SAM STERN

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"LOST ART SHOOTING"

215-886-0399
1548 Elkins Ave.
Abington, PA 19001
samjstern@comcast.net


I was watching a dysfunctional reality TV show about motorcycles (Orange County Choppers) and I kept hearing the father  referring, (more like a lambasting) of  Paul Jr., his reality actor son about "old school bikes".  


I detected a certain reverence in his dialog, obviously written for Tutle Sr.  Nevertheless, he was all about the basics, the beginning days of custom bikes and the forerunners of today exotic choppers.  Don't get me wrong the work they do is exceptional in conception, execution and its artistry in metal-craft and function.  Nevertheless, the similarity bell rang in my brain. Old School rings just like the "good old days". 

In photography, when I talk about "old school"  I am talking about experience and respect for the crew that made wedding Photography a skill and not a digital phenomena.  

Few gimmicks and gizmos existed then and Photoshop, or computers for that matter weren't invented yet either. There were no Photoshop bailouts and the poor shooting sometimes today called "CRAFT" were not acceptable.  I once said drop the FT and add a P and you got it.

Most of us got started after a war or two, for Sam it started in 1972 when he returned from the Army. A friend was getting married and could not afford a photographer. Sam shot his first wedding and was pleased with the results, so were the bride and groom.

Sam began receiving requests from others and soon realized he better get some training. He started working for local studios in 1974 and by 1982 was the top wedding portrait specialist at one of the studios.

Sam felt it was time to start his own business and so he broke away in 1984 and started a small studio out of his home. 

By 1988 business was brisk and Sam became one of the wedding photographers people call as soon as they get engaged. 

In my conversation with him, we had a lot in common.  We were both weaned on the twin-lens reflex, medium format, the venerable tank, the Mamiya 220, twin lens cameras. The 330 was even heavier.

They were the first to have interchangeable lenses.  Sam went to the Pentax's and then the Bronica's. I had them all, and a camera store to boot. They all worked including a Mamiya RZ 6x7 I used on one wedding. The Bronica 645s were my favorite.

Sam did his first digital wedding in 2000 with a Nikon D70 and went digital full speed ahead.  From D70 to D200 to D300 and now with D700 bodies which are his favorite.

His gear is modern and up to date but if he walked into a room with a two gig card and only a hundred or so shots available he would walk out with an album.  He uses my Tuxedos painted Black.

In his shooting,  he is a traditionalist first, then he goes for the casuals, candids, photo-ops and so forth.  When I coach the newbies in this game of wedding and events, I emphasize the importance of the traditional shots first and then the photojournalism and expressive craft shots after the formals 
are in the bag.

Newbies could learn a lot from Sam, and it's expressed differently too. I always hear the phrase from pros,  "get the money shots".  In our in-house lab, the 20 x30s shots of the Bride and Groom hanging over the mantle were "money shots".  We did a lot of large prints and volume proofs for outside shooters who liked the printing in our lab.  

I rarely, actually never, had to make a print of the patent leather groom shoes and open toed white sneakers with the wedding rings and flower bouquets shot at a 45 degree angles and very out of focus blurry.  If thats craft, check spelling. FT=P,  I did however see a ton of them as they came through processing and got rejected by the Brides  

Judging by the shot I gleaned off his site, he must have been a fan of Monty Zucker. Many of us learned from Monty.  Natural light, reflector, bounce for fill.  Sam has hundreds of images on Pbase at http://www.pbase.com/samjstern/images and his website.

Nov 29, 2011, 7:01 AM