High Profile Nuptials
by Jessica Gordon
© Allyson Magda
July 01, 2012 —
Allyson Magda, a San Luis Obispo County, California-based wedding photographer, hit the client jackpot this past May when she was asked to photograph the Mark Zuckerberg–Priscilla Chan secret nuptials. Magda’s golden shot has since been widely published in news outlets including People magazine, Forbes, The Washington Post and USA Today. Magda learned a lot about dealing with instant fame, media requests and high-profile clients in the past month, and she was kind enough to answer our most pressing questions (as best she could) about photographing the Facebook founder’s special day.
Rangefinder: Who originally approached you to shoot this wedding?
Allyson Magda: I didn’t know who she was until a few days before [the wedding], but she was an assistant.
RF: Have you worked previously with high-profile clients?
AM: Yes, but this was certainly the most public high-profile couple.
RF: Was it better not to know it was a wedding before you got there because you may have been more nervous?
AM: Not really; I would have liked to have more notice. I wasn’t so much nervous about shooting and my skills set—after all I do this almost every weekend. What was more nerve-wracking was [hoping] that everything went smoothly for the client, that they were able to keep it a surprise, and that we gave 150 percent of our abilities to contribute to a successful event and celebration. However, the addition of a second photographer at the last minute definitely made me nervous!
RF: Right, there was another photographer shooting this wedding—Noah Kalina; how did you two decide who would shoot what? Was there any coordination?
AM: Noah was hired the night before the wedding. He’s not a wedding photographer and is actually a friend of one of the bride’s friends. He was brought on to do a “press” photo for the couple. I was told they were concerned about turning an image around fast enough for press release, so that was their thought on bringing him in. I had assumed they’d need a handful of images immediately and brought an extra assistant to do so. We were given no time for “formal” portraits in the timeframe they needed, so we did what we could. Before Noah finished shooting, we had our three image contenders selected, color-corrected (as best as possible on the fly), and loaded onto the media department’s laptops. It certainly paid off in this situation to be a professional specifically in the industry!
RF: Was there any kind of shot list or did you just do your thing?
AM: I always put together a suggested shot list for our couples.
RF: Do you bring the same equipment no matter the event? Is there one piece of gear or gadget you wish you had brought?
AM: Yes, I brought all the same equipment I would have brought to any shoot or event. I did rent one lens that I’ve been wanting to buy—a Canon 14mm 2.8 L series—it was great!
RF: You mentioned that you learned more about dealing with high-profile clients in the five days after the shoot than you had during your entire career! What did you learn specifically?
AM: I learned several things: First, make sure you have a clause in your contract that you are the ONLY hired and professional photographer for the event, also that only your photos are the ones used for any media release images! I learned a little about what to do and not to do for a buyout agreement—this was new territory for me. I learned it’s probably not a good idea to ever do a buyout completely, but to individually license the images to be printed in the publications the couple chooses (this really depends on how you feel about your images and how they might be used in the case of a complete buyout). I was super blessed to have the Facebook media team to work with in dealing with the media inquiries; it was like having coaches on how to handle situations, things to be aware of, etc.
RF: Was there a confidentiality policy you were required to sign?
AM: Yes, of course! I can’t talk about it—duh!! I can’t and won’t discuss anything about the couple, their guests or event—sorry!
RF: You’ve been interviewed by Forbes and your image has run in People, USA Today and The Washington Post—how does it feel to be in the spotlight?
AM: It’s still pretty surreal to me; I’ve been in this business for 13 years, and this was certainly my career highlight to date! I don’t think I’d want to shoot this high of a profile wedding every week, although I suppose if I did, I’d get used to it. Honestly, they are a lot more work than a normal wedding!
RF: What has this exposure done for your business?
AM: Our Web site traffic has increased exponentially and the studio Facebook fan page has a lot of new fans! I’m not sure if I will get more high-profile clients from this experience. On one hand, I think possibly because I can be trusted, and I would think this would add some instant credibility given this particular situation and the whole surprise was pulled off without leaks to the media. The other side makes me wonder if someone would really just hire me because I shot this high-profile wedding. I like to think I get hired because the couple genuinely likes my work and me, not because I shot Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg’s wedding.
RF: What have other photographers asked you about this shoot?
AM: “Did I sell the images to People magazine?”—No, I didn’t!
RF: What was your favorite moment during the wedding?
AM: The ceremony.
View more of Allyson Magda’s images at www.allysonmagda.com, follow her on Twitter @allymagdaphoto, or most appropriately, become a fan of hers on Facebook at www.facebook.com/allysonmagdaphotography.
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