In 1993, I was talked into photographing my first wedding. I'd graduated from art school the year before, and had been shooting mostly portraits. The wedding industry was completely different then - bland, stagnent, just uninspired. It was not a space where "real" photographers landed. An engaged couple begged me to cover their San Francisco wedding. I finally relented, warning them, "I'll do it, but these picutres aren't going to look like the wedding shots you're used to seeing ." My career took off quickly. I had a fresh approach, and was in the right place at the right time.
The San Francisco Bay Area embraces entrepreneurs and couples travel from around the world to marry here. For me, it's the perfect fit. I've had the opportunity to shoot some of the most visually stunning, over the top weddings. I've also been the only person present, documenting the sweetest, simplest intimate nuptials, just myself, the bride and groom.
I still shoot film. Timeless black and white is vital to my work. It's purity intensifies the emotion within an image. For awhile, people did not recognize my film camera. But film has a new following and the cool kids always ask about my gear. I carry three cameras when shooting, two digital Nikons and a Hasselblad for film.
My favorite weddings have a relaxed, loose mood about them. You can avoid wedding day stress and anxiety by hiring experienced vendors. Experience matters. From a photography standpoint, there's much more to shooting a wedding than the images. Years in the business teaches you how to work as team with other vendors, how to anticipate and prevent mishaps. Experience sharpens your ability to communicate with all types of subjects, of any age.
Some of the best weddings I've shot take place in the Napa Valley. It's hard to beat those backgrounds - the vineyards, surrounding mountain range, incredible food and wine. This region of Northern California raised the bar, when it comes to events.
I've always been curious about people, their stories. Photographing couples, even after so many years, continues to intrigue me. There's a private language between a couple in love. I'm able to gain trust quickly with my clients, and they let me inside their world.
I have a hands on and off approach when shooting. I begin by guiding people and working up close. I'm obssesed with the small details and I pay attention to the hands and feet. At some point, I pull back and shoot from a distance. I always get caught up in the energy of a wedding day. The air is charged with anticipation, excitement. It's the best.
A wedding guest once commented, saying I did purposeful work. His words have stayed with me. I love my role of documentarian. I'll run into clients, whose weddings I shot twenty years ago. They'll tell me how much they still love their wedding pictures.
COMPANY: Michelle Pattee Photography