Ramsey Golf Club wedding first kiss by Ryan Brenizer

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Even though it may not always feel like it, wedding photographers have a great deal of autonomy on wedding days, which means one of the core skills of the job are being able to make good decisions very, very quickly.

You might think that first kisses don’t require any thought after we’ve done 1,000+ weddings. Far from it. This is still a split second that encapsulates so many months of planning and kicks off the biggest and most-defining part of life for most people, and a lot can go wrong.

Samantha and Matt’s wedding was amazing and personal in ways I will keep elaborating on in weeks to come, and we’d all been planning for it since before they were even engaged … but at that critical moment? The clouds parted, revealing the Worst Light Ever.

It was the sort of glorious spring sunshine through trees and windowpanes that might seem cheerful if a bit blinding to a layperson, but to a photographer? Well, right after the ceremony, an avid photographer guest asked “how the heck did you shoot in that?”

Answer: I didn’t.

The speed and simplicity of a first kiss removes a lot of choices, but you are still left with things like how close to be, which lens to use, what is your framing … but the most defining one is “which side will you shoot?”

In a vacuum, I would love to always try to photograph a first kiss from the back for a simple reason … it means that the background to the shot are the people that the couple loved enough to invite to their wedding.

But each decision is made in context. Shooting from behind is risky because you never quite know if people will get in front of your camera, and in many scenarios both getting and being there can feel very obtrusive. Moreover, even when it is the best position for that moment, it definitely puts you way out of position for all of the amazing moments that can happen right afterward, from first joyful glances to the recession.

This is why it is so fantastic to be a two-person team who trust each other completely. In those few seconds, we know that either of us can get the better angle for the first kiss and the other can piece their ways through the latticework of shadows to capture all the first post-ceremony moments. Partnership allows you to both cover your bases and take necessary risks at the same time.

(more tech info and the ”bad light” photo at patreon.com/thebrenizers)

Ramsey Golf Club mother-son dance by Ryan Brenizer

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When taking, choosing, and editing photos, there is usually some sort of battle between the photographer in us and the human in us … and at least in weddings the human should often in the battles.

This isn’t even the cleanest composition that we took in that one-minute period … but it’s the one that makes me tear up as I look at it, and we think that is more important.

One of the clearest surprises when we looked through our own wedding photos was that things we might have thought of as clutter when looking at someone else’s photos were extremely interesting and important when we knew all the people. To you, the people on the left are blobs — to the bride, they are some of the most important people in her life.

But it’s Mom’s expression that gets me, and speaks to another lesson in empathy we’ve had in recent years.

Parenthood? Woah.

Being a Dad is about as hard as I thought being a Mom would be. And motherhood is a physical and emotional endurance course like nothing I’ve ever seen.

Weddings are important enough to hire a photographer for not just because you dress nice and bought flowers, but because of the lifetimes of relationships they represent, before and after the day. I don’t know what it was like to raise and care and know Matthew the way a Mom would … but for a split-second I get a glimpse.

Austin, Texas wedding photo by Ryan Brenizer

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From an Austin wedding — everyone is more flexible in Texas?

Patreon stuff below: Feel free to read or feel free to ignore and just enjoy this awesome image from Tatiana!

In 2014 I developed a lecture on how to stay profitable and happy as a self-directed photographer and businessperson*. I have learned since that the advice was really good, partially because multiple people told me how much it helped them, and partially because it helped *me* every time I followed my own advice, but mostly because every time I *didn’t* take this advice I became less happy in my business and less productive. A/B testing the hard way, if you will.

When I finished all my notes and the development process, I had a really good, complete, six-hour lecture. For a 90-minute speaking slot. I know all too well what Mark Twain meant when he said “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one.”

I managed to whittle it down, but there’s a lot left to say. Over coming months, I will not only be dispersing each piece of advice from this lecture extended into article form; I will be adding whatever was left on the cutting room floor that shouldn’t have been, and the lessons I’ve learned since then: Both from the times I followed this advice and from the times I didn’t.

Part of what we do is take pictures … but actually clicking the shutter is the small part. Getting and staying motivated to do each part of the job is what keeps us going and truly makes us better. We will be taking that journey over at our Patreon, and are excited to have people take it with us.

(Also our resident Patreon guru Sam Hurd tells us that we should raise our prices on the premium tier, so we might not be at $5/month much past March! Get it while it’s hot, and you can totally blame Sam if you don’t make it in time for the deadline).

D3s, Sigma 24mm f/1.4 ART @ f/2. 1/250th, ISO 1000

Reading Terminal Market wedding: Ally and Andrew by Ryan Brenizer

We have always said that the highest compliment we can give a wedding is that we would have loved to attend even if we weren’t photographing that — well, Ally and Andrew’s wedding was all of that and a bit more, since it was in a venue we would love to explore even when there isn’t a wedding there!

The wedding was in the culinary cornucopia of Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market, and it took full advantage of the numerous stalls and marketplaces, as well as a dance floor in the middle of a usually-crowded terminal. To balance the industrial feel of the reception, the ceremony was in the gorgeous and historic Masonic Temple Library and Museum.

We knew from the engagement shoot how much fun this would be — it was sometimes hard to find pictures of them not laughing together, enjoying each other’s and their friends’ raucous energy. It did not disappoint from beginning to end, and we smile just looking back.