This week I welcome Dino Lara. Dino is definitely one of the world's greatest wedding photojournalists who's work I admire big time. Anybody who photographs 100 weddings a year, turning out award winning images from every wedding is okay in my book. In 2007 he was honoured with the photographer of the year award from the prestigious Artistic Guild of Wedding Photojournalist Association [AGWPJA]. Enjoy the interview, there is a lot of solid information to take in and don't forget to leave a comment for Dino.
Tell us a little bit about Dino Lara. I’m a full-time wedding photographer in the Philippines. Last 2007, I was the Photographer of the year at the Artistic Guild of Wedding Photojournalist Association (AGWPJA). I’m also married for 12 years, and have 2 great kids.
Where is home? Makati City, Philippines.
If you could live anywhere on this awesome planet where would you build your dream home? I’d love to have a home in front of a beach, like the beach in Boracay. But I’m perfectly happy where I am living right now.
What is your current state of mind before we continue with the interview? Extremely hyper! I just shot 21 weddings in December and I’m about to finish 16 weddings during January.
Did you go to school to study photography? No. I’m a graduate of Electronics and Communications Engineering.
How long have you been a photographer? 9 years professionally
How long have you been a wedding photographer? I’ve also dedicated 9 years of my photography life documenting weddings.
What or who got you started in wedding photography? The lousy pictures I got for my wedding and honeymoon trip. I was very disappointed at the pictures I got, so I started to question the approach of the photographers. After which, I became a hobbyist and got to practice shooting for some of my friends’ weddings. So that’s how it started.
How would you describe your style? I’m not sure how to describe my style in shooting, but my approach is that I document a wedding, and then I put my personal touch by enhancing the pictures digitally to make the images artistic but at the same time, INVOLVING.
How many weddings do you average per year? More than a hundred a year.
Do you have some wedding images you can share with us?
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?
What type of cameras do you shoot with? Canon
What is your favourite photography accessory, other than your camera? My Sigma lens 10-20.
If you had to choose one lens which one would it be and why? Canon 35/1.4. The focal length is perfect for me to document everything I see.
What lighting equipment do you take on a shoot? I have Lowell lights and 580EX flash triggered by ST-E2
Can you describe how and when you use flash, video light, reflectors and natural light during a wedding? I use flash and video lights for portraits and group shots. But as much as possible, I don’t like using flash. I don’t use reflectors as well.
What is your favourite computer/editing accessory, other than your computer? Adobe Photoshop
What is your most used Photoshop tool, plug-in, action set etc.? Totally Rad Action tools.
How important is Photoshop in your final images? It is as equally as important as having a camera to photograph an event.
Are you a Mac or PC lover? I use PC, but I’m not really an enthusiast.
I finally feel I have mastered my Crash-Art workflow; can you briefly describe for the readers your photographic workflow after a wedding? After a couple of hours of shooting, I have my staff back up the files to my hard drive. This process is repeated several times until the end of reception. Sometime between the wedding ceremony and reception, I select the photos taken during the preparations and ceremony, render it all, and compile it in a slideshow that will be shown at the middle of the reception, on the same day. After the event, I review the selected shots from the slideshow I made which is around 300-400 shots. These shots will then be the basis for the album design. I will also be selecting from the other photos I took during the reception.
What wedding albums do you supply your clients with and do you design them yourself or outsource the design? I have several hard bound albums of different sizes and selected colors. But I usually give out an artist choice album (my personal favourites during the wedding) which the couple will get 2 weeks after their wedding. I also have the final album which the couple needs to approve before we have it assembled. I have our own in-house designer to do the graphic layouts, but my client and I should approve it first before we have our local album maker assemble it.
I just purchased two Canon 5D Mark II's, which I love. Do you plan on buying any new equipment and if so what do you have your eyes on? Not really, but I would love to have the Canon 5D Mark II
How do you feel about cropping an image? It’s a must if needed. But I aim to have it perfectly cropped in-camera but sometimes it can’t be helped.
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? For me, there’s always an aspiration of exploring all the possible perspective of capturing each moment and being able to tell a clear story using the images I shoot. This aspiration drives me into trying a new course of action. So from these trial and errors, amazing images come about.
What has been your most memorable assignment and why?
My most memorable assignment was last November 2007. I covered a wedding that took place in the same hotel where military rebels staged their coup.
To summarize what happened, a sudden coup de tat by military rebels interrupted my bride and groom’s most important day. It just so happened the coup plotters congregated in the hotel they were staying at. They were at the middle of an open fire, but good thing, they were evacuated before the shooting frenzy happened. Because of this, their special day was threatened and was almost put into a halt.
That day, truly, love didn’t fail.
Amidst the chaos, the tanks, the gun shots, and all the worse things that could happen that time, my bride and groom still decided to continue with their wedding. The following day, the bride sent me a message, thanking me for being one of the “pillars of strength” during their wedding. I felt very lucky to have become a part of that experience.
That wedding was not memorable because of the coup. It was memorable for me because of these 2 things:
Firstly, I did not only took a role as a wedding photographer, but because of how the events turned out, I took on another role as the couple’s guide on what to do along the way.
If you read my blog, you’ll find this as my prologue - “There are many things in weddings that you need to see: things ranging from the expected to the precious random happenings equally worth preserving. So I photograph them.”
But never in my life did I think that I could cover something as random and as equally precious like what transpired that year. This is my second and most important point: it’s one thing to experience love amidst chaos, but it’s another thing to be the person who documented it, and become part of the memory of how the strength of their love withstood that day’s predicament.
If you could shoot a wedding with someone who would it be and why? Ben Chrisman. I just love how he is sensitive to his surroundings and his ability to capture and translate it into an image that is for me, very impressive.
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? ALTF (John Michael Cooper) maybe or Image is found.
Do you have an assistant/2nd shooter that accompanies you on wedding assignments? Yes, all the time.
How many images do you average per wedding and how many do you usually present to your clients?
Total shots run from 2000-4000. 300-400 of which are my choices. Clients are given soft copies of all the photos.
Where would be your dream destination wedding? The Pyramids of Egypt.
A website and/or blog you visit often? DWF and FWForum
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? I have this love affair with my super-wide lens. I love to shoot at 10mm at a very low angle, almost an ant-view. The distortion adds some mystery to the image. I feel that the low angle view also emphasizes the grand feeling of the moment.
How do you make the bride and groom, bridal party etc… feel relaxed in front of your Canon 50D?
For me the best way is to make them feel comfortable and relax during a photo op is to casually talk to them and throw some witty jokes. In the middle of the conversation, I’ll discreetly take some shots of their reactions. I usually get great photos especially when all reactions come out very naturally. They don’t even notice that I was photographing them.
Have you ever had anything go wrong at a wedding and if so, how did you handle it? Simply keep focus on the good things. I believe my job as a wedding photographer is to document the happiest day of the couple’s life, and I want to deliver just that. Despite the extreme cases of misfortunes, calamities and what nots, the true essence of a wedding, which is of course love, should remain the highlight of my photos.
What do you feel is the most challenging thing about photographing weddings? Maintaining and managing my energy especially during the peak season where in I have to keep myself fit and healthy to cover successive weddings every day.
What do you think of the wedding photography industry at the moment and where do you see it in 5 years from now? I see it to be more influenced by technology. If at present, a photographer’s end product is a hard print album, 5-10 years from now, I see photographers offering their albums in a more compact and techie form like a pen-type gadget that contains all wedding images, project these images on any surface and easily browse your photos with a click and a scroll.
The first photographer that comes to your mind and why? Elliot Erwitt. I just love how he puts humour in his pictures.
A wedding photographer who inspires you? Huy Nguyen of F8 studios.
The last workshop or seminar you attended and why? Huy Nguyen’s seminar in Singapore. I dig Huy’s cleverness.
What photographic organizations do you belong to? WPJA, AGWPJA
One way you market Dino Lara Photography? My blog.
Do you advertise? If so where? Yes. Website, magazines and a couple of bridal fairs.
How important is an awesome website for your business? Not important. For me a website should have a decent layout, but must have all the relevant information about the services we offer.
If not a photographer, I would have been a professional tennis player. What would you have been? A movie producer.
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 we 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. Portraits of people and their current state or situation.
Lately I have wanted to photograph ice climbing and Heli-skiing. Is there anybody or anything you would love to photograph? I would love to document the cultural lifestyle of indigenous people.
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? ”Try it and if you like it, excel in it.”
At the moment I’m finding a lot of my photographic inspiration from cinematographers and the motion picture film camera . 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? Art and all its forms. I love music, paintings, movies, etc. Every time I experience these works of art, it inspires me.
Is there anything you would have done differently during your photographic career? Nothing really. I’m happy how things turned out.
Is there anybody on this planet that you would love to photograph with your Canon 50D? Woody Allen
If you could be invisible for one day with your camera... I would be very naughty. 😀
I’ve learned the most from… people around me and people I’ve known.
What talent would you most like to have? Writing. I have so many ideas and most of them are translated to my images. But it would be nice too if I can also write down my ideas and people can read them.
Something you’re still learning? Knowing myself better and connecting with other people.
What or who is the greatest love of your life? Art and my wife Florian.
What is your greatest fear? To lose the thing and person I love.
Something that is overrated? Me? Oh I wish I’m overrated. 😀
Something you’re saving up for? Education of my children and my retirement.
What item do you wish you had designed? Money.
If you could have lunch with anyone who is famous who would it be? The Beatles.
Where you'll find me on a Friday night at 9 p.m.? In a wedding, most probably.
Your favourite film (movie) of all time? It’s a Wonderful Life by Frank Capra.
First thing you would do if you won the lottery? I’m not sure. The thought scares me.
Which five words would your friends use to describe you? “SUGAR, SPICE AND EVERYTHING NICE”
What would you like to be doing in 5 years from now? I will still be doing wedding photography but with greater meaning and purpose.
And the last question, if you had one wish… I always want to feel at peace with myself.
Oh one more, if someone said ‘how can I be the next Dino Lara?’ What would you say? Be yourself. Learn more of who you are and what makes you happy. Strive and change for the better, but never forget who you are, what you do and what you love. After you discover who you are, you can connect with people or clients of similar preference. This is my outlook, and what makes me Dino Lara – not just a person who takes photographs professionally, but a true “wedding photographer”.
Your readers can find out more about me: