This week I welcome Tyler Wirken and Becca Spears of Wirken Photography. Tyler and Becca are two awesome photographers; they are definitely pushing the boundaries of wedding photography with their super cool imagery. It's a brilliant interview full of inspiration and valuable information. I really enjoyed reading this interview, thank you both for sharing so much of your wisdom.
If you get a second please leave a comment for these two exceptional imagemakers.
Hi Tyler and Becca,
Tell us a little bit about you guys?
Becca - I am almost 29 years old. Happily married to my husband Mark
of 7+years. Have a 5 month old baby girl named Charlotte. A wonderful
family and dear friends that I love to be around. I love what I do.
Tyler - Born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. I live and work within 2 miles of where I grew up. When not working you can find me hanging out with my wife and 2 wonderful little boys- Alex age 4 and Zach age 2, working on British vehicles with my father, and enjoying the outdoors, camping, and off-road driving in my Land Rover. We love to travel and basically do all we can to fully embrace life as we only get one go at it.
Business wise- We are technically two separate businesses under one name. Becca has her clients and her business and I have mine with my wife Pam. I started Wirken Photography in 2002 and Becca joined us in 2007. We own and operate our businesses from a new studio and specialize in documentary wedding photography.
Where is home?
Becca-I have been straddling the border of Kansas and Missouri in the Kansas City area my whole life. Grew up in the suburbs on the Kansas side, and now I’m a proud Missouri resident.
Tyler- Born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. I live and work within 2 miles of where I grew up. When not working you can find me hanging out with my wife and kids, working on vehicles with my father, and enjoying the outdoors camping and off-roading.
If you could live anywhere on this awesome planet where would you build your dream home?
Becca-I have learned that for me, no physical beauty or cultural element can top the importance of living close to the people you love most, so I would choose to stay here…and travel lots of course ☺
Tyler- I agree with Becca as family means a lot to both us, but I would have to say it would a tough battle between the islands and the mountains. In the end I would say the Islands would win out and my wife Pam and I would go to Key West and she would braid hair and I would take tourist photos on the beach!
What is your current state of mind before we continue with the interview?
Becca-I hope that people aren’t bored reading this ☺
Tyler- Why I am always plagued by deadlines?
Did you go to school to study photography?
Becca-I studied painting for my first two years of college, then fell in love with the field of sociology- specifically the way the whole discipline is centred around questioning commonly accepted ways of thinking and looking at the world.
Tyler- Yes. I have a photojournalism degree from the University of Kansas.
How long have you been a photographer?
Becca-Like many folks, I was kind of floating without real aim for the first year after college. I realized that many of the non-profit type jobs that are out there felt a lot less like changing the world, and a lot more like a depressing desk job. I came to realize in 2004 that photography was the place where all of my most profound passions and talents intersected; specifically, my natural drive for visual communication and my curiosity and love for people and culture. I decided to just go after it and dive into the industry. That’s where Tyler and I first team up. Tyler had just opened his studio down the street from my house. I was attracted to his pictures, but more importantly, after meeting with him, I was very impressed with who he was a person, and his loyalty to family, relationships, customer service, and his relentless work ethic.
Tyler- I began seriously shooting documentary images in college in 1995 while on the school newspaper. Upon graduation I did an internship at the Columbus Dispatch in Columbus, Ohio. I then went to work at the Kansas City Star for a bit as well as the Lawrence Journal World newspapers.
How long have you been a wedding photographer?
Becca-I began second shooting with Tyler in 2005. I was very green, but besides the fact that Tyler is an incredible teacher, shooting for 10 hours in a fast paced scenario every week forced me to learn quickly. I had the “eye” from the beginning, but it takes time and experience to make the camera an extension of your body so that you can effectively communicate your vision. I remember feeling so frustrated at my inaptitude with my equipment, and another mentor just encouraged me to be patient. There is no way around “putting in your time” to make the camera second nature. After one year of shooting with Tyler, I started my own wedding and portrait photography business, which grew extremely quickly that first year. The pressure of having my own weddings- forcing myself into situations where failure was not an option- is what really catapulted me into a new level of proficiency with my camera. In that year, I started to develop a clear voice and build my consistency.
During the off-season of that first year, Tyler and I began throwing around the idea of teaming up, as inspired by our friends f8studio in Dallas and LaCour in Atlanta. After just a little discussion, we agreed that the benefits far outweighed any doubts, and we became one studio, offering two primary photographers.
Tyler- I started the business in 2002 just down the street from our current studio and have been full time since 2004.
What or who got you started in wedding photography?
Tyler- I was trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life. I loved journalism but as I say it was not going to buy the mustard let along cut it. Plus, I was not willing to commit my entire life to it. So I went to work for my father as an electrician figuring I could shoot on the weekends still. After a few years of that I began to realize my passion more and more for documentary photography. I started to hear of some fantastic news shooters I knew shooting weddings. Back then wedding photography was kind of a taboo subject with news shooters. So I started checking it out and it was really fantastic looking stuff. A friend of mine was getting married that year and I was an usher in her wedding. I decided I would shoot some images for her as a present. I remember it to this day. I was looking through the film, yes film, and saw an image I shot of her right as she was getting ready to go down the aisle with her dad. I immediately ran to the scanner and waited impatiently for it to appear on the screen. When it did I literally let out a gasp. That was a pretty important moment for me. The image was a tight profile shot with her veil hanging over her face. Her head was down, her eyes closed as she took a deep breath and readied herself for the trip down the aisle. I still have a print of that image that changed it all for me. I learned that documentary wedding photography was as close as I could get to photojournalism without working for a paper. My wife Pam and I have been running our business for the past 6 years.
What do you love about being a wedding photographer?
Becca-I love the way we approach weddings, we get to kind of sit back and watch life unfold in front of us, and just frame it in a really compelling way. Having too much time to have to control the situation, or “create” something myself (as in a portrait) is daunting, but shooting photo journalistically is like collecting treasures. I also grow to really care about my couples and their families.
Tyler- I love how close I get to my clients and how much they let me into their lives. Honestly that is the best part for me. The human interaction and the relationships I build. That coupled with the fact that I get trusted to tell people’s stories visually and hopefully make a difference with my images makes this job hard to beat.
How would you describe your style?
We both aim to shoot weddings from a truly documentary point of view. Becca is probably a little more okay with bending the rules than Tyler is. For example, She will shoot a “portrait” of a wedding dress by hanging it in good light if she thinks the clients will want that. Tyler won’t touch the dress.
Tyler comes from a background where you absolutely could not touch or recreate or affect anything. Therefore he finds it hard to cross that line. It is a wedding and you can do whatever you want, but he would rather just simply be a witness. We feel it really is not our place to interpret what we think a couple’s wedding should look like. When you just let stuff happen it will always be customized to the couple no matter what. No formulas here.
Becca-I think the hallmarks of my style are backlight, lots of negative space, and an overall kind of rose-colored-glass point of view.
Tyler- I would say I would describe my style as a more hard-core documentary approach centred on the pursuit of the impeccable composition and peak moment with a dash of great light all wrapped up in one image that tells a story.
Becca can you share some recent wedding images with us?
It's your turn Tyler. Let's see some rockin' Tyler Wirken wedding imagery!
How many weddings do you average per year?
What type of cameras do you shoot with?
(2)Canon 5D MkII
Canon 1D MkIIn
Canon 1D Mk II
What is your favourite photography accessory, other than your camera?
Becca-I use the Huy Nguyen light stick method to do a lot of backlighting at receptions that don’t have supplemental lighting. It’s a Vivitar 285 mounted on a monopod, powered by a battery pack, fired by pocket Wizards.
Tyler- I would have to say my Bogen Magic Arm . If you are not familiar with it, it is used to mount remote cameras and or flashes. I use it to mount cameras in areas where cameras usually are not or can not be. I did a lot of this in my news days. Mounting cameras to basketball back boards, to go-carts on roller coasters etc…. I love to be able to show a different perspective than what is expected or seen before.
If you had to choose one lens which one would it be and why?
Becca-If I could only take ONE lens to a wedding I guess it would be the 16-35mm, because for good storytelling, you need context, so you need to show the scene, but the 35mm is plenty good for flattery and a little more tightness.
Tyler- Becca’s is a great choice. It would be that or my 24mm 1.4. I love that lens. I shoot pretty much 75% of everything wide angle. I love the challenge of cramming in as much info as possible in wide-angle layered image.
What lighting equipment do you take on a shoot?
Becca-I have two little sunpack video lights that I use to light a lot of detail stuff, and the Vivitar 285 on a stick
Tyler- I occasionally take video lights with me, when I can steal Becca’s! Other than that just my Canon 550ex and the Vivitar 285 on a stick.
Can you describe how and when you use flash, video light, reflectors and natural light during a wedding?
Becca-I shoot available light as much as possible. I am just not good enough with flash to use it unless I really need to.
I will use a reflector to pop a catchlight into the eyes on backlit portraits, but usually these are the ones for mom and dad, you know, the one portrait that shows both faces, flatters, and has nice polished light balance.
I use video lights for portraits if it’s really dark and I’m trying to match lamp-type light in the room. I also use the sunpacks for details at a reception.
For fast action pictures in the dark (like dancing at a reception), I use direct flash on ETTL and just drag the shutter a whole lot to get that good party energy. But you must get really close, or this doesn’t work- the flash won’t meter correctly.
Tyler- Pretty the same as Becca. No flash until the end of the ceremony typically and the reception. Hardly ever do I bounce flash. 90% of it is direct flash while controlling shutter drag where necessary. For more artistic portraits I will use the light on a stick or some killer back lighting. Then at the reception it is my assistant chasing me with the light stick while my flash is on camera directly at them. The light stick offers a great rim light and dimension to the on camera flash. As far as bounce flash goes I only use it for toasts and dancing when the mood requires a softer light.
What is your favourite computer/editing accessory, other than your computer?
We use iView Media Pro for editing.
How important is Photoshop in your final images?
Most of our images don’t change much from the camera to the final proof. Just basic cleaning up of underexposure, white balance slips, and maybe a little touching up on the skin or eyes on portraits.
What is your most used Photoshop tool, plug-in, action set etc.?
We write our own basic sharpening, exposure, and noise reduction actions.
Tyler- I use Kevin Kubota’s actions a bit to help with my post processing. For example since we shoot jpeg his underexposure and magic sharp actions really help.
Are you a MAC or PC lovers?
Do you plan on buying any new equipment and if so what do you have your eyes on?
Becca-I just need to learn how to shoot good video on my new 5D MkIIs
Tyler- Not planning on buying any new gear. I hate buying new gear. I mean I love getting it but I hate buying it as I think the return on my investment is not very good. I still shoot with really old lenses and cameras. If it is not broken I do not see the need to change unless I have to.
I finally feel I have mastered my Crash-Art workflow; can you briefly describe for the readers your photographic workflow after a wedding?
Becca-I try to edit (cull) the images within about two weeks of the wedding, then I gladly hand off the final picks to a guy who does my color correcting (new this year for me, and it’s made for a much happier existence). After a wedding is completed, we have the clients in for a viewing party, where we show them a slideshow of our favourites, then their images are posted online, we order their proof book, and work with the client on building their album over the next many months.
Tyler- Pretty much the same routine except that I end up getting it all done around 5 weeks after the wedding. I get home from a shoot and download on Monday morning and back everything up to 3 hard drives. I then use I view to edit down. Then I use Photoshop to post process. I then build the slideshow for their viewing using a program called FotoMagico, awesome slideshow software. Finally upload their images to our on-line shopping cart- Pick Pic, and order their proof book from Shared Ink.
I use Queensberry albums, what wedding albums do you supply your clients with and do you design them yourself or outsource the design?
Queensberry Page mount albums are our favourites, but we have recently added Cypress matted albums. We outsource the design for our custom-designed matted albums to local gal we know.
How do you feel about cropping an image?
Becca-I compose in camera, and use cropping as a tool to clean up an image if it needs it.
Tyler- This is hot topic for me. I believe all should be done in camera including cropping, and any photographic technique desired as much as possible. I am not a believer of taking a non-image and cropping it to make it an image. Like Becca said we use cropping to fine tune an image. There is not always time to make it perfect in the moment. This is one is my favourite things to do is crop images to get rid of little bits of clutter and distracting elements. I love how you can slightly crop an image and you can literally change the visual path through an image.
I choose photographers for these interviews because their work inspires me and gets my creative juices flowing, hence the interview. What gives you ideas and inspires you to create such amazing imagery?
Becca-I am inspired by the overwhelming talent out there in our industry, but also by news and fine art photography, as well as film and general media. We are so oversaturated with media these days that I don’t think we can even begin to pinpoint our influences.
Tyler- I would certainly say that I get inspiration from other wedding shooters out there for sure. We are members of the Foundation Forum. Loads of inspiration there. Lately though I have been really trying to pay attention to what news shooters are doing. I find that really helps me get fired up to do in depth story telling. MediaStorm.com is great inspiration for me.
What has been your most memorable assignment and why?
Becca-I have had three different couples who have lost a parent since their wedding day, and those are the ones I have revisited most in my mind…thinking, thank God that I was able to capture those intimate and touching moments between family, and also reminding myself of the fleeting nature of life and the responsibility I have to capture the people that matter most. I need to work hard to give them images that will be meaningful to my clients for a lifetime.
Tyler- Like Becca my most memorable shoot of late happened last fall and involved the death of a parent. In a nut shell the bride was supposed to get married in 2007 in rural Iowa. Two weeks before the wedding her father was in a tragic farm accident. They lost him the week of the wedding. They all decided to put off the wedding for year for everyone to get their hearts and minds in the correct place. I had the pleasure of travelling up there with my good friend and amazing wedding photojournalist Brooks Whittington to document the emotional roller coaster of a day. It was an honor to be trusted with that family’s story that had to be told.
If you could shoot a wedding with another photographer who would it be and why?
Becca-Oh, gosh, I have often thought, there are thousands of photographers out there who I don’t even know about, whose images are innovative and inspirational, so it’s sad that there are only a handful of well-known photographers that I could name to shoot with. That being said, I think I would learn a lot by shooting with Ben Chrisman. I would like to see his decision making process, and the risks he takes to record moments within an unconventional frame. I would also like to see Amy Deputy in action to watch how she connects with her subjects. Amy sees the sacred in everyone.
Tyler- Okay I have way to many shooters that inspire me on a daily basis and most of them are ex-news turned wedding shooters that are big cry babies so I am not going to play favourites there! But, seriously, I would want to shoot a wedding with Damon Winter. He is at the top of my list of my favourite/ most inspirational photographers. He is an ex Dallas Morning News shooter and just recently won the Pulitzer for his work on the Barack Oboma campaign. The way he sees is amazing. I really resonate with his impeccably balanced and well thought out compositions. I would love to see how he sees an everyday wedding that I have shot many times. I learned in my news days that there is no better way to learn and advance your photography than to see what someone else pulls out of the same scene you are looking at.
Do you have an assistant/2nd shooter that accompanies you on wedding assignments?
Tyler and Becca-Yes we do. She shoots where we generally are not. Basicaly, for prep, then in another point of view for the ceremony, and mostly assists for portraits and the reception.
How many images do you average per wedding and how many do you usually present to your clients?
Becca-Between my assistant and I, we shoot about 5,000 for a 10-12 hour day, and cull it down to around 500.
Tyler- I am averaging around 4500-5000, and I deliver around 400-450.
Where would be your dream destination wedding?
Becca-Something rustic and natural on the Mediterranean or maybe a wedding in the middle of the desert
Tyler- I don’t think it would be the destination or location but rather the event that would excite me more. Perhaps a wedding underwater, or in the air. My dream wedding to cover would have to revolve around an amazing adventure or experience.
How do you make the bride and groom, bridal party etc… feel relaxed in front of your Canon 5D?
Becca-I find that once couples get connected (kiss, snuggle, etc.), a new energy starts to happen between them and they remember that they’re in it together. I also just talk to them a lot, ask them a lot about themselves. By the end of the session, they are very used to me, and they almost forget about their self-consciousness.
Tyler- Basically I do all I can to make them forget they are having their picture made. At that point they become themselves completely. My best trick is humor. I talk with them a lot and usually end up gently pocking fun at one of them or both of them. They then start laughing and I start shooting. Get them talking about themselves and they light up. Everyone loves to talk about himself or herself.
Have you ever had anything go wrong at a wedding and if so, how did you handle it?
Becca-My last wedding of the season last year (I was 7 months pregnant), I had a shutter go out on my MkII in the first hour, so I had to borrow my assistant’s 30D, then my cord to the pocket wizard went bad, so I couldn’t use my light stick (lesson- be sure to have back up cords on hand). At the reception, a big fast, fun wedding party dance was happening, and my flash wouldn’t fire, I asked for my assistant to throw me hers, and the focus assist wasn’t working…I ended up missing most of that dance. That’s really the only time I’ve ever completely missed something. I did some troubleshooting after the dance, and figured out the rechargeable batteries were bad in one of the flashes, and the other flash was just dead. It just reinforced the fact that backup to every piece of equipment is really important, but even more important is the ability to shoot any given situation in several different ways. In other words, don’t get addicted to any certain equipment, so that you can roll with it if it breaks down.
Tyler- My most memorable issue at a wedding happened a few years ago. Everything was going okay till the portrait session of the bride and groom after the ceremony. Since we do not spend a lot of time on that I was of course rushing trying to get everything done. In my haste to change lenses I dropped a lens and it chattered the filter. No big deal I thought, I will just remove the filter and keep going. I then proceeded to slice my finger open on the broken glass. A little electrical tape and a napkin and we are back to shooting. Well in the chaos of all of that happening I left my cell phone in the back of the car. I then left with the bride and groom and my assistant drove my car. Long story short I decided to, because of traffic, to get of the car and wait for my assistant so the bride and groom would not be late to the reception. I had to find my assistant because she did not know where to go. Big mistake. So there I found myself in the middle of a very crowded area of town with no way to get to the reception, as my assistant was indeed lost and not behind us with no way to communicate. After what seemed like an eternity waiting and looking for her I was just about to ask a stranger for a ride to the reception when I see my car appear out of no where. I ran over to her and told her to get in the passenger seat. I then proceeded to drive like a mad man breaking all traffic laws to get there in time. To top it off the b&g were getting ready to be announced and there was no way for us to park the car and get there in time. I grabbed the gear I needed and told her to park the car. I once again ran up to the ballroom and quickly found the brides sister who was a photographer and told her she had to help me light the scene in a sink or swim scenario. In the end I got the images with no one knowing of the drama that had in sued. The lesson. Never ever leave the bride and groom. I had enough gear to make it happen and my assistant would have found it eventually.
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?
Becca #1 I love this image because it is descriptive-it gives information about the day-that it started out rainy- while maintaining mystery and mood. I just love images that leave a sensory impression like this.
Becca#2 this one I shot last Saturday. I pulled it because it is a good example of what I strive for- to find new ways to shoot the things that we see pretty much every week at a wedding- here it is the first dance. I noticed the reflection of the chandeliers in the window right before the dance started, and I liked the metal cut-outs on the outside of the window- the layering that it all provided. So I just told my assistant to light the couple with the off camera light, focused on the window plane, and fired away.
Becca #3- this one I like because it is an example of one of my biggest lessons- that often time the peak action isn’t the best picture. The couple was about to make their grand entrance down the staircase- a picture they would surely want, right? Well, I decided to go upstairs to see what they were up to instead of just waiting for that kind of scripted moment of the announcement, and I think this picture is so much more interesting of them peeking over the staircase at their guests waiting eagerly for them. The anticipation of the moment was better the moment itself. And of course I ran downstairs to get the other picture too ☺
Tyler #1- I find nowadays that it is not enough for me to just capture a great moment and it be an image I can not wait to see. I judge how good an image is to me if I find myself wanting to download asap and see it. This image was one of those. I shot this about a week ago. I was outside of the venue doing some skyline shots of the location when I noticed the blue twilight sky. I then wondered if I could do something to give it context and show the event happening. So I sent my assistant up there with the light on a stick. I had no idea how it would look so I just played with the exposure till I got it right and then tried to wait till people were close to the windows then used the light to back light them. It was a challenge to me to make a different image of a venue I have shot many times before. Technical info- Camera- Canon 1D MKII, 1/83sec, f/2.8, ISO 800
Tyler #2- I am pretty proud of this image. Purely for the difficulty factor. What I feel really sets us a part in our market is our willingness to stay late. The end of the night is my favorite part of the shoot. All the pomp and circumstance is over and the couple becomes totally themselves, but they are still in the clothes. This wedding was in a small town where the couple grew up. After the wedding the party continued at the local dive bar. Mix in a DJ playing music, and some locals dancing and you get a killer ending shot. Technical info- Camera Canon 5DMKII, 1/49 sec, F/1.4 ISO 6400.
Tyler #3- Finally just a good old wide angle image packed full of info and action. This was shot just recently at a wedding in Chicago. The situation was total chaos. There was little to no room on the platform they were on. There was chanting and cheering way to much going on. It was a Jewish veiling ceremony with all the guests watching from the floor above. After the groom veiled his bride a groomsman hoisted him on his shoulders and spun him around twice. I got one frame that was useable showing both of their faces. Technical info- Camera Canon 5D, 1/197 sec, f/2.0, ISO 1000.
What do you feel is the most challenging thing about photographing weddings?
Becca-Different things are challenging at different points in your career. At first, the challenge was to not miss anything big. Now, it’s not interesting to just cover a wedding with great consistency. For me, the challenge now is to find something unobvious and peripheral at every wedding. Or to shoot a very standard wedding moment (cake cutting or first dance) from a risky and a-typical point of view. That is what keeps me inspired on a wedding day- challenging myself in that way.
Tyler- I always say weddings are easy to photograph. They are very difficult to make them extrodinary. Like Becca it is good enough for me to just get the moments at a wedding. I challenge myself every wedding to think like I was covering the wedding for a paper. Typically at a paper space is limited so the photographer is limited to one-maybe two images to tell a story. I like to think that way at a wedding. Challenging myself to make every image like it was my only one to tell the story of that particular event of the day. Woking to make every image count with enough context.
What do you think of the wedding photography industry at the moment and where do you see it in 5 years from now?
Becca-Man, it feels like everyone is so stinking good out there. I get frustrated and cynical at how homogenized everything is getting and how people copy the brand and style of certain high profile photographers, but then, I have to be honest with myself and admit how much I’ve been influenced by my favourite photographers. We all do it. It’s a challenge to be truly original in the market, isn’t it?
I think 5 years from now; pictures are not going to be enough for our clients. We are all saturated with multi-media, and I think our clients will want it all, audio, video, stills all in one in a super-slick edited presentation.
Tyler- I will agree with Becca that the pool of talent out there is pretty overwhelming. With digital to advance the learning curve rapidly and the plethora of incredible workshops out there it is easier than ever to advance. I feel it takes more nowadays than great images to stay ahead. Marketing and client relations are what set you apart.
5 years from now? Hopefully doing less weddings, being more of a family man, and above all enjoying life. On a professional level, I agree with Becca I feel we are going to need to go beyond still photographs and embrace audio and potentially moving pictures.
A wedding photographer who inspires you?
Becca-On the note of multi-media, I am sooo impressed with Vlad Chaloupka’s ability with shooting video on the 5D MkII. I would love to learn how to incorporate the power of motion and sound into what I do.
Tyler- I would have to say Huy Nguyen. I firmly believe I would not be where I am today with out his sly guidance and belief in me. I first met him when I attended the Foundation Workshop as a student. The following years he asked me to be on staff. I am now a team leader and have learned to very much from his teachings. All of my success in teaching at workshops stems from my involvement in the Foundation Workshop family.
It’s almost that time of year for a family portrait. Is there any photographer out there that you would be stoked to say – he/she took my portrait?
Becca-Well, I cannot tell you how many people have been brought to tears at the power of the photos that Tyler took for my husband and me at the birth of our daughter this year. I will treasure that forever. I hired Anna Kuperberg to shoot portraits of my brother and his partner for a Christmas gift this year, and I hope to have her take my portrait one day too.
Tyler- Like Becca I was also given the incredible gift of photography from my good friend Brooks Whittington. He documented my wife and our two boys Alex and Zach for a day last year and I cherish those images. I would much rather have a documentary record of a place in time of our family than a portrait and Brooks provided that wonderfully.
A website and/or blog you visit often?
Becca-I look at the local photographer’s blogs that we refer folks to in order to keep up on the competition ☺
Tyler- http://www.mattmendelsohn.net/. Matt Mendelsohn’s blog. Matt was my team leader at the Foundation workshop when I attended it as a student 6 years ago. He is an amazing writer and I find myself spending captivated by his stories both visual and written.
The first photographer that comes to your mind and why?
Tyler Wirken because he’s sitting right next to me ☺
Becca because I would be a jerk if I did not say her name also!
The last workshop or seminar you attended and why?
We were privileged to host YinYang3 at our studio this April, and we have changed a lot of the way we approach our sales since then.
What photographic organizations do you belong to?
Becca-My only affiliation is with the Foundation Workshop Forum
Tyler- The biggest being the Foundation Workshop Forum. I am also on the Digital Wedding Forum. I am a member of news wedding photographers, modern photographers, and we are also members of the bluelist.com
One way you market Wirken Photography?
Mostly word of mouth and our blog.
Do you advertise? If so where?
We advertise with the knot online, and with a local magazine
How important is an awesome website for your business?
Our website is a Livebooks site and is our primary source for people to view our work, so it needs to be intuitive, sleek, and easy to use. Livebooks lets us do that with HUGE images.
If not a photographer, I would have liked to be a marine biologist studying the great white shark. What would you have been?
Becca-I would have maybe been in the University teaching intro to sociology and challenging young people to question.
Tyler- Tough one for sure. Anything to do with automobiles, Land Rovers specifically. My other passion is building and using Land Rovers to go places other vehicles cannot.
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.
Tyler - You know I have never found true joy in photographing for myself. The subject I love to photograph is people and the moments that make up their lives. Therefore with the births of my two boys, came a new personal project. I do not do it as much as I should, but I find true joy documenting the big events in our boy’s lives. I also find joy in documenting important life moments for others. I just recently got the opportunity to photograph the birth of Becca's daughter. It was amazing to be let into their lives to tell that story. I have attached an image from that that means a lot to me and them. (The first image below)
Becca - I miss the time to shoot more personal work. My personal work now is almost always following my 5 month old, because when I'm with her, I can only take pictures if I make it a game for us. So I've included one that shows how taking pictures of Charlotte is one of our favorite games...me peeking out from behind the mysterious black thing and making goofy faces. Gets her every time. In the past, or when I do have some autonomy, I am drawn to photographing daily experiences of beauty. Kind of a visual journal of how light or nature, or culture- whatever, catches my eye and makes me stop. A nod to the extraordinary beauty in every day. There is a picture of a flower in here that is an example of that- it's almost a form of meditation to stop and study a flower with the camera. Same thing with the picture of the light hitting the Virgin's eyes just right on that religious painting. I have also included a few Holga images because the Holga is a wonderful release. A no pressure treasure chest. A way to shoot without having control. These two images I made of my brother one Christmas in the snow. I included a self-portrait, because one of my major mentors, David Leeson taught me the power in practicing self-portraiture. That when you are able to tap into what is real in yourself, and capture that, then you are much more able to disarm others and tap into what is real in them. Last, I love photographing the portrait of a place, whether that is a regular place you travel, your own neighborhood, or a day trip. This is one of a place that I love, where my father-in-law owns a gas-station-turned-gallery and "big hair shop", Marathon, TX. That guy with the farmers tan is my husband.
Is there anybody or anything you would love to photograph?
Becca-I would really like to do a long-term stay in Marathon, TX, a tiny desert town where my father- in- law lives, and try to capture an accurate portrayal of the community as a place, and also a collection of a handful of personal stories.
I would also like to do a better job of documenting my daughter’s life day to day
Tyler- You know I have never found true joy in photographing for myself. The subject I love to photograph is people and the moments that make up their lives. Therefore with the births of my two boys, came a new personal project. I do not do it as much as I should, but I find true joy documenting the big events in our boy’s lives.
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?
Becca-I agree with you. Second shooting is such a great way to learn, but I think people need a little bit of pressure as well to see if they can handle it. I think that wedding photographers need to be the kind of people that thrive under pressure.
Tyler- Find what about wedding photography lights the fire inside of you and then do all you can to fuel that fire. Whether it is documenting the day’s moments or making the best portrait of a bride and groom you have ever see. If you find that thing that drives you, you will never get tired of it.
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?
Becca-I am inspired to share the glory of life as I experience it. I have become aware that many people pass through life without even noticing things- whether that’s an incredible sky, or beautiful light, or nuances in people’s expressions. I feel deeply and I love to “show” this to other people who might not necessarily experience life with the same amount of attention to that sort of thing.
Tyler- So many things inspire and drive me. What inspires my work is everyday life and peoples stories. I love how unique each one of us is and being able to document that for all to see amazes me. What inspires my life are my parents. Their nothing is impossible and their zest for life and travel makes me want to work hard to be in their shoes one day.
Is there anything you would have done differently during your photographic career?
Becca-This year I have not made as much time for personal work, and I need that to stay true to my inspiration.
Tyler- I would have wanted to pursue more of a career in Journalism. I feel I left it to early.
Name a photographer you would like to take a portrait of?
Becca - My friend Ashley Parsons recently shot pictures of me with my new baby girl as a gift to me. I would love to return the favor and shoot some pictures of her with her most loved people.
Tyler - As difficult as it would be to do I would probably like to photograph James Nachtwey. Primarily for the opportunity to meet the man and have the chance to chat with him and do my best to get into his head. He is a major source of inspiration.
If you could be invisible for one day with your camera...
Becca-Oooohhh…fun! I would document the lives of my most beloved without them knowing I was there so that they would be totally un-self-conscious. I really want to have a record of my family members that reflects their true beauty and character.
Tyler- I would walk up and stand directly in front of the couple right next to the efficient on the altar!
I’ve learned the most from…
Becca-The Foundation Workshop Community
Tyler- Foundation for sure. More specifically Huy and Brooks Whittington.
What talent would you most like to have?
Becca-I would like to be a better storyteller (verbally)/ My husband can make a hilarious story out of nothing, and I am too bottom-line to be as good as he is.
Tyler- I would love to be a better writer. Not sure why, but I love telling stories and I do pretty well verbally and visually, just not the written word.
Something you’re still learning?
Becca-How to let go of deadlines and make time for the things that are really life-giving.
Tyler- Yeah how to find a balance in this business to give enough of me to go around between the business, my wife and my children.
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Becca - Husband, our Charlotte, and my family.
Tyler - My boys, my wife and my dog. No one is the greatest. They are all great!
What is your greatest fear?
Becca-Living a life of insignificance.
Tyler- dying with regrets.
Something that is overrated?
Something you’re saving up for?
Becca-I need a vacation!!
Tyler- My Land Rover project.
What item do you wish you had designed?
Becca-I love clothes, so it would be cool to be able to design and make my own clothing.
Tyler- I once read about a guy who’s dad designed the diagram that shows how to put batteries in. That would be cool to design something simple like that and just sit back and reap the rewards.
If you could have lunch with anyone who is famous who would it be?
Becca- Bob Dylan
Tyler- Jimmy Buffett- This shows how different Becca and I are!
Where you'll find me on a Friday night at 9 p.m.?
Becca-Putting my baby girl to bed
Tyler- Kids are down and watching tv or a movie with Pam my wife.
Your favourite film (movie) of all time?
Becca-That’s way too hard to narrow it down to one. One that always sticks out in my mind is a German film called Nowhere in Africa. It’s beautiful in many ways.
Tyler- Not sure but for some reason The Shawshank Redemption always pops into my head. I love the cleverness of it.
Who would play you in a film (movie) of your life?
Becca-Well, we don’t look alike, but I love Cate Blanchett’s character.
Tyler- Probably Mathew McCnaughey. For no reason other than I think he is cool and tons of women would go see it!
First thing you would do if you won the lottery?
Becca-Pay off my mortgage. Boring I know
Tyler- Yeah we are boring but totally pay off debt and then buy a new house so my wife will finally get what she wants.
Which five words would your friends use to describe you?
Becca-I asked and here’s some of what they said:
Passionate, engaging, funny, honest, loving….how nice…thanks ☺
Tyler- Outgoing, funny, honest, reliable, and loyal- hopefully that is what they would say.
What ambition have you not yet achieved?
Becca-I will be regretful if at the end of my life I have not made space in my life to serve in some radical way with those who are in great need.
Tyler- I want to some day really make a difference in some ones life through pictures or otherwise. I feel I will later in life find time for that.
What would you like to be doing in 5 years from now?
Becca-I hope to have gained a lot of ground with taking our pictures to the next level with multi-media presentations for our clients. I would like to possibly have another child, and of course, I would always like to make more room for personal work and service outside of home and work life
Tyler- Be the best husband and father I can. In the end you only get one shot at life and family. I do not want to miss out on anything.
And the last question, if you had one wish…
Becca-That everyone would know love and be loved in their lifetime. Not romantic love, but true, deep, radical love
Tyler- That my children have it as good or better than I have.
Oh one more, if someone said ‘how can I be the next Becca Spears?’ What would you say?
Shoot what you love. Work your butt off for your clients every wedding. Build relationships with photographers (and people) you admire. And I have always believed that excellence in any expressive medium is rooted in excellence in the life of the person. In other words, you can’t fake it- it comes form within. So be deeper than the art itself.
Oh one more, if someone said ‘how can I be the next Tyler Wirken?’ What would you say?
First I would say don’t try to be like someone else just be yourself!
Honestly, that is some of the best advice I have ever received. Stop trying to be something you are not. Just choose to excel at being you.
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