The Wedding Book….

THIS POST IS A BIT DIFFERENT.

I promised myself I would never do another wedding related post. I’m breaking that promise. Why? I’m not entirely sure. I like weddings. I like photography. I THINK I’m writing this post because of what has happened AFTER this event. I’ve been called to do other shoots, three actually, and I said “no” to all of them. I’m done. I’m out. I won’t be shooting another wedding. What you are looking at here represents my final shoot. But, don’t feel bad, I’m just choosing to explore new ventures.

I had a long post written, and I’ll admit it was a bit preachy. I decided that the positive of this world far outweighs the negative so I’m breaking this down into essential information. Things like that cover image was handheld on a folding camera. I shot that image the day before the wedding as I scouted the location. I could FEEL and SEE this image coming and the idea of it consumed my entire being. I wanted it so bad I could taste it. I practiced my steady breathing, holding the camera to my eye, holding it, minute after minute until my non shooting eye was blurring and pained. The sky snapped and crackled and then broke loose. I nailed it, or maybe it was blind luck.
The basics……………..
This shoot started with a great planner and a great client. Due to my past relationship with the planner I was encourage and given complete and total freedom to work how I pleased. I was given complete and total freedom by the client. I shot 100% film. I never touched a digital camera. I did the edit and design of this book.

This book is a Blurb 6×9, printed on color paper and is about 238 pages. It looks beautiful. It’s small, informal but yet tells the entire story. This book was in my mind the entire time I was at this event. Each press of the shutter representing a potential page, a potential critical piece of the puzzle.

What never enters my mind during a shoot like this is anything to do with the wedding world, industry, etc. I unlearn everything I’ve known about what I’m “supposed to do.” Otherwise, what comes out on these pages isn’t me. It’s someone else with my branding. I can’t allow that to happen. And besides, that would be boring. If you can’t open this book, know that it was me, then I failed the client and myself.

I should have been able to sell this post with one, two, maybe three images, but I thought I would bonk you on the head more than normal. This bonking is a way for me to stress to you the importance of doing what it is you do. However strange, however simple, as long as what you are doing behind that camera is how you truly feel. For me, I feel like Leica + Hasselblad + TRI-X + real moments. My subconscious mind is littered with the baggage of the wedding industry, but my front line mind pushes all this nonsense aside. And then I’m free.

I tile images. I don’t bring a strobe. I shoot one slow photograph at a time. I make each moment count. I put critical elements in the gutter. I put a lightning shot on the cover. I invent a title for the book. And I think….long and hard about how the event will unfold. I can’t sleep the night before. I rehearse how I will perform. I visualize. I know that when the bride and groom comes through this house at 4:13 PM they will be backlit going into a dark inside so I will drop the M6 and 50mm and will pick up the M6 and 35mm and my exposure will be 125th at 2.8 and I will have ONE chance at the photo.

I know that my longest lens is a 50mm so I will need to be close, very close but you see I can make myself invisible. I can be right in the middle and no one will know. I will be quiet yet the conversation in my mind will be deafening. I make plans for the light. Plan A. Plan B. Plan C and I secretly pray for rain. Rain makes good photographs. It rained at my wedding. Some people think it means good luck. For me it meant getting wet.

There are other photographers working here, which is a load off my mind. We all meet prior and discuss the plans for the photographic invasion. I guess I’m a squad leader but when the snapping starts we are all basically on our own. I like this part of the process and I like watching other photographers work. I wonder if they too are talking to themselves.

The camera goes “clunk,” “clunk,” “clunk” one slow, laborious photo at at time. I can see people watching me as I load and reload and reload the Hasselblad. I think maybe they think I’m crazy until someone comes over and says, “I am so happy to see you shooting film.” “I love film.” Me too.

There are certain things I do not take for granted. This is a HUGE day. This day means so much to so many and I have a responsibility. I owe a lot to many but the critical factor is making THESE images. It might not seem like it on the surface but after the smoke has cleared and the glasses have been cleaned and reboxed there are only a few things that will remain. Love. Family. Life. Photographs.

I break the day into mental boxes. I see four phases I will need to live. I will be four different people. I will be the location. I will be the preparation. I will live the ceremony and then I will end the night as the celebration. Little boxes, tiny boxes checked off my list. Being in the now is what I concentrate on. Then my load gets a little lighter and I move on. It works for me. It may or may not work for you.

I always put the film in the same pocket of the same bag. As the light changes color and gets lower I take my first look at how swollen the pocket is. It feels great. And the best part is not knowing. Not being entirely sure. I can’t, after all, see any of it. “I’m sure you got so many great images,” people say as they stare at the pile of film. “You never know,” I answer. “My fingers are crossed and tonight I will light a candle.”

I’m married, so the actual process of what is happening is not lost on me. I see things that other people miss. That is my job. I see the light. And I know there will be little to no memory of a lot of this stuff, at least without me being here. I remember almost nothing of my wedding. I do remember the rain. I do remember I looked and felt like Herman Munster in my stiff suit. I could see the relevance in the faces around me. The ceremony wasn’t just for my wife and I, it was for everyone. I feel the same way about this wedding, all the weddings. They are greater than the sum of the parts. They mean more. They last forever.

My breath comes in short gasps. My clothes are soaked with sweat. I drink Coke. I never drink Coke but I do now, by the gallon. My hands are twitchy. I can feel the caffeine and sugar fueling the rest of my night. All around me is fun. Lots and lots of people having fun.

I get home and a few days later I get the email saying the work is online. I download. I edit, sort, print. And then comes this book. I know the sequence in my head. I work quickly. I’ve done many books. I like simple, clean and graphic. I mix the somewhat expected with the completely foreign. The book is my final reminder of why they hired me. It should make people think. Like putting lightning and storm on the cover.

The book is fat. The book is small. The paper is white, uncoated and reproduces the imagery really well. I know this book is going to look good long before I see it. Then the doorbells rings and I hear the Fedx truck racing off into the distance. “Hmm, I wonder what that could be,” I ask myself as I tear a hamstring RACING to the front door. It never gets old. Now it’s official. There is a book.
So, if you ever wondered what does through my head during something like this..now you know. I can’t stress enough how important great planner/great client really is. Without those two elements..these images, this book do not happen. I would love to tell you who the planner is but I know if I put their name on this post……the crazies(photographers) might try to contact this person. Would they ever forgive me? If you haven’t seen or made one of these trade sized books you should give them a try.

49 Responses to “The Wedding Book….”

  1. Daniel,
    This post was right “on time” for my consideration…I’m off to Jamaica in two weeks to attend, and possibly provide photographic coverage, of my god-daughter’s wedding. She is not enthused about using the resort photographer and she is requesting my vision, as a “former” photographer of weddings. I’ll be coordinating with her to find out now much freedom I will have but she is well aware that my vision, technique, and attitude have evolved because I shoot with a Leica. I intend to create a Blurb book as a gift (created one for my own wedding 2 years ago).

    James

  2. lionelb says:

    Absolutely terrifying. Like playing squash with hand grenades. Couldn’t …

    • Smogranch says:

      Lionel,

      Photographing weddings? Actually, its really EASY. So much easier than doc work, I can tell you first hand. Just need the right clients, the right planner, location, plan and ideas……light is good too.

  3. pesh says:

    Once again – lovely and well said :)

  4. One of the reasons I keep coming back to Smogranch time and again is because I find your, genuine, approach to photographic work really interesting; and couldn’t agree more with, and relate to, many of the things that you mention. Thanks for (yet another) an inspiring post!

  5. Mark Griffin says:

    Great post Daniel, I have shot a few weddings in the past for close friends and a client or two and this posts makes we want to go back to some of those and put a trade book together – yours looks really great. I have made three of the trades so far as new client give aways and they work really well and look first class! I’m now putting together my first big proline book of industrial portraits so can’t want to get that edited…

    • Smogranch says:

      Mark,

      The trade books are so much fun. They look great, are inexpensive and you can do so much with them. I’m working on a few more as we speak.

  6. Paul Joyce says:

    Really nice work Daniel and a great accompanying story.

    I have so many ideas myself that I need to get around to starting/finishing and must try out the 6×9 books. When I do I will show what I managed to come up with.

    I never get tired of reading the background to your stories/posts, keep up the great work.

  7. clark becker says:

    Great work, and great post. I really enjoy reading them.

  8. Eric Labastida says:

    nice book

  9. Charlene says:

    Love it, Dan! I’ve done a similar thing after delivering a standard wedding book to clients – come up with a Charlene-ized unweddingy version of the book in black and white on a whim – and was very surprised at the positive reaction to it. That’s unexpected for me – people loving books about their wedding that, well, aren’t really, and don’t look it, to boot. I used to second shoot heaps for other photographers, but did very few of my own as it was one of those things I found, wasn’t for me, nor (importantly) me it. I think the expectation of a certain look/delivery is one of the biggest reasons why i happily continue shooting for others but don’t want to get into the business myself: I simply don’t know how/want to take pretty pictures. But i digress :) I’m loving the Blurb trade colour books plenty. It’s such a simple format and there are so many uses for it!

    • Smogranch says:

      Charlene,

      In many cases wedding clients do what they think they have to do and not really what they want to do. I understand, lots of tradition, which is a great opp for the photographer to present something that reflects who they are. Might not always work but it should be shown. Weddings are a bit odd in the sense you have a lot of photographers who are just doing what is hot in the industry, and many of them never really studied photography, or their own vision. This isn’t native to weddings, but you see more people following the herd than in most other genres.

  10. Lyn Rees says:

    Thanks for sharing your thought, approach, feelings and images.

    Really, thanks.

  11. Hey Daniel:

    Cool post! Do you get hi-res scans of every neg, color and the tri-x from the lab? Do you use these scans for the books or re-scan the selects with a Nikon scanner for example? The reason I ask is that I soup my tri-x at home, and get C41 Portra negs done at Walmart, then scan and dust-bust every neg selected myself on an LS-9000 scanner I have. Great quality, but slow and painful to clone out al the dust each time, especially on the tri-x. If you know a way to make shooting analog more painless, I am all
    ears!! :) thanks, Jeff

    • Smogranch says:

      Jeff,

      When I do certain shoots, namely the commercial ones, or sometimes jobs where I shoot 30-50 rolls I use Richard Photo Lab in Los Angeles. They process, contact and scan every roll high res, then place the images online for me to download. Their scans are very good, and are the scans I use for my books. I also have my Nikon scanner, which I will use more when I have my darkroom setup in New Mexico complete. I like to process so I’ll probably continue to do so, but if I run short on time I’ll have the lab do the process and scan so that I can focus on the prints. Keeping negs dust free is essential.

    • lionelb says:

      High res meaning 40Mb ? I mean for making a book.

    • Smogranch says:

      Lionel,

      Yep, my 6×6 negs are 75 megs each and my 35mm are 50 megs.

    • rhmimac says:

      Daniel, Is this 50 Megapixels scan for 135 and 75 Megapixels scan for 120 or is this 50 Megabytes and 75 Megabytes?
      On my lowcost canon MF scanner scanning 135 negs on 2000dpi takes several minutes each, so aprox. 1 to 1,5hr/roll. 50 rolls is a week scanning in dayshift regime. I’m glad you can outsource this PITA work. It’s the reason hybrid digital B&W workflow is not popular at all… ;-)

    • Smogranch says:

      Megabytes….per image. Sure, I can get a much larger scan on the Nikon but in the vast majority of cases I don’t need anything larger. I make all my books from these scans. If I need a scan for a print, large print…I’ll get it drum scanned.

  12. lionelb says:

    You are a bad boy Daniel. You made me do it. The post lady just brought a small brass box engraved ‘M3′. My first brush with Ernst Leitz. When my hands have stopped trembling I will take it out for a walk. And will try not to smile too ostentatiously.

  13. moritz says:

    Just doing the edit of a shooting of architectural models, spending hours at the computer erasing bits of dust, fixing crooked model trees, worrying about d.o.f. and that the files might have too much grain or too little detail.
    I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to read your post in between. I think what I like most is your description of a process – not to be read as a “how to do stuff” but more as a “what to feel for”, a thing that for me turns out to be far more important and difficult than mastering f-stops, exposure times and ISO.

    • Smogranch says:

      Moritz,

      I agree. The tech side of photography gets most of the press but after a while it’s pretty damn boring. The how you feel, ultimately is far more interesting.

  14. Leigh Webber says:

    WOW! That is a real work of art. If you sold it as a book I would buy it. Regardless of the fact I do not know these people, I would love to see this wedding through your eyes. Uncoated paper is the bomb.

  15. Very beautiful and real. Would love to see it all. Thanks for sharing!

  16. Dirk says:

    hey Daniel,
    Which folder were you using? For some time now I have been regretting selling my Mamiya 6, and I’ve been looking at getting another one or maybe a 6×9 Fuji rangefinder. Which folder are you using?

    See you at SPE!

    Dirk

  17. Hey Daniel,
    You mention you shot the first picture of the wedding book with a folder, what camera are you using? I ask as I’m regretting selling my Mamiya 6 and have been looking for something to replace it. Perhaps another Mamiya 6 or a Fuji 6×9 rangefinder.
    Interested to see what you are shooting with.
    See you at SPE!
    Dirk

  18. Rob Oresteen says:

    Daniel – though you have an established vision and your peeps know what they will get with a DM shoot, how does one find the “right” clients?

    I might shoot differently than you, but along the lines of Joe Buissink, Jose Villa, etc., where the art is more important than the “seminar shots” that EVERYONE has on their template websites.

    The problem might be that the “modern bride” accepts the WPPI version of “wedding photography” because of the saturation it gets deliberately through collective marketing in the industry, and the residual run off that the new *young* bride views on various Facebook and social media venues.

    I would love nothing more than to, as Riccis Valladares puts it: “I’m a guest with a lot of access”. Perfect. That’s the bride I want!

    Well, thanks for the great post..

    • Smogranch says:

      Rob,

      I see a post in the making. I can only tell you what worked for me. Not saying it’s right or it will work for you, but there was VERY much a method to my madness.

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