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High Museum of Art

This Post is About Wedding Portrait Sessions and The Photographer

So. With weddings – we take all of them seriously. Like SERIOUS serious – but really – I mean really – the couples portrait session is the part where it’s ALL. ON. ME.

Whether I have an hour or 7 minutes. It’s all on me.

Every other moment during the day is generally out of my hands – and I’m just a great photographer documenting what’s going on.

But during the portrait session – I’m the boss. It’s the portion of the day where the photos are†most in my control. I’ve always told anyone that I’ve worked with (interns, 2nd shooters, assistants) – that the portrait session is where I really earn my pay. Because I shape the photos and do more to influence those photos during the portrait session than any other time of the wedding day. The couple stands where I say to stand, they literally do what I say – and it’s my job to make them feel good about it, lead them into different compositions, confuse them just enough to get them out of their heads, make them laugh enough to trust me – and still end up with a set of amazing photos.

Of course at this point I have tricks.

I have a workflow, a pattern or series of photos that I’ll run through – safe amazing and brilliant shots that I can count on – so that I’m able to stay relaxed and enable the inspiration to arrive. Or surprises. Because some of my best photos are all surprises these days. But you can’t and shouldn’t count on being ‘inspired’ when you photograph weddings for a living. It’s my JOB.

Oh yeah. One more thing. Go for the Epic Photos. Sure you need to make the modern/traditional portraits – but always aim to make the Epic Photos as well. What are those?

I suppose I’m not completely sure.

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Wedding Photography. Atlanta. High Museum of Art. MODA. Portrait Session. Photography Style. Theory. Tips. Self Congratulating.

Commercial Photographer | The High Museum of Art

The simplicity of these photos does not convey the difficulties of this shoot – or how easy it was for us to overcome those challenges. We are experienced photographers and even with the 95 degree Atlanta summer – we didn’t break a sweat.

Last July we were hired by Ogilvy & Mather to photograph six subjects for the High Museum of Art‘s Fall ad campaign.

Three years ago when we picked up our cameras we never even dreamed of the above sentence happening. We didn’t go to school for this, we didn’t†know anyone, and we didn’t have the slightest idea on how one would ever be hired by a major ad agency for any gig large or small. Now I know – there are lots of commercial photographers out there that have done this over and over for much larger campaigns and much larger clients. But hey – we’re just Leah and Mark. We photograph weddings and family portraits.

Of course we do run the largest photography internship in the country and we photograph weddings all over these United States. In our short three years we went from starting our business to shooting almost 30 weddings this year, running our photobooth business, a ridiculous internship with 10 interns every 3 months, oh – and BabyRoX joined us because he didn’t think we were too busy ūüėČ

We’ve dabbled with a few commercial gigs but nothing as substantial as this – so when we received the email from Ogilvy we jumped up and down. And then freaked out because we weren’t sure about what we should quote them. Obviously we wanted the gig no matter what. But we also knew that we couldn’t just low ball them with the rates that we’ve been charging local small businesses for their website photos. We had to ask for a respectable number – one that a ‘Professional’ would charge… right? Yeah. So after about 30 minutes of figuring that out – we sent in the quote and eventually got the gig.

You might already know this – but often times it takes A LOT OF WORK to make a simple†looking photo. These are simple looking photos – and that’s great because considering all of the work it took to make them – they came out really great and the finished product looks exactly like how it was envisioned from the beginning. Of course – this was a very new and different experience for me – but because we’ve trained ourselves over the years – everything was easy. The creative team from Ogilvy & Mather did their job – and me and my team did our job to help complete their vision.

Of course we did meet beforehand and went over the specs and concepts and over all†feel and look of the campaign.

If you know me or have read this blog for a while – then you know that one of my greatest fears used to be that I would be presented with a great opportunity (beautiful location, awesome setup, once in a lifetime whatever) – and that I wouldn’t have the skills to make the most of it. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be good enough and that I would waste the shots.

I don’t worry about such things anymore – and I haven’t for a long time.

Again – these photos are deceptively simple. I tell the Interns that everything we shoot is training (even if many of them have no idea what they might be learning) – and that’s why we shoot so often and so many different types of subjects/events. Light conditions, changing light conditions, props, framing, composition, angles, space for the type/words, proper angles to avoid distortion, proper angles to accentuate distortion, and then knowing how to DIRECT ANY SUBJECT – with confidence – it’s all stuff we’ve learned over the years.

Often times it seems like I’ve just†faked it ’til I made it -† well honestly – I generally disagree. Yes. I do step up to the plate with an over abundant level of confidence and bravado – but I’m not faking anything. And I say that only because I know how much we’ve put into our photography and our own education. For us – making photos is like seeing and breathing. We work†really fast because we blink and we see a photo to be made. We don’t need to put the viewfinder to our face and we don’t ever ask should we take this photo?We’re†always preparing†and practicing for some unknown shoot in the future.

There were several key moments and problems that I was able to solve during this project because I solved them ON PRACTICE SHOOTS during my first year, three years ago. Back when I would shoot 6 different models in two hour blocks over the course of 8 hours on a Saturday – and the Saturdays after that for several months. Not only that – but I’m pretty sure that no one even noticed the problem or that I solved it – exactly how you want the client to experience working with you. (Well sometimes you DO want them to see you fixing major problems that were caused by†someone else.)

I’m proud of these photos for their deceptive simplicity and the fact that it’s a REAL AD CAMPAIGN! (with billboards around town.)

But I’m also very proud of us as a business – because we have some ridiculously big plans for the next few months and next year. It’s a great thing to be able to say that is more than just Leah or Mark.


Connecting | by +Krista

A few years ago, I came across this really awesome (and very poignant) quote- I found it (or it found me) at a time when my life was essentially flipped upside down. I was questioning things a lot: where I was, where I was going, and who Iíd chosen to surround myself with. And then, I found it. Iíd like to say it was scrawled someplace significant but it was probably doodled on the inside of a college textbook or somethingÖ but it basically slapped me in the face: ďPeople come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. When you figure out which it is, you know exactly what to do.Ē And wow. It was exactly the lightbulb moment I needed. And while Iíve stumbled and backslid a few times since, that saying is now always in the back of my mind, like the good advice I donít always follow but do always remember- eventually. Because life is about connections. Like photography.

Itís easy to snap a picture of something pretty. Thereís pretty stuff all around us- a sunset, a bunch of flowers, whatever. But the challenge of creating lies in making something a little bit (okay, a LOT) better than something thatíd hang on the wall in a hotel room- and the best challenge of all is connecting. With a face: eyes locked, betraying the mind. With a moment: head thrown back in mid-laugh, shoes kicking up in the air. Or with a place: connecting so well that youíd swear you could pull a Mary Poppins and be inside that place in an instant. The connection is what I love most about photography- connecting with the camera, with another person, anything.

I find myself, especially at weddings, dropping my camera down from my face for just a moment during the first dance- because I love watching that connection between people in love. I sometimes hide around the corner of my living room hallway, watching my daughters and their own little connection: sisterly, fiery, loyal and loving- I stifle my laughter when my Little One fights back against her big sisterís bossiness with a bite. The connections in life- no matter how meaningful or superficial- are what make us.

And Iíve had lots of connections. I still wonder about some- as in, what the HELL was I thinking?- and I miss some. Regret some. Hold onto some. Let go of others. (Sometimes multiple times.) Every single connection really can be divided neatly into a category: season, reason, lifetime. I literally have a photographic memory- a blessing and a curse- and forever have those connections, no matter who they were or why they were, ingrained into my mind. And into my photography too. And that. is. awesome.

High Museum of Art | Family Day Photos

Last weekend, we and the Intern Army + Alumni Debra were at the High Museum of Art for Family Day. We setup a big seamless paper backdrop and started shooting families. Errr. Started photographing families. Now there are various ways to run a photobooth.

You can have an automated setup with a stationary camera, overhead light, and then give the subjects a remote control so that they’re the ones taking the photo.

Or you can direct people, ask them to jump, tell them to make faces, and generally interact. Since we had 7 photographers – we went with the interaction option. Of course this is very different from our other ‘family portrait’ sessions that clients purchase from us – and we always enjoy those – but sometimes it’s just nice to run through a billion ideas with a line full of willing participants ya know?

All of these photos were taken by the Interns.

Check out the full Free Gallery, HERE.

Click HERE to Purchase Prints.


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Jenn & Chris | by Intern Ellie

Fall has fell; I think Summer is definitely over. The weather is cooler, the leaves are different colours and I have 20+ weddings under my belt that I have photographed with A lot can change in five months. In May of this year I packed my suitcase and hopped on a 9 hour flight: London to Atlanta. Five days later I photographed my first Wedding. Every stage of the journey to Atlanta felt big; getting on the overnight train from Edinburgh to London, waiting in the departure lounge for four hours constantly thinking about what I was about to undertake. I remember the phone call I had with Mum after walking the length and breadth of duty free about 7 times. Everything was exciting and full of possibility, as it would be when you move to a new country. I had only ever been to Atlanta once before, in 2011, and thatís when I met Mark for the first time. I had been working in New York that summer and had been tweeting and retweeting Markís blog and his then current interns like the sky was falling – I think it was Season 3. I liked the internship, a lot. I wanted to do the internship. I mustered up the courage and messaged Mark to ask if I could meet him for some photography advice when I was visiting. I got a response. I was a bit shocked to be frank. I remember writing that message, adrenalin flowing through me, because I was taking charge of what I wanted to do. I almost didnít expect a response though; I was a fan, a big fan to a very busy photographer was he really going to have time to meet with me and give me advice?

The rest is of course, history. He did meet with me. He taught me an awful lot in the little-over-an-hour meeting we had. I made the decision shortly after meeting him that I wanted to come and do his internship. Three years and 6000 miles later here I am learning everything I can.

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Which brings me to photographing Jenn and Chrisí Wedding; my first wedding. Iíd followed Markís blog long enough to know he makes epic shots. He also makes epic shots look easy. They are not easy; Iím just going to put that out there right now. I had left any and all expectations back in the departure lounge in London, but photographing my first Wedding was hard. There was 4 of us photographerís altogether and I was at the bottom of the food chain. I was trying my best not to step on anyoneís toes, whilst trying to take in what was happening and take photos. I wanted, really wanted to make awesome photos. I didnít. In hindsight, after Iíd gotten over the crippling disappointment of that happening, I should have known that I wasnít going to be able to produce photos on the same level as Mark on my very first wedding. It was worth daydreaming about though. What I did get was one of the biggest learning curves I have had in long time. I had seen how the behind the scenes of a Wedding and the photography came together as well as the importance of being kindly direct. I think for my first wedding I learned a lot about what not to do but sometimes thatís the best way to learn what to do.

– Ellie

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