Well, it’s been a busy couple of weeks. My sweetheart Andrew and I moved from Berkeley across the Bay to the Mission district of San Francisco, where we have a cozy little room with a bay window and purple walls, in a house quite serendipitously owned and occupied by my aunt Theresa, a longtime resident of the neighborhood. When you climb up to the top of Bernal Hill nearby, you can look down and recognize our street because it’s the one with all the trees on it. There are still boxes to go through, but books are on the shelves and my favorite quilts are piled on the bed and I think we’ll be here for awhile. Long enough to finally get rid of all our old cardboard boxes, used for move after move, instead of storing them for next time.
For April Fool’s Day, instead of messing with you, I’m gonna be honest for a bit. Yesterday I photographed my first wedding as a paid photographer. I learned so much, and have so much to say about it, that I’m not sure where to start. Marilee, the bride, is a theatre director and performer, and for their wedding, she and her husband put on a spectacular extravaganza of a show. “Opening night of the show that will run for the rest of their lives”… I hadn’t been so nervous since opening night of the show I wrote and directed for my undergraduate thesis! (I was a theatre major in college and worked as a stage manager for a few years after I graduated. Someday I’ll write a post about how my theatrical and stage management skills and experience help me as a photographer!)
I was so excited when Marilee first contacted me about photographing her wedding (she’d worked with Elana on a show), and I loved meeting her and her partner Andrew at their beautiful house in Bernal Heights for a get-to-know-you photoshoot (and it was a fun little thrill to see one of my photos on the front cover of their wedding playbill). I also joined them for an early walk-through of the ODC Theater, where they married, and realized then that I had a lot of work to do to get ready for their wedding. I had a lot to learn about how to make good photographs in low-light environments — at least, that’s what I spent the majority of my anxiety on.
So I studied up. I practiced with my new speedlight flashgun and read blogs that said “bounce flash. No surface to bounce off? You’re screwed” and thought about the high black ceilings above the stage and bit my lip. I bought a mini softbox attachment for my flash and a three-foot hotshoe cable and tried to imagine carrying my heavy camera in my right hand and aiming the flash at dancing guests with my left, trying to get that 45-degree short lighting that’s supposed to be so beautiful and flattering. In the end, I couldn’t use flash during the performance/ceremony, I used bounce flash to wonderful effect at the white-walled salon where the bride and her bridesmaids got ready, and I winged it during the reception — a little of this, a little of that. A camera slung over each shoulder (I bit the bullet and bought a 5D Mark II a few weeks ago — totally worth it, totally broke the bank), with a zoom lens on one and my 50mm prime on the other.
I know I screwed up a few shots. I filled up a CF card just before the kiss; thank goodness I had two cameras in my hands (lesson learned: keep track of how many shots you’ve got left). I overexposed some shots (lesson learned: use spot metering when shooting theatrical lighting). Some of the photos I took are out of focus (lesson learned: …do better?). I have seen a lot of wedding photographers write things like, “it doesn’t matter if a photograph is technically perfect. What matters is the emotion in the shot,” and so on, but of course it matters. Of course emotion matters too, a lot, but all those photos they’re talking about would be better if they were in perfect focus or better exposed or better composed. I wish I could have done better. At the same time, Marilee and Andrew knew I was inexperienced. They’d seen my photos and they trusted that I would do a good job — or a good enough job. I am grateful to them for taking a chance with me, and for giving me the opportunity to grow and learn from their wedding.
I had a blast, too. One of the things that surprised me most about the experience was how caught up I got in the whole beautiful communal momentum of the thing — a wedding: two people making hopeful promises to one another. I had met Marilee and Andrew just twice before, but there I was, laughing and crying with all the other guests, smiling so hard my cheeks heart. And, yes, boogying on the dance floor, even with my hands full of gear. Ladies and gentlemen, this feels right. My back and shoulders and hands and feet ached by the end of the night, but I would do this for free.
I’ve been doing the work to get legit; I joined PPA (mostly for the equipment insurance!) and got a California seller’s permit and bought a little file box for receipts and contracts and all the other stuff I’m learning to keep track of. I have been doing a lot of figuring of how I want to grow my business, especially as I plan (and budget!) my own wedding. What kind of photographer do I want to be? How can I remain affordable to couples like my fiancé and I and move towards sustainability in my business? What hours do I want to work? What services do I want to provide? And so on. I’m thrilled and goosebump-y thinking about all of it. Here goes. Wish me luck.
Here’re just a few photos from the “The Wedding Play,” taken with my T2i and 50mm prime lens —
And oh gosh, I can’t wait to show you more. Rocketships and a 600-square-foot veil, yes, and taiko drums and an AERIAL FIRST DANCE (I am so for real) and guests gettin’ down on the dance floor, oh yes.
Oh! One last thing. I was extremely privileged to share photographic duties for much of the evening with Dan Nicoletta, who not only gave me some excellent and helpful advice with regard to the family formals, but loaned me his tripod. His website showcases his wonderful photography and years of experience, and includes some really fascinating shots from San Francisco’s history. Check it out: www.dannynicoletta.com.