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Get in There!

June 20th, 2012  |  by  |  published in Featured, Style

Years and years ago, I had no confidence when it came to being in front of people at weddings. So, I hid behind my mom’s skirt and used photojournalism as a crutch. I would tell clients that I won’t be in their face, I won’t be obstructive, you won’t even know I’m there. I was afraid of portraits because I didn’t want to be the center of attention for that short 30 minutes or hour of their day. Let me tell you I am SUPER glad I got over myself and manned up! I now see what a disservice that was to my clients as well as to myself.

Here’s the advice I have for doing right by your wedding couples, and in turn, being a better photographer – which equals more clients, which equals more money, and yes I want a commission. This is just my opinion, and yeah yeah, I know others do things their way, but those that are mousy little wallflowers simply need to be told to buck up. So here’s whatcha do :

• Get in closer. CLOSER!
A few times during the day, it’s ok to use a long zoom lens all stealth like. But usually not. During a religious ceremony, is one. Maybe during an intimate moment between the bride and groom when you don’t want to interrupt with shutter clicks. But really, that’s about it.
- Get as close as you can during the ceremony without getting looks from the church lady. If the JOP says you can go wherever you want, go wherever you want! My goal here is to get an angle that the guests can’t from their seats.

- Get right in the middle of the Hora or the Soul Train danceathon. Get right in there with the dancing guests. Sing along if you have to, you’ll feel more like you belong in there. Whatever you do, don’t shoot dancing from a distance. It makes me sad. Using a smaller, wider lens will help you here. Like the 24mm vs the 24-70. You’ll take up less room in the crowded, sweaty group.
- If you have trouble getting in close, or feel like zooming in is your crutch, avoid zoom lenses. I feel they inhibit creativity anyway. A prime makes you walk in closer to zoom, therefore changing your angle and perspective.

Now I’m talking about formals.

• Move into better light.
Your client says they absolutely must have their wedding party photos in front of the shiny, bright, midday sun pool at noon. You’re the professional, you know they’ll be squinting, you know the shadows will be harsh, so tell them bluntly that this is what it will be, and if they still want squints and shadows, awesome. But if they don’t understand that, tell them you are moving them over there, under the cabanas where there is shade and that you can always return to the pool when the light is better. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve heard “But they really wanted this view, and so that’s why they all look like they’re in pain”. It’s your job to tell them it’s not going to work, and move them. Come back later.

• Be a stylist.
Stray hairs in a bride’s eyes, leaves on her wedding dress, the groom’s jacket is bulging out like he’s a football player, the bridesmaid’s dress strap hanger things are sticking out of her dress, mom is holding her camera, dad is holding his beer. This is the time to walk over to the group, speak up, and physically move items into better place. When I was first starting out, I assisted a photographer and he jokingly called me his stylist. I was the one who would walk over and fluff the bride’s gown, and yes… put the bouquets around it. It was 1996, forgive me. But I learned to keep an eye out for the little details that will ruin a good portrait and eat up your time in post.

• Try again.
You’re not feeling a location, the groom needs a drink, the bride is stressed out, the wind is blowing the wrong direction – get out of there. Change the scenery. Tell them it’s not working. Tell them you’re not getting the shots you want, and try again somewhere else, maybe at another time of the day. Don’t push a bad situation in hopes that some miracle will happen.

• And again.
First looks are great, but where I live (on an island with little shade) shooting all the bride/groom portraits at noon does not really appeal to me. Sure some bright light is fun for effect and shadows, I love it in small increments. But to get the mood and look I want, I will always ask for a second portrait break about a half hour prior to sunset. I tell my couples this well in advance and again during the first look. I’ll say “I know you’ll be eating your lobster at 7:30, but I’m pulling you out for some more relaxed portraits with beautiful light then, or after sunset for night shots when you’re less stressed”. They can’t argue with that!

• Move them!
Guests with cameras during formals. Bless their hearts. They just want instant gratification, who can blame them? But it’s not out of place for you to say, “Hey Aunt Jane, take a couple photos real quick and then stand over there. I’ll take it from here”. Don’t be a meanie, just explain that they’re on your toes and no one knows where to look, so no one wins. It’s an annoying situation when this happens but you can’t ignore them and you can’t be pushy. You have to be firm and direct, with a smile. Always with a smile.

• Speak up.
Do you know who Cousin Jennifer on Bill’s side is? No, of course not, but the couple claims she’s the most important guest and she’s traveled from Rio to get here. This is why giving the photographer portrait lists kill me. I always tell my clients to elect a point person to take care of finding these people for me, but when they neglect to I talk to the couple’s parents. Know their names, congratulate and compliment them. Be their friend. They will pay you back by helping you out during formals, if you ask. If they’re stubborn or too shy, find the loudest groomsman or bridesmaid to rally the troops for you. Bonus, they’ll ham it up for you once they loosen up during the reception. Guaranteed.

Being a ninja is one thing. It’s a great thing. I happen to know 5 ninjas, all of them are ShootStyle members. They get the shot through any means. They have balls. And now, I do too. But you can’t be a quiet ninja. You have to vocalize, you have to command, it’s your duty to make the most of the situation politely yet effectively in order to win at the game of wedding photography. Really, what’s the worst that could happen if you are a little bit in their faces during the wedding day? They hired you, they know you’re there. ;)

~ Zofia

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Shoot One Thing That Scares You

February 15th, 2012  |  by  |  published in Featured, Style

For those that consider yourselves a Jack of All Trades – this may not apply. Or rather – it should. You know who I’m talking about, the photographers whose list of “I specialize in” stretches from pet photography to sky scrapers to crime scenes. “I specialize in tree photography, boat photography, cat photography, sky diving photography”. Well, I believe that specialize shouldn’t be as broad as a list of more than one, maybe two items. So, if you feel you specialize in moon photography, underwater photography and Quinceañera photography, then you’re probably not going to follow my lead and get out of your comfort zone.

No, this isn’t a post for the Jacks. This is a post for those who really do have a specific focus, with most of us it being weddings and portraits. But that’s still too broad, isn’t it?

Take weddings – you might specialize in available light or shooting for shadows, making brides look like princesses or making couples look like themselves. You might like to skip the getting ready portion and stay through the entire reception, dancing to Stevie Wonder til the wee morn. Or you might love the nerves and raw emotion of the earlier part of the day and peace out right after the first dances. Whatever it is, to be consistent, you are told to have a formula – to have a label. To be a photojournalist, to be a glamorous portrait photographer, to look for emotions, to concentrate on details, to be master of off-camera light and use it all day.

Chances are, you have that formula, that label, because you think it’s pleasing someone. You think it’s what your couples want and that’s why they hired you. You think it’s what the magazines look for, and you want to be published. You think it’s what makes you cool amongst your peers, and you want acclaim. All justifiable reasons, don’t get me wrong. I do think consistency is important to establish a brand and I also think you’ll never grow if you pigeon hole yourself.

So, if you’re really truly specializing in one thing, (be it portrait photography of women in wings with a ring flash, or simply glued to your zoom lenses), I challenge you to take on a little project going into this season and break your mold. Face the fear. Shoot one thing that scares you. You’ll never grow if you don’t try.

With that, I am going to make my own goal. This season – at each wedding (which are all within a 8 miles of each other), I am going to find some place new to shoot. I will not photograph a portrait in the same location, the same way, twice. I’ll report back and I hope you do too!

Since no post should be without a photo – check out this image of me in about 1980. It’s the only one I have of me at this age, laughing. Imagine if the person behind the camera waited until the light was perfect to capture this? No photo for me.

This post was inspired by the Wedrockers talk at Mystic Seminars, or as I like to call them – The Mexican Contingent. They are a small group of wedding photographers in Mexico who talked about never shooting the same thing twice, growing and shooting for yourself at each wedding. I thank them for pushing me to grow.

~Zofia

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Veils

October 31st, 2011  |  by  |  published in Featured, Style

The veil: that billowy gauzy fabric atop of some brides heads: some of us love them, some of us, not so much. I personally love veils of all kind; however my most favorite are long veils worn on very windy days ;)

We have all seen a variety of veils: cathedral length, fingertip length and the ever popular birdcage veil. But how did the veil find it’s way into the bridal accessories? What were it’s origins?

Some say Rome was were the veil was introduced, being used to conceal a bride’s features and confuse evil spirits. I didn’t really read anywhere why evil spirits may have been in hot pursuit of these brides, I can only assume they came to let them know that the strapless gown fad is over.

Others say the veil was there to prove the bride’s purity and to protect her from the evil eye, which was obviously being thrown by the crazy ex-girlfriend.

What made most sense to me was the idea that the veil was in place during an arranged marriage. The bride’s features were only revealed to the willing groom after the ‘I do’ deed was done, preventing him from backing out ahead of time.

These days, like most details picked out for a wedding, it’s pretty much do as you like. I love love the trend of different colored wedding gowns & choosing a veil that either compliments or matches the gown shade you’ve chosen.
Go bold, go different, go with what you like.

If you’ve always dreamt of wearing a floor length veil following behind you on your day like a little mini-me, do it! If you can’t shake the idea of adding a hot-pink birdcage veil to your ensem’ – go for it! Veils, like shoes and purses, flowers and jewels, are there to add to your look & to show off a little slice of your personality.
And, if the whole idea of a veil fills you with the ick, don’t wear one. I don’t think the evil spirits will mind one bit ;)

Happy accessorizing!

 

 

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Let it Bleed

September 21st, 2011  |  by  |  published in Featured, Style

In the good ol’ days, wedding albums were usually made by taking individual photographic prints and slipping them into album pages that had standard size mat openings. That had a couple of implications – every photo needed to be cropped to a standard dimension like 8×10 or 5×7 and every photo appeared with a border around it. As a way to present photos that approach was clean and traditional but somewhat hum drum. And if you shot in 35mm (which has a 2×3 ratio) you ended up cropping out much of your composition.

Today it’s much more common for a wedding album to created as a flush mount book, where one or more images can be placed on the page without restrictions about size or placement. Yet it’s common for contemporary wedding albums to echo their ancestral counterparts by placing images on the page surrounded by large borders. It’s as if these album designs are haunted by the papery ghosts of forgotten album mats that lie mouldering next to dusty enlargers in the basements of photographers who long ago traded film for digital.

If such traditional album designs sound eerily familiar to you, I appeal to you to let your images bleed!
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Shoot What Matters, Take Your Time

June 1st, 2011  |  by  |  published in Featured, Style

I knew in hiring my favorite photographer for my own wedding a couple weeks ago, that I would not be disappointed in the outcome. I’m a huge fan of her style. That’s a severe understatement. I knew that I could trust her to do her job, to do it professionally, to not need direction, and to wow us.

She photographed me in angles I’ve never seen of myself, that are so similar to old images of my grandmother. She made special care to capture every detail that we spent so much time and energy on, collecting in antique shops and having custom made. She forever froze moments of my daughter and I that I know she will absolutely cherish and pass down to her own children. She photographed my handsome husband in the way I want to remember him when we’re old and gray.

The most important thing that she did was capture the day the way that I truly remember it, and beautifully. She took her time with us during the portraits and made us feel at ease. We would have held our breath and stood on our heads, had she asked.

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What Makes You Click?

April 13th, 2011  |  by  |  published in Featured, Style

I am nothing if not random. I get inspiration from so many sources.

A few years ago, I dropped off the big forums and stopped reading other wedding photographer’s blogs. Shocking, I know! I decided to draw my inspiration from the sources I’ve loved all along; fashion magazines like W, Interview and Vanity Fair – movies by Pedro Almodovar, Michel Gondry and Sofia Coppola – music and videos by Radiohead, Modest Mouse and Jenny Lewis – books by Augusten Burroughs, Chuck Palahniuk and David Sedaris – and traveling absolutely anywhere.

While asking around, I found that most of my fellow photographers also get inspired by these things, and here are some interesting answers : personalities, self growth and learning, architecture and love.

I’m naturally influenced by my peers here on ShootStyle, and fellow wedding photographers Fer Juaristi and Angelica Glass. Other photographic influences include Avedon, Sally Mann and Newton. Their photography encompasses all these things that inspire me. The moody, colorful, quirky and loud. I may not easily carry over these loves into my work directly, but it’s what my eyes and my heart are drawn to. It’s where my personal work would go, if I had the time. (one day…..)

Emotion, light, composition – my 3 must haves for a perfect photograph. Probably the biggest inspirations that I do use and carry over into my work everyday are nature and relationships.

Right now, with spring teasing to show it’s face any day, I’m inspired by color.

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What do diamonds have to do with it?

February 23rd, 2011  |  by  |  published in Featured, Style

While some traditions seem pretty obvious to me (the kiss after the ceremony, the honeymoon *wink wink*) others have me pondering “Where did they come up with that?”.

The engagement ring, for instance. We’ve all heard the commercials telling you that true love comes in the form of 2 months salary worth of diamonds. For the record, I think that’s a wee bit silly. I’d rather a lens or cowboy boots … but I digress.

When did the engagement ring become the symbol of ‘i love you this much’?

There is theory that the first rings may have been made from leather, plants, or other degradable material that served not only to symbolize a union between two people, but also their connection with the land that sustained them. Those original sustainable wearable pieces eventually morphed into metal rings adding in the sparkle of a gemstone or two.

Word on the street is some of the earliest adopters of the symbolic ring were the Greeks, Romans & Egyptians. These rings were meant to show the world that the lady was part of a pretty sweet business deal. *ahem* Not so romantic.
The swoon inducing Greeks are credited with wearing the ring on the left hand, fourth finger, where the ‘vena amoris’ or vein of love is supposed to connect to the heart.

Even the Popes got into the ring thing! Back in the 19th century, Pope Nicolas I said ‘heck yea’ to the idea of a gold ring as a betrothal requirement, proof that the groom had the ability to bring home the bacon.

Round about 800 B.C. in India, the first diamonds were discovered, along with the deep desire to flaunt them. Many believe the diamond to be magical, and if you’ve ever watched a bunch of ladies walk into a Tiffany’s, that’s not too far fetched. ;)

The first lucky lady to be given a diamond engagement ring was Mary of Burgundy. The Archduke Maximilian of Hamburg got down on one knee (okay, I may be making that part up) in 1477. And, for most others, unless you were royalty, wicked wealthy or a gem thief, the only diamond you’d be wearing is the one in your dreams.
In the 18th century, the mother-load of sparkle was found in Brazil, making the diamond ring much more accessible, and prompted all the ladies to shout ‘Put a ring on it!’.

Somewhere in the 1930s this simple symbolic ring jumped the shark. De Beers was well known as a diamond supplier, yet it’s sales took a tumble in 1919. So, in 1930, when the De Beers Company felt a bit of a pinch, it turned to the N. W. Ayers firm to figure out a way to get the masses excited again. Encouraged by the Ayers firm, fashion designers & Hollywood stars dripped with diamonds, telling everyone the trend was to sparkle & sparkle loud! De Beers sold a whopping 55% more diamonds between 1938 to 1941. When Frances Gerety wrote the line “A diamond is forever”, the De Beers company pretty much did a victory dance & the diamond ring has since been the symbol of ‘i love you thi$ much’.

I suppose what it really comes down to is – what speaks to you & your betrothed. Is it the lure of a sapphire? The tongue-in-cheek of a cracker jack ring (engraved by Tiffany’s, perhaps)? Is it the glitter of a diamond, a ruby, an opal, an emerald?

No matter what symbol you choose to tell the world you love this person THAT much, make sure you choose something that rings true to you both.

[yes, that pun was intended]

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Getting Published: It’s All In the Details

February 16th, 2011  |  by  |  published in Featured, Style

Publication can be a wonderful thing for your business on many levels.  It can give you a chance to showcase a particularly beautiful wedding beyond the scope of your blog readership.  It can also put you on the radar of planners and event designers who may love your work enough to contact you and refer you in the future.  It can give your business a degree of credibility and longevity in an industry fraught with nightmare stories of “take the money and run” vendors.  Add to that the fact that it is exciting to open a magazine and see your work smiling up at you, and publication because a win-win for almost everyone.

The secret to publication is an easy one to learn: capture the details, and capture them well.  After all, why do brides, stylists, and planners pick up a wedding magazine or scroll through a style blog?  Most of the time they are looking for inspiration.  You may have the best close-up shot of a bride and groom ever, but unless that shot is of Brad and Angelina or Kate and William you aren’t going to sell that wedding to any blogs or magazines unless you have supporting details.

In this post, I’m going to go through ten steps that can lead to publication.  This is a recipe that has worked well for me, and I’m confident that it can work for you, too!

1) Know Your Details.  The ground work for publication usually starts before you even take out your camera at an event.  Know who your vendors are and what they are providing.  Find out the story behind the details and if there are any details that might not appear at the event itself (gift bags, invitations, save the dates, etc).  Encourage the couple to bring a set of additional details to the wedding with them so that you can capture them.  Also, make sure that you arrive early enough and/or leave yourself enough time to capture absolutely everything. Whether the details are hand-made etsy creations or custom details whipped up by an expensive designer, they all serve to make the wedding unique and publishable.

2) Over-Shoot Your Details.  Shoot your details horizontally AND vertically.  Choose different lenses, focal lengths, and apertures.  Shoot them from different angles and be aware of the background and the light.  Magazines have limited space and options for layouts- make it easy for them to choose your wedding by providing many details from many different angles and in both orientations.

3) Don’t Forget the Venue.  Detail shots of the venue can also sell your wedding.  Don’t forget to show off the venue(s) from several different angles in different light.  I once had a wedding published that included three almost-identical shots of the venue: one in the morning (when I arrived), one during the ceremony that included the ceremony itself, and one in the evening with an inky blue sky and lights blazing from the windows.  Great shots of the venue not only endear you to the publisher, but they also make venue owners very happy.

4) Give a Sense of Place to Your Photographs.  Close-up shots are great, but don’t forget the environmental shots as well.  Show the couple against the mountain backdrop or on the beach in Cabo- include environmental keys that are indicative of and/or specific to the location.

5) Don’t Kill the Ambient Light.  Whether you are adding fill light to a scene or you are lighting a reception, don’t kill the ambient light.  Let the warmth of the candle glow into your photographs or highlight the purple up-lighting during the first dance.  Lighting not only sets the mood of the reception, but it can also be a great selling point for your wedding.  Make sure that your shutter speed is low enough and/or your strobe power is low enough to let the ambient into the shot.  (Do you have trouble with reception lighting?  ShootStyle has a series of workshops to help you learn how to light your receptions.)

6) Remember the Food!  Whether your couple chooses to have cute sliders, fun cocktails, a cappuccino bar or a dessert table, the food and beverages at a wedding can provide you with some fabulous details!

7) Feature the Unique.  If your event has something unique (well, few things are unique at this stage- I should say if it has something that not every wedding has…) like a canine ring-bearer, fireworks, or a pinata, be sure to include several photographs of the event/detail in your submission and also mention it in your description of the event.

8) Don’t Post Your Photographs All Over the Internet.  Many publications (both print and internet) want exclusivity.  That is, they don’t want the photographs unless they are showing up for the first time on their pages.  Many will let you submit if you have posted on your own blog, but some won’t.  Know the rules and follow them.  I know that it is tempting to share images from a favorite wedding on forums, facebook, twitter, etc, but hold back until you know what you are going to do with the images.  Even if a publication tells you that you can post to your own blog, proceed with caution- some style blogs will lift the wedding from your website and “feature it” without your permission, thereby killing your chances with other publications.

9) Choose Your Publication Wisely.  If you are new to the publication game, you will most likely be submitting your images yourself.  As you become known to editors, they will keep an eye on your work and will start asking your for particular weddings.  However, in the beginning most photographers will need to do the grunt work on their own.  What should you look for in a publication?  Make sure that it fits your wedding.  If you photographed a beautiful country wedding on hay bales, then you may not have much luck getting that published in a magazine that features NYC weddings.  Most magazines and style blogs have a niche- make sure you know what it is before you submit your work.  ALSO, you should choose a publication that your brides/planners/stylists are frequenting.  If you work out of the northeast exclusively, having your images published in an Australian magazine might not bring you any more business.

10) Try and Try Again.  Editors will occasionally give you feedback on weddings- not enough details, etc.  Listen to the feedback and learn from it.  Keep perusing the publications that you are targeting- you will learn about their style and the kind of work that they like to feature.

Have fun and enjoy the beauty at every event!    ~Michelle

Post by Maine Wedding Photographer Michelle Turner.

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Anything but Digital

December 29th, 2010  |  by  |  published in Featured, Style

…. and your camera phone.

As anyone with a Facebook account can attest to, more and more people are creating interesting images out of everyday mundane happenings with their phones, using such apps as ShakeIt, Hipstamatic, Camera+, etc. Personally, I think it’s great. I love having a pocket sized camera on me everywhere I go. From time to time, and certainly not often enough, I leave my DSLRs at home and travel with only film cameras and my iPhone.

Last year, I started taking photos with my iPhone, in the mornings and evenings, of my daughter getting up from or going to bed. Doing so was much less invasive for her (not that she’s not used to the camera in her face alllllll the time), and it allowed me to get her really natural. I called these photos Morning and Evening Snuggles and posted them on Facebook. I was overwhelmed by how many people said they looked forward to seeing them everyday. A simple series of phone photos, who knew?

On our recent travels, my boyfriend and I brought nothing but film cameras and phones – no digital, otherwise. The black and whites produced on the iPhone with certain apps, are really lovely, I think.

We brought a Diana with a Polaroid back, Holga, Fuji Insta wide camera, Hasselblad, Mamiya 6×7 II, and a Polaroid SX70. For those old timers who started off shooting film, long before the days of megapixels and RAW files, digital may now be the only way you fly. I’ve missed the smell of fixer, the anticipation of getting film developed, finding a random roll and wondering what’s on it. It had been so long since we’d played with film, it was really nice to have that nostalgic feeling back.

I did it for 9 years, but my days of shooting film at weddings is LONG gone, and though busting out my phone during the ceremony just looks a tad bit tacky, I would love to shoot one this way. Somewhere I have a few rolls of black and white 120mm ready to be hand developed, with random photos of wedding couples from the last few years. I kind of like knowing they’re sitting there waiting to be processed.

Next time you leave the house, why not keep the big guns at home and step out of your element? You might be surprised what you come up with.

~Zofia

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Happy Holidays!!

December 22nd, 2010  |  by  |  published in Featured, Style

What are you doing online!? Get out there and chug down a big glass of holiday cheer! You deserve it. You’ve worked hard this year, so now it’s time to kick off those work shoes, lean back and sigh big happy relaxing sighs.

And if someone says you can’t stop now, tell them ShootStyle said you had the holiday off!

Many thanks from the ShootStyle gang for coming by and reading, sharing, coming out to play and just for being a great you. We <3 you all!!

With that, go forth and be merry!

Speaking of all this merriment & joy, what is your favorite part of the holidays? Feel free to share in the comments a beloved tradition, a fav cookie recipe, even the quirkiest holiday gift you’ve ever received. We’d love to share with you!

Happy happy!!

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