The engagement session of Gabby and Ryan.
It’s 6:30 p.m. and I’m pulling into the Royal Ambassador Event Centre for an engagement shoot we have scheduled with a couple who specifically want summer sunset type photos at the same venue as their New Year’s Eve wedding.
Having shot at the Royal Ambassador several times, I was confident that I could use the space differently than I have in the past for weddings. Thinking of the various ways I could use the space to achieve something unique is always a challenge that I welcome with open arms.
Upon arrival, I greeted our lovely couple; Gabby and Ryan. Gabby is an absolutely beautiful woman who reminds me of Tia Carerre in her True Lies and Wayne’s World days. Ryan is a rock star. Plain and simple. He’s cool, relaxed, and just goes with the flow. He kind of has this early Eddie Vedder look to him. Needless to say; I’m excited to work with the two of them to come up with something amazing.
In my greeting, I prepare them for the shoot, what to expect, and remind them of the purpose of our engagement session; to learn how to work with each other before the “big day”. We talk about some basic poses and how I’ll direct them to flow as naturally and as comfortably as possible. I guide them through a few examples of how we can begin with a base pose and how minor adjustments in that pose can give them a lot of variety.
That’s it; we’re all set… “let me get my camera”… these are the last words I remember saying as I opened my bag to find my camera, my lens…but no batteries! I forgot the charger in the wall back at the studio. My heart sunk and I sat there staring at my bag for what felt like minutes. The sun was setting, the time to shoot is ‘now’.
“Stay calm” I repeated in my head; “you can get out of this one” I assured myself. As I’m kneeling by my trusty Think Tank, I look up at my assistant for the day (Michelle), and she could see something was wrong. She kneels beside me, sees what the problem is and we immediately start whispering ideas to each other. “Just one minute guys” I call over my shoulder to my patiently waiting couple.
“Should we call the studio and have someone bring the battery?” Michelle says. “Can’t. We’re 40 minutes away and the sun will have set by the time they get here”. I respond quietly.
Still kneeling, I’m now scanning the property as I go into “how do we solve this” mode. There’s a wedding currently in progress on the other side. I could beg the photographer there for some help. No, I’d rather not. Although, a dramatic “WAIT!!! … (long pause)… Does anyone have a spare Canon 1DX MKII?” kinda seems funny in my head now that I think of it.
I could simply explain the situation, and although they’d be disappointed, I could reschedule them. But no, that’s not an option. I know how difficult it was for them to arrange the time in their busy schedules and aligning with the right weather to get the sunset images that they wanted.
And then it hits me! I remember something that I boast to the guests of the weddings we shoot. The guests who admire our equipment and feel as though they are inadequate to snap a family photo, a first dance, or a cake cutting photo beside us because their camera “isn’t as professional” as ours. What I say to them is “the best camera in the world, is the one you have with you”.
I’m a photographer. I am not bound by the type of camera I have, I am only bound to having a camera; any camera. As long as it works, I can express my vision and capture images like I’m trained to do. I happened to have the solution with me the whole time. Now, all I have to do is give my client the confidence that this solution is a good one.
I stand up after what feels like an hour, but it’s really been a minute.
“Okay guys; here’s the situation. I’ve just realized that I don’t have my usual equipment with me, but not to worry; I have a backup camera that we’re going to use for today if that’s okay with you?” nodding my head up and down as if I could encourage them telepathically to approve. “Remember, today is about learning how to work together, and identifying what kind of results suit your tastes the best so that we are more aligned for you on the wedding day.” With somewhat blank expressions on their faces, I knew they were understanding what I was saying, but that they also had a bunch of questions in their heads.
I continued “Let’s get started, I’m going to have you pose under that tree in your base pose and I’ll be over here to get nice wide landscape type of shot”. I think to myself, “Okay Andrew, just get one great shot to start with, and that’ll give everyone the confidence that this is going to be just fine”. At this point, they have no idea what my “other camera” is. I walk back to where Michelle is standing, and then I pull out my cell phone; my Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge to be exact.
Right now, you must be thinking, “Really? A cell phone?! How in the world, can you equate the quality of a cell phone pic to that of a professional DSLR?”! Believe me, I was kind of thinking the same thing. While I can’t even begin to start explaining the technical differences, I can tell you, that as long as I have control over what the camera can do, I can work my craft as a photographer. Carefully shooting each exposure, working the settings, and using the phone’s capabilities. I did have an ‘edge’, no pun intended. I knew how to use the camera very well.
My longtime friend and my first mentor in photography, David Bernard, (who currently works for Samsung), knows the in’s and out’s of every Samsung camera sold in Canada, and I just happened to spend enough time with him to remember some of his ramblings over the occasional coffee or beer about what this little device could do.
Utilizing the camera in pro mode, I was able to perform as if I was using my Canon. More in the sense of checking exposure, keeping an eye on composition, and making sure the shots I was getting were what I wanted and expected from myself.
“Light, Location, Pose, Technique, Expression” I kept repeating in my head; a lesson from one of the greatest in our industry Jerry Ghionis. After a few shots, I walked over to our very patient couple and showed them what I’ve been getting from so far away. This was the big reveal, this was where I showed them that I was working on a cell phone AND what I was able to do with it. The moment of truth. Their reaction… “WOW, that’s US?!”.
At this time, I’m doing a “high five, ‘woo-hoo’, backflip” in my head, and the anxiety level went from a 10 to a 2. “Yes, that’s you” I replied.
I’m not going to pretend that I wasn’t worried to death about the situation. Despite being a professional photographer this was definitely a challenge; one that I had the confidence to try, where others may have not. I’m lucky that it paid off and the results came out the way they did, but others argue that luck had nothing to do with it. This was a testament to how hard we practice our craft every day in some way, shape or form, and being able to think on your feet.
So the lesson for me here? (Aside from ‘remember to double check everything; your gear; your bag, everything’) The lesson for me was being able to practice what I preach. Being able to stay calm (or at least appear that way) in a less than ideal situation, identify a solution, and execute it as professionally as possible.
When you hire and pay for a professional, it’s not about the camera they have that makes them a pro; it’s how they
work their craft, use their trained eye, and trouble shoot in any situation to overcome its challenges.
A huge thank you to my clients Gabby and Ryan for having the trust in me, and big thanks to Michelle for helping me maintain ‘grace under pressure’. Thank you Samsung for making a great product (can’t wait to see what the Note 7 can do). Thanks, David; listening to, and actually paying attention to your demos paid off! And thanks Jerry; among thousands of others around the world who apply the “What would Jerry do?” method; this really came in handy for me.
Enjoy the images everyone. Thanks for reading. #galaxylife
Written & Photo Credit by: Andrew Hiorth