Wedding photography provides plenty of scope for creativity. Although it’s not as free as photographic art — which itself is only as free as collectors and gallery owners allow — it does leave plenty of room for experimentation. So some photographers have long combined the formals with photojournalism while others have gone as far as Trash The Dress photography, a style that takes the bride’s glamour to extremes. But what happens when you add video to your repertoire? How creative can your results become when you think outside your usual boundaries and what effect can the creativity that allows have on your business?
One professional who’s now discovering just what removing a job label can do for his work is Michael Escobar. Based in Atlanta, Georgia, Escobar rejects the title “photographer” and offers creative media work that covers photography, videography and even Web design. He’s self-taught in all of those fields so his business should really have failed. It’s hard enough to master one competitive discipline but to cover three and to do it without professional training should be a stretch of ambition too far.
And yet Escobar has not just been in business for the best part of a decade, he’s currently enjoying some impressive exposure generated by a creative approach to a wedding client that made use of his videography skills.
“The Greatest Marriage Proposal Ever!”
His seven-minute footage shows a young woman settling into a cinema seat. The trailer starts but instead of running a preview of a forthcoming attraction, it shows an unidentified man asking another man for permission to marry his daughter. The young woman, whose reaction is seen embedded in the bottom of the video, wonders aloud whether that’s her boyfriend talking to her father. Having received the father’s blessing, the young man is then shown racing to his car and driving to the cinema where we see him — after stopping to buy some popcorn — proposing to the young man and receiving a round of applause from the audience.
Modestly titled “The Greatest Marriage Proposal Ever!” the engagement film has been discussed in outlets from the Washington Post to Time Magazine and has now picked up over 15 million views on YouTube.
The idea for the video came from the client, Matt Still, a former high school classmate of Michael Escobar’s wife.
“He had this elaborate idea to propose and I just brought it to life on the big screen,” explains Escobar.
Still approached the cinema, which loved the idea, agreed to show the footage and allowed Escobar to mount a small camera to the seat in front of Matt’s soon-to-be fiancée, Ginny.
The film itself is moving and funny, and hugely successful — and not just for Still. Ginny, not surprisingly perhaps, said yes and Escobar has been hired to shoot the wedding. But for photographers looking to make a living photographing wedding clients it also raises interesting questions about the limits they place on their work.
While every wedding job is unique, most tend to be fairly routine, a combination of formals, family shots and candid moments that combine to make the client happy and pay the bills. Photographers who think outside the box and try to make their work a little different though don’t just have the opportunity to enjoy their work more, they can also enjoy more opportunities. For Christian Keenan, for example, a former Asia-based photojournalist who once won a World Press Photo Award (and is one of the photographers featured in our book The Successful Wedding Photographer) that means a career based on telling documentary shots that have made him one of the UK’s most sought after event photographers.
Keenan’s work, which is witty, evocative and unusual, is one example of a photographer standing out with a creative approach that remains within his field. Michael Escobar’s film is similarly unusual and takes him across creative boundaries. But what should photographers consider before they put down their still camera and reach for a video camera in the hope of finding an additional creative outlet?
Should You Shoot Video Too?
The cost will certainly be one factor. Still photography equipment is expensive enough and while much of your gear can serve a double-use, you can expect to be laying out more money on video equipment instead of adding to your studio tools. Escobar notes how surprised he was after buying his first camera when he discovered how much time and money he would have to invest to offer photography as a service. Move into videography and you’ll have a load of new expenses covering everything from hardware to software.
And there’s a new learning curve to overcome as well. Although some of the approaches used by still photographers can help them to become excellent videographers, there are some important differences between freezing a moment at an event and documenting it.
“Photography requires certain equipment and skill sets and video requires a completely different set of equipment and skill sets,” says Escobar. “However someone in photography would have great advantage over someone who isn’t because there are principles that apply to both.”
Michael Escobar though is unusual. Most photographers find that they prefer to specialize in one field rather than spread their skill sets, their training, their equipment budgets and their marketing across multiple fields. And not all have the desire, let alone the talent, to be filmmakers as well as photographers. But for those who are interested in stepping beyond the traditional distinctions between creators of still images and producers of video imagery, there are plenty of opportunities to be had — both in terms of the jobs themselves and the new creative outlets those jobs deliver.
“It is really up to the individual and what they want to do and if they want to take the time to make both their business,” says Escobar. “Understand what you are getting into… but if it is something you love and want to do, it is possible.”