This week I welcome Brett Butterstein, who is an awesome wedding photographer based out of Colorado. His work definitely pushes the boundaries in our profession. He is also a super cool person that absolutely loves to photograph weddings. You will unquestionably feel inspired after reading the interview and checking out his engaging imagery. As always leave a comment, they are much appreciated.
This interview will also be featured on PROPHOTO RESOURCE a website dedicated to the art and advancement of professional photographers and serious amateurs. Make sure to bookmark PROPHOTO RESOURCE, the articles are superb and written by some of the world's finest professional photographers. I have learned so much from this site and highly recommend it.
Tell us a little bit about Brett Butterstein – I’m a father, husband and travelling wedding photographer. When I’m not working, I like to do things like Mountain biking, skiing and surfing.
Where is home? Colorado, although my family has a condo in San Diego, California, where I try to spend as much time as possible.
If you could live anywhere on this awesome planet where would you build your dream home? I’m torn between the mountains and the beach.
What is your current state of mind before we continue with the interview? Peaceful. As I write this I’m in Costa Rica where I never know what time it is.
Did you go to school to study photography? Yes. Although I’m glad that I was able to learn darkroom techniques right before the digital age, I’m mostly self-taught.
How long have you been a photographer? It started in High School. When I was 15, I would take my father’s Canon film camera and shoot this abandoned home and junkyard where I grew up in Upstate New York. I’ve been a professional photographer since 1999.
How long have you been a wedding photographer? I photographed my first wedding in Montana in 2001. I’ve been doing it full time since the Fall of 2005.
What or who got you started in wedding photography? After I quit my job as a staff photographer at a small newspaper in New Mexico, to be a stay-at-home dad, I eventually decided to start my own wedding photography business.
How would you describe your style? Aesthetic yet quiet with an emphasis on telling a story
How many weddings do you average per year? 20-30
Do you have some recent wedding images you can share with us?
What type of cameras do you shoot with? Canon digital EOS 5D’s.
What is your favourite photography accessory, other than your camera? My computers.
If you had to choose one lens which one would it be and why? 35mm F/1.4. This focal length lens is my most widely used and what I leave the house with if I can only bring one. And it’s so fast that I can shoot in almost any lighting situation.
What lighting equipment do you take on a shoot? I bring two strobes. But I only use these when I’m forced to and prefer to make my images under natural light, even when there’s almost none.
Can you describe how and when you use flash, video light, reflectors and natural light during a wedding? I use natural light all day, even at night. I use flash for group portraits and dancing. If a videographer is using a video light, I’ll shoot towards it to create backlighting.
What is your favourite computer/editing accessory, other than your computer? We used Photomechanic at the newspapers I worked at, and it remains to be a big part of my life on the computer.
How important is Photoshop in your final images? Not that important. Most of my favourite images don’t need a lot of tweaking.
What is your most used Photoshop tool, plug-in, action set etc.? I’ve really fallen in love with high-pass. I love the texture it adds to digital files and I think it creates a film look to black and white files.
I’m a total MAC freak. Are you a Mac or PC lover? Mac. Even when I was a kid in the eighties, my family had an Apple computer.
Do you plan on buying any new equipment and if so what do you have your eyes on? My next big equipment purchase is going to be a 30” monitor.
I finally feel I have mastered my Crash-Art workflow, can you briefly describe for the readers your photographic workflow after a wedding? I’ll edit the take in PhotoMechanic, then color-correct the edit in Lightroom. Once I’ve exported the RAW edit out of Lightroom as SRGB jpg’s, I’ll go through the images one last time to make sure nothing needs a little Photoshop.
I use Queensberry albums, what wedding albums do you supply your clients with and do you design them yourself or outsource the design? I outsource the design to a graphic designer that thinks differently than I do. I think there is a huge benefit to this collaboration. I stand by Pictobooks.
How do you feel about cropping an image? I’m OK with it. Just like with color-correcting, cropping can complete the vision.
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 awesome imagery? I get inspiration from documentary photographers like those working at Magnum. I also get ideas from watching beautifully shot movies.
What is your favourite image you have shot recently? Can you describe its creation in regards to location, lighting, composition etc, also your thoughts when creating the image and what it means to you? This image isn’t perfect, but it’s a nice moment with wonderful light. I shot it at 1600 ISO, F/1.4 at 125th of a second. It’s the first dance on top of a mountain at a winery in Northern California.
What has been your most memorable assignment and why? Cabo San Lucas. It was a wedding at a mansion on a cliff above the Pacific Ocean where unbelievable events unfolded for almost a full week, and I was working with friends.
If you could shoot a wedding with someone who would it be and why? Carlo Carletti. I’ve never met him and he gets to shoot weddings in Italy. He is one of the true wedding photojournalists out there.
Do you have an assistant/2nd shooter that accompanies you on wedding assignments? I prefer to work alone to sustain an unobtrusive approach, but will sometimes bring someone with a similar eye and calm demeanour.
How many images do you average per wedding and how many do you usually present to your clients? I’ll shoot 3,000 to 5,000 in 12 hours. My clients usually get about 25% of the take.
Where would be your dream destination wedding? Somewhere that would feel more like a magazine assignment where you might find a unique, culturally rich ceremony. South America, the bush in Africa or perhaps the Himalayan region?
How do you make the bride and groom, bridal party etc…feel relaxed in front of your Canon 5D? I stay calm, give clear direction and think out loud.
Have you ever had anything go wrong at a wedding and if so, how did you handle it? I recently had my 85mm F/1.2 lens split into two pieces while shooting group portraits where everyone was watching me work. Fortunately, I was able to put it back together, but I just acted like it wasn’t a big deal and assured everyone I had a back up lenses in the car.
What do you feel is the most challenging thing about photographing weddings? Group portraits.
What do you think of the wedding photography industry at the moment and where do you see it in 5 years from now? It seems like there are more wedding photographers today than ever before, and a lot of them are taking it to a whole new level. I think the best photographers shooting today are making better images than the best wedding photographers of the earlier generations. I imagine that in five years, a lot of us will be offering more affordable packages due to the competition.
A wedding photographer who inspires you? Ben Chrisman
It’s almost that time of year for a Taylor family portrait. Is there any photographer out there that you would be stoked to say - he took my portrait? Sebastiao Salgado
A website and/or blog you visit often? Agency VII, Rob Galbraith’s site.
The first photographer that comes to your mind and why? Balazs Gardi. He’s working with the Agency VII Network right now and at the moment, inspires me more than anyone else.
The last workshop or seminar you attended and why? I took a week-long workshop in Bangkok in November of 2007 with National Geographic and Magnum photographer David Alan Harvey and legendary war photographer James Nachtwey. The experience literally changed my idea of what a good photograph is and brought me up to the level that I’ve always wanted to be at.
What photographic organizations do you belong to? The Wedding Photojournalist Association.
One way you market your business? A web journal that chronicles my travels and offers greater depth into what I’m doing.
Do you advertise? If so where? I advertise with mywedding.com and WPJA.
How important is an awesome website for your business? I’m finding out that having a web site that’s easily found through search engines can be more important than having one with an impressive display.
If not a photographer, I would have been a marine biologist studying the great white shark. What would you have been? A cinema photographer working in Hollywood. I know this is far-fetched, but I actually went to film school with this goal in mind.
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. When I left the newspaper business, I thought I would have more time to shoot personal stories, but this hasn’t been the case so far. Taking pictures at my own pace on my own time can be like therapy. It’s a huge outlet for me, and it doesn’t really matter what the subject matter is. I just love to take photographs. 01> I took this image literally in my backyard, where we have a centuries-old steam locomotives pulling tourists through the mountains. I did a personal project on this train with a goal of creating timeless pictures. 02>This is a homeless kid that I met in Bangkok. 03>This man was in a motorcycle accident before contracting HIV and now suffers from AIDS. In this picture he’s giving a welcoming gesture to visitors at the hospice he lives in at the Lop Buri Monetary. 04>I took this picture in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. I went there one month after the storm and found myself very alone, in this apocalyptic scene. I will never forget the experience.
Lately I have wanted to photograph the Snow Leopard in Central Asia.
Is there anybody or anything you would love to photograph? An expedition on Mount Everest.
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? Figure out how to capture all types of people in a flattering way and learn to work very quickly. If you’re still struggling with the technical aspects of your equipment, you’ll miss the key moments.
At the moment I’m finding a lot of photographic inspiration from French cinema and Russian fashion photographers. Personal inspiration comes from us having our first baby in February. Where do you draw your inspiration from? My two boys and a desire to be really good at what I do.
Is there anything you would have done differently during your photographic career? No. I wouldn’t be half the photographer I am today without my newspaper experience.
If you could be invisible for one day with your camera... I would like to photograph the Obamas during their first week in the White House.
I’ve learned the most from… James Nachtwey.
What talent would you most like to have? Genetic athletic talent like Lance Armstrong
Something you’re still learning? Business skills
What or who is the greatest love of your life? My wife.
What is your greatest fear? Losing one of my children.
Something that is overrated? Leica cameras
Something you’re saving up for? I’m not good at saving, but I wouldn’t mind a new mini cooper.
What item do you wish you had designed? ipod
If you could have lunch with anyone who is famous who would it be? Natalie Portman
Where you'll find me on a Friday night at 9 p.m.? At home, because I will have just put my kids to bed.
Your favourite film (movie) of all time? Baraka
First thing you would do if you won the lottery? Travel
Which five words would your friends use to describe you? Mellow, short, adventurous, generous, confident
What would you like to be doing in 5 years from now? Doing the same things I’m doing right now.
And the last question, if you had one wish… a healthier global environment
Oh one more, if someone said ‘how can I be the next Brett Butterstein?’ What would you say? Work hard, study photographers that inspire you.
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