I’m always happy to see when other wedding industry professionals are on the same page. Here is a really great article written by my good friend Jen Stiebel of SocoEvents & published in the current issue of Inside Weddings. Oh and featuring images by me.
This morning I woke up to see that PhaseOne (my beloved camera company) had posted a video and an accompanying image from my first day playing with the brand new IQ250 digital back. Of course I was super excited to be selected as one of the first photographers to get to use this exciting new piece of technology. As I scrolled down into the comments I noticed that the image was receiving some criticism. To be honest it was really me who was receiving the criticism and one person suggested that perhaps they should have given this back to “a more talented photographer”. Whatever. A little part of me wanted to go on Facebook to defend myself or to reply with something mildly snarky, because that’s what I do. But instead it just got me thinking…thinking about why I selected this image and why I sent it to PhaseOne.
In the hands of another photographer this image might have hit the cutting room floor. True, there are things wrong with it. So why did I send it out into the world? I sent it knowing that it was imperfect simply because I liked the feeling of it, overall. I just did. I liked the quietness of it, the tension between the couple, the tinyness of their new puppy on the sofa between them, their thoughtful expressions as they studied one another’s faces. I liked the color, the pretty light. Yes, I might have missed my focus a bit…oops, it happens. Was it a mind-blowing, epic portfolio shot? Nope & it was never going to be. The point was to test out the new back in a typical shoot, in my real (tiny) studio, with real people, under real pressure and all of the usual time and space constraints and chaos that accompanies a regular shoot for me. It’s as simple as that. It was real, it was imperfect. But I still liked it. So there it is, it’s out there.
As I have gotten to know PhaseOne as a company, I have come to appreciate that their business philosophies are very much in line with my own. I appreciate their total lack of snobbery. They realize as much as I do that a particular camera does not make you a better or a worse photographer. They know as much as I do that you are the photographer you are no matter what camera you are holding. But they also care about making a phenomenal product, of listening and responding to the needs of real, working photographers. They listen to the photographers who have invested with them in the same way that I try to listen to and react to the needs of my own clients. To create more of the types of images that they love, to try to understand why they love some images and not others. I made the decision to purchase a PhaseOne last year because I wanted to have the best dynamic range, detail and sharpness that is available to me. True, I could shoot with any camera, but I choose to shoot with this one. Sometimes I’ll still F up a little. Sometimes I’ll F up using my DSLRs too. Sometimes I’ll mind, and sometimes I won’t.
As I’ve been wrapping up my WPPI masterclass presentation (2 week countdown people), the concept of striving for technical excellence is one that I continuously find myself pondering. I’ve been around long enough now to see photographers come and go from this industry. Some seem to hit a peak and then have a slow decline, despite the fact that they have expansive knowledge and experience behind them. Too often I think that this decline is blamed on aging out and the perception of not being “cool enough”. Perhaps this is a small part of the equation but perhaps there is more to it than that. I often wonder if there is a certain point where we get so focused on proving our technical abilities to other photographers that we start to miss out on some of the magic that clients once saw in our work.
Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing more important than learning and knowing your craft. This should be the baseline for any photographer and anyone who is worth listening to understands that they themselves are still a work in progress. But ultimately those of us who photograph weddings and portraits for a living must remember that we work in a genre of photography where success is not wholly dependent upon objective technical image strength. It is a genre where the standards are in a constant state of flux, where subjective “goodness” may often trump technical excellence and that the success of your business depends on a delicate grasp of this concept.
Those who become truly great can impress their clients, themselves and other photographers simultaneously. What a great and lofty goal to work towards. But as we gain knowledge as photographers and find ourselves in greater competition with one another, don’t forget that our most important job is to impress our clients. We must remember that sometimes the best images happen between the moments we planned. Sometimes we aren’t ready for them but they happen anyway. Sometimes good images are quite imperfect. In my opinion the best images of all are almost always flawed in one way or another. And I for one continue to believe that it’s okay to look past the technical imperfections to see an image for what it is and not long for what it could have been. It is what it is.
So consider this a reminder & a little taste of what’s to come in my class. Continue to learn everything you can but don’t ever let the pursuit of perfection kill off the magic, the life, the feeling of your images. Don’t sacrifice great expression or a good moment for contrived imagery. Perfection is overrated.
(I’d like to invite everyone to continue this conversation on the PhaseOne FaceBook page, I get to give away 2 more free passes to WPPI, so leave your comments under the image of the day, the couple with the dog on the white sofa).
I have been practically jumping out of my skin with excitement for 2 months over this announcement. I’ve always been a pretty decent secret-keeper but when it’s good news you want to shout it from the rooftops. But today is finally the day that I get to help announce the launch of PhaseOne’s brand new ground-breaking IQ250 digital medium format back. I was so pleased to be one of the first photographers worldwide to shoot with with the new back and wow is it INCREDIBLE! Standout features for me are the amazingly clean high ISO capabilities and the wireless iPad connectivity for instant image viewing. Check out this video to see a bit of my first date with the IQ250 here.
A big thank you to my gorgeous model Jessie Malakouti (Ryan to make his appearance in a later video), RMine Bespoke for the incredible gown, to David Marvel for the flawless hair & makeup and to Colette Kulig & Ken Scott for assisting and keeping me sane.
PhaseOne was also there to shoot video of a portrait session I had with the wonderful Behrendt Family using the IQ250.
Greg & Amiira are the best-selling authors of such dating advice books as He’s Just Not That Into You, It’s Called a Breakup Because It’s Broken and the most recent It’s Just a F***ing Date. You can see them on Oprah’s Life Class. How cool is that?
They are hilarious and clever and cute and well-dressed and their darling girls were too sweet to want to tie their parents up in lights so I had to do it. Now that is love.
Since the acquisition of my first PhaseOne 645+ camera body, IQ160 back & 3 lenses last year, I have become a devoted fan of the whole line as well as Digital Transitions, the PhaseOne dealer (based in NYC) who held my hand through the whole purchase. And if image quality itself wasn’t enough (although it is), a small added bonus is that I have yet to have an Uncle Bob approach me at a wedding to tell me that they have the same camera at home. If they do, I will certainly be intrigued.
I’ll be posting some follow-up blog posts to tell you all about my adventure so far as a “PhaseOnesie”. But in the meantime, check it out for yourself. If you want to touch one in person, you should plan to attend the WPPI convention coming up in early March. Visit the Digital Transitions booth at the trade show and arrange for a demo. If you’re not yet signed up for WPPI, leave a comment below and I will give some lucky person a free pass to convention & trade show aka “the best week of your life.” It truly is.
Apologies for the lame-est blog post ever, especially when I have hardly blogged any work recently. But we have been hard at work processing fall weddings, churning out albums and shooting holiday sessions. The inquiries are still rolling in but I’m afraid that we are fully booked for the year and unable to accept any more clients for 2013.
But we would love to hear from you for portrait sessions & weddings to take place in 2014. Our wedding calendar is about 60% booked up for the year so we still have some openings but they are going faster than usual. Please be sure to email us with your date as soon as you have one. Can’t wait to see all sorts of new faces and places in the new year!!
Justine & Colette
Well this past month has been crazy busy and I’ve been gone more than I’ve been home…but such is the life of wedding season. Before I jump on a plane back to the east coast for another wedding this weekend, I wanted to take a moment to share with you the brand new album cover I shot for The Reigning Monarchs, the coolest surf rock band you will ever hear. The album is a bit darker and perhaps more mature than some of their previous upbeat tunes so we wanted to capture that feeling in a super simple photograph…”of a hot girl…in a black sweater.”
If you are into surf rock (and why wouldn’t you be?) be sure to head right over to iTunes to download this awesome album. If you’d rather have your very own signed CD then leave a comment below and I will randomly choose a winner. It will be signed by the band members, Greg Behrendt who you may know as the author of He’s Just Not That Into You and It’s Called A Breakup Because It’s Broken and my own awesome brother, Michael Eisenstein, lead guitarist from Letters To Cleo. A guy who has toured and/ or played with almost everyone cool I can think of.
A big thanks to the team for making this shoot a great success:
Hair/ Makeup: David Marvel
Model: Andrea Wasse
Assistant: Colette Kulig
Cover Design & Video: Angelo Warner
Camera: PhaseOne IQ160 via Digital Transitions
And if you want to see some behind the scenes footage from this shoot, check out this super cool video shot and edited by Angelo set to TRM single, Murder Your Summer.