Atlanta-based David Christensen had been into photography since he was a teenager, but it was while he worked as chief photographer at a junior college newspaper that he realized this was what he wanted to be. This was further reinforced when he attended a Georgia College Press Association banquet and heard guest speaker Dave LaBelle at the podium. LaBelle was a Pulitzer Prize nominee teaching at Western Kentucky University. This moment was the start of Christensen’s favorite type of photographic image.
Posts Tagged ‘Wedding Photography’
Growing up in New Jersey, Cliff Mautner has the kind of professional photographic experience no new shooters get these days. When attending college in Southern New Jersey, he answered an ad in the local weekly newspaper. The ad read, in part, “Award-winning weekly newspaper seeks photographer.” At nineteen years old, he was hired, “just because I had a pulse,” he laughs.
Charleston, South Carolina wedding photographer Patrick Hall teamed up with his friend Lee Morris in 2009 to create the photography resource Fstoppers.com. The site has become an online destination showcasing behind the scenes videos of professional photographers at work. Originally primarily a site known for high quality videos, it has branched out to include written articles by guest photographers, and is worth the time of anyone interested in the art and practice of photography.
Based in downtown Washington, D.C., Moshe Zusman has been passionate about photography for the past seven years. Four years ago, he left the world of second shooting and assisting behind to begin the transition to full-time professional photographer. An enthusiast of workshops, seminars and trade shows, Zusman used these resources to gain his formal training. He now teaches workshops of his own at CDIA in Washington, which is a Boston University satellite program.
Every so often we come across a photographer operating in an area of professional work where we’ve come to expect a certain level of competence and typical array of stock poses or compositions only to find they are turning those conventions on their head. Zusman is one such shooter. Largely working as a wedding photographer, his groupings of wedding parties, the posing of couples, and the textural compositions he puts together are tasteful, yet uncommon. Many of his images remind one of well-crafted paintings, rather than informal portraits. His eye for building these shots is uncanny, and his average wedding shot is something many young couples would be fortunate to have one or two of in their albums.
Some of Zusman’s well-crafted larger group shots don’t come easily. “I’ll probably snap a few candids, but when it comes to doing the photos that I was going to do, I will pose each and every one of them,” he says. “It takes about maybe ten minutes; up to ten minutes to pose a group of up to twenty people. I love doing that. Those are the photos my couples end up hanging up on their wall, versus the bouquet and flowers and all that.”
Zusman credits social networking as being pivotal in the success of his photography business. “Right after WPPI three years ago, I came back home and I really implemented a lot of what I heard there. It really worked,” he says. Self-marketing has risen high in his priorities, and he regularly attends many events. He also posts photos online within an hour of when they were taken, fully edited and tagged.
As an instructor, Zusman finds himself still learning from other shooters. “I always look at other photographer’s work and I get inspired. I try not to copy them but I just need to get inspired by ideas and I don’t think anyone here invented the wheel but we definitely make it right,” he explains. He also credits his students as being a source of new ideas, and considers his own style as being fluid and changing regularly.
Moving across genres, Zusman not only shoots weddings, but also corporate and food photography, to name but just two more. “Weddings have always been my passion and always will be,” he declares. “I try to bring the same ideas I do in weddings to keep things edgy. As you know, I’m a big fan of breaking the rules in photography, so I’ll definitely blow up a photo if I have to, if I want to. I sort of bring all that into corporate photography as well to the corporate level.” His corporate work largely comes about by word of mouth referrals.
His main camera body is a Canon EOS 1D Mark IV, and for manual focusing jobs, he sticks with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, which is often employed for architectural shots. He exclusively shoots digitally, and has never shot film.
“I switched to prime lenses about two years ago,” Zusman says, although he still shoots a variety of zooms, citing the 70-200mm as his favorite. All his images are run through Adobe Lightroom. He credits enhancement work in the red and blue color channels as being critical to his saturation levels and overall look.
For off-camera lighting, Zusman relies on three or four Canon 580EX II Speedlites. He fires his lights with PocketWizard MultiMAX units and the FlexTT5 and MiniTT1 combination. “The PocketWizards are helping me control the lighting. I used to try the infrared with the Canon ST-E2 units. They just did not do it. The PocketWizards are really freeing me from having to have other people turn things on and off. I can turn channels on and off. Now with the new FlexTT5, I will be able to really work in TTL mode. I love working with those. They free me as far as range of where I can go with my lights. I never had a problem. PocketWizards are probably the one thing that works perfectly. Better than anything else, and I mean that. From battery life to accuracy and consistency, those are my favorite products in the camera bag.”
In addition to teaching and composing his impressive images, Zusman is working toward opening a photography studio in Washington. If he has any advice for other photographers, it’s not nuts and bolts how-to tips about gear. “I always tell people if you want to be successful before becoming a professional photographer, just become a professional human being,” he says. “I think you need to be a good person, a nice person, and the rest will follow. That’s my mantra.”
Written by Ron Egatz
Kevin Jairaj is a Dallas, Texas photographer who found his groove after a business management degree, some sports photography, and a career in corporate America. Shooting fashion after his day job hours, he shot a wedding as a favor to a friend. He had a great time, loved the diversity, and got referrals from that first wedding alone. Shortly thereafter in 2003, he began shooting weddings full-time.
Jairaj’s wedding work has awarded him with rave reviews and is in demand in the Dallas-area and at destination weddings from Trinidad to London. With the results speaking for themselves, Jairaj has gathered many photography fans after they’ve seen his frequently-uupdated blog and Web site. Almost as impressive as his photos, Jairaj has put that business management degree to work and created multiple revenue streams from his photographic knowledge and experience.
For years he was besieged with questions on how he got his images looking as they did. Finally, he made his own Photoshop Actions available to the public, bringing his visibility to a whole new audience. “I have my own formulas for my black and whites, my sepias, my split-tones, and lots of other things,” he says. “People all over the world have been buying it the past few years. The response amazes me.” We’ve had a chance to work with Jairaj’s action set, and we’ve found you can achieve a wonderful film-like warmth to images, among other effects.
The success of this project ultimately encouraged him to create and market the Dramatic Lighting DVD, which follows him on location shoots with a bride and a high school senior, detailing all aspects of his techniques. Rounding out his post-processing offerings is Unique Textures, a collection of images easily integrated into photos or used as multimedia backdrops.
Lastly, a unique offering from Jairaj is an iPhone app called Wedding Vendor. This app has the potential for saving the sanity of wedding coordinators, florists, photographers, videographers, bands, hair stylists and makeup artists or any other vendor who works in the wedding trade. All details of any wedding can be logged and saved into this app, including photos of the bride and groom, locations, other vendor contact info, and more. It even has customizable fields for notes. Jairaj has been in the business long enough to know what data he needs to have handy. Now all he needs to do is glance at his iPhone to recall any past or pending job he’s shooting.
Partnering with Alycia Alvarez, the two shooters have created Rings to Rattles, a series of seminars on teaching photographers how to cultivate relationships with clients from their wedding through the arrival of children and beyond. Both photographic techniques and business practices are covered.
It’s no surprise a photographer who has his own actions, DVD, and iPhone app is a gearhead. Jairaj is definitely knowledgeable about his equipment, and enjoys speaking about it. “If I’m shooting a bride on the beach during the day and I want to overpower the sun, I use Profoto AcuteB’s,” he says. “Indoors I’ll use PocketWizard MiniTT1′s and FlexTT5′s and Canon Speedlite 580EX II’s. The MiniTT1 is so small I use it to trigger all my other strobes as well as the Flexes. I do the 580′s on TTL-mode. You can be very mobile with this kind of lighting and not have to carry around much at all. You can be agile and very quick. Most of my shooting is on location, and this helps me move around and get the shots.” Jairaj’s main camera bodies are Canon 5D Mark II’s, which he loves for their low noise at high ISOs. His favorite lens is the first one he bought: a Canon 70-200mm.
A fashion-lover at heart, Jairaj pays attention to fashion in his wedding photos, and it shows. “Someone once said to me I shoot brides like they’re fashion models,” he recalls. “Well, that’s exactly what they want to be on their special day. I don’t want them to be all prim and proper and posed, like some 1980′s shot. I want them to feel gorgeous and sexy and love their photos as if they were in a magazine.”
Jairaj sees an engagement photo session as a critical part of the wedding photography business. “For me, engagement sessions are almost a necessary thing I try to make all my couples do. I like to see how they act in public, how they react to each other, if they’re comfortable with the camera, if they blink a hundred times—it’s a long list. If I see them blinking a lot, I know on the wedding day I have to take extra shots. It also helps me determine what kind of style they like after they see the photos. Do they like more sepia? More kissing? More romantic or the fun, silly shots? Sexy? This helps me figure out what to do on the wedding day. It’s all about getting to know them better.”
Fashion is never far from his thoughts, and Jairaj still shoots fashion when given the opportunity. A long-time sports enthusiast, his dream is to shoot for a professional football team. Knowing the drive and inventive nature of this shooter, we’re betting it’ll happen sooner, rather than later.
The old cliche dictates pictures are worth 1000 words. I disagree. Pictures are worth millions of words, and millions more to each different person viewing the same photograph. Legions of stories exist as testament to the power of photographs and our desire to protect them. Otto Bettmann, fleeing Nazi Germany with two steamer trunks loaded with 25,000 photos — the foundation of the Bettmann Archive — and no clothing, is just one example.
The technology of photography allows us to visually document our very existence for both ourselves and future generations. Previously, only paintings could do this, and their accuracy is always subject to question. The data and testament of a snapshot from any given year is invaluable to people interested in the subject matter of any photograph. A picture can say, “this was me when I was your age,” or “here’s our first home,” or “this was your great-grandmother.” Photographs are nothing less than a bet-the-farm hedge against our inevitable deaths. When times are more uncertain than usual, photographs can document “we made it at least this far. Remember us, this period, and what we went through.”
It is one of these photographs which changed a young man’s life. As America’s war in Vietnam spilled into neighboring Laos, chaos followed. Some estimates cite over one million Laotians fled their country as a direct result of that war. Simphoukham’s parents were among them, eventually winding up in a refugee camp in the Philippines after their son was born in a similar camp in Thailand. His parents knew the value of documenting their odyssey to a new homeland for their son and future generations. They saved and traded on the black market for one family photo to be taken. The image survived the family’s landing in San Francisco and has become a vibrant signpost of their old lives and struggle for success until becoming American citizens. One photograph changed their son’s future.
“I started off as an events and senior portraits photographer,” says Ari Simphoukham. While in a fraternity at UC Davis as an International Relations major, Simphoukham was shooting a Nikon D50 all around campus. Soon he was asked to shoot an event by someone who noticed his photography. This led to other organizations asking him to work for them. “Eventually I was approached to shoot senior portaits. I got better and better, and improved my photography while getting paid. It was amazing.”
A cousin’s friend needed a wedding photographer, and Simphoukham was recruited. “I did it and couldn’t believe how fun it was,” he says. “After that, I concentrated on weddings. I tried to meet other wedding photographers to learn techniques and the business end of it. I improved along the way.” He had found his calling and his paycheck, and eventually left school to pursue his career. “I know this is what I want to do,” he states.
Simphoukham took the bold move of dedicating an entire year to learning his craft. “One of the reasons I love doing this is because wedding photographers are awesome,” he declares. “They’re so helpful and so easy to talk to. They’re very helpful, and that kindness made me want to be a wedding photographer even more.” Simphoukham assisted several Bay Area wedding shooters to further hone his skills. Although he still shoots senior portraits, wedding work is where his passion lies. “Weddings are more work, but I feel they appreciate my art more,” he adds.
Currently located in Los Angeles, Simphoukham is shooting weddings and expanding his network of wedding photographers. Eventually he sees himself setting up his studio in the Bay Area. These days Simphoukham is shooting two Nikon D3 bodies, one D300 for backup, “and a lot of lenses,” he says. Originally a film photographer, his workflow is now all-digital. He uses PocketWizard Plus II’s to fire his strobes. “Being a wedding photographer is hard because the lighting changes constantly. You have to be on your toes and aware of the light always. The PocketWizards help me control the light because if it gets too dark, I just dial in what I need from the strobes and it’s okay. I can get a very natural look, as opposed to a deer-in-the-headlights direct flash.”
Regarding post-processing work, Simphoukham says, “I find the best photos are not the ones I do heavy work on. The best photos are the ones that are that way straight out of the camera. I think I heard this quote from someone: you can make a good picture better, but you can’t make a bad picture good.” He uses Lightroom and Photoshop for minimal post work.
“When I first started learning about off-camera flash, PocketWizard was the name in radio remote flash. All the good photographers were using it back then. I’m going to upgrade in the future. It just works. I’ve never had a problem with them. The Plus II is simple and it works. It goes through walls. What more could you want?” he laughs.
Simphoukham is just as passionate about his client photos. “I try to tell a story with my photography. I think nowadays everyone has a camera, but not everyone has the ability to portray a story with a camera. I develop a story behind the photos everyone can read,” he says. “I’ve been very fortunate to have great clients. When they appreciate my work, I feel great.” How great you feel the day you get married is one of the things you never want to forget. Who better to document that day? Connecting emotionally to photographs is something Ari Simphoukham knows quite a bit about.
Atlanta-based wedding photographer Hassel Weems, together with his wife Bene’, operate one of Atlanta’s more successful and growing wedding and portrait studios. At the recent WPPI convention, where PocketWizard introduced its new Mini/Flex series, it was clearly apparent this segment of the industry is still healthy and strong. Hassel, like many W&P photographers, uses PocketWizards for both strobe as well as camera triggering. As evident in his portfolio, he clamps extra cameras up high in church balconies, outdoors in trees or virtually anywhere there’s a creative opportunity check out these examples. Hear Hassel and Bene’ talk about their work on their web site.