I met Daniel on a car forum since we both drive the awesome BMW Z4. He’s obviously got great taste since he chose that car and my photography services… just kidding. It was very easy working with both of them, and Jessica is a sweetheart and a beautiful bride to boot. Our engagement session was at DUMBO, an easy stroll through many photo opportunities. Her vintage wedding dress looked stunning on her and they picked a great location, the Tappan Hill Mansion, to match the vintage look.
Liang and Andrew are a super cute and smiley couple who ventured out with me to Central Park for their engagement session last Spring and we got some beautiful lush flowers and gorgeous green leaves just starting to bud. Their wedding was even prettier at the Cairnwood Estates in Pennsylvania. I remember Liang saying how her jaw was starting to hurt from smiling all day, and you can tell it was true genuine happiness.
What can I say about this awesome couple? I met Tingting years ago when she was a bridesmaid since she recommended me as the photographer. I soon reached out to her for modeling shoots since she has a lot of experience in it, and we’ve had many amazing sessions since then. We built a great professional relationship and she didn’t want anyone else but me to be her photographer, and I was excited to hear that she wanted photos in Germany! I had the pleasure of meeting Elmar who is simply chill, smart and funny. We booked our trip to Munich during Oktoberfest to celebrate with the entire city, and boy was it an experience. We were also able to get out of town and see some beautiful scenery including the Nymphenburg Palace. When you have a good looking couple, your job doesn’t feel like a job – and when you’re flown to a beautiful location, now you’re just enjoying your hobby on a expense paid trip!
I offer two print sizes in one package, 8×12 and 4×6. You can do the math, it’s the same ratio of 2:3. That means when you get the prints in either size, nothing is cropped and nothing is missing. You are getting everything you see. If you decide to get 8×10 photo, you have to crop 2 inches off, that’s 16.66% of the image you are losing, and it becomes a 4:5 ratio.
I will apologize in advance for all photographers who do not mentally think about a 4:5 ratio in their viewfinder while busy shooting a hectic wedding day. In the worst case scenario where you happen to buy an expensive custom frame that is in the incorrect ratio, I can always do some Photoshop magic and shrink the photo to fit a 4:5 ratio and reconstruct the missing edges with the clone tool. That is if you don’t start the message with an angry and demanding tone of voice telling me I owe you a completely new set of photos.
Before the days where everyone could afford a professional DSLR and have access to cookie cutter portfolio websites, finding a wedding photographer was a local search, usually through word of mouth. It’s easy to see how saturated the internet is with aspiring wedding photographers, anyone with spare change can start up their own business and practice at friends’ weddings. The competition is fierce, the selection is overwhelming. We are in the age of smart digital shopping, the days of Fat Wallet turned to Groupons, getting the best value for your money, seeking discounts while expecting highest quality. This is good practice for mass produced products where it drives costs of products down due to demand, however, this is killing the art of photography, specifically wedding photography.
Back in the days when digital was only slowly taking over film, and internet portfolios were rare, wedding clients did not complain about not getting their money’s worth. Considering you get married once with one set of photos, how could you really know if someone could have done a better job, or even shot it differently? You accepted what you got. This is not to say you should accept low quality work even if you have nothing to compare it with, but also not to expect the entire wall found on your Pinterest to be in your album.
There was Google, and now there are massive wedding forums and Pinterest that showcase the world’s most beautiful wedding photos all in one convenient collection. As brides continue their research and soak in all these images contributed from thousands of photographers, they get more excited at the fantasy of what their wedding can and will look like if they just hire that “perfect” wedding photographer for the lowest possible cost. Brides will even go as far as sending a photographer images shot by someone else they would like said photographer to emulate. Offensive? Probably just a little.
In the bride’s defense, most of my clients are not like this. They have followed my work for years or have a personal connection with me just by looking at my work. They have not been saturated with fantasies. They accept reality and respect an artist’s personal vision. I am talking about the brides that try to be a smart shopper and think too logically. They want the photographers to be robots and artists at the same time. They want high quality portraits, artistic vision, unlimited group photos, a documentation of every face, and a customer-is-always-right mentality. You should see the typical photo-list that clients used to show me, it’s a joke how long it is. I personally don’t believe you can have it all.
If you want an artistic vision, an artist needs space and room to breathe, relaxed, and not feel the pressure to also include cookie cutter portraits. If you want full documentation of every guest, then hire a studio with 5 photographers and you’ll get 250 great passport photos. Do not expect a photographer to have the ability to switch on and off the artistic side to match your hectic wedding schedule. Your entire day will set the tone for a specific mood, and a photographer will inherently feed off of that mood. These brides do not treat photographers as artists, they have no feelings for people they paid to serve them on the most important day of the entire world. They are never “satisfied customers.” There is always something to complain about, and when they do, it’s a poopstorm. As a smart consumer, there is no excuse for a photographer who tried his or her best. Disregard the fact that this person was willing to spend 10 hours documenting your silly little day, and that he or she took some amazing photos, but maybe had difficulty with certain situations. Mind you, weddings are not an assembly line of the same product, it is a day of unlimited combinations of lighting, environmental, and personal factors that change how a photographer works. For a bride to nitpick what she sees as faults in her wedding photos and have the audacity to say her memories of the entire day is forever lost or ruined because one or two photos cannot be cropped to her liking, really says something about her character and how she treats her friends and others.
Finally to my point, brides, be realistic about the unique circumstances every wedding photographer has to approach on a weekly basis, and are trying their best to produce something they would be proud of. You cannot expect a 100% success rate on all of the images, and you have to accept each artist for their strengths and weaknesses. This is the human element. If you research a photographer, really get to know his or her work instead of congesting your mind with the “best images” from the internet. Art requires you to have an emotional attachment or a personal connection with the artist, not a checklist of requirements. In the end, you are only doing yourself a disservice to yourself if you love to find the faults in everything. If you appreciate the positive things in life, then you will cherish the moments captured by even the simple photographs.
I don’t need experienced subjects to make great photographs, I need individuals who like to have fun and not be shy in front of a camera. I’ve had couples who don’t like public displays of affection, some who don’t like to smile, or some who don’t even seem to like each other. I ask myself “why did they hire me?” When the subjects and the photographer share chemistry and just try to have fun, it no longer feels like work.
Here are some tips for couples:
- The photographer can only give as much as you put in. Either do some research beforehand, practice, or give ideas and suggestions during the shoot. The photographer can’t read your mind or know your past history of your personality. You need to show him why you’re attracted to each other so he can capture it.
- There needs to be a little bit of acting when taking photos, or rather exaggeration of gestures and movements. Sometimes the camera is 20 feet away and you need to express yourself for an audience far away. Pretend you are both little kids on a play date, show some puppy love, flirt with each other, make love.
- The last thing on your mind should be how the photos look in the camera. That’s not your job. A good photographer will not waste time taking photos of a bad pose, and will never release an unflattering photo – that would only make him look bad.
- Try your hardest not to be shy! You don’t always need to look “cool” for a photo, the sillier you are, the more personal the photos become, and the more people will love it. You want people to love your photos don’t you? Some photographers rely on advanced lighting, crazy angles to make the photo look interesting, but it doesn’t tell your story. I say run away with your loved one hand in hand and play in some secret hideout, and have the photographer run after you.
- Don’t just wait for the photographer’s exact directions. The photographer will direct your general movements, but it’s up to you to fill in the gaps. That’s where the “natural” comes in. Your movements should feel like a movie, not a stiff photo.
- When you talk to each other in a photo, talk about cute puppies, not your mortgage payment. If your partner is making a dirty face when talking to you, change the subject.
- Do things in public as if nobody else were there. No photographer, no pedestrians.
- The guys have the easier role, they can usually be the prop and the girls have to work around them. The girls should always get the attention right?
- Get your nails did, bring lots of breath mints.
Every photographer loves a fun and goofy couple. If you don’t know what to do in front of a camera, just be silly and the photos will create itself, the personalities will reveal naturally. As Samuel L. Jackson said in Pulp Fiction, “personality goes a long way.”
I just realized I haven’t blogged any engagement sessions for the entire 2009 year. Here are some old photos. I never had the motive to quit wedding photography, I just took down my website to relieve some stress. You don’t just give up something you have a passion for, it’s in your blood.
If you’re not from the New York area, you might think I was making fun of the couple. DUMBO is an extremely popular location for engagement photos, a few spots are instantly recognizable by other photographers or locals. Though the locations are similar, I think each couple can bring a new taste to the photos based on their style and personality. My next lens will most likely be a tilt-shift lens.