“Fell into” is a good way of putting it. My dad bought us a little point and shoot compact camera as a wedding gift in 2007, and i’d never picked up a camera before that point. So I messed around with it a bit on our honeymoon in Italy and, upon our return home, some people seemed very impressed by the images. I didn’t think much of it and then my sister in law suggested to a couple of friends of hers that they should ask me to take their engagement photos. My wife and I had recently moved into this really cool 1950’s mid century house and so I decided to shoot the session there.
I borrowed a little nicer camera from my father in law and had the couple start off by standing in front of this really cool, Orla Kiely wallpaper that my wife wanted to put on the walls. The funny thing is that approximately one foot to the right of my frame was the wallpaper guy, busily hanging the wallpaper and still working his way down the wall. My career has always felt like that, like the tracks were always being laid right before I got there. It was a breadcrumb trail I kept expecting to end, but it never did.
Wedding photography is, hands down, about the couple. I don’t believe that a good photographer has any business putting his stamp or his trademark on a wedding. Every couple and every wedding is different. The business of a wedding photographer is to listen. If you listen well, it is my experience that each event will tell you how it needs to be shot. It’s in the air if you have the courage to follow it.
I love engagement shoots and family shoots because you can take your time, you can be in (almost) total control, you can cancel if there is inclement weather, etc. Weddings are the exact opposite and you aren’t in control of all that much. You have to be very good at getting dropped into new surroundings constantly, getting your bearings, and coming up with plan B’s, C’s, and D’s on the fly. I don’t think most photographers love shooting weddings… At least the ones I know. It’s harder than people think.
On top of everything else your juggling, trying to stay locked in creatively for 8 and 12 hour stretches is no small feat. I do not love shooting weddings. But I do love that I’m blessed to be able to shoot them well and I take a lot of pride in that and get a lot of satisfaction from it.
My favorite moments are when I have a plan, and then throw it out the window because I recognized that a greater opportunity had presented itself. This is what I mean by listening. You shoot with both eyes open in a sense and are always watching for those unexpected twists and turns. So, in short, I’m most proud when I go off script and it actually works.
My wife and two children for sure.
Honestly, one of the biggest goals I’ve been working on is to have a more seamless merger of my professional and personal life. For years I tried to keep them separate. But then you start to feel fraudulent, like no one really knows you by looking at your work. I’m not really one of those “be true to yourself” kinds of people because it’s an inherently flawed notion. Because if your true self is a kidnapper, for instance, then you should absolutely NOT be true to yourself. But I don’t like feeling a disconnect between my personal and professional life. For years I’d suppressed who I felt I was naturally in favor of what I thought I was supposed to be, and what others expected.
For example, suppressing my sense of humor and trying to look more serious than I am. Or talking about how much I LOVE shooting weddings when that’s not what I love about them. Or writing things on my website that sound just like other photographers, trying desperately to cater more to women by acting like I’m super in touch with my softer side, acting more interested in their color schemes and the details of their wedding than I actually am… The truth is I’m a guy who’s going to show up and take badass photos that will, more than likely, have a hard edge to them (unless the air-voices say to shoot it otherwise) and I think that’s just fine.
It’s fun. I consider my wife to be the really talented one. I can just take photos well but she can do it all. For instance, the last wedding we shot in Italy Katie (along with her business partner Elyse) designed the wedding, coordinated the wedding, did the hair and makeup for the bride, and then would grab a camera and start shooting when she had time. With two kids, we don’t have as much spare time to do fun projects together like we used to. But when we do I’m always in awe of her.
Our kids are everything to us. We’ve had a LOT of things go wrong in the last couple of years. The hardest one was finding out (when he was just four months old) that our son Wolfie (Wolfgang) has epilepsy. Needless to say, we’ve spent a LOT of time in and out of hospitals, in doctors offices, neurologist offices, etc. trying to get a handle on it. Not to mention our daughter Clementine had to have heart surgery in December.
But nothing makes you realize what you have until you’re faced with the fear of losing it. It’s been very difficult, but so many wonderful things have come out of all of this and mine and Katie’s relationship has never been better or stronger. It just makes you appreciate things, that you previously took for granted, in a way you just couldn’t before.
I’d turn my nose up at jobs I didn’t feel like taking on or that I viewed as beneath me, jobs that weren’t exciting enough to “get my juices flowing,” and I was very quick to write off people that I deemed too difficult to work with or too demanding. But when you are faced with things like your child on a hospital bed and mounting medical expenses, and that salary that was just fine the year prior isn’t enough anymore.. you’ll set aside your pride and do anything it takes for your family.
I’ll even go assist other photographers when I’m not busy just to make some extra cash. It was very painful at first and very humbling, but it was great for me in the end and would be great for anyone else who can relate to my position. I’ve become thankful for anything and everything that’s come my way since so, in short, my kids have changed not just my outlook on work, but life itself.
-It’s just a job at the end of the day. Don’t let it become your whole identity.
-Be honest always. Don’t try and manipulate claw your way to the top- it is always at the expense of others. Find a way that you can get your name out there that is true to your personality.
-Be grateful for everything that comes you way
– Be realistic. Like I said, it’s just a job. Sometimes that’s all it will feel like. So don’t be governed purely by emotions or you won’t make it past a year in this business.
-Work just as hard at the jobs you don’t care as much about as the ones you do.
(D) ALL OF THE ABOVE.