Saturday, September 25, 2010

An open letter to my colleagues - i.e. newbie and part time photographers

This year I've heard from many established photographers about the increasing number of rules imposed by on them by various churches and places of worship when trying to photograph weddings. I too have had to sign more photographer agreements this year than anytime in the past. What's it all mean? It means this "profession" is being infested by a bunch of stink bugs - photographers who may talk professional, but act like boorish amateurs. People who jumped into the field with little or no training and even less experience of working along side an established professional. It also means that common sense is not very common.

Instant career, just add digital. Across the country legions of soccer moms, unemployed folks and people who 'just love taking pictures' are buying the latest Canon or Nikon DSLR and instantly proclaiming themselves "professional photographers" because their pictures are "real good." They know this because so many of their friends and relatives have told them so. Or they took a (single) photography course in high school, college, the community college and receive a positive grade (and excellent feedback from a teacher) therefore they know what they're doing.

Book knowledge does not equal practical experience. Gone it seems are the days of the apprenticeship in photography. I was lucky. When I knew this was what I wanted to do for my life, at 15 years old, I found a photographer who would take me under his wing and allow me to learn. I didn't ask for money, I was seeking something way more valuable than a paycheck, I was seeking knowledge and experience. I know today is different than yesterday, people today have bills to pay and must eat. I guess that means "back then" we didn't have bills, everyone just traded rocks, and we all foraged for our dinner. Come on! What is the #1 difference between now and then? Attitude. I lived at home, did just enough other things to get gas money and ate as cheaply as humanly possible to exist. I came to my work every day with two important items - an open mind and a closed mouth. I saw, I learned and I didn't expound my opinion.

So what's any of this mean to the church rules? Just this, without proper mentoring, practical experience, common sense (which is anything but common) and a humble attitude people are going to do very stupid things. I make it a point to talk to the officiant, often times at the rehearsal, always in the morning of the wedding. I usually ask what the most egregious thing he's ever seen a photographer do at a wedding. When I first started I was usually shocked, now I'm just angry at the insensitivity, unprofessionalism and arrogance some people with cameras possess. These are the Poser Professionals. They talk the talk but don't have a clue how to walk the walk. Or worse, don't care to learn.

So, in an attempt to impart just a sliver of knowledge, although I know you cannot teach common sense, I've developed my own set of rules for photographer conduct. It's not complete, but it will at least get you through a wedding without causing any additional damage to the profession.

So here goes, in no particular order of importance:

1). Dress so you don't embarrass the couple who hired you. I'm not suggesting a suit, but please, cut off shorts with ragged edges, t-shirts (plain, pocket or graphic), sandals and jeans of any kind (yeah, even designer) is NOT appropriate dress to photograph a wedding.

2). It's not NASCAR, turn off the 8 frame per second motor drive during the service. The only time I might shoot a burst is during the first kiss if something unusual happens, otherwise, single frame, please.

3). During the service if you need to move to the other side, go all the way around from the back of the church, don't take a short cut by crossing in front of the alter.

4). If you think you need a higher angle, go to the choir loft or lift the camera over your head, do NOT stand on the pews. Come on, a little common sense here - one, you could fall; two, you could knock the pews over (yeah, they're not always bolted down); three, it's just inappropriate!!!

5). If you think you need a lower angle, set the camera on the floor, don't lay down in the middle of the aisle. Come on! It's a digital camera. Shoot a few frames and chimp to see if you framed the shot correctly. If not, shoot a few more frames after making corrections. Laying down on the floor of the church, in the middle of the aisle is, again, inappropriate.

6). When the officiant says "Let us pray" that does not mean it's time for a six-frame-machine-gun-like burst from you, or even a single click. Respect the reverence of the moment and keep your camera at bay. Regardless of your personal faith, it would hurt you to say a little prayer for your couple either.

7). In case you didn't know, the alter is a Sacred place, don't climb up there for a different angle or to shoot over the shoulder of the officiant. Respect. Common sense. And yes, time and time again this is one of the most egregious actions officiants recount.

8). When you are told you have 30 minutes for pictures, check your watch and wrap it up in no more than 30 minutes. The reason most churches have a time limit is because there's another event happening right away, either another wedding or a worship service. Be respectful of what is coming next and the people who must prep the church.

9). Remember you are working FOR your couple and their family, not for yourself. The wants and needs of the customer comes first, what you want comes second. The service is important to your couple and their family, respect their faith and respect the Church. You may not be back their again, but they will. And you never know, if you act with respect you just might get invited back, too.

These opinions are based on my personal beliefs, common sense and several decades of experience. If you are newer to this profession I hope you will consider them as your actions have consequences greater than yourself.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Kudos | Pittsburgh Wedding Photography

It's so gratifying and humbling when someone publicly acknowledges our work. This afternoon I received the testimonial below from a recent bride. Her comments are published on our Pictage site.

Thank you Laura, it was a pleasure and an honor to photograph your day. Can't wait to show you the album I designed! See you soon!!

"Terry was absolutely FUN to have photograph our wedding! He didn't feel instrusive at all, it felt like he was actually just part of the crowd, which was great and didn't make us feel awkward. His ideas for poses and what to shoot will always be one of my most favorite moments of the wedding. Terry's also an insanely nice man, very considerate to what we wanted. I highly, HIGHLY recommend Terry for anyone who wants beautiful pictures! "

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Kristen and Ed's engagement session | Pittsburgh Wedding Photographer

After watching thick clouds all day, it was incredible that everything broke just at the right moment to provide us with a glorious sunset Friday evening for Kristen and Ed's engagement session. With their wedding just two weeks away we were really pushing to get this done. But everything worked, we all had fun and the pictures were wonderful thanks to Kristen and Ed and a little help from the sun. See you guys in a couple of weeks!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

The Hayloft | Seven Springs Wedding Photography | Gretchen and Kevin Wedding

Saturday, the 4th of September, I had the pleasure of helping out my good buddy Ed Macko on Gretchen and Kevin's awesome wedding at The Hayloft near Seven Springs. I very much enjoy the opportunity to second shoot, especially with Ed, because I can let loose and find those special, interesting off moments.

The wedding itself was amazing. Gretchen and Kevin are both in the restaurant business in New York City so they have an uncanny sense of style and attention to detail. Oh, and the food was out of this world, too! Thanks Ed for allowing me to come along and thank you to Gretchen and Kevin for a most memorable day!

A moment before the guys took the long walk up the aisle.

Seeing Gretchen as she approached Kevin almost went down

A very emotional groom

Both bride and groom were dancers so the first dane was amazing!

The party never stopped

A grand fireworks display rivaling anything Pittsburgh has ever done capped the nights festivities.