Archive for May 2011

What’s really involved in shooting a wedding

A lot of potential wedding clients (and inexperienced wedding photographers) think that shooting a wedding is a one day job. Au contraire mon frere. By the time I get to the wedding I’ve already spent about 6 hours prepping and working with my clients. And once I get the photos downloaded I typically spend another 15-20 hours editing. If they ordered a wedding album that usually takes another 15-20 hours.

For most of my wedding clients I shoot an engagement or portrait session. It’s a great way to get to know each other and for them to see how I work. When I shot Holly and Ryan’s session a few weeks ago Ryan commented on how fast I moved through different options. I like to work fast. I hate being in front of a camera and I know that a lot of my clients have the same feeling. My job as photographer is to help alleviate that discomfort. Showing the client images on the back of the camera is always a good way to put people at ease; for me humor and keeping people on their toes seems to work best. If I move quickly my clients don’t have time to think about what they are doing or how uncomfortable they feel in front of the camera. Eventually we get into a rhythm and they tend to forget I have a camera pointed at them. The other benefit of an engagement session is that my clients have the option to use the images on their announcements, wedding website and on their wedding day. Both Jo Anna and Todd and Holly and Ryan opted to have wall prints framed and matted and then have their guests sign the mat. Some clients opt for a coffee table book to use as a guest registry.

Holly & Ryan 20x16

Holly & Ryan 20x16

Jo Anna & Todd - Marina El Cid, Riviera Maya

Jo Anna & Todd - Marina El Cid, Riviera Maya

Between the engagement session and the wedding day I’ve typically spent a couple hours meeting with the bride and groom going over details, expectations and the schedule.  If you don’t have a wedding coordinator your photographer can help with the timeline. We’ve been there and seen what works and what doesn’t.

I always research the venue and scout the location before the wedding day.  The location scout helps me familiarize myself with the area and come up with ideas for the portrait session. For Chuck and Sarah’s wedding I went by the Birkby House the day before the wedding and walked a few blocks surrounding the location. The insert photo was taken during the location scout and resulted in some fun portraits.

Sarah and Chuck - Leesburg, Virginia

Sarah and Chuck - Leesburg, Virginia

Before the wedding I also have to prep my second shooters and assistants.  We’ll talk about my goals and ideas and I’ll fill them in with the names of the wedding party, location, start time and other instructions.

The day before the wedding I’ll start prepping my gear.  On my facebook page I wrote about the gear I took to Chuck and Sarah’s wedding.  The gist is that I’ll take two cameras, five to six lenses, three to four flashes, tripod, light stand, laptop, quantum turbo, a ton of batteries and all the accessories needed for the shoot.

All in all I’m in for 30-60 hours of work to shoot a wedding and deliver the final product; that’s a week’s work not a day.


The New Reality

Every photo my clients see gets edited in Photoshop. It could be as simple as an adjustment of the colors or contrast or a little dodging and burning but they all get a little love. The images in my portfolios and the final images I present to clients get a bit more love. This is the reality of professional photography. It’s not that what you see in magazines isn’t real, it’s that it’s a slightly improved reality. When I shoot head shots and portraits I like to tell my clients that I want the result of my retouching to look like they’ve just come off a week-long vacation and had the best night’s sleep in their life. I don’t set out trying to make a sixty year old look like she’s 40 (although one client had me take off a lot of years).

A few weeks ago I had a portrait session with Jessi. The following is the photo as it came out of the camera. It was one of my favorites. The exposure is good but the contrast and colors are a bit flat (due to my camera settings). I don’t let my camera add sharpness, contrast or saturation because I want that control when I edit. I think the photo is good but a bit boring.

Before - as shot - Canon 7D w 24-70F2.8 - F3.5 @ 1/200 ISO 640 Before – as shot – Canon 7D w 24-70F2.8 – F3.5 @ 1/200 ISO 640

My job as an editor is to create a new reality that is the best representation of the model without going overboard so that they look fake. I don’t want people to look at my images and notice that they have been retouched. Here’s the edited version. I bumped up the exposure, added contrast, reduced the color saturation, cleaned up the blemishes and loose hairs and sharpened the image.

Jessi after retouchingJessi after retouching

While I edited the image I recorded my work. The vid is three and a half minutes long but what you are seeing is being played out at about 2.5X normal speed.

Jessi picked the next image in the sequence as her favorite. I guess we have similar (great) taste.


Sarah & Chuck Espinoza’s Wedding preview

My trip to Virginia for Chuck and Sarah’s wedding turned out great. I’m a firm believer that good people have good families and good friends, which leads to great weddings. Chuck and Sarah are good people and their wedding was a blast.

When I shoot destination weddings I try to get all the files in order for review by the time I get on the plane home. I managed to edit Rob’s photos on Sunday morning at the hotel but I hadn’t even peeked at mine before I arrived at the airport. For those of you unfamiliar with editing a large volume of photos it’s fairly simple; I go through the images quickly and note images that should be trashed (bad facial expressions, bad exposure, bad focus) note the images that are worth looking at again and note the images that aren’t destined for the trash but probably won’t make the final cut. After the first pass I review the images I noted as worthy to see if they worth the second round of cuts.

While editing the images a flight attendant stopped to watch for a bit and said that they were great. A bit later the passenger across the aisle and one row back tapped me on the shoulder and expressed how wonderful it was to watch the story unfold and that she was reminded of her daughter’s wedding .She asked for my card and said that she knew I was well qualified and she’d like to have me out to photograph her extended family.  It’s always great to know that what you are doing is right.

Here’s a few samples. I think these five frames give a clear vibe for how their day went. Congrats Sarah and Chuck.

Moments after the ceremony

After we shot the group formals Sarah, Chuck and I walked around the few blocks surrounding the Thomas Birkby House for some bridal portraits.

Sarah and Chuck

Sarah and Chuck's grand entranceSarah and Chuck’s grand entrance

I’m flying across the country to shoot Chuck Espinoza’s wedding

When you put it in perspective it really is a small world. And yes, I am flying to Virginia on thursday to shoot Chuck Espinoza and Sarah Wood’s wedding.

A few year’s ago (the Virginia) Chuck came across my website while looking into the URL He emailed me to say Hi and we ended up as friends on myspace. Fast forward to a year ago this month and I get an email from Sarah on Facebook. Sarah and I were in the 5th grade together when I lived in Virginia. She was dating (the other) Chuck and wanted to say hi.  She mentioned that when she met Chuck she wondered if he was the same Chuck from 5th grade. He said he wasn’t, but he knew another Chuck Espinoza who was a photographer in LA.

I was honest with Sarah when she emailed asking about my memories from 5th grade; since we moved around so much (ten schools from K-12) I didn’t remember much about 5th grade. She scanned our school photo and emailed me a copy. I was shocked to see all the familiar faces and that I did remember Sarah. (I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the school) Score a point for Facebook and the power of social networking.

5th Grade Burke, Virginia - Chuck and Sarah 5th Grade Burke, Virginia – Chuck and Sarah

When Chuck and Sarah got engaged they put it out on Facebook that they were looking for a photographer and asked if I would be interested. Here we are a week away from their wedding day and I’m off to shoot another wedding on the east coast.

Yes it’s a novel idea to have Chuck Espinoza shoot Chuck Espinoza’s wedding, but that isn’t enough. This goes back to my post about choosing your wedding photographer. As much as cost, style and skill are important factors in choosing a photographer, there should be a connection and level of trust with your wedding photographer.

The funny thing is that the world get’s even smaller. While searching for a photographer to help me shoot the wedding I cam across Rob Holley. I narrowed down my search to a couple photographers and noticed some familiar faces on Rob’s website.  Turns out Rob used to live in Los Angeles and shot Kim and Scott’s wedding. Kim and Scott are friend’s and clients of mine. The same logic I mentioned in choosing your photographer applies to me selecting someone to help me shoot weddings. Rob’s a great photographer, was within my budget and if Scott and Kim thought enough of him to shoot their wedding, that tipped the scale in his favor to getting the job.

Logan and her new brother LatonLogan and her new brother Laton
Kim, Scott and LoganKim, Scott and Laton

I’m excited and grateful to be a part of Chuck and Sarah’s wedding day. This will be a great story to tell for years to come.