Tenba Technique: Wedding Photographer Vanessa Joy
By Aimee Baldridge
/ Published by TenbaThe photographer and educator talks with Tenba about the next big trends in wedding photography, how hard-working shooters can stay in shape for the job and keep from burning out, and the kit she carries in her Tenba Messenger bag for same-day editing and album production.
All photographs © Vanessa Joy.
Aimee Baldridge: How did you get into photography?
My mother was a photographer, so I was kind of around it all my life. The high school I went to had an amazing photography program, and I really loved it. My high school photography teacher was also a wedding photographer. After I graduated, I ended up working for him, and it kind of evolved from there.
I got a job at a one-hour photo place with a portrait studio, and I worked as a portrait photographer at Babies”R”Us. I messed around a little bit with landscaping and stuff like that too. But weddings are really what I found I loved. I like those high-pressure scenarios, and photographing beautiful people on the happiest days of their life is definitely a plus.
AB: What is the range of wedding traditions that you work with?
I work with all sorts. What's unique about where I am in New Jersey is just the diversity of the weddings I get to photograph.We're in a location that has beach and mountains and farms and the city. You get a ton of really chic high-end city weddings, and then other ones that are down-home country farm weddings, and then you get some that are beach weddings, and beautiful winter weddings.
I shoot Filipino weddings, which I love, in addition to traditional Jewish or Orthodox Jewish, and Catholic. Greek Orthodox is one of my favorites. I love the symbolism. In the Greek Orthodox ceremony, they have a crowning ceremony. The crowns are attached by a cord, and they put them on the bride and groom’s head. The bride and groom walk around the altar, and those are their first steps as husband and wife. And then in the Filipino church, they do the same kind of thing with coins. I think that's really sweet because it shows how the groom is willing to provide for the bride.
AB: Do you find that there are a lot of people who personalize their weddings, as opposed to following traditions?
More of the brides I’ve encountered in the past two years are big on making their day unique. They're okay with telling mom or their older sister: “My wedding doesn't have to be exactly like yours.”
I think online sites like Pinterest and Style Me Pretty are giving these brides a different sort of advice. Before, they would have to ask their mom how weddings went, or they only knew what to do because their older sister got married seven years ago, and that's what she did. But now they have different resources that they can look to for advice in planning their wedding. So they're definitely breaking from tradition a little bit more and making the wedding more what they want as opposed to what the people around them want.
AB: What do you think the next trend in wedding photography will be?
I think we're moving from pastel colors to more old colors with the vintage rustic trend. I'm guessing those old colors are going to start turning into more of a modern trend.
AB: What do you usually bring with you for a wedding shoot?
I've got my Canon 1D Mark IV and my set of Canon prime lenses. I have the 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, and 135mm, as well as the 70–200mm and 16–35mm. And then I use Canon Speedlite 580EX II flashes. I have one for my camera body, and then I bring two more on light poles, as well as a reflector.
I do same-day edits and same-day albums, and I use my Tenba Messenger
bag to carry my laptop, battery backups, the album that I'm going to give to the couple, business cards, all the cables, and my printer. I also bring a digital picture frame for same-day edits.
AB: You do a lot of engagement shoots too, right? Why do you and your clients like to do them?
I'm a big encourager of engagement shoots, so I include them in all of my full-day packages. It just helps me get to know the couple a little bit better. It helps them to get to know me and become more comfortable in front of the camera. I get a feel for their personalities, their chemistry together, what angles they look good in, what angles they don't. So it really helps their wedding photography overall if they do an engagement session.
AB: And you do day-after shoots too?
I do. Traditionally they're called day-after shoots, but I've done them six months afterwards. Whatever you want to call them, it's just one last bridal moment that the bride gets to have in her wedding dress. I've also had brides wear a different dress, maybe one that they got from David's Bridal that they don't mind running into the ocean with.
I would say that trend is waning a little bit. What's more popular now are style shoots. They're not necessarily popular with brides, but they are with photographers. A florist, a wedding planner, and a photographer will get together with the couple and put on almost a mock wedding. It helps with marketing. But I have a feeling that eventually clients will start wanting something like that.
Shoots like that tend to get published a little bit more. They’re starting to show up on more and more photographers’ blogs and websites, because the pictures tend to be a little bit better. You've got two to three hours just to photograph this one theme, so you're obviously going to come up with better pictures than in the typical 20 minutes you get to photograph that one theme at a wedding. Brides seeing that quality of pictures on photographers’ websites eventually will start asking how to get it, and we'll start addressing that by telling them, "Hey you can do a style shoot."
AB: Wedding photography is a very physical job, isn’t it? You're running around all day.
Yeah. Something that I teach is yoga for photographers. Photography is brutal on your body. We have to counteract that, because most of us are the primary photographer in our business. If we're not working because we're hurt or if photography is slowly hurting our bodies, then our career is not going to last as long, or we're not going to make as much money. So I use yoga to counteract that, and to create mobility as well as strength, particularly in my back and shoulders. That's what tends to hurt the most. It’s from either being hunched over a computer all week or holding camera gear while squatting to achieve that angle you want.
AB: Is there a specific style of yoga that you think is ideal for photographers?
They all have different benefits. In the classes I teach, I focus on the back and the neck and the shoulders, on strength in those areas to help prevent injury. And then I focus on mobility, and on the hips as well, because a lot of photographers get lower back pain, as well as knee pain and foot pain. A lot of that has to do with radiated pain from hip joints.
AB: Is there anything you wear or do throughout the day that helps you maintain your physical health?
Before a wedding, I'll definitely stretch a little bit. I always have shoes that have arch support. I think that's really important when you’re on your feet all day. The other thing that really helps is the way you hold your camera. Most photographers are never taught the way to hold the camera correctly.
AB: Can you describe the correct way to hold a camera?
You basically want the weight in your left hand as opposed to on the right. A lot of photographers tend to hold the weight of their camera in their right hand. Their left hand is facing down, holding the lens with one thumb underneath it and their middle finger on top.
What needs to happen is that they have to flip their hand underneath so their palm is facing up, and so that the bottom of the camera is resting on that left palm and the left elbow is tucked in as close to the body as possible. Then the weight of the camera isn't dangling off of your right hand. It should be sitting on your left hand so the weight is going more into your core, because you're putting your elbow closer to your body. It definitely makes a big difference in how sore you are at the end of the day.
AB: Aside from staying healthy, what do you think wedding photographers need to do to succeed in an increasingly competitive field?
I think they just need to have a positive attitude. With that you can take even negative things that come into the field and turn them around into something positive, something that can improve your business instead of hindering it.
AB: You seem to have a very positive attitude yourself. Is there anything you just don't like about your job?
Yes. The fact that I know what I'm doing on October 15, 2015. The fact that what I do happens on weekends, so I have to miss my own friend’s wedding because I already have a wedding booked. That part definitely stinks a little.
AB: Do you block out time for yourself during the year to avoid your life being taken over by other people's events?
Yeah, I do. My husband [wedding cinematographer Rob Adams
] and I are actually big on trying to do that. During the year, we usually take the end of November to the beginning of March off completely. We travel around and do speaking and teaching during the winter. And during the busy season, we try to make sure that we take one day a week off for ourselves. If that doesn't work, then we do little things like take an hour off and go out to lunch, and go sit outside somewhere.
AB: What do you love most about your work?
I love just getting to be there, with the closest family and friends of the bride when she's getting ready in the morning. I get to be one of them. I'm involved in all the more intimate areas of the wedding day. I just find it special to be able to be a part of my clients’ lives like that.
Vanessa Joy is an award-winning photographer based in New Jersey. Visit her website and her blog to see more of her work and find information about her workshops.
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