TRENDS, PHOTOJOURNALISM , 2nd SHOOTERS


AVOID FORUM WEDDING WEBSITES

The apparent idiocy that occurs at many wedding sites, vendor pretend sites, or shills, should be taken in context, take things with a grain of salt two shots of vodka and a twist.  

One time I was asked to answer questions about Wedding Photography on a forum.  Some forums have self-declared experts, a few resident nutcases, those celebrating their wedding which took place literally five to eight years ago and who are still offering advice to the lovelorn on how it should be done.  Get a frickin life lady!   Quit banging the keys and bang your husband.

One was already divorced but loved her Wedding so much and was on every day telling others how it should be done.  And the idiot is divorced now.  I had to have some fun with her.  I politely suggested maybe had she offered more sex to her husband he might have stayed around longer.  I believe I termed it "spread legs not stories…”  Did I get slammed, ouch!  Obviously, she had sympathy from the other losers.

After reading some of these heart and hard wrenching stories of emotion trauma, your Bride will seem normal.  Even if she comes complete with tears and a few borderline major breakdowns. At times these groups are funnier than anything you will ever read.  One site is so hip you will need the secret decoder ring so you will know who they are talking about.  It’s below.

They are reliving their wedding ceremony years after its over, day after day, week after week, ad nauseam as the champion accomplishment of their lives.  They keep telling their “story” to the future Brides who crank in thinking if it’s in print on the web its real. 

ON THE GROOMS SIDE 
G = Groom     GWR = Groom /Regrets     BM = Best Man     BM1 = Best Man who had banged her just before the Wedding.
FH = Future Husband     FIL = Father-in-Law     FFIL = Future Father-in-Law

ON THE BRIDES SIDE

B = Bride     BB= Bitcher Bride or Ball Buster
,     DAARB = Dumb as A Rock Bride
,     MIL = Mother-in-Law
BMD = Bridesmaid
,     FG = Flower Girl
,     MOH = Maid/Matron of Honor,     PNODL = Phone Number of Divorce Lawyer

THE REAL BROADS SIDE

MOB = Mother of the Bride
,     MOBITCH = Mother of the Bride You wished were Dead
,     MIL = Future Mother-in-Law
FSIL = Future Sister/Son-in-Law
,     TLOTH = The Lady of The Hour
,      SLOTH = Tree Climbing SA Animal aka MOB

The BACKSIDE
HC = The Happy Couple,     UHC = Unhappy Couple
,      SO = Significant Other ,      SOL = Significant Other’s Lover see
BM1SOLW/OB = Significant Other Lover Without Balls (By Female Only)     BRIDEZILLA = Devil in a White Dress


THE WEDDING FORUM - A SMOKEHOUSE FOR THE BRIDE
Wedding specific boards, aka discussion groups, address common, sometimes frivolous subjects, many times over, ad nauseam.  There are two kinds of boards.  Boards for the Bride discussing her plans.  And there are Boards for the shooter discussing mostly equipment rather than technique.  A thinker would suggest they should read both.  The shooter will understand the Bride better and the Bride will know what to look for. 

In many cases on these boards the answers given to the Bride have no bearing whatsoever to the specific question as it had been posed and/or how it might help the person asking it.  These boards are havens for what we call “The Mountains from Molehill Theology" and home to a few Celebrity Wedding Planners who are bored brides reliving their own story, repeatedly.  To most Brides I recommend a good professional local wedding planner.  They know the area,  the culture and the best locations.

If your Bride is already involved with forums, be cautious she is going to change her mind daily, this is caused by insecurity, hers.  And the ever-changing reality TV market and forums who follow them.  The answer for you is questions.

Always ask nicely who suggested the theme idea?   Perhaps something like, "That’s interesting did you attend a Wedding where that was done, did you see it on TV or did a friend suggest it?   Careful here, because you do not wish to become a wedding planner nor does your opinion count.

If it's totally screwy and off the wall, you should suggest she check with the Priest and see if he has objections to them slaughtering the live sheep in the aisle as a sacrifice like from the days of Moses.  Then mention your competitors name and tell her he was a former sheepherder and knows how to do it.  Dump it on him or her for a referral fee.    For the shooter, think before you change your game plan for life and / or sign up for that all day $500 seminar given by some yahoo who has one year in the business.

We all suffer from Demographic Dyslexia. Differing opinions and responses formed because of differences in tradition, ethnicity, location, experience, education, training, etc.  We get answers on different subjects to our perceived problems and then we act upon them upon the advice of someone who… is not us… Two hours attending a REDNECK WEDDING will clear any thoughts about all weddings are the same.

FRIVOLOUS QUESTIONS - FOR SHOOTERS
You see with so many newbies on forums, with three weddings and they self-proclaim themselves a PRO. Maybe. Got to respect that word PRO. It’s popular, it’s on every cheap Chinese knockoff imported gadget made. They copy all the things a pro does, and officially that makes them a pro. Walks like a duck, talks like a duck, thus you might be a duck.  Or learn to duck. 
It just happens that this isn’t your bother in laws freebie and her Daddy is an Attorney. You are a duck all right, a dead duck.

What you can learn from the pro who is willing to teach you, is the art of CONTROL at the Wedding. Doing what others do is the tip of the iceberg; handling years of mistakes and problems that arise separates the wheat from the chaff. And a good pro will teach you how to work with lighting, working on putting the Wedding books together.  Most forums don’t get down to the basics of good business and those tools.  Sometimes you must endure dumb stuff.


BOARD PICTURE CRITIQUING
What do you do when someone asks for a critique of their photo? Maybe, just maybe, the answer to this quandary is quite simple but being mortal we look to our parents and at our upbringing. We were always told to "tell the truth even if it hurts".

The problem doesn't lie with the pictures, nor the critique, it lies with US. We don't want to paint ourselves as being the bad guy in front of others. We don't want to criticize someone else’s pleasure, dream, world, creation, inspiration, manipulation or imagination but we have the choices to make. Follow what our parents taught us or just lie…of course it’s a little white lie and not perjury.  

The compliments are understandable. Almost every picture is wonderful and possibly a small correction would make it perfect but that is the usual extent of the stranger’s critique. It’s a religious thing…The Twelfth Commandment. "Thou shalt not bust another’s bubble". The Eleventh?  “Learn to laugh at thyself, you might just be hilarious”.  Maybe the best bet is to respond with the following before or preclude your opinion with something like this.

It's only professional to respond with the truth about the work you presented to this group". Photography is about as diverse as the universe. You ask to be judged by those with differing opinions as to concept, quality, artisticness reality, message, lighting, composition, subject matter, position, and movement. Compliments may be either positive or negative and it is nothing personal. It is just one person’s opinion. 

Thus, opinions and estimations will differ even those that are semi-conscious.  If they didn't this would be an awful dull place. Like most large families, squabbles and beliefs run hand in hand, sometimes right off the end of a cliff. But the next day all is forgotten because no one really gives a shit.

The negativity on some forums is so bad; I find it emotionally disconcerting.  Cowards like to hide behind anonymous names. Some folks will never grow up and some folks embarking on something new get discouraged too easily. Just an aberration of the web, sites turn that way.   But with that said, the failure of some of the Usenet photo sites if any of you remember the battles, threats, a few actual law-suits and black-eyes when some egos followed up on things they threatened with.   

One thing I will say about the contributors is while there are raging debates concerning equipment, everyone seems positive when they make comments about other people's posted photography. There are certainly criticisms, but they are all well-intentioned and respectful.  

 

SOME RECOMMENDED COMMENTS

•   I saw your work, I guess doing portrait work for the Mongolian PD really was good experience. 

•  You’ll have to work on getting nicer smiles though in your shot and a few wooden teeth painted gloss white might help a few of them.
•   I saw your work hanging in the Louvre in Paris. Nice touch, stapling it to the body of the guy who hung himself….

•   I just received some of your pictures, just wondering if they were meant for me or if you missed the delete key?

•  Your work is outstanding. It’s raining heavy here and I have it OUT standing in the rain.

•  Your work is a breath of fresh air... in a garlic factory near Chernobyl.

•   The workers in the salt mines at the Gulag really appreciated the contribution of photographs you made. 

•   Gosh, why did you wait so long, the magazine that prints this stuff went out of business?

•   It's not what you say, it's how you say it!  But few understand Klingon.

•   Work like this is an inspiration to everyone who thought of cutting their ear off.

•   What colors in your photos!  You were serious about that job offer at CRAYOLA

•   Your work exemplifies the meaning of “starving artist”.  With work like this you will stay starving.


WHATS UP WITH PHOTOJOURNALISM

Whereas Digital Photography has changed the "mechanical technique" of shooting Wedding Photography, Photo Journalism  changes the style of Wedding Photography.  It appears there are two processes, we can discuss and there are two approaches to the Wedding stylization best served not by a decision but a compromise of the two.

The Traditional Style includes all the wedding images found in a traditional wedding album.  The usual Bride and Groom, wedding party, attendants, ushers, children, family and extended family as well as the traditional happenings at most  weddings.  These include but are not limited to the music and dancing, garter throwing, cake cutting, limo shots, soft romantic scenes around the reception, staircase pictures and so forth. 

The Photojournalistic style relates more to the portrayal and emotional look of the Wedding as a news event.  It is more story telling than anything else and when done by a professional, they can be stunning and capture the moment.  Oblique angle, shadows and uncommon imagery.  Basically, free unposed pictures of the affair which means many of the pictures will be just as they happened, no posing or setting up of the participants.   It also can be very romantically portrayed using techniques in lighting and blurs, effects created by Photoshop. 

Many of those professing Photojournalistic qualities never worked for a paper, or even did any kind of this work before.  They will simply offer two to three thousand boring out of focus, unencumbered photos with little or no quality in the hopes that if you throw enough of something against the wall something will stick. 

The first type may be carefully orchestrated to produce a traditional Wedding Album following the boundaries set forth by millions of Weddings beforehand. The PJ style provides a more freeware version of the wedding and may get more personal.  It is the photographers job to establish the clients wants and needs. 

I like it down the middle. Get the money shots in the bag, then play reporter. You'll sell twice as many pictures with a minimum of effort. 
Film really doesn’t play as a factor anymore financially or technique wise, frankly it’s quite dead in the industry.   However, it was film that created initially the PJ approach to weddings.  Black and White had returned as an add-on and some shots do lend well to a little Photoshop.   Combine natural, soft and a little artistic impression and you hold the viewer's eye for quite a while, enough to allow black and white and its inherent detail to capture their attention. 

It also covers a slew of errors for those who can't work light and color.  That was probably the most attractive part of digital.   Again, PJ is a STYLE and B&W is another way to deliver the goods, or technique. It's not just clicking on a plug-in in Photoshop and making Black and White pictures.   

TRUE PHOTOJOURNALISM 
First let me separate true PJ's from the wannabes. When you see the work of a Joe Buissink, or a Dennis Reggie you see the top of the pecking order in PJ. When you see some of the "PJ" stuff I have seen in the lab, it is the bottom of the termite mound. That’s the place where they store the eggs and such.  

In other words, it was a good idea minus the talent and discipline. PJ was credited earlier to a single photograph taken by Dennis Reggie of the late John F. Kennedy, Jr.  That photo, published around the world showed him kissing her hand. The other significance was the fact as news it was shown in black and white, thus opening the door for B&W back into weddings.   Many of the wedding pictures, are in Black and White and beautifully done.

Nothing wrong with B&W with a decent shot to begin with. It’s the poor composition that kills many of the B&W we see that gets turned in for printing. The Wedding couples may assume that B&W means PJ. If you are the shooter and want to mix a few B&W into the traditional shots, nothing’s wrong with this and you'll see a bright smile on the Brides face. 

Suddenly everyone was a pro… If the work was crap we got blamed for not spending two hours correcting a $0.19 cent print.  Poor camera cropping, underexposed, color shifts or blurs from fluorescents, the list is too long here to post. And this was in the infancy of digital printing, the SENA tubes were just coming out and Photoshop was up to number four or five. 

The idea behind PJ is to create the story.  It happens in views and angles and lighting from the way and in the way the events occur with the photographer remaining as indisposed as possible. The claim is in the story telling for a product that is more spontaneous and to those "in the know" more artistic. 

That is till the parents and other relatives look at the wedding album. It also claims the rebirth of the real candid’s. That argument still is going on. And the shooting is prolific. It seems that somehow good PJ requires more input.  I hear that it creates a need to take hundreds and hundreds of pictures”.   


THE INCREDIBLE AMOUNT OF SHOTS NEEDED 
It started more as a ploy with digital by escalating the amount of shots taken as an excuse to cut the competition.  I’m still trying to determine why a three-hour wedding on one DVD needs five thousand pictures.  It might be relying on the odds to make a good chance picture rather than the talent to see a good picture and capture it.   

Photojournalism, is almost impromptu photography. Its critics call it a fad and trendy. Many couples are content with the style that this informality generates as they themselves see things differently. They just may be informal people. Like any art form, things may be pushed too far and the work becomes weird. Add a no-talent shooter and the weird becomes absurd. 

I read that the WPPI said a large majority of photographers offer this form of WP.  I believe there is a calling and a market for it but except for a few it has been the call of the wild...I think a good blend of the traditional and the PJ approach can make a good package. You cover all the bases that way. It's still open for conversation.

Another group defines Wedding Photojournalism as the documentation of an event without input, coaching, interfering or influencing the outcome of the photographs. We used to call this “candid or the casual shots” taken during the wedding in deference to the posed or setup shots. It will take another hundred years to sort out the small nit points of this last statement. I simply refer to it a purist bullshit.

Ask five photographers who do weddings “What is Photojournalistic Wedding Photography and be prepared for six answers”. In other words, already there are different interpretations of what PJ is. Bottom Line: Photo Journalism is a salient and important part of the Wedding Photographers process just like traditional wedding photography is.  The caveat is when done properly in the hands of a professional with creativity and artistic proficiency it adds excitement and a fresh look to story-telling. In the hands of an incompetent, it is a travesty. 


THE SECOND SHOOTER

The topic that blows me off the most on forums for photographers, is the ‘Second shooter” issue.  The whole concept of a second shooter only came about with PJ and somewhat of an increased and sometimes worthless, self-imposed workload.

 We went from 120-180 good shots on film to one who shoots 3500 images shot in an epic Cecil B. DeMille size program.  It's called selling overkill.  What is the value of 3500 worthless pictures.  If I went to someone’s house and sat through 3500 images of a wedding, I would probably leave right after I got a migraine headache, or some other form of illness.  

More bragging rights for the shooter on the forum than common sense would dictate you would hand a bride.  He's just impressing the boys with a hot trigger finger and many trips to the Canon or Nikon service center for shutter repairs.

In the pre-digital days when you sweated each wedding to know if you got image… a big wedding, called for a helper, AKA a schlep, a loader, an assistant, the hired help. This is what you get paid, that’s the end of discussion. You load, I shoot. In a year, I give you a shot at things.  First prove your loyalty and value to me. One of the differences was he worked full time for me.  Today some shooters at one wedding per month can’t afford paying someone for forty hours a week plus comp and overtime.  Some can’t afford to pay themselves.

I have found the higher end great shooters don't work alone.  They can’t.  On the higher end weddings ($$$$) a good second shooter is imperative.  They capture the emotion, while you capture the money shots, the traditional wedding shots from another angle, and then freelance the rest of the wedding for the story telling. You need both. You need to be able to do both with reliable help.  

In a target rich good economy, has he or she enjoyed a "good ride" because their community has a certain standard they rise to.  The higher you get, the more traditional things become.  Traditional can mean many things.  This is very true in Indian (India) Communities, but many traditional folks also hire the floater who can do the casuals or photojournalistic side of the story. 

The most important missing element for the second shooter is being briefed and participating in the reversals and the scoping of the facilities you will be shooting in. You already have met and have a basic opinion of the couple, or family, but the second shooter doesn't.

They feel comfortable knowing you’re their photographer but who is this second person.  I like teams, one male and one female shooter since some things can be done in the preparation phase and a Bride would be more comfortable with a female in the dressing rooms. This gets better pictures since the captures are generally more unguarded and the emotions more genuine, rather than a staged reality show. And another issue we will talk about is web design.

Number two is easy, different being the second shooter, the pressures not on you.  It’s easier doing it when you are doing it for nothing, no fee, no harm and again, again the pressures not on you.  So why the high failure rate in this business… it’s the pressure, it’s a lot different when it is on you. 

And since you accepted something for your trouble, whether it be money, cows, pigs and so forth, it’s now a LEGAL adventure and you are liable.  And it is totally unpredictable.  That’s the rub, when new you can’t see a disaster. When you do this for a fee regardless of the amount, you have entered a contract and you are bound.  The excuse in court I only took money for the film don’t work anymore.  No film.

Mother-in-laws, aunts, do-gooders, TV wedding fans and followers and those who read People magazine can be hazardous to your health just like momma grizzlies, as most Mother-in-laws likely may have given the money for the event.

 The trick, not a trick really but the prime directive in this business is always being on your toes and ahead of the game.  And as the game gets bigger and more is involved, you must step up to the pump. 

 I am a pilot, like flying a Learjet, you have to be one hundred-fifty  to two hundred forty miles ahead of what you are doing planning your descent, sometimes more.  In a Cessna 210, it is about thirty to forty miles and in a Cessna 150 about eight to 12 miles. We call it the closing descent rate, and you’re thinking must be out in front of the aircraft.  It is the same with a wedding.


THE PAPARAZZI CLUB

I have found by being nice to guests and giving them a moment after my work is done and even a few tips has made me a friend rather than competitor.  When I do the formals, I would ask them out loud, to refrain from shooting, and as soon as I was done, I would pose the group for them and they could shoot till they ran out of disc, film or battery.  If they respected that, I had no problem. 

After each sequence, I would tell my Official Helpers, Ok, ready, now all on three. Then count it out, two, three. That’s insured the ten folks with cell phones and point and shoot all got the same exact shot, period!  

They literally just signed a no competition clause and usually all the flashes interfere with each other, and I had closed the discreet circuit to my portable studio lights. My big lights did not go off.

Then after that moment, I’ll say something like “The Paparazzi will meet outside the church by the steps after they come out and you see me set up”.  It has worked every time. It’s also a great time for card giving and you would be surprised at the referrals you get.  They love you for this.


 

“OFFICIAL PAPARAZZI”
I have business cards that are printed “Official Paparazzi” and when we do the informal shots at cake, and limo and tosses, I tell them all to hold and AFTER I shoot, I yell Paparazzi time and they all come forward and let them have a good time.  I even pin it on with a paper clip, cheap and it works.

What do I care if they shoot a set, you think the point and shoot at fifteen feet and eight people wide is competition to my speed lights and perfection brackets with their width and extra power.  They cannot do what a studio Norman with 400 watt seconds can do.

Half of those point and shoots won’t even work at the distance they are at so I push them closer so they do come out.   Sometimes I have taken an advanced amateur who got in the way and made him hold the lights so that took him out of the picture but he learned something and appreciated it.

Being truly nasty, there is a get even.  If you have real annoying “pain in the asses”  I turn one of the strobes  ( my big ones right at them behind the cake )  and when it goes off... vengeance. 

 

SMART MOVE
Why the Official Paparazzi cards? They are my business cards on the other side and you wish you had a dollar for everyone that found me a wedding. Most of the snappers are friends or members of the wedding party and they get married too.  What a time to make friends and future clients, not enemies.