Friday, November 26, 2010

3 Weddings...And some Thoughts on Wedding Photography.


 Today I'm cramming 3 weddings into 1 post. The reason for this is that it was micro-eloper-weddings to start with, and I actually have a lot of other things I wish to blog soon, so I decided to combine these. First off, it started of with my usual German weddings (actually all 3 were German tourist weddings), at the beautiful Grande Roche in Paarl. It's a challenge to shoot so often at one venue, as you continually need to try and look at the same space in a fresh way.

The great thing is though, that times of day differ, and more importantly, the couple differ. And also, I like having lots of different tools in my toolbox, so that's why you'll find me going from full glamour, to country-style to reportage, all depending on the situation. And as much as I don't like sepia, if the client asks for it, I'll supply it, in my sort of way :) .

I've mentioned to some wedding photographers, and with mixed responses from them, that I foresee a sudden saturation in the market of the country provencal look, sported by open aperture shooting on modestly standard prime lenses. The saturation of a trend happens organically, but normally it begins with someone establishing a new technique or style. Then as more people cotton on to it, the stylistically enligthened then demands to have that as well. As the style continues to permeate the medium, acceptance of this style becomes mainstream, where now everyone wishes to have this particular style.

What's next? Well, the enlightened trendster has no interest in being like someone else, and soon they do not want the style they were demanding a season ago. And in steps the new trend creator. And the cycle continues.

It's much like building a Tuscan villa in the early 90's. What style! Now? You wouldn't be caught dead in one, even in Tuscany.

So what is my answer? I take note of the trends, incorporating it in my style, but borrowing from all disciplines in photography to create my own, organically evolving style. Am I the only one noticing the second shooter phenomenon spawning heaps and heaps of clones of established photographers? In some circles, if you showed me the images of a new kid on the blog, and an established name, by virtue of style I couldn't tell the difference. So, for me to stay ahead of the curve I need to evolve all the time. So is f1.2 the rage? Certainly. However, I have a problem with treating all situations like nails when the only tool you have is a hammer. Instead of widening their skills, photographers seem to shrink them. Anyways, that's just my perception. 





Onto Wedding number 2, the following week at the beautiful setting of On the Rocks Restaurant, in Bloubergstrand. Again it was a tourist wedding, but this time two friends also joined, pushing the complete party to 6 (including me). The nuptials were concluded over a glass of bubbly in the restaurant, while a fairly raucus corporate party was raging in the rest of the restaurant. We then headed to the rocks, where the wind pelted us with fine mist and the temperature was rather low. However, when given lemons you make lemonade.

I tend to gauge my clients, and work around their personalities, traits and characters. There is a trend of "I don't shoot any posed photos", and with most photographers, I have to admit, I take that with a bit of salt.  Some treat it as photographically blasphemous to use the word "pose", or to accuse a wedding photographer of shooting a posed shot, is akin to accusing them of copyright theft. I understand that people are reeling against the old school of formal and rigid posing, but I do believe most good photographers direct and manage. There are very very very few photographers, who truly only shoot reportage, and bring group shots and the whole shebang home. In fact, I haven't encountered one. There is certainly a good number of photographers shooting with the fly-on-the-wall approach, or who claim they do so exclusively, but I choose to not leave everything over to chance or to be completely fooled! Rather than "pose", I choose the term "direct". I believe in creating a framework in which the couple can be themselves, and where they have trouble doing so (as not all people are emotionally so adept at showing passion, romance, intimacy, even when their guard is down), I will direct and create situations, complimented with styling and lighting, to bring the message across. In fact, in my opinion, of which I'm giving a lot here, the different techniques apply to different parts of the wedding day, but can be mixed and matched to create new workflows and styles.




A note on sepia toned images: till very recently I took a very snooty stance on sepia, claiming that I don't do sepia. I've since had to humble out and face the facts. I am there to give the client what they desire, and some more. If however, sepia images are stylistically preferred for the couple, who am I to judge that? Rather, I've decided to remember that the client is sovereign, not me. The wedding is for the couple, not for the photographer, and so are the memories. So, do I like traditional sepia tones? Well, not necessarily, but since opening my eyes to it, I realized that just as with all things in life, there is a place and a time, and then, it is beautiful. It has also openend my eyes, technique and Photoshop skills to new takes on sepia and toning. And since then, I've been using it steadily.

As a commercial photographer for more than 10 years, I have been doing the strobist thing for as long as I have worked. The "Strobist" craze and consequent Speedlight frenzy caught me by surprise, as I was under the false impression that photographers new about all this and just chose to shoot differently. However, I now take the same approach to using flash as to all other techniques. It's another tool in the tool-box. Don't get me wrong: I love love love cinematic style lighting, with strong rim-lighting and the like, but I realize also, the wedding images need a drama that is sometimes a bit different than the drama of a Nike Ad portrait. At one stage I was completely attached to the Speedlight style, but since it has become very popular, I have started toning down my usage thereof, and also using it differently, albeit, more conservatively.
Having said that, there are few things that get me so chuffed as a beautiful, cinematic portrait, with strong direction flash lighting, rim-lighting and film noir treatment!





Wedding number 3 happened the very next day after our cold and windy day at On the Rocks. This time around there was no real ceremony, but just a officiation at a hotel in Cape Town, after which they couple exchanged rings at the beach without much fanfare.

The "when in Rome" approach should be evident as you look at the differences in styles and techniques between these 3 weddings. Apart from being a flash-fan, I'm a huge fan of big landscape portraits, but have learned that when couples tend to print in jumbo sizes, the effect gets lost completely. So I do this sparingly, but when I have the right location, I endulge!

In this particular wedding the couple had very firm ideas about design in general (architects), so I new they would be open to some fresher ideas, and I could shoot and treat less conservatively, but, they could probably smell cheese a mile away.

Using textures in my images is something that I haven't quite taken to as much as I could've, but in this case I did let some loose. This wedding was more reminiscent of a couple shoot, so I allowed myself some different takes on the wedding theme. Having said that, photographers like Dror Eyal have used the textures very effectively for eons, although, for me it's been a bit like the fancy drill-bit that can make holes in steel, but that I haven't found a use for yet. So I tried it. I like what I got, but I will be very aware of the cheese-factor in it, or that my romantic idea, might turn into something that looks like a country-pop album cover. But if that is what the client wants...


One thing I do have to highlight amongst all my rantings and opinionated waxing here on wedding photography: every photographer shoots according to their character/personality/mix of the above. You ultimately do what comes naturally to you. Or at least when you've grown in confidence enough to start developing a thumb-print. Or a signature. I like variety. I like options. Hence, my style.

So, irregardless of what trends might be on, what styles might be the hottest, couples should choose photographers based on the compatibility of their preferences to each other. I realize that my style will not be every bride's cup of tea. Nor do I think mine is the best, or the most beautiful. However, I think more variety would do our industry the world of good. 











BTW - I didn't use speedlights at all in this last wedding. It was noon. Just goes to show, that one can do what you need to do, when it needs to be done. It'll just take on its own style. 


Friday, November 05, 2010

Shooting Stock 20101001

video

It’s been a while since I’ve been here, but it’s been busy with me finishing up my degree and whatnot. I did however get the chance to shoot a nice little stock project for nelimages.com and the rest of my microstock catalogue. It was the first day on my own after Philip has moved on to better things, so getting used to doing everything by myself was kinda strange!



This is what I had to clean up afterwards!



Anyways, Joleta Keane was the make-up artist for the day, and Monnique was the model. She has foot-modelled for me before, for a commercial shoot. However, this is not why I chose her… I wasn’t planning on shooting feet! Her mom (who is a client), mentioned that they were looking to have a selection of images shot of her, so we came to a compromise, i.e. pics for model-release.








Now, as with all stock shoots of this nature, production is key, in that efficiency and speed is important, as you need to get as many pics out of a day as possible.


The aim was for about 300, of which I’m looking at about 90-100 to ultimately end up in the agency portfolios. Well, we made that and a bit more. The generic and non-exclusive nature of microstock makes that possible. In rights-managed stock you are allowed one sister-image per collection (similar image). In microstock, you can have as many as you really need, to cover all the possible bases. What’s important about stock these days is that the makeup and styling is professional and fitting. Gone are the days you can get away with dodgy styling. You need to be spot-on nowadays.






What I can make a note about here is: I wish people having corporate portraits done would invest in make-up artists more – it really makes a huge difference! What’s better from this perspective, is that I could even use Joleta as a model in a couple of shots!














Anyways, without too much talk, here are some of the pics of the day. Do watch this video, as that’ll give you a good feel for the day as well. The complete collection of images is available from nelimages.com, or any of the other portals detailed on the homepage, including selections on istockphoto.com, Shutterstock, BigStock and Dreamstime, among others.




 From a production point of view I always try and shoot as many concepts as possible, taking note to do seasonal images. Although they sell seldom through the year, they are best-sellers around their specific seasons, giving them quite a nice long-tailing (earnings lifetime) effect. As you can see, in this particular shoot I covered the really generic concepts, plus, ironically, some on photography, as the market and the career of photography has morphed into an incredibly big business, needing images to support the marketing of photography schools and products. Canon, in fact, has sold more lenses since the launch of the first DSLR in the early 00’s, than it has sold in it’s total lifetime of manufacturing lenses prior! That is currently about 20 000 000 lenses. So as you can see, I reckoned rather to fleece my competition, than complain!


And at the beach, it was cool, actually kinda cold, but we were able to withstand the elements and get some nice summery pics, which is kinda ironic.



Joleta was there to make sure Monnique’s hair stays sufficiently wind-swept in a controlled manner, and that her goose-bumps didn’t show.



Just to answer a question I get often. Yes, microstock can make up a reasonable percentage of your income, but here is a but, and a big BUT at that. In my opinion, there is no harder work involved in any type of photography, including the post-intensive wedding photography genre, than there is in stock. To have about 1700 images online, at a 85% reception rate, like I have, implies you needed to upload 2000 images. Not a great many people have that ratio, but I have been a photographer for a long time ;). Now, if you shoot full-frame like I do, that implies jpeg files of roughly 10mb per image. That puts you at 20 000mb of uploads. Or 20 Gigabyte. Now add on that RAW conversion, retouching at 100% always, de-fringing if needed, aberration corrections if your lens was playing up, compositing, and exporting. Then there is key-wording. With a good keyword tree, like I have built up, it can take up to 5 minutes to keyword and describe an image. Remember, these influence sales. Now, with the quality of bandwidth in SA, you can imagine how many times uploads are dropped due to bandwidth issues. Oh, and did I forget to mention setting up, shooting, planning, scouting, paying or arranging barters with everyone involved, propping ,styling etc?

And to conclude the answer to that question: you need about 20 000 images online to earn a reasonable modest income, if your images are market-related. Now, why do I do it? Well, I’m a firm believer in annuity type income, where little by little you make it grow (See Proverbs 13:11). Also, I believe in utilising all my time and skills, so while I’m doing stuff, uploads are running. But more than that, I love it. I’m really into commercial imagery. In music I can afford to be esoteric, but I’m one of the few photographers who like the money-shots! From a artistic point of view, that is. I love the industry of stock, the possibilities and the creative license.

In fact, some have noticed my passion for it, even though I’m a feebly small player in the field. See me as featured artist at: http://www.microstockposts.com/

Also, I micro-blog on stock imagery here at: http://nelimages.blogspot.com/