I love photography. I often fantasize about opening a modeling agency and scouting for beautiful people. But not the clichéd version of beautiful people that you see photoshopped in magazines. I would find people that photograph well in all shapes and sizes. I love the challenge of it. Everyone has a story. Everyone is beautiful. It’s just up to me to find that angle and tell their story. That is fun to me.
It happens to me all the time. I’ll be out at a coffee shop and the woman next to me will have the most interesting eyes with wizened smile crinkles at the corners. She’ll be wearing a bright gold coat and her blouse underneath is vibrant purple. I can’t help but stare and think about what a cool photo she would make. I just want to stop her and say, Can I take your picture for my collection? But that’s tacky. Of course, I rarely ever do ask people because that’s just weird and they’ll want to know what I’m going to do with the pictures and they might not have time for such a conversation, etc etc… Some people do like their pictures taken though. I love those people.
One of those people is my drop-dead gorgeous neighbor, Lubna. She always wants me to take her picture. She wants to be a model so that helps of course. I don’t know how I feel about that though. It’s such a harsh industry to be in. But if I can help her put together a portfolio I’m happy to do that. She’s a lot of fun to shoot.
Her face could sell a million products. But what makes her interesting is that she’s Muslim and she can’t show off her body. She has to be covered from head to toe. (Though sometimes she sneaks in some shoulder and when her shirt accidentally falls when she’s doing a cartwheel she really doesn’t want me to throw out those pictures.) She wants to be American and wear tank tops and bathing suits but she’s only 16 and she has to respect her parents rules. So it’s an interesting push and pull between her desire for attention and her good heart that just wants to be a good kid
We had fun splashing around in the waves. The water was surprisingly warm. And dangerous! Well, not really. But the waves have a way of sneaking up on you and getting everything wet. Thankfully, the camera did not get wet.
Since they only have one car in Lubna’s family and they have strict rules about always going places chaperoned, Lubna never gets to go to the beach. She’s a California girl at heart and she loves the water but she doesn’t get to see it much. I always want to throw her in my car and take her places but it’s tricky getting around the entourage that has to go with her. (Believe me, they take forever and it totally cramps my style. I’ve tried.)
Her mom came with us and watched from the shore. I did manage to get one photo of them together but her mom is really camera shy. But I think this photo is my favorite one.
You can see where Lubna gets her beauty. I’m sure Raffa will not like this photo and she’d rather be made up with a lot of make-up but I think it shows so much more of who she really is. That patient worried mother who comes along on her daughter’s crazy whims to be photographed. There’s a lot going on here…
That’s the story I want to tell.
I shot a wedding a few weekends ago and I’m still reeling from the pressure of it all. Not because the bride was a bridezilla or anything. She wasn’t. She was so over-the-top nice and the wedding was the most beautifully, well-planned event ever. I was nervous because I’d never shot a wedding before. I’m NOT a professional photographer. I just take a lot of pictures and sometimes, now and then, I get paid for it. But really I’m more of a creative director and I have a vision for photography that I try and complete with this terribly awkward piece of equipment (called a camera) that does not always do my bidding. Seriously, cameras are tricky! They are not my friend! Throw some low lighting and a flash in the mix and I will start chewing my cuticles off. It is just nerve-racking. Shudder.
But if you shoot enough pictures, sometimes some of them turn out. And if you have some photoshop skills, sometimes you can bring the not-so-turned out ones back from the dead. I do this a lot. In fact, for this shoot I shot raw (which I never do and required several humbling lessons from my ex) and it really saved my backside from ruin. I never realized that you can bring a picture back from being over or under-exposed by TWO whole stops when you shoot raw. TWO STOPS! This is very awesome when there is a white wedding dress with all it’s detail and shadows lost to the twilight zone of flash photography. Those of you who do shoot photography are probably laughing at me right now, everybody else is probably confused (sorry!). Maybe all wedding photographers are nervous wrecks like me and they just hide it well. I don’t know. Maybe I just need more experience. But don’t sign me up for a wedding too quick. I’m still recovering. I think I have PTSD.
It was really fun though. In a highly nervous, constantly-on-my-toes, for-six-hours-straight kind of way. I know the family so it was really sweet to be there up-close and personal on such a special day. I loved that part. I loved being in the dressing room and seeing the intimacy of family and friends. I loved capturing the moments…the hugging, the crying, even the raw emotional bursts of nerves. I’ve always loved being a photo journalist and telling the story with different shots. Details, emotions, establishing shots…the story of it all. I love that part so much that it almost makes me consider doing this again.
There were so many beautiful details to capture and try and to portray in a way that would show the viewer what it was really like to be there in the moment. It’s a job though. My brain was working on over-drive, thinking of shots and then trying to make the subjects feel comfortable while you flash them incessantly like an annoying mosquito-esque paparazzi. It’s hard! I’ve got some tricks up my sleeve. I know how to make people bend where they should bend and laugh when they should laugh but it can get tiring when you run out of jokes and small talk. There were many times where I just wanted to go hide in a closet and let everyone be for a minute or 60. Thankfully, I was paid to be there and the bride had a golden smile going at full wattage that set the mood for everyone (especially me).
They did this really cool “first look” shoot so we could get photos before the wedding and capture the groom’s expression when he saw his bride for the first time. You know, usually that happens during the ceremony but then you’re stuck taking photos after the ceremony and before the reception and that keeps the guests waiting for hours for their dinner. So this was before the ceremony but you still get the fun of the first look. It was SO fun. And even more fun was the wedding party all crammed in this little house looking out the window with their phones trying to get pictures of the moment too. You can see how fun and mischievous the bride is. She cracked me up. And of course her groom is so in love with her. It was adorable.
But you know what is not adorable? Cameras that don’t do what you want them to. This wedding was an evening wedding and I have little to no experience with flash photography. I’m more of a set-the-camera-on-auto-and-pray-that-it-works sort of photographer. And it didn’t work all the time. There were all kinds of problems. Wrong film speed. Some pictures were completely blown-out. Some were just blurs….like painting with light when you’re drunk. It was horrible. I had to make two desperate phone calls to Toby and I’m so glad that he had pity on me and didn’t pull any “I’m your ex now. You don’t need my help” attitude because I was humble and near tears. But I couldn’t give up. I just shot and shot and shot and shot. And in the end some of the blurs turned out really cool. Even though they are all kinds of wrong and unprofessional, I feel like they captured the mood even better than the correctly shot photos. Funny how that works.
I also had an assistant who totally saved the day with her back-up shots. I’m not including any of her photos in this post because I am proud and I don’t want to play off that her work is mine but she easily contributed a good quarter of my photos in the final package that I gave the bride. I’m so glad I hired her. And even more humbled because so many of her shots were better than mine.
But I did it. I’m glad I did. What an incredible learning experience! I’m not too keen to do it again but I can say that I know a TON more about photography than I did when I started. A ton learned by trial and FIRE and sweat and tears and gritting of teeth
And also fun and dancing and cake. So it’s not all bad. No, I didn’t dance but everyone else did! They sure can dance too. Everyone from the littlest toddler to the oldest grandpa was out there on the dance floor shaking a leg. It put all the weddings I’ve been to before to shame. It was a dance-a-thon. I think the bride might have been a dancer or something because people could shake it. And everyone had heels on too! Super spiky high heels that would make me trip just looking at them! It was high entertainment.
All I gotta say is: now that I’ve heard from the bride that she loves the photos and nobody’s noticing all my technical errors, I’m feeling pretty good about this event. I might do it again IF it’s a daytime wedding and the bride is super DUPER nice like this girl was.
Thank you Kendall! It was a beautiful wedding and you are beautiful. I am honored to have had the chance to shoot it. Thanks for having faith in me.