Documentary Wedding Photography: Capturing Reality

Lesson 2/36 - My Path to My Why

 

Documentary Wedding Photography: Capturing Reality

 

Lesson Info

My Path to My Why

I'm going I'm going to kind of start this off with and hopefully I got some of that emotional crap out of the way for myself but I've embarrassed myself like that in front of tons of people now it's just thousands but so don't talk about my you know, the path to my wife, okay, right so this is really big for me, you know, this is something I want I want you guys to do and I want you know, everybody else to do that's watching this this entire three days especially today is that is that you know, what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna walk through not only my background and how I got to where I am but also, um kind of you know, my philosophy on this kind of stuff, you know? And I just want I want I want you to be thinking about your why? All right, I want you guys to be thinking about your wife and I want you to figure out like it's it it is more than likely is not going to be mine right? And it better not be mine because then it's not yours that was deep right there too, right? And so you know,...

the key is is that you got to think about your wife but you also got to think about like, what photography is right you gonna throw you guys under the bus for quick? Does anybody can anybody to find that really quick on that not clumping because you want to use too many words but way anybody to find like why? Why why we take pictures yeah, well, the reason I like to do weddings is because while we take pictures don't have an answer for that why does photography existed? Document what's happening right now for the future to look back at and certainly part of it I think that is the result of why it's here does that make sense, right? And so but but you're you're absolutely correct, right? But you got to think about like, why are cameras made right to doc women? Of course, right but that's also why xerox machines are made, you know, I mean, you could just put something on and just copy it, right? But what I think you mean the the whole key to photography is is you are using your that that camera to show the world how you see the world, right? That makes sense? You see, I'm saying so therefore you're documenting things right? So you're so you're totally right, but you gotta show it through your eyes, right? Because if you don't show it through your eyes and how you experience things and how you and how you view the world then then you might as well just be a crime scene photographer right? Just taking you know, shooting at things right? You know, so so my my path yes you want a couple from the internet? Sure great great. So a swan says capturing moments that would never be again after that moment and derek holland says telling stories with pictures and glenn mozart says to remember yeah totally good stuff yeah exactly um so where did I come from? Why am I doing this photographically so I uh I you know, I wish I had this photo but I still remember the first photo I ever took um I say took because I wasn't I wasn't I wasn't making pictures yet I was taking pictures, you know, and there's a there's a big difference huge difference in my opinion of those two things right now I make pictures when I was ten I took pictures right? So my dad, we're at a car show we're big into cars my dad gave me a his old cannon f t be anybody like total manual anybody ever shot film here all right now are a long time digital first and then film now film for most people nowadays are like digital first in the like I'm gonna do this film yeah anyway so he was old film total manual camera and I wanted to go take photos of some of the model cars that were on display there, right? So he showed me how to use the camera. The first photo I ever took was the picture of his brown, um, door frame of the van, right, completely out of focus, and to this day, focus still plagues me. So so I think I think I had a no, I just, you know, had I gotten that sharp, maybe life would be different for me, but but but, you know, so, you know, it's, I am not the guy that is like, ever since I was a little kid, I've on ly wanted to be a photographer. Now, I wanted to be a freestyle bmx writer, maybe, you know, but in and quite frankly, it all kind of started to happen in high school because I, uh, I I was I was horrible at sports. I tried trying out for basketball freshman year, and it didn't work, and so I'm like, well, I guess sports isn't going to sports in there my thing, anyway, so I kind of like, you know, I needed to find something, and I got involved in the in the newspaper in the in the yearbook, you know, and quite honestly, like, you know, that that teacher back back then and the three proud to be the class of ninety three that's only it's the only way I remember when I graduated, but so I think so so that that teacher is the one who really got me started because, you know, my senior year I had, like a newspaper yearbook and I t aid for her class, and I was in the during study hall, so, like five out of the eight classes or whatever I was in the photo place and, like, I remember, like, my, my biggest breakthrough back then was I figured out that we needed to clean the lens of the enlarger going to make prince and then all of a sudden, all of our prince looked amazing like that like that, that was my remember that anyway, so that was like, you know that that was kind of my start and and then I and then I go to college and I was like, I don't know what the hell I'm gonna major in, you know? And so I'm like, well, are taking pictures what's once do photojournalism on dh. Then I even started that late, like I was in college and I and finally I think it was like junior year of of college I finally got rigged up on the school newspaper at the university of kansas and and that's where actually where I met my wife pam she was on the on the on the photo staff there but it was it was it was that that's what really got me going is working for that newspaper and the and the I learned so much I'm walking on the first day because you're a film person doing a loop is now you look at negatives you know like the guy's like hey where's loop and I thought that was like the coolest thing I've ever heard you know because they're trying to photos done and uh and I couldn't even say loop because I didn't think that I was I don't think that I deserved the right to use like photo lingo does that make sense that's exactly what it's called it's not actually like I would like to do is that magnifying glass you know it's it's kind of funny but anyway so so yeah so you know that's that's kind of where it all started and I you know it took off from there and pretty much the reason I am here still shooting today is my instructor from from k you her name is laura rash are you r a u c h think she's she had the time used to work for the wichita eagle which is about a three hour drive from lawrence kansas where my college with okay us and she volunteered to drive up twice a week I think to teach the advanced photo class and because the program was on was on the way out and they were trying to kind of save it and and in the end, I don't think it got state I think I was I think I'm one of the last two people to get a photo journalism degree from the university of kansas anyway, she was huge, he was hugely influential and she and she brought in like tons of outside people, you know, she also for us to learn from but she also got me my first summer internships at the king's city star, which was which was amazing for her to do that for me and the biggest thing that that she did that it stuck with me this entire time was when I graduated and she gave me my my, uh my grade and she wrote it on a piece of paper, and it was an a minus I kid you not. It was the on ly a that I have ever received in my entire life in a class right it's not that hard, you like to use other hearts photography like it's a good idea is just it's like it's, like bowling I gotta do is just show up and do it right, you know, but like you know, she said on there, she said and I'll never ever, ever, ever forget this and I think it's stuck with me tooth through my teaching and she was brutally honest with me in that letter she wrote me and she said she said you may have risen very quickly in the k u environment but you have a long way to go just a tread water in the real world right? And I'm like holy year whatever right? And and you know, that really motivated me and it's still motivates me and and it and it helps me to motivate my my students when I'm one of what I'm teaching them so you're some kind of kind of photos do you try to look at me right? I want to move I want to make sure you guys can see so if I'm issues just club owner I could do with sorry I'm doing okay so this is this is just some stuff from from my from my old college days this is I actually shot this as I I took a class I decided tio take a fine art photography class and and you know, it was it was something that like nobody in the journalism department was doing and again he was pretty this teacher is pretty influential I had to go to them and like ask his permission to be in his class and his name was park ci lau I remember him right? And he I'm assuming is not watching this but he he hated me I think he just did not understand journalism he thought like why they didn't make any sense to him but he let me in and I don't know if I don't know what was going on but it was kind of an interesting relationship if I remember right but I learned from him I really did so so this is shot you know, stuff like that this was just some things I was doing for the newspaper this is an rotc assignment when nothing happened right? Welcome to journalism you know? And so you just got to kind of make pictures that are worth looking at so those with guns lined up and I made some guys smoking through there wild aren't wild art is what you have you have to do when there's no you guys seen a newspaper on the front pages like people mowing lawns or or whatever right? Because there's no art for the front page so they say, hey, we need to get we need you to go get some wild art and go find a picture and be back in an hour awesome so you so you drive around and you're like, oh that's why that's why these people mowing right like there's somebody doing something right? I'm going to go shoot that you know and so I happened just drive and I look down a an alleyway and these people were playing horse you know and that ran on the front page of the lawrence journal world which is kind of cool met me out front page and probably embellishing but um this was and then I had an internship in columbus, ohio on dh at the columbus dispatch after college and I was on my way back from shooting an assignment up in cleveland I think yeah and there's like beautiful amish country out there so I just I just think I'm like you learning from my dad again take the road less traveled just go check it out go go explore so I was like, I'm gonna drive through the countryside and I saw these amish kids picking walnuts or whatever and I shot that on dh they actually did it run in the paper but that wasn't even like they didn't need anything they just saw it and loved it it was just kind of fun I see now that I should put these in order this is back in k u you know shooting shooting a crew you know crew uh event and you know so I'd like to believe that I like tio it's nice to know that back then I was I was seeing compositionally and stuff like that you know, you know, that long ago sports sports helped me tremendously to hone my skills I bet if I try to do it now they would all be out of focus and I would never get anything but uh I could barely shoot my kid's baseball game um anyway so you know mounting cameras on the front of go karts trying to get something different I love this is my favorite photo I shot in my newspaper days and my newspaper days were like really really smal I never held a staff position anywhere I was only either a freelancer or an intern and quite frankly it's a it's a it's a it's a decision I kind of regret I wish I would have sticks stuck around but that was a different person back then homesick all that kind of stuff and so I uh but this this photo I was I was sent teo shoot the marathon and this group over here this group of people on the right that's like the lead pack right? The guy the guy in the blue the fourth one on the right the he's from nairobi or something and he actually did it went in the hole marathon but I was in the back of a pickup truck trying to shoot this stuff I didn't have even auto focus it's equipment back then because I I always I always made fun of it I was like, you know, you know you guys have all this auto focus and you don't really know what you're doing but that was just because I didn't have it I would have used it if I had it and so you know, but I felt that this was, um or interesting picture than the people running and this is in like, the composition with that line leading up it was just and I was impressed cause I shot in the back of a pickup truck you know all that so you know, just tryingto just trying to, you know, make make make real stories um very interesting story here, right? So shooting for the can see star and they sent me to a mock accident you guys have you guys seen those before? Like for, you know, mothers against our students against drunk driving or something that they they stage an accident at a school, right? And then people come out and like, they see it and they think it's riel but then they're like high c how that affected you shouldn't drink and drive, right? Well, so so this is crazy, right? So they they happen to stage this accident. Right wing classes were changing, right? So they walked outside all the students and they walked right past this and they see this accident and she sees that hurt. I think track coach is in the accident, right? So she's like freaking out, you know, even though he's like, you know, fake whatever I think if I remember right this gal on the left hugging her I think is the gal that's like actually in charge of coordinating the whole thing? I'm pretty sure I can't remember exactly and I'm like I'm like oh so I'm down low I remember had this like my my big for hundred millimeter lens and I and I I turn around I see this I'm just like boom boom boom boom you know, it would've been a better picture had I got the actual accident in the frame but it was so far gone you know, I couldn't get it and I don't like that's amazing and what's interesting is that the paper didn't run it they didn't run this picture and it's because there was a debate it was because it wasn't a really accident so therefore the emotion technically wasn't really right so you guys you guys you guys picking up on this document in reality thing and where I'm heading right? You know? And so this is where my roots are and this is what's been ingrained in me, you know? I mean, so then I left I left a lot of weddings on planes, you know, wishful thinking, you know, s o I left newspapers I I you know, I loved it and I decided that I always say that like, I don't being a noose, a photographer is going to be awesome, but I don't think it's goingto it's going toe by the mustard, let alone cut it. You guys ever heard that saying doesn't cut the mustard, right? Yeah, okay, somebody thank you. Um, most people understand I'm talking about, but the bottom line is I didn't think that I wanted a lifestyle as a photo journalist, I wanted to be one, but I didn't I want to commit my life to it and everything laura ross brought in people to talk to us and, like, I remember, a national geographic photographer came in to talk to us and he said, like he says, like, it's, an amazing job, but, you know, my kid doesn't recognize me when I get off the point after an assignment, and I'm like, and even in college, coming from the family I came from, I knew that I wanted to have a family, and I'm like, I'm not gonna be able to accept that, like, that's not going to be for me, um and so and so I I was like, so so, you know, the bottom line is I was trying to do what to do I got out of got out of of shooting newspapers after my last internship, and I am and I and I and I went to work for my dad as electrician's and I went to electrical school and was learning all that I was going to take over you know, the business was in my head and maybe, you know and I was going to be a a you do lighting design and I was shooting the weekends um and you know, it was awesome learning all that stuff and working with him but, you know, in the end I just felt like my passion was in photography and it was a tricky time, but my dad was so supportive and my parents and my mom and you know, it was like it was like they were totally one hundred percent by me and I'm like that was awesome and then one day I just got a studio and we started building a studio out and the next monday when it was done, I just, like walked in there and sat down and then I was a photographer I don't even know how that happened but anyway, so then I started shooting weddings because I'm like, I'm like, what else am I going to do? I don't want to be a photojournalist, you know? I'm not one to but I just don't know if I can deal with it, you know, it all kind of stuff, so I started hearing about I started hearing about people that we're shooting weddings it's like this new style this like this like you know they're like this new documentary photo journalistic style was starting to emerge and I remember talking this one guy he's a photographer and kansas city doug has is his name with a k dog photography and he he was like one of the first intensity to start doing that kind of style they were and I remember I was that newspaper working and I'm like yeah what's dug up two thank you shooting weddings I'm like what if he's a good photographer like why would you shoot weddings and I know it's really cool man it's awesome it's like all these moments you know like flower girls crying and stuff it's really cool and I'm like I started looking into it and so then I started shooting weddings on dh then I you know I started shooting weddings like this ok lots of things wrong with that photo lots and lots of things wrong with that boat right fish I first problem vertical second problem and this is what I was doing when I shot what okay and I know that some of you might do some of this but maybe after this you'll think differently that guy's eyes close in the back um I don't even know how to expose a photo properly right this is what I was doing this is my original wedding stuff and you know, I feel bad about it now because I and I hope that these people aren't watching but I doubt it but you know, back then it was it was it was really great, you know? And now I quite frankly can't even look at it cannot believe I included that in their proofs is that there's a thing on the camera that says w be called white balance so I mean yeah yeah it's so it's so it's so shocking to me um another one in case you didn't know that I'm going to speak shooting the groomsman right? Like what? I just take a picture of the sign that is an arrow it's like it's like it's like wedding photography for dummies or something you know? And so you know, this is an okay friend is like the best frame I think I made the entire day like you know and check this out I'm gonna go outside and I'm going to shoot through the glass and it's gonna be really cool oh oh and and I'm gonna tilt it all right because I want them to think that they're getting married on a cruise ship, right? You know, silliness, I just I just don't understand what I was doing, you know? But I was just being a wedding photographer, right? I was just this is what I thought it had to be least I got matching bride and groom tilting window shots right with the wrong white bones um and so this is what I thought wedding photography was supposed to be right and they and they love these pictures and I'm glad they do um but you know, I look back on it now and I was completely missing the point um you know, same thing that wasn't my thing shouldn't you be getting their windows you know it's like yeah look out look out creative I am you know who crazy light problems um this is like I mean the depth of field is ridiculous everything's not good okay so um so yeah right this is funny I'm going to do this this is this is a kind of a shoutout to my to my business partner braden who's a he's our film guy with work in films and we're having a workshop and we're talking about how we're just laughing and he came up with um uh this thing called lad right? We're going to start an organization it's called light acquisition deficiency right? So how people suffer from light acquisition deficiency? So this is lad right here I go you know, it's like we're going like a sarah mclachlan on there or something like that and he's like please help these people as they anyway, so um I don't understand why that was in their proofs um nor nor this or that this coming eh I didn't I didn't have different you, jim I thought you were the professional anyway so I mean they love their photos and I'm so glad they love their photos and I and I you know now it's like I wish I could almost go back and like reshoot things for people now you know? But but I can't and that's just everybody goes through a growth in a path and one huge huge monumental step in my path was of course, foundation workshops I had never taken a photography workshop before then in my life onda was like a friend of mine his name is bruce nell in kansas city he's actually topeka but doesn't matter here not because but he was like, hey, I'm going to this work shot in texas, you should go to it and I'm like I had no idea what it wass I had no idea what it was, but I knew that the people that were going where people that I respected in the wedding industry and I bet I can learn something right? And so I got down there and realized it was it was about photojournalism likes sweet I know that you know, but basically what foundation is is it's a it's a the way the way I explain it is it's a it's a photo journalism workshop for wedding photo journalist that don't have any photojournalism experience right that was a mouthful but that's about eighty percent of them out there right? And so basically what it is it's it's it's it's a workshop to help you think and see like a photojournalist but it's so much more than that and that's where the that and that and that's what the trick comes in and so it's it's actually a photography works but that has nothing to do with photography it has to do with people and learning about people learning about yourself and growth it's pretty amazing place so this was me getting my assignment on dh so it's what you do is you is you have an assignment and you go out every day on your own and you photograph really things happening because let's boil it down people of weddings are pretty easy, you know what's gonna happen right? That's the outlines always the same so you might be like, well, we're going to live with different we're gonna walk down the aisle backwards, okay, you know but but in the end you're still doing the same stuff right? And so my assignment was a firehouse I was on, I was on I was on a fire house for three days and this is the only photo out of it that I thought was worth anything and it's not even about fire men it's you know they have a hose you know but it but it was it was you know you know it was it was it was an amazing it changed my life and I I flat out wouldn't even be standing here if it wasn't for foundation workshops and so I have to talk about it like that and I have to be this's not a this is not a promo this is not a hey maybe a little bit but you know hey you need to go do this I truly believe in it because what's funny is I don't think I really learned anything from the workshop though right like I was like that's photojournalism yeah I could do this I know you had a problem whatever but what I did but you just never know what you're gonna learn when you're gonna learn it right and so I've told this story a thousand times and lots people watching this you're probably like yeah we've heard it but you guys haven't yet so that's the beauty of having people I don't know yet you know so I was I was there for a week and what changed my my whole perception my whole path everything was a minute and a half conversation I had with the founder his name is we win on dh he he's been hugely influential to me not only in guiding me a za mentor but also giving me a chance teo to teach and act one hundred percent unlocking my passion for teaching like he he's responsible for that on dh so this was the biggest lesson I ever learned from him all right? So like this awesome photo right? So I was showing my work right and on my laptop and just just on down time and a whole bunch of people were around me and I'm showing a slide show or I don't remember exactly but he kind of leans over and he just goes soccer ball like I call I don't know this is offensive or not but I call my mr miyagi because I don't really know why he's telling me things but I'm doing it you know what like mine my painting this fence may know but he was like soccer ball and I'm like dude, I don't know what you're talking about I really have no idea first of all I thought your name was hui I didn't even know how to pronounce his name right and so so what so so so he just goes he goes he goes why are they running? I don't know I just thought it'd be cool all right first of all it's not cool second of all second of all I mean this is my commentary that's not his he's much more like you know to the point second of all you see that car over there on the right hand corner that's my wife's car with the trunk open can't you just crop your stuff too? Like, I don't know anyway, so he's like, why are they running? And I said, I said, I don't know, man, I just thought it'd be fun he goes, if you're gonna make him run, at least put a soccer ball in there so it makes sense and he goes, stop doing that and do it, you do well, and he walked off and that was it took me a hell of a long time after the him saying that for me to actually get to where I am now, but that's where it started, right? And he's, right? Like like, why was I doing stuff that I didn't that that that wasn't me? Why was I doing stuff that that I was trying because I was trying to find my way, right? How many of you have been through that, right? Like, who? I'm gonna try this new thing see if that sticks to the wall, right? I'm going, I'm going toe, I'm goingto I'm going to look at every stinking wedding blawg out there, and I'm gonna totally screw my brain up and I'm gonna end up subconsciously copying everybody, right? You didn't do it on purpose, I do it, guys, right? Every portrait I do is like, you know, my friend ben chrisman is in my head I can't get him out so I just do what he does right but you know so it's just like you know but but it is it takes something like this to really understand what you're doing and he also said a very very very key thing to me is he says I ask you a question he goes he goes who do you shoot for? I'm not going to throw you guys under the bus because I'm probably you're gonna answer like I did and I'm going I was like I shoot for my client of course and he's like wrong answer and I'm like oh you know it was like mind blowing you know and I'm like he's like he's like he goes he goes you got to shoot for yourself right shoot for yourself and kirsten talked about this a lot I know that but it's so stinking true shoot for yourself and then more importantly show what you want to show and then you will eventually get a client base is in theory mind you right I've been trying to for a law the years and it's working but it's really slow but shoot what you want show what you want and then those people will start coming to you for those and now everybody's happy right and he was told he was totally right so, you know, you know, foundation was was huge for me on so if you're interested, you know, I got to throw it up there because I believe in it so much. F workshop dot com, um, it sells out ridiculously fast every year. F w thirteen so I've been I've been a teacher now, so f w two I was a student f w three I was in assistant f w for I was a shooting coach that they call it mentor, and then on after the five is when we asked me to be a team leader, and I've been a team leader every year since that in texas, and I got I had also opportunity in mexico, once in spain, they do him all over the place, but so have to be thirteen is sadly, it's sold out, but there's a waiting list, but, you know, it's, it's, something to really, really put on your list, but if you want, if you want a little taste of foundation in a safer way, you know, I highly recommend you guys think about getting down teo, scottsdale, arizona, for the foundation conference pretty fantastic, it's like a lot of the foundation speakers, I I'm so hoping I can make it because my, my, uh, composition like god, russians say god, but you know, idol is going to be speaking. There's name is damon winter. You choose for the new york times, and his most amazing shooter stuffs amazing. So he's actually gonna be there, which is incredible. But, you know, so, so f conference dot com, check it out. But if you guys, I mean, I hate feeling like a sales thing. But I just believe in that in the community so much that I, that I just want to spread, spread the word.

Class Description


There is a magic and beauty to wedding days that doesn’t have to be posed or fabricated. You can take photographs that are authentic and dynamic by drawing on classic documentary photography techniques. Join Tyler Wirken for a class exploring the practice of documentary-style wedding photography.

This course will teach you how to take unique, distinctive images that break away from standard styled shoots and set-up poses. Tyler will encourage you to think deeply about why we take wedding photos and then help you use those insights to create an actionable roadmap for getting the real moments during weddings. You’ll learn how to get up close and capture the more intimate moments of a couple’s wedding day without feeling like you’re intruding or disrupting. From being more present in the moment to getting through family photographs in twenty minutes to developing your one-of-a-kind perspective as a photographer, you’ll build strategies for ensuring the moments you capture are beautiful and real.

If you want stand out in the sea of wedding photographers and take photographs that more meaningful than meticulously-posed, then this course is for you!

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