The year of the …

I know, there are few more trite things for a wedding photographer to say than “I love my clients.” But I do — and I don’t have to say it, since they’ve paid me already.

Yes, I greatly enjoy working with my corporate contacts, and I am proud to work for so many non-profits and charities who do powerful work. But when you spend such intimate, joyful moments with people, their friends and families, there is a very different sort of bond. I freely admit that wedding photojournalism is not the same as editorial photojournalism. While I can be playfully subversive in ways that are “un-weddingy” depending on the environment, I’m not there to shine a cold light of unsympathetic truth. I’m there to see things that I love, and show them.

And so I love keeping track of where they’re from, where they’re going, what forces shape their lives. And I enjoy seeing connections and patterns — and since this is a self-selective group, they’re everywhere. Last year, I photographed weddings of five chiropractors. This year, architects, TV producers, and medical students abound (the speeches at Saturday’s wedding were the first I’ve seen to extol the benefits of yeast research.) I’ve seen the same guests at unrelated weddings, had bridesmaids come up to me and tell me I did their cousin’s wedding, and I get a kick out of it every time. And then, of course, is the referral effect. It saddens me that I’ve run out of Berger and Karplus siblings — there is little cooler than walking into the start of the day at the mother’s house and seeing the walls covered with your photos.

What patterns are next? Secretly, I’m hoping for rodeo clowns.

(By the way, when you shoot a wedding between two chiropractors and start shaking your wrist after too many hours of holding a giant camera, guests will immediately offer to adjust you.)

Rock the Rolls

Ryan Brenizer Photography

One strobe and shoot-through umbrella, three frames.

Wedding parties, generally, want two things: To look good in photos, and to get on with the day so they can go eat and drink and be merry. So there’s nothing particularly tricky about flash composites other than being able to do it quickly enough to stay on people’s good side. The shooting of this took about three minutes.

Rebekah and Jonah:8.30.09

I’ve seen a lot of crazy horahs. In fact, if you do a Flickr search for the most interesting photos ever taken tagged “horah,” the top five are all mine! But I have never, ever seen one like Rebekah and Jonah’s. I think it was 20 minutes long. There were fireworks. There were costumes. There were skits. There was enough confetti for a tickertape parade. People were taking rehydrating breaks in the middle just so they could make it through! For more, you’re really going to want to watch the slideshow

In fact, with the coming together of their Jewish religion and Rebekah’s Korean heritage, the entire day was filled with beautiful ritual. They had already been legally married (I shot that ceremony, and was their witness! Full-service photography!) but not an ounce of emotion was held back for first the Jewish ceremonies and then, with a costume change, the Korean ceremonies. At the end of the night, all of the guests gathered around the couple for a Talmudic reading.

Jonah’s father said to me at the end, “I bet you don’t do a lot of weddings like this … or you have a really strange life!”

I can only say, no … no I haven’t, and yes … yes I do.











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A brief bit of gear-geekery

First, I will be at PhotoPlus Expo on Thursday morning, trying out all the new gear for Amazon’s End User blog. I’m sure I’ll want to grab lunch somewhere away from the $8 hot dogs, so let me know if you’ll be there!

Secondly, I finally got around to digging out the credit card, and my studio will have a new team member for the very end of the season (I expect, with my luck, it will arrive right after my last big wedding for the year)


Yup, I’m moving to an all-massive camera line-up for 2010, and the usable 12,800 ISO of the Nikon D3s is calling to me. I was planning on buying another D3 anyway to supplement by badly beaten and scarred one, and I will be selling my (surprisingly in-good-shape) D700. I got the D700 so that I would have a more portable camera to take around with me, but these days my pocket camera is the Panasonic LX3, and the camera I actually take with me everywhere is the iPhone. My dSLRs are for workin’ these days, and so the esoteric advanced features of the D3 come in handy — the dual CF card slots alone are worth it to me, since I can back up every image I take, as I take them.

Oh, and you can definitely expect me to geek out over the movie mode, too, meaning lots more video content to come.

Untwisting your Lightroom RAW profiles

I loves me some Adobe Lightroom. When you take 200,000+ shots a year, you go for the program with the best ability to take on a massive workflow, and for me, Lightroom is it. But it has a giant problem. In order to get the best color from each camera, Adobe cobbled together color profiles matching what you would get out of the manufacturer’s own profiles, and the color was great. Finally, my reds were red again! But it came at the expense of a few oddities. Highlight clipping became the ugliest rendition I’ve ever seen, and if you wanted to fix that with your handy dandy “highlight recovery” slider? All of your colors would change, and people would go from skin tone to Muppet-land.

Apparently, Adobe has done this on purpose, because it’s easy to fix. Thomas Lester showed me that Adobe was deliberately “twisting” hues as you moved exposure sliders, and that there was a way to untwist them. That way, however, involved a lot of UNIX commands. Now I’m a geek, but I’m what you’d call a middle-range geek. I know some UNIX commands, but it’s not what I consider a good way to spend an evening. So I asked, pretty please, if he could compile “Untwisted” profiles for the D3 and D700 cameras I use.

And what did he do? He compiled them for every camera out there! So if you use Lightroom, and especially if you’re puzzled by color shifts when you use the highlight recovery slider, check out his blog for more information and to download the profiles!

No remember not to throw away your old profiles — Adobe probably has reasons to do the things you do, and you may not be used to the new colors. What I’ve done is start out with everything on the untwisted profiles but keep a normal camera profile option as a quick pre-set, so just one click means I can have both options.

Freyda and Brian: 8.29.09

Few people truly beam like Freyda on her wedding day. Half the time I would look over and she would just be sitting there, wearing a wide smile. And why not? With one of the rare beautiful summer days, and a great wedding at their temple near Princeton, NJ, there were lots of reasons to smile.

Among the many highlights, Brian returned to his former life as a musician, and played a song for the guests with friends and former band-mates. He was excellent, his bandmates were excellent, and his brother, who performed his own song for his best man speech was … hilarious.

As a Saturday wedding in a temple, this was a wedding for night owls like myself. When editing the images, I thought for a second that I’d accidentally set my camera clocks to Newfoundland time. Did the cake-cutting really happen after 1 a.m.? Oh yes, yes it did. And it was delicious.

Congratulations, you two!


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Barbara and Michael: 8.28.09

Talk about turning adversity into a wonderful, amazing wedding! I thought to myself as the day approached: “You know, if there’s one wedding this year where I really don’t want it to rain, it’s this one.” Outdoor ceremony in Central Park followed by a two-hour double-decker bus tour for all of the guests, who except for one person had come from Canada.

So it rained.

But that didn’t get Barbara and Mike down. Was it the Canadian spirit? The can-do attitude of the two architects? Or maybe it was that Plan B was The Plaza! I was picturing the reactions of Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway’s characters in Bride Wars when they found out that the Plaza was Plan B.

With lots and lots of ponchos, the tour still happened, followed by a great dinner and reception near the High Line. Even better, we had already scheduled a day-after shoot, and the rain had already given way.


Ryan Brenizer Photography


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Let’s get ready for CONTENT!

I used to stare at blank newspaper layouts every day, wondering what the heck I was going to put in them. Blogging as a constantly working photographer is a different story: there is SO MUCH to share that not only is there not enough time, it’s easy to intimidate yourself: “Out of the thousands of shots I’m proud of, is *this* what I should post in expense of others? Is it weird to post at 3 a.m. on a Wednesday?”

Next week, I’m running a marathon. Not a real one, but it’s my last three-wedding weekend of the year, with the last sure to be one of my longest-ever working days. Before that, I will be plying you with all sorts of gear geekery from New York’s Photoplus Expo.

But I want to tell some stories about the great weddings I’ve had the pleasure to shoot! So I’m vowing here and now to blog at least four weddings between now and PhotoPlus on Thursday. Even if, to get there, I will have to start drinking coffee that was made out of grinding coffee beans in existing coffee.

As a reward, I will pre-order a new Nikon D3s for next season. Ok, I would do that anyway, but let me incentivize!

Jessica and Matthew: 8.22.09

Jessica and Matthew’s wedding, in the very cool Smack Mellon gallery in Brooklyn was hot in every conceivable way. Hot couple, hot wedding part, and weather hot enough to make me sweat just thinking back to it. Luckily, though, everyone kept their cool. Doubtless the tiny ice-cream cones used as after-dinner snacks helped.

For the photo-geeks out there, I mixed it up a little bit for this wedding, and shot with both Nikon and Canon cameras. See if you can tell the difference.


Ryan Brenizer Photography


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Belhurst Castle

Ryan Brenizer Photography

I was thrilled* to shoot a wedding at the gorgeous Belhurst Castle in the Finger Lakes region on Sunday. I couldn’t resist sneaking out during the reception and getting a good long-exposure shot. I love how a bright enough exposure gets you the stars there — unlike, say, anywhere within an hour of New York City’s light pollution.

*and chilled — outdoor ceremony plus 48 degrees and windy keeps you on your toes!

Night’s Spectrum

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Posted a little bigger than normal. Sometimes images have so much going on that they need room to breathe.

Dinah and Ludlow: 8.20.09

Dinah and Ludlow had a great, low-key wedding at Long Island’s Fox Hollow resort. Religion is central to their lives, so the church ceremony was a big part of the evening, featuring unbelievably good singing from several members of the wedding party. I’ll probably pester the videographer to give me a copy of the recordings, because man they were good.

On a hot summer night, the reception was mostly focused on sharing good food and conversation with loved ones, and we ended the night with a quick but really fun portrait session. Congratulations!


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Love in the Time of Composites

Ryan Brenizer Photography

I suppose my style is to hold as light a touch as possible on post-processing … but if I do, do it like I mean it, which is to set up shots with the post-processing already in mind. The “Brenizer Method,” of course, relies on Photoshop. I actually am coming up with ideas now to use specific compositions and techniques to breathe some new life into a Photoshop technique that photographers tend to revile, but more on that later. In this case, I shot this as a composite of four frames, using just one little speedlight to light the couple.

I like to travel light, especially on engagement shoots. In New York, there are plenty of places where if you set up a light stand and a tripod, you will be swarmed by police, park officials, and in one case a National Guardsman with a machine gun. Yikes. But I love the light-canceling effects of big lights. The way to get there with a small light is to get in really close. The way to do that with freedom while not getting in the frame? Composite.

Of course, composites require tripods, and you remembered what I said about the guys with machine guns, right? In this case, I stood the camera on my rolling camera bag and propped up the lens with a lens hood. Wedding photographers are McGuyver at heart.

FYI: Not HDR. All of the frames were at the same exposure settings.