December 27, 2014 Wilson McCourtney

Choosing My Wedding Photographer

I recently got married on October 19, 2014 at Sigmund Stern Grove in San Francisco.  Seeing that I am a wedding videographer/filmmaker and that I come from a long family of photographers, I knew that choosing the right photographer for my own wedding was going to be crucial.  My fiance and I spent a lot of time at various bridal fairs in San Francisco shaking hands and meeting photographers but none of them had what I wanted.  Their work was all heavily saturated and over developed and looked too cutesy and posed.  I wanted an artist and I wanted a natural shooter with raw talent.    I found myself walking around these bridal fairs in disbelief after witnessing photographs that were so saturated and photoshopped that the final product looked like the couples were super imposed on a digital backdrop resembling outer space.  Not to mention that most of their packages were starting at $4000!!!  I knew right away that type of gimmicky photography was simply not for me and I am still amazed that they get away with it every year.

Slowly but surely I started to realize that I was searching for someone who went to art school and had truly mastered the art of portrait photography.  I knew that the right person was out there somewhere because I myself went to liberal art school (Simons Rock College of Bard and University of Santa Fe Art and Design) and had the privilege of sitting in classrooms critiquing work with many talented photographers.  As I thought more about this dilemma and continued to look up “bay area wedding photographers on yelp” with complete disappointment, I realized the problem was that many talented art photographers do not do weddings because that would be considered “selling out” or “not real art.”  Either way I found this gigantic gap in the wedding business and I started to get disillusioned to the point of almost forcing my dad to take the roll which I knew he would never do because he is now older and finicky.  His style would be to show up and throw down a white backdrop to shoot large format black and white film prints reminiscent of Richard Avedon, which are awesome but would simply not fulfill all of our needs.

However along came Nathan Larimer of Winter Tree Studios.  Nathan was referred to me by my brother because he shot my sister in law’s wedding a few years back (See Jenny and Cory’s Wedding on his site).  When I went on Nathan’s website I knew right away that he was the man for the job.  After watching a brief video on his homepage I quickly found out that he had a Masters Degree in Fine Art Photography from Savannah College of Art and Design and that he was opening his own exhibition space named Prince Gallery for emerging local artists to showcase their work in downtown Petaluma, CA.

His wedding portraits attracted me immediately because they were subtle, elegant, natural, angelic, and perfectly color corrected.  When someone with a background such as mine looks at wedding photography I immediately critique 4 key elements.  Skin tone, composition, use of natural light, and environmental  beauty.  His work hits all four perfectly and was a breath of fresh air.  He uses natural light in a way that only real artistic photographers can harness by having spent countless hours in the woods watching, waiting, and shooting only when the light is perfect and has that magical amber glow as it comes barreling through the trees.  With Nathan’s work nothing seemed forced, digitally manipulated or staged, which I loved.

Needless to say, Nathan and I spent a long time on the phone talking about our wedding and what was important to us as a couple.  We talked about the reason we chose our venue (the redwoods and the old victorian house), why we chose to have a fall wedding (so we could incorporate pumpkins and our love for Halloween) and all the other aspects of decor and preparation that would make our wedding unique like having a coffee bar with a barista instead of a full liquor bar so that our guests could experience our favorite locally roasted coffee.  He seemed really impressed that we had what he calls a “vision” for our wedding and was very eager to take the job and shoot for someone like myself who knew exactly what he wanted with regards to photography.

Over the course of the year Nathan and I became friends working on various projects together (See Prince Gallery Kickstarter here on my “Film Reel” page) and even shooting a wedding together side by side (See the “Precious Forest Video” here on my “Weddings and Packages” page) late last September.  When it came time for my wedding Nathan came through and took some gorgeous shots that we couldn’t be happier with.  He was upbeat, alert, yet hardly noticeable because of his natural approach.  He also created a personal mobile app for our phone that we could download and keep to show our friends and family which is a great touch and a smart marketing tool for his business.  Here are the results.  I have attached a few of my favorites below.

To see our wedding on his site click this link:

http://wintertreestudios.com/tw-portfolio/silvana-wilsons-stern-grove-park-wedding/

To get to his homepage click this link:

http://wintertreestudios.com/

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