A wintry honeymoon photo tour of Montreal

Wedding photography doesn’t have to conform to the formulaic portrayals of happy couples emulating poses and scenarios from bridal magazine shoots.

One of the most refreshing aspects of modern marriages is the freedom from conventional thinking about what a marriage means or how a wedding ceremony is supposed to be organized. In the free countries of the world (at least) we live in a time where non-denominational weddings of all kinds are becoming increasingly common.  To we practitioners of wedding photography, this is a welcome relief.

Baby it’s cold outside

Gone are “required” scripted poses and trite tropes of wedding imagery, replaced by more realistic images of couples interested in creating images that tell the story of who they each are as individuals and how they’ve come to find and love one another.

Honeymoon in Montreal

There is nothing wrong with having a traditional wedding, spending tens of thousands of dollars on that one big day (or week) and filling a room with a few hundred of your closest friends and family members. For some, that is how they’ve envisioned their wedding day, and that is what they want their wedding photos to depict.

Paradise found

But for a growing cohort of other couples, not just newly minted millennials staging experiential weddings that showcase their originality (and sometimes limited spending power), but also others who’ve waited or found love later in life, a wedding and how it is documented is no longer bound to follow a monolithic narrative like watching some set piece of Victorian theatre where everyone already knows the plot.

A wedding today can be anything a couple chooses it to be. A solemn ceremony under a towering willow tree by a riverside, or an intimate, candle lit dinner with a table set for ten. It can be a beach vacation, a dance party, or a gathering of friends in an art museum.

Face to face

And having your wedding photos done is no longer bound to the ceremony where and when the ceremony actually transpires. Couples can choose to spend their time and money on themselves, enjoying a personalized engagement shoot, or a custom tour of their honeymoon city with their local photographer/guide, as this recent couple did here in Montreal, choosing a winter wonderland as backdrop to their blooming romance.

Make hay while the sun shines

The wedding shoot doesn’t have to be restricted to the day of your wedding. You can hire a shooter to cover you on vacation, for just a few hours, or take you around a new city, combining the fun of a guided tour with photographs of you that serve as mementoes of your honeymoon.

By allowing yourself the freedom to be creative with your wedding photography choices, not only will you wind up with truly original wedding photos – but you also get an experience that bonds the images taken with memories of a time in your life that is truly special.

A pot of gold at the end of every rainbow

The Paparazzi Wedding Proposal

The start of something...

The start of something…

Over the holidays I was hired to be a stalker. I said yes.

Before you jump to conclusions, allow me to explain the context. I was approached by email from a man living outside of Montreal, who was planning to take his girlfriend to Montreal for a romantic weekend, and propose to her. He wanted me to photograph the proposal without being noticed by his girlfriend. I thought it was a fun idea and accepted the challenge. It was a lot of fun and I think will make for a good story the couple (she said yes) can tell at their wedding and hopefully one day to their children.

I often get asked if I cover weddings and work with couples doing things like engagement shoots. Because I am known primarily as an event and conference photographer, and mainly market those services, I understand why people don’t assume I cover weddings as well. There used to be a stigma attached to covering weddings – as if being a wedding photographer was some how a step down in being a professional photographer. I’ve never felt that way and have covered roughly forty weddings in my career, but keeping a wedding photography business and a more corporate and event photography business separate made sense. Of course, by splitting up the two businesses the effort to promote each is duplicated and in the past few years I’ve skewed much more heavily to working with corporate clients and conference organizers at the expense of my wedding photography business. All that to say, I was thrilled to have the chance to work on this stealth assignment because it’s exactly the kind of work I like to do. It’s creative It’s challenging. It’s fun and romantic. And good old-fashioned romance is fun to see and be a part of.

My client had several ideas to begin with and over a few Skype calls and emails we laid out a plan together. Using Google Maps to scout out locations, we chose a route that would lead the couple out of the Hotel Nelligan in Old Montreal where they were staying, through Old Montreal along St.Paul street down to the Old Port.

Walking route to view to clock tower from Hotel Nelligan

Walking route to clock tower from Hotel Nelligan

I would be set up in the hotel, start shooting from a distance there and then follow them on their walk down to a designated place at the water’s edge with a view to the clock tower where I was to approach them mid-selfie and offer to take their photo for them, at which point my client would smile and the cat would be out of the bag. With just a few on-the-fly adjustments, it worked out perfectly.

At the Hotel Nelligan, where it began, I realized that there was not one, but three potential lobby areas (one being the restaurant). A special shout out to the Hotel Nelligan staff at Verses who were supremely helpful and on board with the plan once I explained it to them. I asked them to direct the couple to a table by the window while I set up on a table for one, two tables over. Alas, I realized that perhaps the couple wouldn’t come in here at all but might just sit in the lobby which proved to be true after a few frantic texts with my client. Luckily I was able to get out and set up in the lobby in time before their arrival.

Right on schedule, they came down and he made an excuse to return to the room where he had other plans afoot. I grabbed a few shots of his girlfriend, but feeling I was way too exposed, exited the hotel and went across the street into a store from which I could watch the front door without being seen.

Let's take a walk

Let’s take a walk

They emerged a few moments later and we began the dance. Every now and then they’d pause for a couple selfie and I’d snap off a few shots pretending to be a tourist taking pictures of buildings. Luckily Old Montreal is full of camera touting tourists, especially around Christmas time, so I didn’t look that out of place. I tried to keep a safe distance, sometimes dogging them from across the street, other times falling in behind them or running ahead to get in front of them on their side of the street, shooting from whatever angle I could find that didn’t make me stand out too obviously.

The plan unfolded perfectly in the crowded streets but as the path they chose led them closer to the water there were fewer and fewer people on the same route till eventually it was really just me and them.  I hung back and pretended to read the signs and stare out at the action in the port while letting them get ahead to the targeted intervention point.

The caper proved successful and post-selfie assistance shot, I revealed myself as planned and we continued walking together, stopping at picturesque spots along the way, as we came across them.  The final leg brought us back to the hotel where we took a few more shots in the lobby, then headed up to their room where my client had strewn the floor and bed with rose petals where we snapped a final shot and I left them.

As I drove home I was inspired by the idea and felt this is something more couples might want to consider. Montreal deserves its reputation as a romantic city, and there are plenty of interesting streets to wander and suitably romantic backdrops to make for some fun photos that will nicely augment your wedding book.

Click here to see a few more photos from the shoot.

The next big thing in event photography – retirement parties

There is never a dull moment in the life of an event photographer. One day you may be covering a trade show documenting the inner workings of 3D printers, the next you may find yourself aboard the Bateau Mouche in Montreal’s Old Port, taking a 3-hr tour covering a retirement party as I did earlier this year. The tricky part about covering an event on a boat, particularly one at night where all the guests are gathered in a single room (albeit one with a magnificent 360 degree view of the night sky and passing shoreline and cityscape), is finding interesting photos to take. I walked up and down the ship’s length and tried to capture images both of the changing sky and lighting effects from the boat’s decor by alternating between using on camera flash and natural light (the never-ending back and forth all event photographers deal with).

As usual, being the proverbial fly on the wall, I also had a chance to listen in on speeches given for a man who clearly had made many friends throughout his career. I always find my life quite extraordinary when covering events because I am embedded in the intimate lives of strangers, however briefly, and my job is to photograph how they are feeling when they are feeling the most. It is but one of the many reasons why I love what I do, and given the demographics of Quebec, I anticipate I will be providing event photography services for many more retirement parties to come. I just hope the next one has more than one room to work in.

 

Getting ready for the spring rush? Make your real estate listings photos stand out!

I’ve worked for many successful real estate agents in Montreal and the surrounding area and I believe one of the secrets to their success is providing their clients with professional real estate photography to showcase their properties in the best light possible.  These real estate agents know what it takes to stand out in a competitive industry: superlative client service. By investing in professional real estate photography rather than relying on quick snapshots taken with a pocket camera, they are showing their customers that they take their work seriously and that they are committed to providing an excellent service to help them sell their property. Here are a few tips real estate agents should keep in mind when preparing their listings’ images of property for sale or lease:

  • Use pro gear! Real estate photography requires the use of a professional camera able to capture the way the actual lighting appears in the property in a way that enhances the space and is attractive to potential buyers. Most prospective property buyers are looking for natural light, clean, well decorated living spaces. By using a tripod, long exposures and a professional camera even a less than spectacular room can be made to look attractive, warm and inviting.
  • Clean up and declutter! Whether the owner of the property is still living in the home or condo you are selling on their behalf, or if it is a new development still yet to be moved into, it pays to have the space professionally cleaned up and prepared in advance of the real estate photography session you’ve booked. Take a page from a homestager’s book (or hire one to help you). Put magazines away leaving just a few in neat stacks on clean, polished surfaces; put away the dishes in the kitchen; roll up the dingy bathroom carpets; hang the towels as if you were preparing a room in a 5 star hotel; brighten up a space with a few well placed plants or even better, a vase or two of fresh cut flowers. Make the rooms you are advertising look like a space someone wants to live in – without letting it look too lived in.
  • Hire a professional real estate photographer! Admittedly, this is a shameless plug, but considering the fees paid to a professional photographer are both business expenses and fractions of a percentage point off the value of a commission, is it really worth your time and effort to take the shots yourself? Professional camera gear (even just a basic set up that fits in a small backpack) costs upwards of $10,000.  Leverage the investment and skill of a professional real estate photographer to do what he or she does best, so you can focus on what you do best: making the sale and making your client a happy (repeat) customer.

Good luck with the spring real estate 2010 season. From my vantage point working with real estate agents around the city, the Montreal market has held up well during this past recession and looks to be heating up again. Professional real estate photography will help make your properties shine and get you quickly to your next sale.

Update Feb 27, 2010: A day after the image above was posted to my client’s website www.montrealrealestatesource.com the condo sold! Great real estate photography really works!