Go big or go home!! Tyler and Lyndsey elope to San Diego

I mean, if you’re going to elope and do a small wedding, you might as well go big and have the smallest of weddings and do it during the 4th of July weekend… because, why not… they’re Canadians. LOL.

The awesome Deborah Young, a very well respected wedding officiant from San Diego called me and asked me if I was willing and available to shoot a very small and very short wedding a whole 3 days before the wedding was to take place as she apologized for the last minute request. The couple was coming on vacation to sunny city and wanted to get hitched… in a spur of the moment kind of way…

“hmmm… well, let me see if I’m available”

**flipping through the pages of my imaginary paper calendar**

“Yes Deborah… I believe I am”

That’s right… 3 days later, I was at Tyler and Lyndsey’s wedding which included all but 4 people: Deborah The wedding officiant, the couple and yours truly at Seagrove Park in Del Mar at Sunset. I had never met the couple for obvious reasons but we had a fantastic time! they are lovely people and I felt immediately comfortable with them.

Now, believe me that’s up close and incredibly personal. As you can see in the pictures, there’s no reason for me to be anywhere but right with them… all up in the grill.

I was involved! I had never been a witness at a wedding but I guess I can cross that off my bucket list now.

I hope you enjoy the photos… I am very proud of them.

I am NOT a wedding photographer

I say it on a regular basis… I am a documentary photographer that shoots weddings…

In a very recent issue of my awesomest newsletter (which, shame on you if you’re not subscribed already), I talk about my non-traditional approach to family and wedding photography. You can check it out here.

The good news is that documentary wedding photography gets a guest spot on CNN… woot woot! And, If you want to read the article (you should), click on that screenshot.

My interpretation of wedding photography is extremely similar to my colleague’s so I’ll do a little exercise here and answer the questions CNN asked of Ian (without looking at his answers) as if they had interviewed me. I think that’s kind of fun.

Here goes:

What aspects of wedding photography appeal to you as a photographer?

I love documenting weddings because they are essentially stories packaged and tied up with a pretty little bow on top. They have clear beginnings, middle and and ends… the stress of the day always brings out an amped up version of people’s personalties. It is about drama, emotions, fun, tears and love. It is beautiful. I’ve never been to a wedding I didn’t love. It’s a celebration of lives coming together. It’s about new beginnings. It’s about being human. All that interested me deeply and I felt naturally drawn to weddings.

In your view, how has the lucrative wedding industry evolved for photographers?

When I started photography, we were at the height of the “boho chic” style and hipsterism, especially in photography. There were a lot of warn and earthy tones and of taking pictures in fields. it was very Pinterest and it was everywhere!! It was a fad. I was just starting back then and even I tried to make my photos look a bit like that… but I hated myself for it. When it comes to photography, I can’t help but being my own. I was not able to dissociate my art from my self and I could not turn out photos I felt proud of if they were imitating a style I did not believe in. I had to figure out a way to create art that would stand on its own and my interests in photography were photojournalism and documentary photographers from the 1950s. I think you can see that in my photos today.

Your photos capture lots of very spontaneous moments. Do you find that people feel pressured to act a certain way when a photographer is around? How do you get those candid shots?

In talk to the couples and families I shoot with about what they should expect from my behavior at their wedding or their family shoot. I expect people to feel a little weird around me for the first 30 minutes and then they invariably stop caring that I’m around taking photos. In fact, I’ll take it a step further to help the process. I talk to them. I engage them during my sessions. I crack jokes, I have conversations, I tease a little. All of this is to get people to trust me that I’m here for their story. I’m not here to make them look bad. I’m here to service the story and I truly mean that. That’s why candid moments are best to tell those stories.

The only ones that I feel truly person for the camera without shame or self-restraint are the kids. And I love it. Kids are honest in that sense. They cannot escape from themselves unlike we adults do so often.

Do you have a favorite photo from the series?

My favorite photos are invariably the ones where I see true emotions in them. When I find photos where the bride, groom or even better the dad seeing his daughter getting married get emotional, it is photography gold for me. The power of that raw moment is precious for my couples… especially years down the line. Posed portraits of couples tell me nothing about who they are but a candid photo of them forgetting that I am there absolutely will. Kids pulling funny faces or crying or having a tantrum is always amazing because it is real. It happened. I was there. I want my couples to remember those moments because that’s what they will remember and laugh about 10 years from now.

How do you find your clients, and what kind of relationship do you form with them before and during the wedding?

I find my clients by talking to like-minded people but people find me and mostly chose me because of me. I care about them and I care for their legacy. My photos are aimed for that. Anybody who’s met knows that I am genuinely interested in people and their stories. I love shooting street portraits of strangers and some of the best photos I have ever taken were on the streets talking and photographing strangers. As I mentioned earlier, I am involved with my couples and their families. I’ll get on the dance floor, I’ll play with the kids and make funny faces.

With all that said, my first impressions are very very important in my style of shooting that’s why I like to come to a wedding knowing the bare minimum necessary. My art comes out as more genuine that way because I express my experience of the day through my camera.

How do your clients react to seeing your photos?

As I’ve mentioned, people hire me because of me, my style, my approach. They want someone they can rely on to be there for the story and they usually are very excited because to see the photos as they have no idea what I captured or not.

the super exciting new newsletter around

I have done something very foolish AND very exciting! I loved writing it and I cannot wait to hear the response from you guys. I am looking forward to updating all of you 3 people that read my blog to tell me what you think about the newsletter. I had a blast writing it.

Mel and Steve

Mel and Steve

The wedding of Mélanie and Steve was a small affaire as they wanted to keep it a small personal event to the people closes to them but it’s a small affaire to me. I care about the couples I work with and this one was no different. It was a beautiful wedding and it could have been with a nicer bride and groom.

Read More

Why I shot this family party with my (new) Fujinon 23mm f1.4

Making the decision

I had just bought a new lens, the fantastic Fujinon 23mm f1.4 to pair it with my X-T2 and I was anxious to try it, so I decided to bring it to the family reunion I was shooting. I usually shoot with zooms because they afford me some added invisibility than when I shoot with prime but I own an X100s (already paired with a 23mm prime lens) and I absolutely love this camera. Using the X100s, I discovered the 23mm (a 35mm in full frame) was my absolute favorite focal length. 

Watching Sadie pass
Coming in


I quickly found out that the 1.4 that although the focal length and aperture was perfect for interiors (especially at night), it is also imperative to have a lightning fast auto-focus and very quick fingers as people at parties move a lot. Thank god I had updated the software the day before. I was expecting to have a lot of rejects because I shot a lot between 1.4 and 2 but found that the X-T2 had helped me nail almost every shot. That was an excellent problem to have. 

I had so much fun shooting with this lens. it helped me get deeper shadows and better highlights than with my zoom lenses and found the lens fast, sharp and crisp. It was everything I was hoping for.

Brenda is dancing

A different kind of zooming

Photographers often say that they "make pictures" instead of "taking pictures" because making implicitly mean that you are creating something rather than grabbing it (i.e. taking photos). I used to think it was a pompous way of phrasing the act of photographing but I have come around to the formulation because 1). words matter and have meanings and 2). I found that the 23mm f1.4 was making me more creative because I had to work harder for the photos... I was "making" the picture rather than feeling that I was "taking" it... like I do when I use a zoom. It shifted my frame of mind for all the right reasons. 

Generally speaking, I like to shoot pretty wide to give context and story to the photo but I also will shoot pretty tight on my subject when their expression is just too good. Shooting with a 23 made me feel like I was getting in people's faces more than I'd like if I want to remain invisible to my subjects but on the other hand, the members of the family saw me as one of the guests rather than seeing me as a photographer... it had its advantages. I was visible but not paid too much attention to and it gave me an added on intimacy with the family I usually don't get otherwise... something to remember. 

This family reunion is a lot fun
a girl and her dog

Covering My Ass

99% of the time, I will 2 use Fuji cameras with 2 Fuji zoom lenses. Call me typical but I cover my bases with the exclentissimo 16-55mm and 50-140m. I found that shooting with the 23mm the entire time felt completely natural to me and after a while forgot I had a bag full of lenses. Again, the "lack" of options made me more creative.

The only time I switched lenses was for the family portrait and found myself quickly switching back to the 23 black beauty after it was done. Grrraaaoor... I was quickly falling in love. Portraits, wide shots, actions shots, I was getting it all without a problem.

What I thought was going to be a challenge was proving to be a delight and something that felt like an extension of me... All 7.7.7. (cue the slot machine sounds) 

the Luz family reunion