Right Shot

A veteran photographer shares insider tips for memorable photos

New York photographer Andy Marcus is at the forefront of wedding photography and has helped usher in this era of stylish new choices. The president of Fred Marcus Studio, Andy is a friend with whom I've worked numerous times over the years. To get a behind-the-scenes look at all that goes into the making of a wonderful wedding album, I followed Andy as he photographed a particularly elaborate wedding (all the better to show you the range of possibilities). My field trip started, as this couple's had, with photography's end results, as we took in the seemingly countless choices for both photo styles and album finishes at the Marcus Studio offices.
I was wowed by black-and-white shots that had been toned to sepia, copper, selenium, or blue. Panoramics with progressive action (six consecutive frames of a mother tying her son's tie, for example) spread out before me over two pages. I saw photos bordered with either straight black edges (from the negatives) matted on white or "sloppy" borders where the edges are ragged. And I couldn't help but be drawn to a fabulous and enormous framed Polaroid hanging on Andy's wall.

Tip #1

Do your homework first by looking at friends' albums and seeing what appeals to you. Later, when you interview a potential photographer, ask to see entire wedding albums—not just a compilation of the photographer's best picks. (It's not so hard to get one or two great photos from each wedding.) Of course, look for crispness of the images and the quality of the lighting (no shadows, everyone looks beautiful, etc.), but also pay attention to how the story of the day is told.

Decisions, Decisions
With so many options out there, what's a couple to do? The couple we're following went for it all: the bride's mother requested full coverage in both black-and-white and color. The day of the wedding, Andy and I head to the Pierre Hotel at 4 p.m., three-and-a-half hours before the 7:30 p.m. ceremony. His assistants are unloading what appears to be enough equipment for a major magazine spread: lights, generators, reflectors, cables, screens, bags of film, backdrops, and, oh yes, cameras. Judy Schwartz, the party planner in charge of this wedding (for more than 400 guests), goes over the particulars with Andy, as his second photographer begins taking decor shots in the empty ballroom and the five assistants head off in different directions.

When we hit the hotel suite where the bride and her seven attendants are dressing, Andy is greeted as if he were an old family friend. The bride and her family are obviously both delighted to see him and relaxed around him. This is the all-important rapport I am constantly sermonizing to my clients about. It gives Andy the freedom to unobtrusively and discreetly pick up the "behind the scenes" moments that would otherwise be lost. A good rapport also allows the couple to look natural and at ease while they are being posed.
It is fascinating to watch Andy as he goes to work, looking for the details to photograph. I am a sort of voyeur watching a voyeur. He explains that a trained photographer always sees things out of the corner of his eye, and with the photojournalistic style being so popular today, he can now capture these fleeting moments.

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