In this series of blog posts we are introducing people who are speaking at and attending Inspire 2014. Today we’d like to introduce you to Jamie Wexler of Jamison Wexler Photographer who will be leading a workshop on Your (on camera) Flash is your Friend
Off the Beaten Path - Exploring your way to Unique Portraits
I've always been a bit of an explorer. When I was a kid, I spent years exploring the hundreds of acres of woods that surrounded my family farm, and the miles of caves underneath it. I always got a thrill when I brushed through a thick copse of palmettos and found a secret clearing, or squeezed through a narrow passage to find a spring filled subterranean cavern. As an adult, I never lost the sense of wonder I felt when I visited a new place in the world. In fact it was this love of exploration that led me to pick up a camera. I was a corporate trainer for a large Boston software company. I spent much of my time in new (to me) cities all over the US, savoring the evenings when I was free to explore them. I'd return home excited to tell my wife about the fog rolling in over the Golden Gate in San Francisco, or the Feast of St Generro in New York, or the amazing architecture along Whacker Drive in Chicago, and she would look at me a little jealously. So I bought a digital camera, and began to photograph my adventures, sharing them with Melanie...it kept us connected while I was away, and gave her a way to share my adventures with me..
Now I make my living as a wedding photographer, but that just means I get paid to unleash my inner explorer every weekend! Nothing makes me more excited than getting booked for a venue that I will see for the first time on the bride and groom's wedding day, and get to explore it with them. And I've used this love of exploring to market my business to wedding clients who are adventurous explorers like me. It's amazing where a bride is willing to go when she feels like she is taking a part in an adventure on her wedding day.
So I'd like to take a minute to share a few tips for bringing out the inner explorer in your own brides.
I'm sure you've heard the photographic proverb: "show what you want to shoot". If you've visited my blog, You've probably noticed that much of the work I share comes from the couple portraits part of the day. That's because it's the time of day when I get to explore, and I want to share the results of my exploration with my potential brides and grooms. I get excited when I walk down a creepy hall, in a boring wedding mill of a venue, and find an empty underground disco...and I want to attract couples that share that same sense of adventure. At my very first sales meeting with a potential client, I ask for at least 30 minutes alone with the couple to explore their venue and find some different, exciting locations. So from the start, the couple that hires me has the expectation that we are going to have an adventure!
On the wedding day, I have to put my money where my mouth is, and I live for the challenge! When we set off for our 30 minute adventure, I immediately begin to look for things that are blocked from sight. Often the venue will put up a privacy fence to hide the parts of the property that they don't want guests to see. That's one of the first places I like to look. There are often hidden treasures behind the fences. At one conference center, I saw a little path leading behind the pretty little garden where they told us to take photos. Following the path we found a run down tool shed, and a graveyard of old AC units from the hotel rooms. At indoor venues, I like to explore all of the floors. As long as there is not a "keep out" sign, I like to climb up to the attic, or down to the basement, looking for unique pieces of the past that will serve as awesome backdrops for unique portraits. A couple of years ago, I was shooting a ceremony at a very run down church in Somerville. When I arrived, I did a quick exploration of the building, and found an amazing old gym on the third floor...guess where I took the bride once she was dressed!
Speaking of the dress, all of this exploring has the potential to get the perfect white dress a little dirty. And even with my adventurous couples, keeping the dress clean is a concern. The important thing is to show your brides that you are as concerned with her dress as she is. I tell my brides from the beginning, "I'm gong to get excited, and ask you to go places you never thought you would in your dress...it's your job to tell me 'no way' if my ideas get too crazy". That puts the onus on them. Additionally, I am the one that is always watching the dress...picking it up if I see it dragging on the ground, rolling it inside out so she can sit on that cool gnarled tree, and placing my jacket down so she can sit in the bed of that old truck. And I carry shout wipes, just in case! Seeing my concern over the cleanliness of her dress helps to establish the trust needed to get to the most unique locations.
Enthusiasm and excitement is also the key to getting the couple to buy into the process. If you are excited by the shots you are getting, and are expressing that excitement to the couple, then they will get into the spirit of the shoot. I'm talking the entire time I am shooting, giving them feedback, and often exclaiming, "that kicks ass" when I nail the fun shot I am attempting. Clients love to hear that they are kicking ass at the photos!
Be bold. Ask forgiveness, not permission. Be willing to follow that little trail into the woods, or try that door handle on the creepy abandoned shed in the back...it might be unlocked. And you have a secret trump card: nobody can say "no" to a bride in a beautiful white dress on her wedding day!