Wedding Photographer or Story Teller? You Decide
Most people would probably say that I am a wedding photographer. After all, I am hired to attend the weddings of men and women all over New York and New Jersey each Saturday and Sunday, and I am expected to bring my camera and take pictures. I start the day with shots of the ladies getting ready, the mother of the bride straightening her veil and the maid of honor straightening her dress, then move on to ceremony action shots – walking down the aisle, the exchange of the rings, the bestowing of the blessing, the first kiss as man and wife. The next section of the portfolio might include pictures at a scenic location, on a bridge or in a park, man and wife together, the beauty of their love set in the beauty of creation. There will also be shots of the wedding party and family members. Then we move on to the reception and the toasting, dancing, cake cutting and all the other events that happen there.
After the wedding, my responsibilities include such things as sorting though different shots, developing and printing proofs and portraits, compiling wedding albums and, on occasion, framing particularly special photographs. I may also meet with a new client to discuss expectations and plans for her upcoming wedding day, work on a schedule together and plan through the details of her special day.
I must admit though my weekends are spent mostly attending and photographing weddings, much of my time during the week finds me sitting in front of a computer.
So I ask you again, am I a wedding photographer or a story teller? I am not sure what your answer will be, but I do know what I think the answer is.
I think that to be a good wedding photographer you also have to be a story teller, and a good one at that. Everyone has heard the expression, “a picture is worth a thousand words” and if that is true, I write the equivalent of an encyclopedia every weekend. Yes, my most basic responsibility is to snap pictures. I look through the lens and press the button to activate the shutter. Yes, I examine the two inch digital screen to see what pictures I have and to make sure the subjects are in focus, but what I really do is much more than that.
The whole point of taking these individual pictures is to tell a story. I record the events of the wedding day from the preparations to the ceremony to the events of the reception. The pictures that I have at the end of the day are just as important as how an author might describe those same events in a piece of fiction or for a documentary.
So, the answer is, yes, I am a wedding photographer. The answer is also, yes, I am a story teller. In fact, to be good and to give men and women what they want for a memory, a person has to be both. I am glad that it is that way, too, and I am good at it. There is nothing better than a good love story, and to tell it in pictures is an art form in itself.
New York Engagement Photographer
Meticulous…I wonder what most people think of when they hear that word. More likely than not, it is not a New York engagement photographer that they think of. Even if you dissect the pieces, it does not seem to add up.
New York is the city that never sleeps, the Big Apple, the home of Broadway and Wall Street, the Statue of Liberty and so many other places most Americans only dream of seeing one day. There is nothing meticulous about the great city with two hundred and fifty thousand municipal employees and over nineteen million residents, not to mention the five million people taking trips daily on the largest subway in the United States. The unpredictable traffic, the show stopping adventures that pass through Broadway, the terrible tragedy that was September 11th, one can hardly call the contained chaos of New York City meticulous, and I am not sure anyone would even try to.
So we then consider engagement….that beautiful pledge that two people make promising a love that will last a lifetime. Can the meticulous be found there? No. When has love ever been anything but messy? When two people become engaged, their love overshadows everything else in their own minds. They want to be together, to talk constantly about everything under the sun. They want to wake up every morning looking into the eyes of the one they love and go to sleep in his arms. Nothing else matters. With all this emotion and passion, can love be meticulous? Can the person who takes their photos transform that bubbling emotion into something precise? Can a photograph that seeks to portray unbridled passion be “extremely careful, painstaking” without losing the surging passion it seeks to portray?
Finally, we come to photographer, the man behind the art. Can we find the meticulous in the artist? For an artist is what a photographer truly is. When I take engagement photos I must compose a picture that communicates a story. It is more than capturing an image on film. There is a story to tell, and that story is one of love. Yes, we come back to that. Will we never reach the meticulous?
Yet, here I sit, day after day, week after week meticulously adjusting the light and color of one frame at a time, making sure that each couple I photograph has a perfect portrait. I see that they have an image that houses not only their faces but also the depth and intensity of their love. This New York engagement photographer may take twenty shots, or even fifty shots, of the same pose if that is what it takes to capture the perfection of a couple’s future.
In the midst of a chaotic city, with the subject of passion, with the heart and mind of an artist, and I have heard that artists are anything but “normal,” every picture I create is perfected with time, attention, and intention. I would not have it any other way.
The puzzle does have a solution. As I said before, there is not much meticulous about New York or a photographer or someone who works around engagement pictures, but somehow, when you put them all together, that is what I am.
Confessions of a Poe Wedding Photographer
If I had known in tenth grade that I was destined to become a wedding photographer, I might have paid more attention to my English teacher. I remember that year because my youthful sense of adventure was encouraged as my English class studied the short stories of Edgar Allan Poe. If you ever took tenth grade English, you probably read some of the same stories I did. “The Telltale Heart”, “The Cask of Amontillado”, “Murders in the Rue Morgue”. The one I remember most of all, though, I remember because I did not understand at the time. It was “The Masque of the Red Death”. This story tells of the symbolic journey of a man to the ultimate end – death itself. I remember the different rooms in the story, each decorated in one color, striking and strange. I remember the mysterious guest wearing the mask distastefully portraying the plague that had been ravaging the village. I remember the clock in the last room that chimed so loudly that no one could deny the passing of time.
The primary reason for studying this gruesome story in my tenth grade English class was so we could learn what symbolism is. Symbolism in literature gives us a character or object that may appear to be one thing on the surface but is actually representative of a greater truth we find in life. The clock symbolized the passing of time. The man in the red spotted mask, in turn, symbolizes the unavoidable end in death. It is a powerful image, but not one that is terribly easy for a fifteen year old to grasp.
You may be wondering where the connection comes between an Edgar Allen Poe story in tenth grade and a career as a wedding photographer. Here is my answer. As much as I did not comprehend symbolism those many years ago, it does play a role in my portraiture today. Though it has taken me longer than I care to admit it, I see the connection between symbolism and art. For Poe, that was in his writing. For me, it is in my photography. Let me explain.
When I take a portrait of a couple I, like most other wedding photographers, like the picture to be romantic. That romance is often portrayed through the intimacy of the couple in a close up picture that captures that intimacy and contentment. I take that kind of picture, but that is not the only way I know romance can be shown in a still frame.
Sometimes I find that the best way to portray love is not through that up-close, but by stepping back a few paces. With my couple in the center of the photograph and a wide-angle lens on my camera, I can portray a different kind of love. I make sure I show the couple from head to toe, sometimes kissing, sometimes simply with their heads leaning towards one another, and as much of their surroundings as I can fit in the frame. As small as that kiss may look in the final picture, the space around them is anchored at that point. The sky, the ground, the world around them becomes a symbol of their love. That love the two of them have for one another is larger than life, bigger than the space around them. All that negative space is a symbol of the eternal future of their love, a love with no end. They will be the center, and their love will know no bounds. It is a pretty picture.
You know, I know I will never write like Edgar Allen Poe, but that does not mean that my English class all those years ago does not mean anything to me. I see now that even visual media can use symbolism to communicate a message. For me, in my pictures, that message is romance, is love, and whether it is symbolized in up close tenderness or wide expanses, I know that the love I capture in pictures is a love that will last.
Beauty is in a New York Wedding Photographer’s World
I have heard that part of human nature is to seek adventure, beauty and intimacy. This strikes me as noteworthy since that is often what I think makes up photography. Give me a minute and I will explain. You do not have to be a New York wedding photographer to know that photography is an adventure. Even in familiar places of with people you know, there is always something unexpected in photography: lighting may change because of nothing more than a cloud moving across the sky. Though you plan for the minutest detail, something unexpected comes up that you have to adjust for (like the squirrel that would not leave the foreground of my photo last weekend). It is an occupational necessity to be able to think on your feet if you are a photographer. Even once the pictures are taken you meet with adventure. Today’s digital age does not allow you to see the images you have really captured until you download your treasures to your hard drive.
All this is not adventure for adventure’s sake either. The reason a photographer strives to perfect his craft is in search of beauty. There is beauty everywhere in the world. Beauty is not something that supermodels hold the market on. True beauty is not about a dress size. Beauty comes from capturing the reality of humanity in a single second. Beauty comes from truth, from insight. Beauty is found in a portrait that perfectly captures a person’s soul.
When you have the opportunity to take those kinds of photos, the kinds that reveal who a person truly is deep within, those are moments of real intimacy. With some people, you may take a hundred photos before you get to that one perfect image. With others, they choose to make themselves vulnerable to the photographer, to expose the corners of their lives to an outsider’s scrutiny. When that happens, when you see a person as he or she really is, when you get beyond the portrait they wear for the people around them and see past it into their souls, they are trusting you. They trust that you will respect them. They trust that you will portray them in a positive light and not a derogatory one. When a person trusts me with their very humanity, with insight into their soul, I feel that I need to protect them. They become something special to me. I need to preserve their image and reputation in their portrait. This intimacy does not come easily nor does it come with every person who I photograph, but when it does come it is beautiful.
Sometimes I wonder why everyone does not become a photographer. There are so many amazing benefits to taking pictures of people. There are real connections, deep connections, and relationships of trust. I remember the souls I capture on film. There is always something new happening when you take pictures. You have to be creative and innovative, and that makes for some pretty fun days at work, I must say. It is not only fun, either. A photographer creates lasting images that stay in the minds and the hearts of the people who look at them. A photograph can move someone to point his entire life in one direction or another. When a person can house this kind of impact in a still frame, that is true beauty. If these three things, adventure, beauty and intimacy, are our deepest needs as human beings, a photographer has an opportunity for them all every day of his life. Maybe that is why I love what I do. Maybe that is why photography suits me perfectly. Maybe understanding that is what makes my “job” more than just that.
Brooklyn Wedding Photographer Meets Science
When you think of science, you probably do not think of a Brooklyn Wedding Photographer. After all, isn’t photography considered an art? They teach courses in photography at the Art Institutes all over the country. Photographers take courses in color composition and other topics geared toward artists to be. If you have been reading this blog for a while, you have certainly heard me talk about the art of photography. Besides, if you frame it, it is art, right? Well, yes, that is right, but it is also wrong in its in-completion.
Photography is an art. You have to have a certain eye to take good pictures. You have to be able to catch a fleeting emotion that alights on a person’s face. You have to know what kind of light gives a picture what kind of feeling. You have to be able to tell what makes a picturesque backdrop and what just looks busy or messy. A photographer has to sense these things, know these things, be in tune to these things around him.
Nevertheless, there is another side to photography that separates it from painting, sculpture and drawing. A photographer has to know the science behind the art. He has to understand exposure and what different lengths of light exposure will do to a picture. He as to understand aperture and how the aperture of the lens determines how much light gets in the picture and what reading to set the camera at. A photographer has to determine the depth of field for the objects in the frame and which should and should not be in focus. In these points, a photographer has to have precision, experience and knowledge. If you saw the formula “Exposure ∝ Aperture Area × Exposure Time × Scene Luminance,” you would be more likely to think you are in chemistry class than in a photography class. Even Einstein did not deal with these numbers (at least not professionally).
With the advances in equipment and digital photography, perhaps these factors do not seem as integral as they once did. Some might think that you can simply change the setting on the camera and it will automatically adjust all the points in the equation. To some degree, I suppose that might be true. However, I think what makes a true, quality photographer is proficiency in this scientific face of photography. If you just use the automatic setting on the camera, you may get nice pictures, but to get really fantastic pictures you really have to understand what you are doing when you change those numbers.
I always want to be getting better. I like to research on the art of photography, but I also learn everything I can about the science of the art. I think it makes me stand out from others who may be getting paid to do what they do but might not earn the title of professional.
Exposure Aperture Area × Exposure Time Scene Luminance actually has a name. It is called the law of reciprocity. I think there is another reciprocity in photography, the give and take of the science and the art which work together to create the most beautiful and impactful pictures.