Saying "I Do" To Shooting Nuptials
by Compiled by Libby Peterson
February 16, 2017 —
RETHINKING A JOB
Our first jobs were shooting stuff within our networks—album art, band press shots, generic ad agency jobs. We definitely wanted to shoot people, and we didn’t want to have anything to do with weddings…until one of our friends asked us if we could shoot their wedding in London, in the same style as the other stuff. And then in Perth, Western Australia, we shot more brilliantly styled, amazingly put together weddings of friends.
One day, in late 2009, we were shooting a high-paid advertising job that was as boring as anything and terribly styled, and we said to ourselves, “If this was a wedding, these would be real people with genuine emotions having the time of their lives in a kick-ass place with beautiful and well thought-out styling, and we wouldn’t have an art director over our shoulders.” We’ve never shot anything but weddings since. We were mad crazy to have ruled it out initially.
This shot of Mike and Saij (above) illustrates how far we’ve come in trying to show way more dimension in the light and the humanness of couples. Not to mention problem-solving; these two wonderful kids have very different skin tones, and we shot it in the middle of the day in some brutal sun where the only spot for shelter was the opening of a small shed. The shadow was dark, the sun was bright and their different skin tones presented a huge challenge. They also have a wonderful relationship that’s less about being all lovey-dovey and more about cutting humor, constant in-jokes and pretty fast-paced conversation. This image is the result of wanting to solve the immediate problem of light while also showing the dimension and complexity of their relationship in one image.
The fact that I didn’t have experience in weddings probably had pros and cons for her. She agreed to bring me on board initially as her third assistant. She didn’t depend on me for the photos that she relied on her second to give her, so this allowed me to photograph my interpretation of the moment without pressure or expectation. I eventually moved my way up to second; the work was not that different other than more technical experience with lenses, flash and transitions with the speed of the day. I was ready to start my own business two years after working with Kathi. It was important for me to gain as much experience as I could before documenting one of the most important days of someone’s life.
This bridal portrait of Amanda on the top floor of a hotel in Philadelphia could not have happened without an Eloise-esque search the week before. For both of these portraits, I had only 5 minutes. While the simple wall behind Emily works as a lovely backdrop for her amazing radiance that day, I relied on my immediate surroundings and a bit of luck. With the extra preparation I do today, I don’t need to cross my fingers. I have a location portrait plan that inspires me from the beginning of the day until the end.
STRIKING A BARGAIN
We’d trade the wedding photography for the opportunity to build our portfolio...and for a 70-200mm lens. We spent the months leading up to the wedding studying our little butts off to make sure we lived up to our end of the bargain. We showed up hyper-prepared, mostly because we were scared shitless. We still laugh about how we were up and ready to go and texting the bride and groom at 8 a.m. like, “HI, WE’RE AT YOUR SERVICE, ARE YOU READY TO START?” and they were like, “Oh my God, please leave us alone, we’ll get started at noon or so, you freaks.”
The first couple of weddings we shot was a game of trying to find people who were in good light and shooting them as they were. We weren’t quite bold enough yet to move people around and create a stronger scene. But it didn’t take us long before we realized that we were there because our clients trusted us to show things in the best light possible. That’s when wedding photography got super fun for us. Our girl Sarah here trusted us that we saw something special in the weird back stairway of her wedding venue even if she didn’t see it at the time. This attitude from our couples has allowed us to chase after the light and lines we adore.
To read this article in the digital edition, click here.
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