Tuesday, July 20, 2010

An Afternoon With Doug Gordon

I spent a Monday afternoon with wedding photographer Doug Gordon, a high intensity New Yorker with a passion for baseball and wedding photography.  Doug spent the first hour or so actually providing a type of motivation speech, a “you can do it” type of rah rah, which is fine.  Like he pointed out, many in the audience are new photographers or people coming in as a last chance effort to see if they can make it.  A few things stood out:  Dare to be different.  If all the wedding photos look boring, break out of the mold and take a chance.  Don’t let fear stop you.  He’s a big believer in relationship building and making friends, good advice for any business.  You have to create the moment, create romance in your photography.  And, one of the big things I got out of the workshop was learn how to pose (it’s back in style, he says).

Doug works fast.  Very fast.  Coming from a journalism background, I like that.  While other wedding photographers may say they take up to 1,200 photos, he says he often takes less than 400.  Why shoot two or three or more times of the same thing if you know you got it right the first time?  He poses fast, too.  He calls it “flow posing” and he demonstrated outside the Hilton at the Airport on a very hot Phoenix day by the pool with two models.  He has a posing system and can work very very fast to get the poses in.  Personally, I’m more of a photojournalist, looking for the captured moment.  But I would easily incorporate set poses that look very real into a shoot if I did more weddings (not really sure I want to, given the Bridezilla stories I’ve heard about). 

He has a four step method of posing.  Tuck: Tuck the bride’s back shoulder behind the groom’s back.  Roll: Have the bride roll out her front shoulder.  Lean: Then lean them forward.  And Cover: Cover her arm with a veil or she put her arm on him and his arm on hers. 

He stressed learning to shoot it right the first time.  Lighting was key and he uses a gadget he sells called a torch light.  He doesn’t use flash.  The light... it’s sort of a flashlight but not really and comes with colored caps to match the light in a room or outside.  For instance, for inside shots where there is tungsten, he matches that light with an orange filter.  He stresses not to mix the kinds of light.  He also uses reflectors when necessary.  I like that.  I got to use reflectors in a big way when I was shooting with Paul Mobley in Santa Fe last March and really like using light that way.  He is also consistent using spot metering (picking a point under the brides eye, then locking that exposure, and reframing) with his torch light off camera and aperture set low to f/2.8 if possible. 

During the break I watched him edit the photos we all took earlier.  He works, as you might have guessed, very very fast here too.  He’s worked with Kevin Kubota, an expert in PhotoShop and author of action packs for Photoshop, and uses them extensively.  Personally, I use Lightroom 3 and presets and Photoshop CS5 along with OnOne Plugin Suite and Topaz Bundle, but to each their own.  Also, he works exclusively in JPEG, I am a strong believer in RAW.  He also edits in what he calls real time (shoot, edit, upload, shoot, edit, upload).  My head would only let me do one thing at a time, and that’s shoot.  Then away from the wedding, edit.  But hey he’s the highly successful wedding photographer and his system works for him! 

If you want to learn more about Doug Gordon, I suggest you click on the link to his articles.  Here, you will find his suggestions on posing and more.  The Professional Photographer magazine in 2009 also wrote a piece on Gordon and Kubota called “29 Take Home Tips from the Two Worlds, One Dream Workshop.”  And the best way to explain his “torch light” is to see it in action in this video, obviously long before he went on a diet (I should talk, huh?). 

The things I took away from the session?  Work fast (check), be different/take chances, lighting (he hates flash), and his flow posing system.  Makes me glad I’m a college professor and not a full time wedding photographer, so I don’t have to compete with the likes of him!