When I heard that Ryan Brenizer was coming to Texas, I knew it was worth the time and money to listen and learn. I love that his approach to weddings isn’t just “I’m here to make beautiful photos,” it’s “I’m here to make beautiful photos no matter what.” Hurricanes, freezing weather, floods, bad light, time constraints, broken gear — he’s faced almost every possible thing that could go awry on any number of wedding days and has conquered them all while still creating amazing photographs.
I’ve had some time to reflect on the workshop and what I took away from it was more than just abstract ideas of how to shoot (though that was informative and took up the majority of the day), but the why. Ryan did a sort of lecture at the beginning of the day, and his reasons for why he works the way he does has stuck with me.
“I know that what I am doing is important… because one of my photos is going to end up on someone’s casket someday.” (Sobering, but true.)
“I bet you can think of a photo right now, that you have, that if I were standing here about to rip it up you’d lunge at me and stop me from doing it. I bet you can picture that photo in your mind right now. It’s probably not even a good photo taken on a $20,000 camera system — it’s probably from an old point-and-shoot or on grainy film. But it captures a moment or a person as they really are, and that’s what makes it so special to you.” (So shoot for moments that matter. Not surprising, coming from one of the originators of Moment Junkie.)
“A client doesn’t care that you did a good job for another couple. They care that you do a good job for them.” (So do your best for EVERY. SINGLE. SESSION. Never slack.)
Those three quotes (probably not word-for-word accurate, since I’m pulling this from memory) have reaffirmed my belief that I’m not in this line of work solely for the money, for being able to justify expensive camera gear costs, or for making art — but I’m doing it for other people. So that people can have beautiful memories of an important day. That it’s not just about my technical prowess or artistic sensibilities, but about documentation. It’s all stuff I knew, but it helps to have someone who has been through hundreds of weddings say it out loud.
Lots of people tout workshops as “a life-changing experience” or “so eye-opening,” etc. and I’m not going to say all that. I follow Ryan’s work regularly so I was familiar with a lot of the concepts of how he pre-visualizes and shoots. But being able to ask questions and to see “behind the scenes” really helped me push through a rut of being too timid to try it for myself.
I’ve been “sneak peek”ing Steven and Liz’s wedding like crazy on Facebook and there’s a reason: theirs was the first wedding I’d shot since the workshop, and I actually tried my hand at a few new-to-me techniques. Above (first image) is a 27-image “Brenizer method” panorama. I’d actually tried the Brenizer method twice before (once with terrible results, the second time — a year later — was much better) but this is the first time I feel like it worked for the entire situation. The Brenizer method, in a nutshell, is taking many photos of “pieces” of a scene, then stitching them together during post-processing. The result is a final photo that has a beautifully shallow depth-of-field and looks like it was shot with a medium-format camera.
Below, a 2-photo composite of Liz and Steven from our after-wedding session at Hotel San Jose this past Sunday… My second shooter Chris held the Softbox LTP on Liz’s right (our left) and Steven’s left (our right) and I shopped them together. I’d known about this method before but was too insecure to try it until after the workshop.
Ryan said at the end of the workshop that now it was up to us to take what we’d learned and to apply it to our respective situations. That mini softbox composite sure came in handy when Liz, Steven, Chris, and I were traipsing about South Congress — no lugging a big studio light with power supply, or even a light stand. I feel like the workshop has given me more freedom to visualize bolder images and to carry them out :) So worth it.