A Letter to my Potential Clients
I live in the Sierra Foothills, in a little gold rush town, with trees and flowing water. I've got a tabby and a twelve year old and a sweet community of friends and artistic peers. I feel very lucky.
I’ve found that talking about my photography makes me uncomfortable. I like my work to speak for itself, and it always seems a little like bragging...I can do this, or I won this award, or aren’t my pictures pretty? So, I tend to squirm in my chair and change the subject when someone asks me to describe my work...not the best way to make a sale, I know. I’d much rather sit down with a couple and talk about how they met, how the wedding is coming together and see if we make a natural connection. BUT, I’ve been told it’s important to communicate my confidence and describe my shooting style.... and therefore I’ve decided to write up a rather long (but informative) letter that contains some of my background, as well as some general tips on hiring a photographer. Because even if you don’t use me... I want you to have wonderful photos... regardless.
If I were to use one word to describe my shooting style, I guess it would have to be SIMPLE. Not that the process itself is simple...it can be challenging to balance all the elements that make up a photograph, BUT... the end result is most often an image that really focuses in on ONE moment, ONE detail, ONE face. I’m a natural editor and often think in a backwards fashion when I shoot.... always what can I eliminate first, and then what is my focus, and then I wait for my moment to click. Sometimes this takes a few minutes, sometimes 3 seconds. I’ve had a lot of practice.
As wedding photographers we are expected to be good at many different disciplines: Portraiture, Fashion, Journalism, Story Telling, Styling, and Food Photography. We must switch from one to the next without a step...throughout the whole day. It’s a fun mental contest, but a contest that not everyone can master. A good wedding photographer can do all these things well. I think most of my peers will agree, that the main difference in style when it comes to the top shooters will be dependent on which of these disciplines they excel in. I trend more to a pretty journalistic style. I feel my strengths lie, not in posing or direction, but in waiting and watching. I have a good eye for the other aspects above, but getting the in-between moments...that is my strongest attribute. I have a favorite quote by Diane Arbus that says it better than I ever could: I work from awkwardness. By that I mean I don’t like to arrange things. If I stand in front of something, instead of arranging it, I arrange myself. I may give subtle direction when needed, but most often I think like Diane. Most of my clients hire me because they want images that capture emotion, aren’t staged, and are beautifully composed and lit.
History and Experience
I’ve been shooting professionally since 2003. You'll see images in my portfolio that span the last 17 years. I have a background in English Literature and I see photography as visual storytelling. During my last semester at UC Davis, I took a senior seminar that incorporated creative writing with images, and that sealed it. I moved to Santa Barbara, attended The Brooks Institute (it was either that or law school) and found my place. Nestled in hills above Santa Barbara, this small family run school, taught me the fundamentals of photography and portraiture. I learned on analog, multiple camera formats, hot lights and strobe. Through trial and error, surprises and accidents, we grew as students, and I truly believe that traditional foundation and steep learning curve has given me a well rounded, and deep understanding of photography as a science and an art.
I've seen it all over the years ... bad weather, time restraints...emotional meltdowns, cameras dropping, cakes falling over... You can imagine the stories behind each wedding. Anything can, and does happen. It takes a certain personality to master the combination of working in unpredictable circumstance and working under a time limit. Not to mention, the pressure to get those once in a lifetime moments. You cannot get flustered; need an extreme amount of patience, and have to be quick of mind and quick on your feet. I think my experience gives my clients a feeling of security when they hire me. To end, I’d like to add that I really do love everything about my job. Im only doing about 10 weddings a year now that my son is older. I love being able to share such an intimate and important day with my clients. I do get excited about the girly aspects too... the dress, the shoes, the flowers and all the personal little details that go into making each wedding unique. Still do. I love the fact that all the emotions are real and that I am a true journalist that day. A wedding is NOT to be shot for a magazine or blog, it’s not to be made up of careful posing and made up emotions...it’s to be CAPTURED as it unfolds for your history. Yes, I’ll put you in good light and yes, I’ll use what I know about portraiture and fashion and storytelling, but you won’t know it until you see the photos. The wedding ALWAYS comes first. Mostly, I like that each wedding is always a mental, emotional and physical challenge. I am never bored. And that alone, pushes me to excel every Saturday.
Choosing a wedding photographer can end up being an extremely individual decision. Not only is everyone drawn to different styles and aesthetics for the finished product, your photographer is the one vendor you will literally be with, most of your wedding day. Choose 4 photographers who’s work you like, interview them, then trust your instinct on who to hire. I have to say, it’s that simple.
On Families + Kids
I tend to stay in contact with my wedding clients and many have become friends. It's no wonder that my portrait business has grown exponentially over the past 15 years. Many of my first couples starting having children a few years after getting married and I have been fortunate enough to see them grow up before my eyes. You may notice a few of them featured in my portfolio. I must admit that portrait sessions do not come as naturally to me as weddings (posing and direction come in handy when you're just standing in the park) BUT I have found my way around this to some extent, especially with the kids. A majority of my family shoots are done in a mini shoot fashion (quick and easy) and I like to select locations where the kids can explore and roam a little. My favorite types of images are the ones where I catch them in thought or action. It's a yearly ritual that I've come to cherish and now that I'm taking on less wedding work, it satisfies a creative itch. Choosing a portrait photographer can be a little less daunting. I LOVE the fact that I have the opportunity to record history in such a way that after 10 or 20 years, my clients will have a fairly consistent archive of memories. They are so sweet and supportive and I've collected quite a few new families from referrals. But I also think it's fun and normal to explore taking your own photos or trying out other photographers too. Kids grow fast. I am really proud of my mini sessions (INFO HERE) because I've made something that is both affordable and invaluable.