Studio Grand Opening!

Last night, I had a Grand Opening of my new studio on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. It’s so convenient to be closer to the action, right down the street from many of my clients. I was really proud of how we put the night together, mostly due to the efforts of food writer and culinary student Rochelle Bilow (who has a great new blog, by the way). I mean, let’s face it, left up to my own devices I probably would have served chips and dip. Instead we had a home-made spread of curry, za’atar and lavendar-brown sugar puff pastry straws, foie gras mousse and jam sandwiches on white bread, and honey-baked figs stuffed with pancetta! Now that’s a party.

It was such a great feeling to see everyone who came, including a number of couples whose weddings I’ve shot! I’ve always felt that my couples, being awesome people, would get along well together, and that proved to be true. I figured people would come, mill around a bit, enjoy the food and leave, since it was a Sunday night, but we all stayed around talking and laughing until almost midnight!

One really fun revelation that came up in conversation: I am apparently so unobtrusive on the wedding day that people get worried. A few of my clients have had people come up to them and say “I think your photographer is missing shots! His flash isn’t going off!” (I was either using ambient or bouncing it so it wasn’t in their eyes.) And one couple said “We knew to trust you, especially after the engagement shoot, but talked afterward that we really hadn’t noticed you around much. But then our friends posted photos of the wedding on facebook, and you were like three feet from us in each one!” There is a reason that ninjas and wedding photographers both wear black.

I’ve been so blessed to get to spend important days with so many wonderful people. It’s crazy to think how fast things have taken off. I wasn’t someone who picked up a camera for the first time and said “OK, how do I turn this thing on? Found it! Now … let’s shoot some weddings!” It was only two and a half years ago, after having already covered two U.S. presidents and a few Nobel prize-winners, that I said to myself, “You know, I think I could photograph a wedding and not ruin the most important day of someone’s life.” Careers in this business usually start slowly because of the long booking cycle and importance of word-of-mouth, so it astounds me to think that in the time since, I have photographed more than 100 weddings.

And now, finally, I am dipping my toes into some new areas. After shooting hundreds of thousands of wedding photos a year, after inventing and popularizing a new photography techique, I think maybe … maybe … I could teach some photographers some new tricks, ideas, or even just help them maintain that sense of fun and passion that is so important to me. I’ve already done one casual workshop in New Orleans, with a second get-together in Chicago next month, but watch this space for more systematic workshops come January. Shooting weddings is my greatest passion, and I’m not going to slow down my booking cycle to teach but, as they say … winter happens.

I was spending my time as a host, but I took a few quick snapshots:



View from the entrance



The viewing wall



Rochelle’s puff-pastries



Rochelle tastes her creations



Thomas opens the wine



Assorted appetizers



Thomas with Kindiya and … Thomas



Jasmine with Emilie and Noel



Brendan, Thomas, and John



Brendan likes to get his Halloween on early

Getting excited…

The Grand Opening soirée of my new Upper East Side studio is in 90 minutes! More to come…

Emilie and Noel: 8.15.09

I’d been looking forward to Emilie and Noel’s wedding the moment they said the words “former professional dancer,” and “I have a bridal dress made for spinning.” Nothing brings energy to a wedding like centripetal force, and this one had it in spades.

Held at the luxurious Montauk Club, not only did Emilie and Noel have one of the best first dances I’ve ever seen, but threw a fantastic cultural affair paying homage to her Basque heritage. I really like the idea of starting out a meal with a table already laid out with bread, cheese and wine. The idea is that by getting people to break bread and pour wine, you are already starting conversations and breaking tension — which may be why the party was so much fun.

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Ryan Brenizer Photography

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Meghan and Kyle, 8/8/09

Like most of my weddings, the day began with a personal well-wishing from the president…

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OK … not true (though I did take that picture.)

In fact, Meghan and Kyle’s wedding began on a gorgeous weekend in Boston. After a summer filled with rain, to come and see gorgeous sunsets, the swell of Boston Harbor, and this fantastic couple, well, that’s the sort of thing I’ll even drive down I-95 at rush hour for.

After a Catholic ceremony at a gorgeous church, the reception took place high up in The Boston College Club, letting the guests really soak in that sunset and great views of the city. The music was great — it was the first wedding band in a long time that had an electric guitar battle, and it was even more fun than it sounds — and the party was lively, as you shall see:

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The bride and her father practice their dance.

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I hope, at this resolution, you can still see Kyle’s eyes welling up.

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A gendered twist on the oldest shot in the book, but Kyle wasn’t expecting it, so the surprised expression was real.

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Beginnings and Endings

Ryan Brenizer Photography

For Kyle and Meghan, a kiss before entering the reception. For my poor 85mm f/1.4, a last shot before getting stolen from the bench behind them.

OK, this is a "brenizer method" panorama, so it was the last 24 shots.

At least it was a pleasant way to go.

(You can always cheer me up by ordering prints. Just sayin’.)

For reference, since I know this still confuses a lot of people, here was one of the 24 images in the panorama. This is one uncropped shot with the D3 and the 85mm f/1.4:

Ryan Brenizer Photography

WPJA Awards!

I don’t generally enter contests, but the Wedding Photojournalist Association was one of the things that inspired me to get into wedding photography in the first place, so I’m thrilled to participate. The images the site regularly put forth in its contests showed me that the era of stilted poses was over, and that the storytelling coverage I had come to love as a newspaper and university photographer could be transposed to the wedding day. It is a highly prestigious contest filled with the best storytelling work of some great photographers.

So here are the latest results! You have to search for your wins and I’ve been known to have trophies arrive on my doorstep for images I didn’t know had placed, so tell me if I missed any:

3rd Place, Cake Cutting (From Eva and Lane’s wonderful New Orleans wedding)

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4th place, Creative Portrait (From Jen and John’s great wedding in Chappaqua, NY)

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and 5th place, Emotion, showing Kayla dancing during a wonderful little two-hour wedding at Lyndhurst Manor in Tarrytown, NY

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Sarah and Jeff: 8.1.08

Sarah and Jeff had a fantastic wedding at NYC’s Union Square Ballroom. I know that any couple who can keep a near-100-pound dog in their midtown apartment is up for the surprises, joys, and responsibilities of marriage.

What a whirlwind their wedding was! With proper priorities firmly in mind, we set out early in the day to meet and take portraits so Sarah could come back to the hotel, take off the dress, and have some AMAZING barbecue for lunch before heading off to the ballroom. As you’ll see in the slideshow, we got some of the local Union Square color in to the day, as a group of people with “Free Hugs” signs were ecstatic to be able to hug the bride on their wedding day. Also, this was a very strong contender for my favorite wedding cake ever. Icing astroturf? Awesome.

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Ryan Brenizer Photography
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Out for a Spin

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Candid moment: Emilie practices for her first dance.

Corinn and Jeff, 7.31.09

Corinn and Jeff had the sense to get married on a wonderful day (my mother’s birthday — Harry Potter’s too, if you’re interested). Sadly, the weather was not *quite* as wonderful. But that didn’t keep their spirits down for a second. After a beautiful Catholic ceremony led by a longtime friend of Jeff’s family, they had a great party at the Greentree Country Club in New Rochelle. As you can see from the photos, they never stopped making sure that they and their guests were having a great time.

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Quick tip for better food snapshots

In the digital era, there are a lot of people who photograph appetizing food before they eat it, and I get a lot of people asking me how to make these pictures better. The secret to food photography, from a photographer’s point of view, is lighting. Good light brings out color and contrast and texture. Soft, dark, contrast free light hides all of the above — the very same romantic light that makes you look good makes your food look bad.

So, what to do? It’s probably not a good idea to whip out an octobox every time you make chili, and whatever you do you should avoid being rude at a restaurant, but if you’re whipping out the camera anyway, you can probably make small efforts to find a bit better light. You’re generally going for a low angle, bright and somewhat soft.

The picture below, of delicious hake chowder by Rochelle Bilow, was taken by the iPhone in a dark kitchen. I knew that would spell muddy disaster, so I opened up my nearby laptop, opened a blank browser page, and moved it in close. Still a cameraphone shot, but much better.

Table candles are often too dim and harsh to be good for this, but they’re better than nothing. Any bright-screened cell phone or media device can stand out in a dark room. If you’re near a window, you can try moving the dish a bit closer. To use these dim
Light sources you will usually need a fairly high ISO setting, which is where bog, expensive cameras tend to excel. But remember that the problem with muddy, unappetizing food shots is mostly in the light, not the camera.

(posted via iPhone)

Battle of the Sexes

Ryan Brenizer Photography

Sometimes, I try to turn challenges into opportunities. One of the toughest times to shoot is peak mid-day. This is counter-intuitive to the layman: “Photographs need light! Let’s shoot when there’s as much as possible!” but the sun is a very harsh, extremely strong light source, and there are few less attractive places to put a hard light than directly over someone’s head. (Coming directly from below is worse, but for obvious reasons that doesn’t happen very much with the sun).

So we try to work against it or overpower it. But there’s the second problem — overpowering the sun is about as hard as it sounds. Wee little flashes only do well if they’re close, which limits the sorts of compositions you can do. That’s why I’ve taken to doing multi-frame composites recently, so I can get the flash close to my subject in a big frame and then quickly digitally erase it later.

But there are other ways — who says the light source can’t be in the frame? Who says you can’t have some fun with it? The rooftop garden at the Met is absolutely one of the brightest places I’ve been in New York, other than the waterfront. I used every trick to get “normal” frames well-exposed, and then dipped into the abnormal.

Stephanie and Phil: 7/18/09

I knew the second that Stephanie and Phil said the words “West Point” that their wedding would be fantastic. Phil is a member of the renowned West Point military band, and if anyone knows how to enjoy themselves, it’s the military and musicians. They are both unbelievably sweet. Stephanie is a school-teacher, so instead of a limo we got to ride around in a bumpy school-bus with a driver who was either insane or far too used to G-force testing. The reception hall was beautiful and so was the day.

But the best part of the wedding was their first dance. They began to “Unchained Melody,” beautiful, touching, precisely what someone might expect. And then … SCRAAAAAAATCH! went the recording, and the entire wedding party broke into “Thriller”! The crowd, as you may imagine, went nuts.

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Secret “Thriller”!
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Rules for Shooting Wedding Couples

We’ve had Rules for Shooting Groomsmen and Rules for Shooting Group Photos, so now it’s time for the big one: Rules for shooting couples.

1. This is the most romantic day of their lives. Play on that energy and capture it.

2. These photos aren’t just for them. They’re for the parents, they’re for the children they might have down the line. Bring class to the image, and it will be a lasting work.

3. Watch your backgrounds. Nothing ruins a romantic photo faster than unwanted clutter.

4. Weddings are, by their very nature, ritualistic. Sometimes even tried and true poses can be classic and fresh just because it’s them.

5. All of these are good rules, but not all clients are the same. Elegance and beauty are important, but so are individual personalities. If they’re a bit nuts in the best possible way like Dara and Chris, don’t be afraid to show that off. (Of course, there are a lot of couples — one would say the vast majority — for whom this shot wouldn’t work. And that’s cool, too.)