Sunday, October 26, 2008

Some updates, and a few thoughts on editing photos...

So first of all, I shot my short film last week...some time last week. I've had a pretty full week of auditions and driving and editing photographs and yet more driving...and lots and lots of not enough sleep. I blame that last one on watching halloween-themed horror movies and being startled by the biggest black widow I've ever seen in my life on our outdoor trash can. Which I promptly sprayed with Raid and I still feel kinda guilty.

So the short film, "The Last Time I Saw Her," we shot in one night in a hotel room, just me and the director and the other lead actor. It was fast and raw, just the way I like my shoots, and the coolest thing was the camera equipment that the director used. Here's a link to what it looks like: (skip the intro and go straight to "Mike Figgis on the Fig Rig.")

Basically, the rig looks like you took a camera and attached it to a steering wheel, which gives you total mobility without having the camera on a track, while providing stability too. It was the funnest thing to work with because the director could track me from room to room really quickly and then get in as close as he wanted to my face. I loved shooting and I got to work with two really awesome, talented people.

In the meantime, I'm getting some good training editing my photos. For the past couple months, I've been shadowing the photographer who's sort of mentoring me and helping her out at weddings when she needed it. Last week was the first time I was able to actually edit my shots (on Aperture, on the Mac) and I had already anticipated that I would learn a lot about my photography style just from looking at my 1500+ shots.

The first thing I picked up on, and you might too if you an early photographer, is the repetitiveness of my shots. I have to chock this up to lack of trust in my own instincts and skill as a photographer, as I have many, many shots of the same bunch of flowers or a tealight candle, and I can go back in my mind and picture what I was thinking at the time, which goes a little something like this: Just one more, one more shot, not sure if the seven I already got are good enough...

Yup. Lack of trust in an artist is never a good thing. But it happens to the best of us, especially those of us starting out, and I'm trying to get better, and the good thing is, the more I shoot, the more I'll get better. That's just the way it is. Also, and this is the fun part, I'm studying my own shots, and there are some good, some bad, and some ugly, and now I'm not thinking about the angle or the shot or the shading or the coloring. I'm thinking about the client. Because taking photographs for yourself is one thing. You can shoot sticks and rocks all day, smudge it a little, do some dodge and burn, and call it art and frame it, but when someone is PAYING you to take photographs of their wedding, it doesn't matter if you took that beautiful shot of that stick and rock. You start thinking, if it were my wedding day, what would I want to see? What does the couple want to look back on that day and remember? And, most importantly -- are my photographs capturing what a married couple is going to enjoy looking at for years and years, those living moments in time and those unexplainable looks and gestures and a thousand tiny beautiful moments that gather together when two people commit their lives to each other in front of their nearest and dearest?

Suddenly my artsy ain't-this-a-cool-shot photos didn't look so cool, because I could imagine being that couple and being all, yeah, that's lovely, where's my Great-Aunt's face as I kissed my groom? And you learn, as a photographer, rather quickly, that a shot has its own voice and the voices that are the most beautiful to listen to at a wedding are always, always, going to be the people. People make a wedding. The guests, the emotion, the joy, the all comes from the celebration of us celebrating each other. Everything else is details.

Wedding Photography 101.

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