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Crash Taylor Interviews Andy Marcus

This week I welcome Andy Marcus. If you haven't heard of Andy Marcus then you are in for a real treat. Andy is a superstar in the world of wedding photography! He began working with his photographer father, Fred Marcus at the age of 13. Owner of Fred Marcus Photography in New York. Andy is the second generation of this three generation business that has been around since 1941. He has photographed the weddings of Donald Trump, Mary Tyler Moore, Eddie Murphy, Billy Baldwin and Howard Stern among many others. He has been published in pretty much every notable publication out there. One of the highlights of Andy's career was being asked to exhibit at the prestigious Leica Gallery in Manhattan and sister gallery in Tokyo. He also wrote a book ('Wedding Photojournalism - Techniques and Images in Black and White.), which I thoroughly enjoyed. He is also a member of the prestigious  "Explorers of Light Program," this panel consists of the top 80 Canon photographers in the world. A panel I hope to join one day! What I admire most about Andy is how passionate he is about photography and that he truly loves what he does. The interview is full of valuable information and is coming from somebody with so much knowledge and experience. Enjoy it and I look forward to your comments.

Hi Andy,

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Tell us a little bit about yourself?

Me? What's to tell.   I am passionately in love with what I do.  I am probably the most loyal person you could work for or be a friend of.   I enjoy having fun and traveling to interesting places with my friends.

I see so many things each day that I want to photograph and only wish I had the time to do that.  When I have some free time you can usually find me in Soho or Chelsea browsing through galleries or walking the streets looking for great images to take.  I spend as much time as I can in the very beautiful Hampton area of New York.  Our home is just a block from the beach and I enjoy going there in the winter months as much as the summer.   I enjoy teaching my craft and talking of experiences I have had in this business to people thinking of taking the plunge into wedding photography.  I have spoken for the PPA and WPPI as well as given talks each year at the Hallmark School of Photography in Massaschusetts.

Where is home?

Manhattan, New York City

If you could live anywhere on this awesome planet where would you build your dream home?

Probably right here in New York.  I love the city and have been fortunate enough to have a home in the Hamptons as well.

What is your current state of mind before we continue with the interview?

Relaxing after working a large wedding this weekend.

Did you go to school to study photography?

I learned photography from my dad, Fred Marcus, who started the business in 1941

How long have you been a photographer?

I assisted my dad from the time I was 13 and started shooting at about 17.  I have been photographing weddings for over 40 years.

How long have you been a wedding photographer?

Always.  I do a lot of studio portraiture as well during the week and in the summer on the beaches of the Hamptons.

What or who got you started in wedding photography?

My dad took me with him to weddings that he photographed in the days when black and white film was all there was to shoot and that was in 4 x 5 format.  If we took 70 photographs the entire evening it was a lot.  Electronic flash?  Didn’t exist.  We used flash bulbs.  This was slow process and every shot had to count.   It made you very deliberate in the shots you took, the exposures you made and the lighting you used.  These traits still stay with me to this day.

How would you describe your style?

I think our studio, and this is important to the branding of our company, has a style.  All of us shoot in the same manner with the same goals in mind.   Our style is a hybrid of gorgeous portraits and great journalistic images that capture the spirit of the day.  Our clients come to us for this and we provide it consistently.

How many weddings do you average per year?

We do from 300 – 400 extremely high-end weddings a year.  We just photographed Ivanka Trump’s wedding, Donald’s daughter.

Do you have a few recent images you can share with us?

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What type of cameras do you shoot with?

I used to shoot with Hasselblad till about 18 months ago when we switched exclusively to digital capture.  I shoot with a Canon 1Ds Mark III  and a Canon 5D Mark II presently.  I also shoot some photos with my Leica M8 rangefinder camera.

What is your favourite photography accessory, other than your camera?

I have so many, I love using my X-rite Colorchecker for white balance, also my CBL Lens for white balance.  My Pocket Wizard slave triggers are fabulous as well.  I also love my Epson P-7000 to back up my cards as I shoot them.  I am a big believer in backing up everything.

If you had to choose one lens which one would it be and why?

Wow, one lens?  I use ten lenses at least on every wedding I shoot. Probably the Canon 85mm 1.2 .   I can do a lot with that lens and I love the narrow depth of focus I can achieve shooting wide open.

What lighting equipment do you take on a shoot?

I use and have used Dyna-Lite  flash equipement since the day they came on the market. Literally!  I grew up with the first crop of electronic flash and they held two 480 volt dry cell batteries.  The flash weighed in at close to 20 pounds and guess who was in charge of carrying it around all night at the weddings.  My right shoulder is about an inch lower than my left shoulder.   Just ask my tailor!

I also use a special edition Lumedyne Flash that I collaborated on with the manufacturer for candid shooting.

Can you describe how and when you use flash, video light, reflectors and natural light during a wedding?

Photography is about light, about seeing light or creating the light that you would like to see.  So for my portraits that I shoot in NYC we use mostly flash because the events are indoors.  I am quite comfortable working with flash and love all the control I have creating my images.  I use natural light when I can and when it looks good.  If I am not getting what I want then I revert to flash.   Video lights are the hot new thing and I think the results are really interesting.   As the ISO of cameras increase I think this form of lighting will be even more popular.  Actually, my son Brian, who is in business with me is developing such a product as I write this.

What is your favourite computer/editing accessory, other than your computer?

We use Bridge and Lightroom in our studio.  I use Aperture as well for some of my editing.

How important is Photoshop in your final images?

We use Photoshop 4.0 and it is crucial to providing my clients with the best I can get out of my raw files and my final retouched images.

What is your most used Photoshop tool, plug-in, action set etc.?

I am so into two plug-ins.   OneOne Software’s PhotoTools 2.0 and Focal Point.  Also, Nik Software’s Color Efex Pro 3.0  and Vivezia.

Are you a MAC or PC lover?

I am a Mac FANATIC.  I own a lot of Apple stock and I think I personally make it go up!

Do you plan on buying any new equipment and if so what do you have your eyes on?

OMG, crazy question to ask me.   I would be buying stuff all the time but that is something I see as not being conducive to making money in this business.  I have an eye on the new Canon 100mm IS macro lens.  I use the older model now and would love to have the IS feature.  Also, I want to get a new 17” MacBook Pro. The one I have is 3 years old, just trying to hold out till the next version comes out.

I finally feel I have mastered my Crash-Art workflow, can you briefly describe for the readers your photographic workflow after a wedding?

Backup everything on our server.  Burn DVD’s of all files.  Edit images with Bridge or LR,  color correct raw files,  convert to JPEG,  Burn DVD of all JPEG images.  Upload JPEG’s to our server.

I use Queensberry albums, what wedding albums do you supply your clients with and do you design them yourself or outsource the design?

We do all album design in house.  I have two in staff that just do that and they are very good at what they do.  We use primarily Leather Craftsmen albums in our studio and some GraphiStudio albums.

How do you feel about cropping an image?

I crop all the time.  Shooting wedding on the run like we do you can’t always crop perfectly in the camera.

I choose photographers for these interviews because their work really inspires me and gets my creative juices flowing, hence the interview. What gives you ideas and inspires you to create such amazing imagery?

People like you, Crash.

Seriously, I see people copy my ideas all the time, whether it’s a new product we come out with or a shot that we took and was in a magazine.  I think we all get ideas from our environment, from media, from fashion styles.  Taking a look or an idea and converting it into something that is usable in your business is a good thing.

What has been your most memorable assignment and why?

I have been blessed with so many.  We have photographed weddings for Eddie Murphy, Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, Art Garfunkel, Mary Tyler Moore, Forrest Whittaker, Donald Trump, William Baldwin, and dozens of successful people in finance, music and the entertainment business.  All have been special and all memorable.

If you could shoot a wedding with another photographer who would it be and why?

My son, I enjoy shooting with him and we play off each other very well.  I know his strengths and I know where I can be of help.  We work well together.

Do you have an assistant/2nd shooter that accompanies you on wedding assignments?

I always work with an assistant that helps me set up lighting and keep my equipment accounted for.  Every wedding we do is different and part of what we do well is advise people of what they need, and, maybe more importantly, what they don’t need.

How many images do you average per wedding and how many do you usually present to your clients?

I shoot about 800 – 1000 images and that will edit down to about 650 – 700. As I said before I was taught by my dad to make every shot count so I still don’t shoot dozens of the same thing.

Where would be your dream destination wedding?

Probably Venice, Italy, or St. Tropez, France

How do you make the bride and groom, bridal party etc… feel relaxed in front of your Canon 5D?

I love what I do and I get excited about my photography.  I think my enthusiasm gets my subjects excited!  I make things move along and people feel comfortable with me.  No one wants to stand around taking posed photographs on their wedding day, however, it is the biggest part of my sales after the wedding.  So I make sure to take plenty of great photos but in a fun way.

Have you ever had anything go wrong at a wedding and if so, how did you handle it?

Sure, I’ve had cameras break and shutter leaves fall off and all kinds of fun things go wrong, but I always have backup for everything and I am aware of my equipment.  If a shutter doesn’t sound right to me, I switch cameras or lenses.   I constantly and immediately backup my Lexar CF cards to be sure everything is looking good.

What are your favourite three images you have shot recently? Can you describe their creation in regards to location, lighting, composition, camera settings etc, also your thoughts when creating the images and what they mean to you?

I love to look for great light.  When I see it I just look for something to photograph.  The end of the day is my favorite time to shoot.  Just as the sun goes down and the world slows down a little, I look for that special image to photograph.  If you open yourself to seeing you would be surprised at how many great images are right in front of you.

1 - I was taking the bridal party out for a shot on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.... I thought of taking them across the entire street.  I told them what I need them to do and when the traffic light changed we had them run across and spread out...  I had them all jump in the air and knew I had a cool shot, not till I got back to the studio did I realize the parents and a grandmother were in the shot jumping in the air also.   I love having fun doing what I love to do, nothing is better than that.   I find my couples love to do fun things as well.  Here is a case where all the parts came together.

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2 - Shot along the Hudson River in Manhattan I was looking to mixed the colors and lines and create a fun shot.   I do many traditional images of the bride and groom but them like to have an amazing fun shot as well.   The more variety the more my sales increase.

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3 - The bride wanted some fun NYC shots and in this one I paid a few dollars to a Pedi-cab driver to let me use is vehicle for a few minutes, having nothing better to do he agreed and I got the groom to drive the bike and carefully placed the bride in the small cart.  The bride loved the imaged as did the parents.

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What do you feel is the most challenging thing about photographing weddings?

Understanding what your bride and groom’s are looking for, and keeping organized and being sure to get all the shots you are expected to take.  The technical end should not be something you think about when shooting.  That should be secondary to capturing great moments and expressions.

What do you think of the wedding photography industry at the moment and where do you see it in 5 years from now?

I think the industry, at least in many areas of the USA, is inundated with people who think shooting weddings is easy money and, therefore, call themselves wedding photographers.   Most don’t realize what a process it is to become good at this profession.   I think that the photographers that shoot weddings and burn disks to give to their bride’s are doing our industry a grave injustice and making to so much harder for the photographers that are committed to providing great photography, great design services and great customer service to their clients.

I think that in the next few years there will be a great falling out of these photographers as clients realize they made a grave mistake hiring these people and now cannot do anything about that, other than to tell their friends not to make the same mistake.

A wedding photographer who inspires you?

My son Brian, because of how his work has evolved over the last few years.  My friend John Solano in Los Angeles is also an excellent example of someone that “gets it.”

It’s almost that time of year for a Marcus family portrait. Is there any photographer out there that you would be stoked to say – he/she took my portrait?

Michael Taylor from California.  This man amazes me with his talent and understated approach to his work.  When I grow up I want to be just like Michael.

A website and/or blog you visit often?

RobGalbraith.com - Just like to hear the latest news about everything photographic.

The first photographer that comes to your mind and why?

Patrick Demarchelier, the famous fashion photographer, who happens to be a neighbor of mine in my apartment building in New York.   Probably because I just bought a limited edition book of his work.

The last workshop or seminar you attended and why?

I love to listen to other successful photographers talk about marketing and how they got to be where they are today.

What photographic organizations do you belong to?

Professional Photographers of America – M.Photog. Cr.

American Society of Photographers

WPPI

One way you market Fred Marcus Photography?

With our blog and getting images to all the vendors at the weddings we photograph.

Do you advertise? If so where?

Hardly ever.  Most of our press is editorial and we get that for free.   The wedding of Ivanka Trump that we just photographed was seen around the world and didn’t cost me a dime.

Most of our business is word of mouth recommendations, this is priceless and no amount of advertising is better.

How important is an awesome website for your business?

So important.   I get about 3 – 4 leads a day from the website and I have brides begging us to be put on our blog.   Actually, today’s bride must have asked us five times if she was going to be on the website.   We get a lot of good reaction to our site and the way it works.   We built it from scratch to be exactly what we want, it is only about 85% done right now.

We are constantly updating and adding to our website.  Worst thing is that it gets stale or says “Under Construction”.  That’s just an excuse.

If not a photographer, I would have liked to be a Formula 1 driver. What would you have been?

I love what I do and have thought many times what I would have done if I was not good or not successful at photography,  not too much comes to mind.  I do love finance and the stock markets, so I probably would have done something in that area.

I realize that each great photographer has a particular penchant or love for photographing a particular subject whether it be nature, portraits, sea or landscapes, shadow and light, etc. as a result I would love to have you talk about and share whatever images you feel appropriate of your own private obsession in the magical world of photography.

I am inspired by beauty,  whether it is the smile of a bride,  a beautiful sunset, the color of trees in the fall or a little child’s precocious grin.  I am so fortunate to be in a business that allows me to have the talent to capture some of that beauty.

One of my favorite images was taken a few years ago when I was on a cruise in the Mediterranean.   I woke up at about 7am and went up on deck to get a cup of coffee.  We were docked in Corsica and I looked or the rail and there right below me was a couple dancing in the doorway of a bar.  It was so romantic…  I am as fast as I could to my room to grab my camera and got back just in time to grab 3 frames as they finished dancing.  I still make prints of this image and give it to friends as a gift.

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Is there anybody or anything you would love to photograph?

I think I would love to photograph a project where my images made a difference in peoples lives or their situation.

I would love to photograph President Obama’s family.  The official photograph that was recently released was terrible.  They are such a warm family and whomever took the photograph just missed it all.

When I was 2nd shooting I was picking everybody’s brain, I still am actually. That’s why I love these interviews so much. Every interview I learn something that makes me a better photographer. What advice do you have for somebody who wants to pursue wedding photography?

That’s a hard question as I really feel that most people that are in this business should not be.   There are very few that understand what it takes and very few that truly make it in this business.  One of my pet peeves is seeing all the photographers that failed as wedding photographers and now are giving newcomers marketing advice.  I find that hysterical.

My advice would be to latch onto a photographer you respect, watch and listen and learn from him.  Listen how he speaks to people, watch how she handles her subjects, absorb it all.  If you can, listen or sit in as she sells her work and learn how she increases her orders because this is just as important as knowing the proper lighting to use on your subjects.

We know that each of us has someone or something, which inspires our life and work. Can you tell us the true basis of your inspiration?

My inspiration came from two sources.  One was my father who worked indefatigably.  Working with him every weekend I watched and learned my lighting and posing.  Listening to him speak to clients and vendors and forge lasting friendships was priceless.  During the week he would come home after working all day in the studio and make call to prospective clients whose names he was given.  He was amazing at setting up meetings and talking to them as if they were long time friends.

The other inspiration was from my customers.   Their love of the work we did, their notes and letters to me and their comments to my dad are reminiscent of the comments I am now hearing about my son.

Is there anything you would have done differently during your photographic career?

I think I run a pretty tight ship but if I had it all to do over I would probably have really enjoyed and learned a lot from going to business school or taking more business courses.

Name a photographer you would like to take a portrait of?

I just took one recently of Douglas Dubler, who, when he called I thought was joking that he wanted me to take his wedding portrait with his beautiful bride.  Douglas’s work in beauty and glamour is amazing.  He is a perfectionist, like me and we just get each other.

Do you have any workshops on the horizon?

I speak all over the United States.  One of my dreams is to give a seminar in the UK.  In January, I will be a platform presenter at Mystic 5, check out the details here http://www.waltervandusen.com/mystic5

If you could be invisible for one day with your camera... You have to be kidding…. that’s a loaded question.

I’ve learned the most from… my dad

What talent would you most like to have?

To be able to draw or paint.

Something you’re still learning?

How to be a better human being and more understanding of others.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?

My wife and children.

What is your greatest fear?

Not being able to do what I love because it would be physically impossible.

Something that is overrated?

Most wedding photographers.

Something you’re saving up for?

My children’s weddings, and building a new wing on my home in the Hamptons.

What item do you wish you had designed?

The Apple Macintosh

If you could have lunch with anyone who is famous who would it be?

Steve Jobs, just a brilliant man.

Where you'll find me on a Friday night at 9 p.m.?

Out with friends.  I never work on Friday nights.  A rule.

Your favourite film (movie) of all time?

I don’t go to movies that much – but probably The Godfather.

Who would play you in a film (movie) of your life?

Steve Martin

First thing you would do if you won the lottery?

Get a good night sleep and go to work the next day.

Which five words would your friends use to describe you?

Loyal, Funny, Dedicated, Ambitious, Tough

What ambition have you not yet achieved?

I would love to travel a little more and teach a little more as the years go on.

What would you like to be doing in 5 years from now?

What I would like is to be doing exactly what I am doing right now.  And I am sure I will be.

And the last question, if you had one wish

That there would be peace in the world.

Oh one more, if someone said ‘how can I be the next Andy Marcus?’ What would you say?

I would call a padded wagon to come pick him up!!

Your readers can find out more about me:

Website: www.fredmarcus.com

Blog: www.fredmarcus.com/blog