By Tom Tracy
Benefits of occasionally ‘doing it someone else’s way’ as a subcontractor
Recently a buddy left me in charge of shooting one of his standard South Florida wedding jobs — a Cuban couple with “getting ready” at a landmark hotel, a church ceremony nearby with a dinner reception at a local venue where he is a preferred photographer.
Actually, it was something of a surprise to learn that this was the first time my friend fully delegated a wedding assignment to someone in his absence (he was needed back in his native South America).
Having shot with him once or twice before and knowing how very specific he is in terms of how he does things and how devoted he is to the technical details, I pressed for a personal sit-down and review of some wedding jobs — his and mine — during which I could take notes and ask lots of questions. I wanted to minimize problems and potential misunderstandings.
It was a good decision, and while email and phone calls are useful there is really no substitute for sitting around a computer, and with camera gear nearby, and digging into the details of job execution.
Looking over three or four full weddings allowed various issues to emerge for discussion, often including preferred camera settings, choice of lenses, best location from which to shoot the wedding vows, and all sorts of peripheral things concerning the interaction with clients, the lighting assistant and the club management — all of whom I obviously had to keep happy in his absence.
Turns out my friend is a stickler for a tidy bridal suite cleared of any messy distractions and whereas my feeling about that has always been “get housekeeping up here remake the bed etc” he feels it’s our job as photographers to quietly spruce up the background during Getting Ready.
And quickly flipping through an online gallery of my own most recent wedding shoot was a chance to put all the cards on the table and essentially say, “Here is what I do, let's deal with that as well and see what you agree with, what you disagree with.”
He had a few overarching suggestions and modifications that he wanted me to tweak for his client: Tilting the camera was mostly off limits on his jobs (better to do that in post production), I was told.
He was also concerned I tend to shoot too tightly for his comfort, and — especially since he always makes a wedding book for couples — he wanted that extra breathing room and cropping space to work with — especially regarding processional and recessional pictures at the ceremony.
He also insisted on almost no on-camera flash shooting: he strictly shoots with his trusted lighting assistant who shadowed me the entire evening: We outfitted all the camera bodies with wireless triggers that fired a single Canon speedlight and covered by a LumiQuest softbox on a monopod for all picture-taking throughout the reception and for some of the portrait shooting. It was a good look and something I will incorporate more fully in the future.
Details and close-up rings shots are hugely important to my friend’s wedding book production, he said, and so he left us with a macro lens set up and we spent time setting up the wedding rings in several candle-lit macro situations during the reception, aided by a LED light panel that he left for our use.
Being a Nikon shooter, he ultimately left us with a full case of his gear, including a Nikon D750 and fish-eye lens since he loves that look for dancefloor pictures.
The other overall principal my friend tasked me with for his weddings: Get the must-have, “safety shots” first, and after that is done go for the more creative shots — or just put the creative shots on hold if need be. Safety shots come first.
In conclusion, whenever I work for another photo company I feel that it’s up to me to press for more thorough preparation and advance review because invariably there will be some regrettable misunderstandings if too many items are left to chance.
I think in this case it paid off. Even though no one can stand in and shoot perfectly in someone else’s style and strategy it's best to get ready to try your best to do just that.
Tom Tracy is a West Palm Beach-based photojournalist and event photographer and regular contributor to Understand Photography. His website is: www.tomtracy.com