Monday, December 07, 2009

B'ginnings...part 1 - How it all started...

I get asked plenty of times how in the world I ever started in photography, and especially photographing weddings, so I figure I’ll give a little background over the coming weeks as we venture into winter. Of course, I started long before these digital days we have now, so things were definitely different for me, easier in my opinion, given the variety of things photographers are faced with deciding these days. Over time I’ll give my $.02 on getting started and maybe a little perspective as well.

Starting to shoot weddings was really a happy accident for me. By the summer of 1988, I had developed a serious interest in photography, and was looking at possibly going to photography school, something I would really not recommend today. I was living in Southern California, working in Ventura County at a very small one hour photo lab in Moorpark. Thanks to having free processing and printing of my film, I had been shooting quite a bit over the past months and was really comfortable with exposure and knew my camera inside and out. I can’t say I was very knowledgeable about how to go about starting a career in photography…but I did know three things for sure:

1. I loved taking photos of mountains, nature and all that kind of outdoor stuff.

2. I knew it was advertising and commercial product photography that might pay the bills.

3. I had no desire to work with people or do portraits because I was deathly shy.

(this is where you begin to sense some irony, huh?)

One day while at the photo lab…a woman, probably in her 50’s comes in and mentions she’s looking for someone (cheap) to photograph her and her husband renewing their vows and celebrate 25 years of marriage. They were doing a full ceremony and a reception with some family and friends. I told her I could probably do that…so I agreed to do so for $200. After all, my only expense was the film!

So far it sounds nice and simple, right?

Their ceremony was going to be at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Moorpark, and the reception was a simple gathering at what I believe was the City’s community center at the time. I did what reading up I could on the kinds of photos one may want to take at a wedding and felt pretty good about things. I really only had very “basic” info about the plans for the day…something I corrected fairly soon as I shot more weddings, and have since made it a specialty of mine to be well informed. More on that some other time though.

What I walked into was a little different though….first off was a bridal party that had a good 16 attendants or so…next was the fact that it was a “full” Catholic mass. I’m not Catholic…so the hour long ceremony and vows renewal had me wondering what was going on! Then there was the “some friends and family”…all 300 of them. While it was a perfect scenario for some newbie photographer like myself to freak out, everything actually went extremely well.

Just a month later I found myself at the photo lab once again, being asked if I knew someone (cheap) who could photograph her daughter’s wedding. Now that I was experienced and everything…another $200 and away we went on wedding #2!

This was going to be much simpler…smaller bridal party and under 100 guests…ceremony lakeside on a gazebo in a housing community in Chatsworth, and the reception at the clubhouse. It really was a much easier wedding…even though I began to wonder at first when the entire wedding party came walking down the street to meet me for their formals….all of them had cans of beer, and it was evident it wasn’t their first round…at 10am. Once we got past that though it was a breeze and I was kind of hooked.

I can’t say I as much enjoyed myself as much on those first couple weddings, as I just seemed to do well in a very high pressure situation. I came to realize eventually I had a knack for that, as well as working with people. Both of those realizations served me well in both the dozens of weddings I cranked out early on and the world of wine sales that I ended up living in during the week.

So much for never working with people, huh?

A lot has happened and been learned in the years since, now that there’s a few hundred weddings under my belt, and the transition was eventually made to digital and so many new considerations that come with it. Since then I have learned 3 new things….

1. I really don’t like nature photography…it (usually) bores me to take it and to look at it.

2. I suck at commercial and advertising types of product photography.

3. I love working with people and photographing them in a wide variety of styles and situations, and apparently seem to do a pretty decent job of it.

So there you go…literally the very beginning. What has come after that I’ll save for another time…

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