(Photo of Holger Thoss by Cary Norton)
This past summer Caleb and I got the privilege of attending John Dolan & Holger Thoss’ workshop on wedding photography in New York City. I have held their work in high regard for years and jumped at the chance to learn from these legends of the trade in a workshop setting. The perspective I gained from this time was invaluable. The main philosophy I took from these two was the importance of creating images that last. The first day of the workshop was spent going through a history of the trade. We looked at wedding photographs that are still captivating today despite being taken 60 years ago. What characteristics made these images still relevant? What perspective should modern day photographers have towards capturing classic and timeless pictures?
I am so honored that these two would be our first ever guest bloggers on our site, to share some more in depth ideas on their approach to our trade. I gave them both a list of questions and told them to pick the questions they want to answer.
Today I’m posting Holger’s answers and tomorrow I will post John’s.
These two, along with wedding and lifestyle photographer Philippe Cheng, share a studio in New York. Together they have started a blog called “tableshots” where they are sharing their images, inspirations, philosophy on our trade. Be sure to check it out and leave a comment.
Without further ado, the floor is yours Holger!
A Bryan Photo: What in your mind, makes up a classic image?
Holger Thoss: A classic wedding image to me has to have the following: A) showing a genuine moment that can be read by a culturally wide audience. B) A unique moment that can’t be easily described with words. C) Capturing subtle, hidden emotions and gestures and translating them into a strong photograph. D) Taking a complex situation and transforming it into a single photograph. E) Making images that are different than the traditional compositions with a still easy to read message.
ABP: Can you show us a few examples of classic wedding images that inspire you? Tell us why they move you.
HT: The following one has a timeless radiance to it that I love and it shows a subtle but powerful moment.
ABP: You and John both constantly pushing to keep yourselves from avoiding “the wedding vortex”. How do you define this “Vortex”?
HT: The wedding vortex: Taking somebody else’s images and not your own.
ABP: Can you give us an example of when you pushed the envelope and you were pleasantly surprised by the outcome? (If you can provide an image it would be great)
HT: The first time when I decided not to take any flash pictures and just went for the slow shutter, grainy approach.
(It was getting dark and I just kept on shooting with out flash, risking to get the crucial after ceremony shot totally blurry – but I was surprised how well the shot turned out and I discovered “my thing”)
ABP: Talk a bit about the importance of carrying the weight of a couple’s family history.
HT: You have to make sure you are the perfect match as their wedding photographer. They have to feel that your pictures speak a language that they totally understand but are not fluent in expressing themselves.
ABP: Many modern wedding photographers wear themselves out on wedding days, often shooting 7,000+ digital images. You take a counterintuitive approach. Explain the idea behind “the less hard I work, the better.”
HT: If you want to end up with 50 powerful images describing their wedding experience, do you need to take 7000 exposures?
ABP: How much weight do you place on physical products (prints or albums)? What advice would you give any photographer who is debating whether to make albums or just give clients a disc.
HT: OK, there is the issue of the historic value of the images – how do you make sure their kids and grandchildren will still be able to enjoy the images? I personally also need to create the final book after the wedding as the final presentation – it’s the only medium that completes my vision truthfully.
ABP:Say I’m a beginning wedding photographer. What are the three things you would want to make sure I know before starting out in this industry?
HT: Think really hard what kind of wedding images you want to take and constantly question yourself.
ABP:What inspires you?
HT: Wonderful, amazing photographs; emotional people; breathtaking landscapes; light; drink and food; family and friends
ABP: Most photographers dread the “family formal” time but this is one of your favorite times of the day. Why? What perspective did you both adopt to get excited about doing them?.
HT: The cliché is so strong that it gives you a lot of room to break out of.
What are your three favorite wedding images you have ever taken and why?
Holger: Hmm, I probably have a hard time picking the “3″ but okay I’ll do it and see what comes out…
This was the quintessential shot of the brides emotion for me:
Okay, now I am getting repetitive and give away my formula but I love their body language and her expression just gets me:
This one is probably unexpected, but a good example for the un-formal, formal shot. At this wedding 2 very special families met and they totally elevated me. The image captures a certain beauty and strength in those people that I find captivating and contagious:
These are so inspiring.
Do you have any further questions for Holger? Leave a comment!