Lauren and Gregg are two of the most amazing people I’ve had the pleasure to work with as a Denver wedding photojournalist. I had flown out to Washington DC to do a corporate shoot and was just packing up my equipment in the building lobby when they approached me and asked if I could make some portraits for their company website. They had been watching me work and thought I would be a good fit. When I sent them the pictures, they called me and asked me to shoot their wedding. They’ve been quite successful navigating the complexities of federal and state government real estate, but when it comes to major decisions they tend to follow their instincts.
It used to be that photographers would check off a few critical boxes for the reception – first dance, toasts, cake cutting, etc. – and call it a night. They put together a book of must-have key moments, real or manufactured, and put out a Proven Product. They said what they’d photograph and did so reliably.
I’ve found that some of the best pictures are unexpected, however, and there’s no substitute for simply being there, being present and being ready. Sometimes that means waiting for something that never happens, not a personal first choice when you’ve been carrying cameras and on your feet for ten hours. Receptions can seem repetitive at times, with the third and fourth hours of dancing being remarkably similar. But things change at the end. Most of the guests have said goodbye, the music has ended, and the lights have come up, the caterer’s desperate plea for everyone to go home. The wedding has gone from being a public event back to a private one, the couple and their die hard crew, family and friends that might as well be. There is pivot from celebration back to intimacy, a last chance to share feelings that rarely find expression.
So I pack up my lights, but I leave my cameras out. Still watching, lingering, wandering about as the band has left and the tables and chairs are back in the truck. I’m almost certain there’s nothing left, but I keep that one camera and lens in hand, waiting just a little longer. Because you never know.
Forcing a child to smile when they don’t feel like it is seldom a good idea. Following that up with “C’mon, show some teeth” is similarly ill-advised. They were preparing to do a group picture at a Denver Botanic Gardens wedding.
Denver is a great place for engagement photography. Urban and rural environments are only a few minutes apart. Because I mainly do wedding photojournalism, this isn’t something a lot of my clients think to ask for, but it’s a fun way to spend a couple hours and for us to get to know each other better. It’s a bit of a paradox, but once they get to know me it becomes that much easier to completely forget about me on the day of the wedding.
Weddings are all about ritual; white dresses, vows, rings, first dances, etc. Regardless of how unique a given wedding is, there are certain patterns, which is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because a wedding photographer has a rough idea of the arc of the day, a curse because if you’ve been doing this for awhile you want to avoid taking pictures you’ve made before. Even though your mandate is to make the best pictures possible of this wedding regardless of what precedes it. Other patterns emerge over a period of time, often having less to do with weddings per se than human nature.
I’m a wedding photojournalist in Denver, but I work across the country. These two pictures were made a few years apart, the first at Tregaron Conservancy in Washington DC, the second a few months ago at Great Oak Manor on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. A boy and his grandfather, a boy and his father.
I think I waste a few brain cells making a faint memory of every picture I take, tying up millions of synapses a year that could be put to better use. When I saw the beginnings of the picture on the right, the composition was already superimposed with my memory of the one on the left. When constantly looking for things that are about to happen, those patterns can be a guide. Repetition isn’t always a bad thing. Seeing ourselves in others, or others in others, is a reminder of what we share. It helps us connect with complete strangers. That is a pattern worth keeping.
A lot of wedding photographers are calling themselves wedding photojournalists these days. It’s hip, it’s trendy, and for the sake of marketing, many photographers have those words on their websites. If authentic wedding photos are important to you however, you should know how to spot the real thing before you hire someone.
I photographed Liz and Trafton’s wedding at the Briar Patch Bed & Breakfast Inn in Middleburg, Virginia. Though I work as a wedding photojournalist in Denver, they had heard of me when I was still in Washington DC and they brought me back. They were one of those couples that don’t take things too seriously. Well, they do and they don’t. Big things yes, small things no. It was a nice, intimate wedding, but they didn’t spend a year planning it, as they were much more interested in getting married than all the details of the event itself. A lot of my clients are like that.
Jamie and Michael were married at The Manor House in Morrison, Colorado. It’s a beautiful setting, though I never want the environment to upstage the people gathered, the people who will be so much more important years into the future than chosen colors or intricate place settings. As a Denver wedding photojournalist, I prefer to work in black and white, always putting the focus on the individual and the ways in which we connect.
I received this message last week. Made my day:
Hi Carl. I’m sure you don’t remember me but you photographed my wedding in 2005. I wanted you to know how much I continue to cherish the photos you captured that day. In particular, I have been spending a lot of time over the past 24 hours looking at this photograph of my grandmother hugging me. She passed away on April 28th, seven years ago. It’s difficult to describe the emotions I feel when I look at this photo, but I can tell you that it is without a doubt my favorite image of her at any age. So thank you for this gift you have given me and my family that truly continues to bear fruit regularly to this day. I hope you are well and I wish you all good things!
I was recently commissioned to do a portrait of Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. Regardless of the subject matter or assignment, I try to approach people with honesty and transparency in my intentions. I need people to be real in front of the camera, which is not always an easy thing to do. It helps to be calm, and it was a very quiet session. It also helps to go out on a limb and be yourself, without pretense or defenses, or some version that seems tailored to the situation. Just be. If you’re lucky, people will return the favor. Which I think he did.