Category Archives: photo of the day

The Journey Here

Mayra Omar

Tatiana and I made this photo of Omar and Mayra at Crest Hollow Country Club in three minutes, but it took us four days to get there. Story below if interested … the photo geeks can just know that this was a 45mm f/2.8.

Clients often ask me what happens if I get sick? It’s a good question … there are no sick days here, and the people that hire us want our unique vision expressed to the best of our abilities. So, when we get sick, we make sure we have a back-up plan, but we also treat getting better quickly like it’s our actual and only job.

I try to be paranoid so my couples don’t have to be, and this week, all of our paranoid planning for incapacitating illness came into play. Both Tatiana and I were struck with the worst flu we’ve had in decades on Sunday, and upon the first sign of sickness the only thing I could think of was a countdown clock to Thursday’s wedding. We had to be better for it, and we did everything possible.

Most of you, statistically, know me as something other than your own wedding photographer — as a business and brand, we are any things. We teach, we share stories, we lecture, we work on independent projects … but our core work is simply showing up at weddings and doing the best we can, and that always wins out. We had so many plans for this workweek — I was finishing a project I’ve been working on for a year and a half. Delayed. We were in initial planning for our next workshop. Pushed back. I’m making the biggest changes to my business since 2007. Next week. And, one of these days, we’re planning our own wedding. Not now. It’s October, so the government wants reams of paperwork from my business — sorry for the tight deadline next week, accountants. Sadly, even our production deadlines had to be walked back a week, given that I didn’t have enough energy to do things like read a book or type on a keyboard. But every moment we knew we had to be our best selves for Thursday morning.

So we rested like it was our job. That meant getting a hotel room instead of making the normally easy trip back from Long Island. That meant leaving our comfy couch visiting first a clinic and then a hospital not due to emergency but just because I wasn’t getting my strength back fast enough. It meant some very healthy, but very disgusting water-and-greens-based nourishment drinks.

And it worked. We went from barely able to lift our head to being able to gracefully put in 11 hours of physical labor and come out smiling. Part of that is due to how awesome Omar and Mayra are, but it’s also that there is no seemly paranoid scenario that our couples can envision that have not already pored over long ago. We also had backup plans in case our work couldn’t get us well in time, but we are thrilled that our 800+ combined weddings have continued their flawless “bright and shiny attendance” streak.

Now, of course, we face a one-day workweek, and one peppered with meetings. In the fall, that means a staggering amount of deadlines and a to-do list so complicated that managing it is a to-do item in and of itself, but I’m glad we’re facing it together.


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Playing with Fire (Fiddler’s Elbow Wedding)

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Just when I think after 500ish weddings I’ve run into all of the challenges out there, life shows me how wrong I am … and I’m thankful for it. Without challenge, growth is slow and meandering.

On Friday morning, Tatiana and I got an e-mail from Kristin asking if we could do a long-exposure shot with shooting sparks. There were just a couple challenges 1) We had never taken this kind of photo before. 2) The wedding was also on Friday, and we were packing to leave.

Generally, photography tricks are modifications and extensions of existing techniques. I never would have thought up the so-called “Brenizer method” if I hadn’t already been experienced in regular panoramas, and while we’d never lit anything on fire and violently swung it around for a wedding photo, I was experienced enough in the other basic skills of night-time long exposures — such as exposing and composing a photo without being able to see anything that you’re doing — that we said we’d give it a try.

When pushing the envelope at a wedding, it is absolutely vital to manage expectations. I often ask couples if they want to take a given amount of time for something that might be awesome, or might be absolutely terrible. In the rare situation that we’re trying a new technique on the wedding day, we made absolutely clear that the result might be no photo at all, especially given that by doing this during the time of the reception we had time for only one frame.

That’s right — this photo is not only the very first time I’ve tried this technique but also, as of this writing, the last. Treading new ground on a tight time frame could only have been achieved with the capable help of Tatiana, who talked them through the posing and lit them with flash.

Important note: while I wasn’t sure whether we’d get a photo, I did make *really* sure that at least we wouldn’t set anything or anyone on fire. The bridge wasn’t just a pretty bit of symmetry for the photo — it also made sure we were surrounded by steel, concrete, and water. I was also farther away than it may look, though there is no such thing as too paranoid, especially when around highly inflammable things like lace (which we weren’t) or hair-sprayed hair (which distance and angle of velocity made exceedingly unlikely to get hit, but anything is possible, hence eager, informed consent from bride and nearby water).

Thank you Michael and Kristin for encouraging us toward creative and literal sparks.

Camera: Nikon D810
Lens: Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6 II


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A New Day

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Yesterday I started my first-ever 365 project. The season really went into full, non-stop-work mode last week, so this isn’t the best time for some deep, time-consuming personal project, so I’m keeping it vague: I will post a photo online every day over the next year. Some of them will be here, some on the countless different social media profiles photographers tend to collect along the way, but all will be collected on my business Facebook page.

I haven’t done a preponderance of personal work over the past six years not only because I’m shooting for work all the time, but because that work is so personal. A friend of mine said years ago: “I love weddings because the kinds of photos I’d want to take for free happen there, but I also get paid for it.” Weddings very quickly allow me to get to the stuff that matters in people … the emotion, the connections, the history. It might take days or weeks for people to become comfortable with a photographer around if you’re a long-form documentarian, but on wedding days it’s so natural for you to be there, and people have so many other things to think about, that you can get into the varied, real emotional life of people really quickly.

And it also allows me to play visually in so many different ways, because your only real instruction is “here’s the time you have, let’s see what you can do.” Shooting portraits with a wide-angle lens is general rule-breaking. Shooting with a 12mm lens is general insanity. Shooting from a lower angle with … well, you get the picture. The reasons for this is that it takes all sorts of tricks and learned skills to keep this sort of shot flattering, but it can be done. And it opens up the door to creating images that look completely different than the actual scene. Here all we had was about three minutes, a parking lot filled with cars, and rapidly oncoming rain. The lens stretches the venue behind them and the tree above them into looking like they’re on the same plane; the addition of light transforms them from three-dimensional objects to shapes.

I get to play, to try things that, by the rule book, are completely crazy, and then within minutes share in the chaotic emotional energy of a wedding celebration? Most of my job is personal work.

Also, because of the in-season, mid-week timing, there are still some seats open for my May 28 and 29 workshop here in Brooklyn. I will teach all of the tricks to make images like this work and many more, and we will also take you through getting, working with, and maintaining clients. We’ve gotten a flood of people saying that the dates couldn’t work for them, so similar to some of the favorite workshops I’ve done we’re going to allow signing up for just one day: May 28, the shooting-heavy day that runs from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., with breaks for lunch and dinner, will be $650. May 29, featuring portfolio review, all aspects of getting and pleasing clients, and running a long-term wedding photography business that sustains you financially and emotionally, will be $450 for 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Both days (which is recommended) is $1,000.


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