Wanna experiment?

Shock it to Me

This entry is directed at my current clients and clients-to-be for 2009, but I won’t mind if you listen in. It contains a really good idea you can steal. After all, I stole it.

John Michael Cooper, who is 10 pounds of awesome in a five-pound bag, gave a fantastic lecture at the Digital Wedding Forum. From light-painting subjects to complicated Photoshop layering to use the same flash countless times in the same picture, he sent everyone there scrambling to their notebooks for techniques to copy. But the thing that really held my attention was a throw-away comment: “I ask my clients for 10 minutes to try something that may or may not work.”

Brilliant.

I’ve been struggling with a dilemma for pretty much my entire career as a wedding photographer. The best photographers don’t just push the envelope, they push beyond it — which means they fail, quite a bit. But when it works, it really, really works. Generally speaking, though, that’s not the best way to shoot a wedding. “Sorry guys, I tried this great technique, but it didn’t work, so there are no photos from the ceremony. I hope that’s OK.” You have to play it safe. Now, I’ve spent thousands of hours working to make sure that I can do some pretty crazy things and still know that I’m going to get photos exposed exactly the way that I want. But I’m absolutely at my happiest when I take a wedding photo different than what I’ve seen before. My bokeh panorama technique has been great for that, since as far as I know no one has ever used that at a wedding before … ever. But I practiced and practiced it until I knew I could make it work on a wedding day, and now it’s a fairly safe part of my repertoire. Gotta keep pushing that envelope.

So … will you give me 10 minutes at your wedding? 10 minutes to try something that could be fantastic, or could totally fail? I’ll spend the rest of the day working and pushing the envelope, but give me 10 minutes to bust out of it and play around in the mailbox. If you do, you could get some great shots that look nothing like your friends’ photos. And you’ll be paying it forward … the crazy stuff that I can make work on a wedding day will quickly move from “experiment” to “part of the repertoire.”

So … will you give me 10 minutes?