“An engagement shoot is great because it’s like a practice run, so you’re really ready to go on the day of the wedding.”
What does a couple need to consider when choosing their wedding photographer?
Personality is important—it needs to be someone you feel okay spending a really long day with. Beyond that, just look at their pictures. I studied at NYU, and my background is documentary, so I try to capture moments. I don’t see myself as a wedding photographer; I see myself as a photographer who happens to be at a wedding.
Does that mean you avoid posed portraits?
I rarely say, “Put your arm there.” Being photographed is like acting—you need to get into your role, even if, as with a bride and groom, it’s your real life. So I tell my couples to interact with each other, or to give each other a small kiss on the cheek or forehead. Don’t start making out—that looks terrible—but try to be as much in the moment as you were on your first date. If you have fun, the pictures are going to come out awesome.
You shoot film?
I do. Most photographers don’t anymore, but I like it better than digital because it’s clean, open, and dreamy . . . a completely different look.
Do you develop it yourself?
No, I send it to a lab in California.
Aren’t you scared that the exposed film is going to get lost in the mail?
In the beginning, I definitely was. But it’s never happened. I use FedEx, signature confirmation required, and—although it wouldn’t help if something actually went missing—I always buy insurance.
How much should a couple plan to spend on their photography? Is there a recommended percentage of the total budget?
I’ve worked with couples who DIY’d everything, and I was their main expense. My standard package, which includes a full day of coverage and a set of four-by-six prints, is $5,000. There are people who charge much more, but I see no reason to go over $10,000.
Do you recommend a second shooter?
I always work with an assistant, who can help me get another angle at certain parts of the day. But when a photographer charges more than $1,000 for another shooter and says, “You’re paying for a second version of me,” I never understand that. Why is anyone hiring you in the first place if you’re that replaceable?
On the wedding day, do couples tend to do the portraits before the ceremony? Or do they not want to see each other?
It’s fifty-fifty. But really the most important consideration, which people rarely keep in mind, is light. It’s all about the light. The light is best the last two hours before sunset. In the city it gets darker faster, because of the buildings. Avoid shooting at noon; everyone’s face will look like a Picasso because the sun cuts you into angles.
Anything else to keep in mind?
Point out anyone who needs to be in the pictures. If you tell me who is important, even if they’re wallflowers, I know to make it happen.
From the Summer 2010 New York Wedding Guide