I don’t do many kids’ photos professionally … though as more and more of my wedding clients start having children, that may change. I have always loved babies, and the girl above was ludicrously adorable, but they certainly do present new and interesting challenges. Usually a couple will not cry through 95 percent of a shoot.
Well, it’s been quite a year. I got married, I cut my final staff photographer strings and went 100 percent freelance, and my business exploded. I photographed people from Barak Obama and John McCain to Brooke Shields, Kathie Lee Gifford, and the president of the Dominican Republic, just for starters. I won top 10 awards in all three quarters of the prestigious Wedding Photojournalist Association awards that I competed in. Exactly one year ago I found an in-stock Nikon D3, and thus spent the year with cameras that constantly astounded me and never got in my way. And, of course, I met countless wonderful couples and was honored to photograph some amazing weddings.
Having been married this year, I realized a few things about what people should want from a wedding photographer other than “takes really good photos.” Communication, comfort, and constant attention to details throughout the entire process are key in ways that are hard to foresee. I recently expanded my business, hiring a business manager to make sure that every last detail has another pair of eyes on it, which is a tremendous step. But I’ve also thought about something else. What a couple really cares about when they look for a photographer isn’t what they did for someone else; it’s what they’ll do for them. There are good ways and bad ways to answer that question. Just looking at the few photos on a portfolio site isn’t enough — not only are they just a few photos, but they could be models, from a workshop, etc.
A frequent piece of advice people get is that you should always see a large number of photos from one wedding. That’s good advice, but I said to myself, “Wait a minute. Which wedding are photographers going to show?” The perfect one. The one where the weather was amazing, the couple loved the camera, the kids were cute, the day was long and varied, there were fire dancers, who knows. But weddings aren’t always like that. This year I’ve seen an outdoor ceremony get rained out, an indoor ceremony be inaudible thanks to overhead rain (those were the same wedding!), an outdoor reception in 100-degree weather, a 50-mile an hour wind knock over EVERYTHING (those two were also the same wedding, and I won an award for the shot). I’ve been given five minutes for formals where it should have taken an hour. I’ve shot weddings in severe pain after falling, I’ve gotten into car accidents on the way to weddings.
And that’s life. What you really want from a wedding photographer is someone who can shrug all that stuff off and take great photos anyway. So I’ve started showing slideshows from EVERY wedding in 2008 to my couples, including all of the weddings above. The last thing someone wants is a photographer who has done great work in the past but just decides your wedding is something to “get through.” One of my second-shooters told me that at her wedding, her normally fabulous photographer decided to shoot almost everything with a fisheye. Ugh.
So here, to end the year, is the list of slideshows. It’s not complete, because slideshows tend to be the last thing I do in delivering photos, and because some couples have told me they didn’t want their photos linked to on the Internet. But it’s still a pretty good look over the Year that Was.
All you need to know is that I had more photos from Courtney and Greg’s wedding than I’ve ever shot on a single day before.
OK, that’s not all you need to know. How about why? How about the incredible amount of friends and loved ones: 300+ guests and a wedding party roughly the size of the cast of Ben-Hur? How about a willingness to do fun outdoor formals even though it was twenty degrees below the normal late-Novemeber in Allentown, Pa? How about the great work of my second-shooter Dave Zaveloff?* And how about a dance floor so crazy that probably no one who attended the wedding should ever run for public office? All in all, and with a fantastic couple to boot, it was a recipe for a great wedding, and the 10 images below can barely contain it. You gotta watch the slideshow.
*As always, since I use these for promotional purposes, all of the images below and in the slideshow were taken by me. But Dave got some great shots, too.
You may recognize one of the guests there — she was the bride in my previous post, and sister to one of the grooms! As you’ve probably picked up from that and the title, this was my first gay wedding, and it was a beautiful experience. I know that this is a hugely contentious issue now with intractable beliefs on both sides, so I’d love it if someone’s wedding photos weren’t weighed down by a bunch of political comments on either side of the issue. That said, this was probably the most emotional wedding ceremony I’ve ever shot. It took me by surprise, actually — if stereotypes were true, a wedding without a bride should be relatively casual, right? But weddings are pretty important things to me, and it struck me that while many people grow up dreaming about their perfect wedding, Jon and Jerry had to grow up thinking “Well, that’s not for me.” They and their parents had spent years thinking that this would never come, and it came out with intensity and joy and relief.
It was a great Boston November day, and apparently the perfect day to get married, since the park was filled with roaming wedding parties, photographers in tow, like herds of migratory animals — Jerry even ran into a bride that he knew! The ceremony and reception hall were beautiful — refined, but still open enough to let people dance like mad.
Here’s one from the Wayback Machine. Jen and Chris are friends of mine, and I was honored to shoot their wedding at a gorgeous French restaurant in Upstate New York. The springtime was in full bloom and the grounds of the venue were absolutely gorgeous … which, of course, meant torrential rain. They weren’t upset and, since they know where I live, just decided it would be better to do most of the formals at some other time. “Some other time” ended up being four months later. So here they are!
The wedding was an intimate affair with fewer than 30 guests, an elaborate dinner party with unbelievable food and a (I timed it) seven-minute wedding ceremony performed by another friend of mine. Jen and Chris had the first (and only) dance to the musical stylings of Jen’s friend, who decided to sing along with the string performers.
I was honored and flattered to shoot Keith and Laura’s wedding right from the start. One night quite a while ago, I picked up a call from an elated woman. “Ryan! My son is engaged, and we want you to shoot the wedding!”
“Great!” I said. “When is it?”
“We don’t know!” She replied. “They just got engaged an hour ago!”
The wedding ended up being in the couple’s home town in southern New Hampshire. I traveled up the night before to meet the wedding party and shoot the fantastic rehearsal dinner … at which point I already knew this was a fun, lively crowd.
Well, I don’t know what they put in the New Hampshire water, but this wedding had some of the most outgoing, craziest dancers I’ve ever seen (and boy have I seen a lot). The ceremony was a formal affair at their beautiful local church, and then the reception continued strong until 1 a.m. As you can see from the last picture, taken right at the end, Keith and Laura were still glowing after everything.
Winter means it’s time to blog about some of the wonderful weddings I missed when things were at their craziest. Maria and Ray had a wonderful, touching, delightfully geeky wedding. Every little finishing touch showed care, such as the place cards derived from media like classic Spider-Man covers and Amelie, and of course the amazing cake with the Super Mario Goomba touches. After a full Catholic mass, the reception was a laid-back, fun dinner at the Dinsmore Golf Club in the Catskills — laid-back, that is, unless you were one of the score of adorable, energetic kids. If you don’t like cute kids, you may not want to see the slideshow — from their energy to the clear care that Maria and Ray had for them, it was one of the most child-friendly weddings I’ve photographed.
No children were harmed in the making of this photo.
A lot of my clients are busy New Yorkers who I meet in the city, or out-of-staters who I first meet in conference calls, so most of them never come into my office, and thus don’t get to see some of the larger, less-portable products I offer. So I threw together a quick video that shows off a big print enlargement and two canvas wraps I just got in — one of them large, and one of them gionormous. This video is mostly for wedding clients, but of course any of my photos on Flickr are available for sale as art prints. Just contact me.
For some reason WordPress isn’t letting me embed the video, but you can view it here.
I’m happy to be one of the most easily stalkable people on the planet. Googling my name or common nom de net brings up tens of thousands of hits, with the most popular ones going straight to my home address. I figure real stalkers want a challenge — I’m far too easy a target. I’m no one-man media empire like Thomas Hawk, but I get around.
Kidding aside, I’ve been blessed that there are so many people out there who want to follow my work, and I want to make it easy for you to follow exactly what you want to follow, and no more. I’ve been all around the social Internet, from bulletin boards and back, and I think I’ve got it figured out.
If you want to contact me directly: Use the contact page on my web site. Not only will this always go to the correct e-mail address, it will also be flagged as messages to answer first.
If you just want to read my blog: Here is where I post tips on photography, industry news, and some of my images in larger formats with write-ups about my work. The link is www.amazon.com/ryanbrenizer, and the RSS feed is here. You’d think this is a given — if you’re reading this entry, you’re reading my blog. But it’s ain’t necessarily so, and not just because automated spam blogs steal my content.
If you just want to see pictures (five a week-ish) I’ve been on Flickr since it was just a tiny Flash-driven site, and I still post images there quite a bit, since it’s easy and has a great community. Despite some issues, Flickr is probably the best thing to happen to popular photography since the digital camera. My account is at www.flickr.com/carpeicthus and the RSS feed is here
If you want it in one easy package: I’ve compiled both my blog and my Flickr photos, as well as twitter-like status updates, into a site called FriendFeed, and you can get it here: www.friendfeed.com/ryanbrenizer. One-stop shopping, and I will occasionally say useful things in my status updates. Unfortunately FriendFeed does not contain the full text of my blog in its RSS, just the headlines.
If you want the whole shebang: Not just what’s going on with my photography, but also what’s interesting me on the Internet, the music I’m listening to, and basically the stuff that my mother might want to know, you can add me as a friend on Facebook. I’ve been on Facebook since you had to be a fancy-pants member of the Ivy League to get in, and after a year or so of throwing sheep at people and zombie attacks, it seems to have gone back to its no-nonsense origin. It’s also currently the most-reponsive, easiest place to add high-quality video.
What not to do:
- Add my WordPress blog. It only exists to feed content into my Amazon blog, and the graphical interface is deliberately broken.
- Send me messages on alternative e-mail systems such as Flickr mail, Facebook mail, etc. I wish you could turn these barely functional e-mail systems off. I don’t check them.
I sometimes wonder whether or not to include client testimonials. It could sound like I’m tooting my own horn, but I know clients who say it’s really important to see … after all, there’s a lot more to wedding photography than just photos on a Web site. It’s also about personal relations, business practices, consistent quality, and a thousand other things. I got a kick out of David’s wonderful note and figured I would put it here as a sample. He’s a cinematographer and Director of Photography for Head Case, among other things, and his knowledge of the field shows in his writing.
I can’t tell you how happy we are that you were available to shoot our wedding. Even just looking at the initial shots you put together for the slideshow (which the guests were able to see at the event!), I can already see that our instinct to work with you was correct.
There’s always a chance when you look at a photographer’s portfolio (or a DPs reel for that matter) that what you’re looking at is not so much an indication of the artist’s style and consistency, but just a few great images– the needles from a haystack of mediocrity. After viewing the gallery of images you sent, this is clearly not the case with you. The types of moments and the “eye” that drew us into your work on your website are totally consistent with what you did for (and with) us. I’m sure you could tell that I’m not terribly comfortable in front of the camera. But you did a GREAT job of capturing really nice moments of me and the wedding party.
And thanks for turning this around so quickly!
Without a doubt, October was the most beautiful month of 2008 here. The weather was usually perfect, the leaves were great, and Howard and Annie made the most of it at the gorgeous Surf Club in New Rochelle. It was a wonderful interfaith marriage ceremony. As the rabbi noted during the ceremony, “Secular marriages are wonderful things, but there’s also another, spiritual level when you get married by a priest or a rabbi. When you get married by a priest and a rabbi? Watch out!” And the fun continued through the night … I’m pretty sure Annie is the first bride I’ve seen do an air guitar routine on the dance floor. 10 shots from the night follow, but I recommend viewing the slideshow to get the whole story.
When you cross a cinematographer and a doctor, what do you get? A fantastic wedding at NYC’s Yale Club, and two people not afraid to shake up the tourists at Grand Central.
It’s a whole new experience to shoot a wedding filled with cinematographers. People kept coming up to me and clapping me on the back. "That shot you just took … that was a great frame!" They didn’t need to wait to see the photo, pre-visualization abounded.
I featured Emily and Jeffrey here not long ago when they got engaged, showing off the “bokeh panorama” technique I invented, so what better than to do it again when they were married? To turn the Christmas lights behind them into a fiery glow, this image is actually the product of 17 images taken with a wide-open 85mm f/1.4 on a Nikon D700. This allows for a much shallower depth of field than you’d normally get at this frame of view (not to mention that you could basically make a print the size of a billboard from this).
Another from my shoot with Dr. Jim Fisher, author of the forthcoming “On the Irish Waterfront.”
Shooting notes: This shot uses the wonder of Auto-FP mode on the SB-900, which uses rapidfire pulses instead of a single flash to allow syncing at any shutter speed, even, as I used here, 1/8000th of a second (to get those ominous clouds really dark). You lose a lot of power, though, so I was holding the flash attached to a a Lumiquest Softbox III just an inch or so outside the frame, very close to his head. Fired at 1/2 power. Nikon D3, 24-70mm f/2.8.
Who knew that a couple who works in international policy could be so darned hot? I knew this would be a great wedding after Eva, Cris and I had a fun, very New York engagement shoot, and the wedding day itself was also as Manhattan as it can be: the ceremony and reception were at the Terrace in the Sky, next to their (and my) old stomping grounds of Columbia University, where they met. It was a beautiful day — I think October had the best weather this year by a country mile — and it continued well into the night. I shudder to think of how many languages were spoken by the collective guests.