photo I take throughout the event.
Other important equipment...
I am SO glad I brought so many extra batteries for my speed flash because the lithiums became very hot very fast which significantly slowed my repetitive shots.  I ended up swapping out the batteries more frequently than anticipated, but luckily I had a pants pockets (a definite must have when shooting an event!) to stash the batteries.  One major job hazard is burning your fingers on those batteries.  Yes, they get THAT hot!

Quick reflexes are also very important.  You need to be able to look fast, react fast, and adjust fast.  You need to be flexible to your clients' needs, and be ready at any moment to change your settings, or your mindset!  

Special moments, with major personality.

Such a sweet moment at the
end of the reception.
Who can resist the coloring and
the cars in a shot like this?
I have known this family since high school, so it was really fun to be able to capture such fun and special moments (also even more nerve-racking!).  I really had a great time bringing out everyone's personalities in the shots.  I really love being able to capture an event, as well as take some very special portrait shots that may be less expected.  The kids that were involved were also very important (their son included!), and so it's easy to 
incorporate small nuances of the toddlers throughout some of the photos without the kids taking over the event.  (Although, they do make it easy since they are so cute!)

I JUST finished going through all of the shots and I pulled a few of my favorite photos that I played around with to add a little extra artsy touch (though the "client" will receive all of my unadjusted photos as well).  I thought I would share a few of my less traditional shots with you here!

So what have I been doing since November?
I also could not resist adding this little chart my husband found while I was going through each photo and adjusting.  What a patient man (because this is SO true!!).

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