How did you get into photography?
I’ve always had a passion for all things camera equipment and taking photos. My grandma claims that I used to shoot with her old Minolta even when I was five-years-old, ha! While I experimented with film photography in college (mostly with landscape photography in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina), I’d say I really got into portrait and event photography during business school in Philadelphia. I was appointed the official class cohort photographer and my classmates just couldn’t get enough of the fun photos I captured from the many parties we celebrated. Fast forward a few years… two friends from business school invited me to attend their respective weddings as a guest. They also hired high caliber professional photographers, including a famous New York Times photographer. When everything was said and done and my friends received their photos from their professional photographers and from me, both independently told me they liked mine much more. I initially thought it was just what friends say and to make me feel good. However, when I visited them, it was reassuring to see that most of their displayed wedding photos were actually captured by me. Now, while such stories boosted my confidence, I lacked the courage to give up a successful Wall Street career as a banker. Then, in late 2008, when I was laid off during the recession (and all the bonuses were cut), it was the perfect excuse for me to leave NYC for Miami and pursue a professional photography career in all earnest. Adagion Studio LLC was born. I was mostly self-trained (which is really the way to go), but I took a few semesters of formal education at Photo Manhattan as well.
Describe your style in one sentence.
My style kind of paved the way for modern wedding photography since it combines candid photojournalism as the foundation along with:
- Editorial photo art- where the couple is camera-aware and we shoot the bigger-than-life portraits on their wedding day or next day before the good-bye brunch.
- Family formals- moms insist on beautiful balanced and composed frame-able photos that document an (extended) family during such a special time in the couple’s life.
- Details, décor, scene-setters, and ambiance shots- those iconic, and not-so-iconic, details from the wedding day that magazines and blogs love to feature. The details that inspire wedding themes and fun ideas!
What’s been your favorite experience as a wedding photographer?
Ok, this one is nearly impossible to answer since I have had so many amazing experiences. With that said, my favorite experience was during a wedding in Colorado with Grace and Michael where we got caught in a hail storm at almost 9,000 feet. Every single guest headed for shelter in a nearby ski lift … even their parents. I was left with the videographer and the rabbi. The couple proceeded with the ceremony and we even shot amazing portraits of them running their first steps as husband and wife in the hailstorm. It was unforgettable… and it gets better. The next day, following the good-bye brunch, Grace, Michael and I headed on a post-wedding road trip out West with a final destination of Las Vegas, from where they parted for honeymoon. That road trip was so epic that words alone cannot describe the many adventures we lived together. The car getting stuck in the middle of nowhere, losing the wedding band (temporarily), popping champagne and confetti on cliffs, and an out-of-body experience shooting bridal portraits in Vegas.
What do you love most about photographing weddings? Why do you photograph weddings in particular?
Shooting all five world religions as a destination wedding photographer around the globe, I get to meet and celebrate with amazing people, explore new cultures and experience happy parties. I also like that weddings are not predictable (as opposed to, say, runway, fashion, food, newborn, and other areas of photography), which keeps things exciting and fresh for me as an artist. You never really know what’s going to happen at a wedding—how the weather will be, whether the bridal party will show up with energy, the emotional rollercoaster a bride goes through from getting-ready through the last dance on a table at the reception, the many precious surprise elements during speeches and other reception activities, and much more. The diverse skillset demanded from a modern wedding photographer is quite extraordinary: the very best wedding photographers need to be phenomenal observers (photojournalists), have strong control of posing and light (portrait), bring unlimited energy (to get through a 12-15 hour day strong), and most importantly connect well with relative strangers (it’s a people’s business!). Finally, weddings pay well and allow me to make a great living doing what I love.
Where is the most interesting or unique place you’ve photographed a wedding? Was there anything especially challenging about it?
Well, this answer is similar to the one above, but, perhaps the most challenging wedding I ever did was a celebrity wedding in Panama City. They built an entire island just for the wedding! And it lasted 18 hours. My second photographer, Nick Herran, and I photographed an insanely demanding family/bride (who was freaking nervous and almost looked like she would pass out before she entered the cathedral), in a foreign language (Spanish), with secret service escorts on motorcycles, using a timeline that was way too tight, to document over 1,500 guests, a celebrity band, the most insane fireworks (that nobody alerted us to), at least 100 wedding cakes and an over-the-top wedding décor … all with no time and amongst guests pouring in and looking for their seats, and a groom who did not like photos, side-by-side with super-amateurish photographers and videographers whom the bride’s parents hired! After the 18 hours, we concluded and grabbed our suitcases and headed straight to the airport without even a shower as not to miss the plane.
Do you have a favorite must-capture moment for every wedding?
It depends a bit on the religion. Typically one of my favorite, can’t miss moments is the recessional since the emotions are priceless as the couple walks their first steps as husband and wife. You can literally feel the combination of relief and excitement come together, all as their closest friends and families give them cheering standing ovations. Hey, we pioneered the “second first kiss” many years ago in the middle of the aisle. Today, almost every one of my couples does a second first kiss smack in the middle of the aisles. It photographs even better than the actual first kiss, is real, supremely delicious, and just the ultimate experience for everyone.
As a photographer, what has been your biggest wedding day challenge?
This answer is a touch similar to the one above, but in general, the biggest recurring challenge is to deal with unrealistic timelines put together by event planners who have never been part of an entire wedding day from the moment a bride’s beauty team enters her bridal suite until the very last crazy sweaty dance during the reception. In America, weddings already tend to be a touch more micro-managed than in Europe (notably Southern Europe), and it sometimes feels that every two to three minutes of the biggest day in a couple’s life needs to be controlled. Yet, the more small details you plan for, the more can go wrong. Plus, sometimes it just feels good for a couple to have some downtime, have a laugh, do something unexpected with their bridal party, and just get in the flow of things. All to say, when timelines are too tight—especially for the reception details and décor photos before guests are invited into the ballroom—it becomes a real challenge for the photographer to set up the tripod, to creatively interpret the setting, and to document magazine-worthy photos of the amazing setting. It gets even more complicated when the floral design company is running behind schedule, the couple wants to rehearse their first dance (always amazing for photos), the waiters are still going over the serving routine and filling up the glasses, and the band is stress-testing their playlist (strong base from the band/DJ can dramatically affect long-exposure photos on the tripod .. especially for wooden ballroom floors).
What piece of advice would you give brides and grooms to ensure that they get wedding photos they love forever?
First, spend real time identifying, interviewing, and hiring the right photographer for you. That means you need to go way beyond a recommendation from your event planner, venue sales director, friend, et al. You need to meet your photographer in-person or via Skype and make sure there is a minimum chemistry and connection (you can hire the best photographer in the world, but unless she is able to make real people connect naturally and gets you to feel comfortable in front of her lens, she is not for you). Do not be fooled by a stylized shoot or a “best-of” gallery … any photographer can show you 50-100 amazing photos captured collectively at 20 events; instead, request a few representative comprehensive galleries and look for consistency. Do not fall in love with a single photograph or a pretty couple in a photographer’s portfolio. Above all, your photographer should be excited and honored to be invited into such a special occasion, value clear communication and accessibility. Next, if photos are indeed important, then during your consultation meeting with your photographer (at least 3 weeks before the actual wedding), stress-test the timeline, show her some fav photos and locations as inspiration that you’d like to achieve (you can even create a Pinterest Board to easily manage expectations), and prioritize a block in your timeline where you can be fair to your photographer and videographer and have them deliver upon the expectations they set. Did I mention not holding back? Hey, this is your day. Nobody will (should) be there who would judge you. It sounds cliché, but the wedding day goes by so quickly … and everything will feel amazing on the actual wedding day. But unless you both commit to the amazing photos, invest in good lighting (key!!!), and bring your energy and A-game, you may look back wondering if you could have done more.
What are your favorite wedding trends to photograph now?
Well, I do not know if they are current trends or not, but I love a fun cake cutting (do NOT listen to the so-called wedding experts and consultants who would ask you to forgo cutting your wedding cake or doing so in private as not to interrupt the flow of the wedding!!! That is beyond silly and misses one of the most fun parts. Hey, we enjoy cake for the most important celebrations, right? Be playful with your groom, have a laugh, and get some kick-ass photos with your friends and family surrounding you); The second first kiss during the recessional (see above); The hora loca for any world religion and not just for Latin weddings (when you have a crazy hour during your reception … the energy will be palpable and skyrocket. People tend to lose their inhibitions behind a mask and truly let go. Plus, I love it when a drummer joins your band or DJ and really gets the crowd going for an hour. It is the single best value you can invest in when it comes to dollars spent and fun achieved); The reveal is not a new trend per se, but it creates a virtuous timeline during the wedding day and also gives the couple other-earthly photos and a moment of privacy on what is by design a very public celebration
How do you think an app like Joy can help make weddings better?
Well, I will admit that I have not personally used Joy. From what I understand, it brings together multiple things into one place. You can manage your guest count and confirmations, collect all the fabulous photos your guests take (do not underestimate how important the photos from your guests are!), and create a beautiful wedding website to help guests understand your wedding day and unique elements of your celebrations.
If you weren’t a wedding photographer, what would you be doing?
I would be an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine and ideally traveling with one of my favorite sports teams, such as the LA Lakers or FC Bayern Munich.
At Joy, we believe that even though a wedding day lasts a day, joy lasts forever. What does that mean for you?
A wedding goes by quickly and it’s up to you to take full advantage of every hour, minute, and second on one of the most special days of your lives! Create happy memories that you will cherish forever. Do not hold back and think you could have done more. Do not invest in trends that do not resonate with your personalities. Instead, invest in experience-enhancing elements (those that affect your five senses), and prioritize your wedding budget accordingly. Invite those people who are uplifting, who truly care about you and your wedding (as opposed to a good party), who will join you in your celebrations, and make your special day even more special. And then when everything is said and done and you are off to your honeymoon, don’t forget that marriage is hard and that your wedding was not the end-goal (even though it might feel like that after over a year of planning!). But, it was merely the best possible start to the adventure that is a marriage between two souls who came together at the right time and in the right place. Also, dedicate some time every day, even when routines and work and kids can feel overwhelming, to share some joy with your loved one.
Interested in working with Adagion Studio as your Destination Wedding Photographer?