One frame out of 234

When it comes to candid / documentary style imagery, you often have one or two frames to capture the right composition and expression you were looking for. Photographing kids though, usually requires a little bit more than that. For this portrait of Leo and his mother, a total of 234 frames were made, yet only one out of the whole lot really stood out as being useable.

Ten years of weddings


I've been photographing weddings for the past decade. Ten years. Hundreds of weddings. Thousands and thousands of photographs made, some great, some not so great...that's the thing with photography.  I've got so many images to show, yet to this day my portfolio remains a fairly tight edit that represents my way of seeing a wedding. When I started photographing weddings this industry was just opening up to the masses in terms of accessibility. Digital cameras were expensive as hell, but the technology allowed anyone with an idea (and some cash) to make a photograph, without having to know much of anything about real photography or without having to go to school.  Now, those doors are blown right open. It's a free for all out there. 

This may be hard hitting for some, but here is a truth that people talk about but rarely write about: the conformity within the wedding photography business is just mind boggling. From coast to coast, wedding photography has been reduced down to easily replicated content. From the poses of the bride and groom, to the way details are photographed and presented about in industry blogs, to photoshop post production techniques...it's all the same right now. 

If you don't want to read all of this, the message here is "Make your own images and ignore the trends".

There was once a time that I would look at photographers work online and be excited and inspired about my own work. Nothing online does that for me anymore - at least not wedding photography wise. Now, the trend is to seek out photographers who seem to be hot and popular, and to copy everything they do. Post production techniques, marketing tips, even right down to the camera, lens, and flash settings....wedding photography has been reduced down to a cut and paste type business, where very little is different from one photographer to the next. It may be okay in the short term for the photographer who adapts and copies quickly, but that's not what photography is about. 

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The wedding photography industry has changed, and in my opinion, not for the better. Everything can be learned, and copied online, and it is...weekly. The roll of a wedding photographer has now been reduced down to being a "content creator", providers of free marketing materials to the wedding magazines and blogs.

Couples are finding it increasingly difficult to know who is good, or not good, because across the board, wedding photography is so similar, both in quality, pricing, and the over all look. This isn't good folks. Not at all! Wedding photographers should have a distinct style that stays consistent over their career, regardless of the type, style, or size of wedding that they are shooting. 

I was asked recently what the best advice I could give someone who wanted to photograph weddings. I looked at her portfolio and her strongest images were those that were candid street portraits. Snapshots if you will. The rest of her work was no different than ten others. The advice I gave to her, and to anyone else looking to photograph weddings is this: Make your own work. Turn off Pinterest, get off of the local Facebook photography group, stop watching Creative Live all day long and just shoot...shoot all day, every day, make images that you want to look at. Make images that are yours, that you would want in YOUR home of your family. Put on blinders. Look through your viewfinder, not through someone else's online. When you get hired by a bride and groom, make images for yourself first and foremost. Forget the blogs, forget about being published, make photographs that are for you first, and your clients will love you for it. When you give your client images that every other photographers also shows online, you devalue your work. Plain and simple.  Photography should be a personal thing, something that is based on technical knowledge and your heart. 

I am now in a place where I can say quite confidently that I am glad that I've decided to exit the wedding industry in it's current form.  I have no interest in wedding photography trends, tips or techniques that a million other photographers around the world are sharing online. I've got my approach and style locked down tight. I'll continue to photograph weddings for couples that specifically want me to be there to witness and capture their wedding in my own way, but I'm just not interested or inspired by the way the business is these days.  

Moving forward, I plan to only take on a few weddings each year, and I will only work with couples that specifically want my style of image.  When someone hires you based on what you love to make, the relationship is far more rewarding, and the work is always much better. 

The Wedding Album

I hear this all the time : Albums are too expensive...making prints is a hassle...your albums are how many thousands of dollars?

Yeah, after ten years in the business I think I've heard every variation of "but I just don't want to spend that much".  But, when it comes to your wedding photographs, or any photographs of family for that matter, NOT printing the images is far more expensive. Hard drives crash, online storage costs a lot to maintain, USB keys get lost, and DVD disks fade and fail.  A print though, when made properly on high quality paper will last. Not only will it last, it is easy to carry around with you, making sharing your photographs much easier, and much more beautifully than on a 4 inch phone screen.

This album is the largest I've made to date - over 200 pages, silk hard cover, and matching clamshell box.....it's beautiful. The process of image selection, image culling, sequencing, adding quotes and design elements, going back and forth between the printer and the client, took months. It costs a LOT of money, but it is worth it! 

Do you have photographs on your computer that you love but haven't printed yet? Check out blurb.com for a more cost effective way of printing your photographs in a book format. You'll thank me later.

 

The power of photography.

 It occurred to me recently that my parents have just one single formal portrait of them in their house.  Just one.  From twenty five or more years ago. How is it, that I, a professional family photographer for the past decade, who has spent thousands of hours documenting and archiving other families has not taken one single portrait of the two of them together? I suppose, I could blame "life" - being busy with our own three kids, or the fact that they don't like to "be photographed", or that I just overlooked it and accepted this fact because growing up, photography was never really a huge part of our lives as a family.  Don't be too sad, there are many snapshots of us, in some albums and in a box there are photographs, but it's certainly not a formal archive that can be pulled out and presented. Their home is not plastered with memories of our childhood, although my photographs of our children are taking up most of their shelves now.  Maybe that's why I feel so strongly about photography now, because I was never really exposed to the magic of it at a young age. 

My oldest daughter, and our doodle. I remember this portrait like it happened today. Our dog got up on the couch - something she was just not "supposed" to do. Amelia looked super cute in her favourite colour, and the light was right. A quick series of images were made and she went back to eating her lunch. I love this portrait of my daughter, and can't wait to see her reaction when I'm a much older man, when she sees it in print.  

My oldest daughter, and our doodle. I remember this portrait like it happened today. Our dog got up on the couch - something she was just not "supposed" to do. Amelia looked super cute in her favourite colour, and the light was right. A quick series of images were made and she went back to eating her lunch. I love this portrait of my daughter, and can't wait to see her reaction when I'm a much older man, when she sees it in print.

 

I'm telling you this, and opening up to you about this because I really believe in what I do as a photographer. I don't care about making photographs of your $1000 shoes for a wedding industry magazine or blog, it's not what I care about as a family photographer. But capturing images that at the time may only seem like a hug between a bride and her grandfather, only to learn months later that hug was the last one she would have from him, or capturing a father daughter dance, where the father breaks down into tears - something that his entire family swore he's never done in his life..that's what I live for. 

Photographs are important. They are so much more than just files on a USB drive. They are special, important, one of a kind historical documents that enable each and every one of us to sit down with someone else, and tell a story about that memory. 

The Baptism / A Romanian Orthodox Ceremony

A few years ago I photographed their wedding, at the time my first Romanian Orthodox Wedding, which in fact is not much different than a Greek Orthodox wedding. No one spoke English, which made it a little challenging as I had to rely on the visual queues to know what was going to happen next.

This past weekend I spent an hour with the two families as they celebrated the birth and baptism of their first daughter. "You are part of the family now" I was told by one of the mothers,  as I prepared to photograph the ceremony.

 

Why framed prints are better than digital files.

When I started photographing weddings digital photography was just taking over our way of working. We shot with 6 and 8 Megapixel Canon cameras, that ranged in price from $4,000-$10,000.  Over the years, with cameras, computers, hard drives, cd's, usb keys etc etc..I think I've spent close to $60,000. Which..is really pretty crazy. But, that was the cost of doing business at the time.  Fast forward to now, where one can outfit themselves for a few thousand dollars and be set! 

Framed eight years ago, this cotton rag print looks as incredible now as it did then.

Framed eight years ago, this cotton rag print looks as incredible now as it did then.

The thing is, with all that is great and good about digital photography, such as the portability, and ease of sharing, nothing really comes close to the value of a beautifully printed, and framed photographic print. My mother in law has these old portraits in her home, passed along from one generation to the next and I often think about what our children will have on their walls of their home if we don't have a printed archive of their lives. In my office, I have a stack of hard drives with thousands and thousands of images locked inside. How will they access them if I don't keep technology updated?

So if you're thinking about your wedding, and about the photography of the day, it may be tempting to just ask for digital files and dump them to Facebook. I get it. It's what all you cool kids are doing these days, but trust me...as a father who takes countless images of his family, digital files are great for a moment, but the experience of seeing your loved one in print is priceless.

A framed print lasts forever. You won't need a computer to look at it. You can take it anywhere you move - all you need is a wall with nice light.  A properly printed photograph, framed behind UV glass will last a lifetime, will not fade, and is a sound investment. 


How to pull off a Surprise Wedding

Planning a surprise wedding? It will be an amazing day, but there are some things to consider when planning it. 

Who will you tell in advance? Can you make sure the secret won't get out? It's such an incredible idea that it could get out - keep the ideas and plans to only your most trusted family or friends. Lock down your plans - that means not even a hit on Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter...zip it up!!

What about guest attendance and desired wardrobe for guests? How formal or casual do you want it to be? Plan in advance, and put it in the invitation. What is the cover event going to be called? Plan for some people to not be there - it's not a wedding, so some may just not show up, or show up late..but don't worry too much about that. 

If you're not sure how to pull this off, there are a number of wedding planners that can help in making your dream of a surprise wedding a reality. Let me know if you need help, I can put you in touch with a few of the good ones.

Photography Tip: You likely won't need a team of photographers. In fact that could give it away. Interview the ones you like based on their work, and choose a single photographer who can blend in as a guest. Someone with a partner may even work better - and, give that photographer a cover story for guests until the surprise is out of the bag! "Oh I know so and so from back at school...etc etc". Your surprise wedding photographer should be super low key - one camera, one lens, no camera bags, just like your guests.

Best of luck in your plans! 

Meet Your D.J. / Michael Coombs Entertainment

I met Michael way back in my second or third year of photographing weddings. We met through Cynthia Martyn, and for a while we were at Graydon Hall almost every other weekend (or at least it felt like that!).

He's a good guy, professional wedding vendor, and very knowledgeable. He also wears a suit. I'm a stickler when it comes to vendors wardrobes at weddings - suits yes, jeans or cheap polyester dress pants and untucked shirts..NO!

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Michael also MC's weddings - so if your best friend is stressed out that he or she will have to carry the party through speeches and introductions, fear not, Michael cant take care of that for you.

These photos were taken at one of our weddings together that was held at The Royal Conservatory of Music.

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Distillery District Wedding Photos / Winter Weddings in Toronto / Wedding Photography Distillery District

When it comes to downtown, urban photo locations for weddings, no other location comes close to popularity as The Distillery District. Whether it's a sunny summer day, or a chilly winter evening, like this wedding that took place the same evening as the Lowes Christmas Market.

One tip - when planning on getting your portraits in places that are this popular, be prepared to be photographed by many, many people other than your photographer! Most of the time, the photographs are more casual environmental portraits then anything overly formal.

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A Belle Rives Hotel Wedding / Wedding Venues in Antibes / Weddings in Juan Les Pins

Wedding photographers all know that no matter how much you plan, something happens that is not within your control. This is both the agony and ecstasy of weddings, and as a wedding photographer who relishes in catching the quirky and authentic moments that make up the day, I welcome situations where there is no formal plan or script. It makes for much more interesting photographs. This image could have just as easily not been made, or composed more to the left to cut out the local who was finishing up his suntanning for the day. However, I thought it was humorous and actually quite honest in the overall narrative of this wedding. 

Moments before taking their official bride+groom portraits, a local decided to put his pants back on. Taken on the pier of Belle Rives Hotel.

Moments before taking their official bride+groom portraits, a local decided to put his pants back on. Taken on the pier of Belle Rives Hotel.

An Outtake

A few chairs, some light, and some bodies to test things out. This is how it always starts off. Formal at first, then relaxed and candid. Get the formalities out of the way and move onto the fun stuff.