I imagine if you polled most photographers who make their livings shooting weddings, very few would say they got into photography with the goal of being a wedding photographer. I know I didn’t. We all had “loftier” goals of being photojournalists or fine art photographers, or landscape photographers. Well my “loftier” career was going to be cinematography (more about that below). However, after shooting weddings for ten years I can honestly say there’s nothing I’d rather shoot.
After graduation from Duke University in 1991 I moved to Los Angeles to “make it big” in the film industry. I worked for several years as a production assistant in commercials until eventually I moved into the camera department as a camera assistant. Around the same time, for 200 bucks I bought a used manual Pentax camera from a guy in my Hollywood apartment building (oh yeah, livin’ large in LaLa land). As I moved up in the camera department, my love of still photography grew. I set my sights on becoming a cinematographer and tried to learn everything I could about photography, both motion picture and still.
Once my family and friends heard that I was getting serious about photography I received endless requests to shoot all manner of family events, including weddings, portraits, headshots, christenings you name it, I shot it. All the while, my dream to become a Hollywood cinematographer remained my goal. After grinding away for almost five years I became a camera operator. I also spent about $50,000 to buy a Steadicam, camera stablization rig (ie. human dolly). From 1997-2001 I operated camera on films, TV shows, commercials, and music videos, including Budweiser’s famous, “Chicken crossing the road for a Bud”, spot that played on the 1998 Super Bowl. As a Steadicam operator, I traveled all over the U.S. and abroad developing my own personal style of lighting and fluid composition that has become the trademark of my wedding photography.
As a camera operator, my job was to figure out the best way to tell the story visually. This is exactly what I do as a wedding photographer. I tell the story of your wedding day through the pictures. My job is not to control the event, but rather to melt into the background so that when most brides come to see the pictures for the first time they invariably say, “Oh my gosh, I had no idea you were shooting that!” THAT’s what gets me excited about my job. Of course, as much as I try to be a fly on the wall, I am around for some of the day’s most intimate moments and there are times when we do have to interact. Those are the times when I think people appreciate me the most. During those intimate moments I know when to stay far away and even when to put the camera down. During the formals, and I use that term loosely as you will see in my Formals Gallery, I try to keep it fun and FAST. The last thing you want is to be shooting formals for an hour while your guests are partying it up at the cocktail hour. Actually that’s not true; the LAST thing most of my clients want is cheese. That’s right, cheese. I will not make you contort your body into some CHEEZY hand on the chin, head tilted back, knees bent, fake smile, God-awful pose that you would never put in your album in the first place. Actually, my favorite direction that I give to the bride and groom is “just be together.” That’s usually what you’d most like to be doing and it’s also when I get my best pictures. I just get back on a long lens and let the two of you be together. In this way even my formal pictures “tell a story.”
A quick story about cheese… Recently at a wedding the mother of the groom came up to me with a very concerned look on her face and she asked me not to make her son jump during the photos. I tried to nod knowingly like this request made perfect sense. In my head I thought, maybe the groom has a bad knee or is afraid of heights. Sensing my confusion, the groom’s mother explained that at a friend’s wedding, all of the groomsmen were asked by the photographer to JUMP in place making all involved, especially her son, feel more than a little silly. I assured the groom’s mom that I have a strict “no cheese” policy and jumping in place was not one of my tricks for affecting spontaneous formals.
As my passion for wedding photography has grown, so too, has my recognition in the in industry. In ten years of shooting weddings professionally, my work has already been published in the following magazines: Wedding Bells, Grace Ormonde Wedding Style, Grace Ormonde Marriage, Wedding Dresses, Studio Photography and Design, the Wedding Pages, LA Times, Angelino Magazine, Backstage West, Touring and Tasting, and Special Events Magazine. I’d be happy to show you any of these publications. While I predominantly shoot weddings in the Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Barbara areas, I’ve also shot weddings in St. Thomas, Santa Fe, Napa, Aspen, Cabo, Sonoma, San Francisco, Arizona, Dallas, Austin, Colorado, New York, New Jersey, D.C., New England, Belize and even Ireland.
That’s pretty much my philosophy/experience regarding wedding photography in a nutshell. And now a little personal background… My wife, Becky, and I just celebrated our 10 year anniversary on September 26, 2008. On May 3, 2005 we welcomed into the world our second son, Jack William Riedy (future sports nickname “J Dub”). Our first son Nicholas Joseph Riedy (a.k.a. Cole) was born on October 1, 2002. Early in 2004, we moved from Glendale into a beautiful brand new home in Valencia. Then, in 2006, we picked up stakes once more and headed south to the slightly less oven-like climate of San Diego where we purchased our third home in south Carlsbad (it’s really Encinitas). We moved here for two main reasons. First, we moved here to be near family. To us, there’s nothing more important. Second, I wanted to be closer to my clients, most of whom live in San Diego. So far, it’s a decision we haven’t regretted for an instant.
I am an avid golfer with a handicap that floats around the 6-7 range. My career low round is one under par 71, but my claim to fame as a golfer is that I swing my irons left-handed and my driver right-handed (yes, I’m a freak) and I've had a hole in one both as a righty and as a lefty. Becky, who used to be my lovely assistant, is one of the top voice-over actresses in Hollywood, doing hundreds of tv and radio commercials, video games and live announces. She’s best known for having announced the Emmys and Grammys twice.
I hope that this little novel has given you a little insight into the person to whom you would be entrusting the documentation of your most precious memories. Having been married just fifteen short years ago we understand what it is you are going through, not only in selecting the right photographer, but also on the day itself. It’s probably the most special day in your life (at least to this point), and we promise you’ll be glad I was there to capture it. Let me leave you with one last thought that really sums up my shooting philosophy: The moment is priceless. Shoot now, edit later.