This month I welcome Michael Greenberg. Michael is a good friend and one awesome photographer. He was voted one of the top 10 wedding photographers in Canada by the Canadian Wedding Photography Industry Awards and has won numerous awards with WPPI. His work definitely pushes the boundaries in our profession. He is also a super cool humble person that absolutely loves to photograph weddings and help others succeed. You will unquestionably feel inspired after reading the interview and checking out his engaging imagery. As always leave a comment, they are much appreciated.
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was Born in Soviet Russia and raised Republic of Georgia. I moved to Israel and back to Russia and then moved again, but this time I moved to Canada. My next move, the USA. Just like my migration from one country to another, often due to circumstances that were far beyond my control, my choice of profession was also migrating from musician to doctor or even molecular biologist.
Photography, however, was always a constant; it was the hobby that helped me to go through all the ups and downs. Now I consider myself to be a happy wedding photographer who knows what will be next!
Where is home?
Downtown Montreal and the beautiful distillery district in Toronto, Canada.
If you could live anywhere on this awesome planet where would you build your dream home? I went through 3 immigrations and I can tell you with confidence that there is no better place to build your home. My parents live in a small country house in the mountains by a river. When my wife and I visit them, and my Mom cooks for us, it’s the best place on earth!
What is your current state of mind before we continue with the interview?
So much to do and so little time.
Did you go to school to study photography?
Unfortunately I didn’t study photography, I studied medicine, programming, music. I’m self taught and I’m learning by reading and analyzing what I do. I wish I had assisted to someone or I had mentor, otherwise I wouldn’t have made so many mistakes in the beginning. Everything would have been much faster.
How long have you been a photographer?
I have been a photographer since I was old enough to remember. It was my hobby, but it wasn’t until 2002 that I began doing it on a professional level.
How long have you been a wedding/portrait photographer?
What or who got you started in wedding photography?
My sister’s wedding made me want to explore more. Before that I was into landscapes and nature. I wasn’t comfortable photographing people.
How would you describe your style? Blend of fashion and journalism. I don’t really think about particular styles when I shoot. I go after the idea and the meaning of each shot. But I certainly think of the beauty of each shot as well. Therefore, it’s a blend of fashion and photojournalism.
How many weddings do you average per year?
In 2009 I shot almost 80. In 2010 I’ll be shooting only 40. My 2 other photographers will shoot another 40 or 50.
How many portrait sessions do you average a year?
I didn’t count how many to tell you the truth. But I’d definitely say a lot.
What type of cameras do you shoot with?
Nikon!! Long live Nikon!! D3 and D700. The ergonomics of these cameras is unmatchable and unbeatable. I use Canon DSLRs to shoot video though.
What is your favourite photography accessory, other than your camera?
Speedlights and fast lenses.
If you had to choose one lens which one would it be and why?
24-70/2.8 When I didn’t have any money I used to have only one lens 24/2.8 and I could shoot entire weddings with it. In my opinion 24-70 is the most versatile lens that will give you the biggest variety of shots. I think any client will appreciate it. I believe that weddings are a commercial assignment, thus the bigger the variety, the better the results.
What lighting equipment do you take on a shoot?
Can you describe how and when you use flash, video light, reflectors and natural light during a wedding/portrait shoot?
I use everything, however it all depends on the situation. Natural light is great but sometimes it’s not flattering so I’ll use flash. Video light is great but I’m trying to use it as less as possible. Let’s put it this way, if I shoot a portrait of a bride I’ll use everything I can so that she has many different looks. This means that I will use natural and artificial light. However everything depends on the couples style and preferences and on how much time I have.
What is your favourite computer/editing accessory, other than your computer? A mouse? Yes I know, I don’t have those wacom tablet. But I agree I should start using one.
How important is Photoshop in your final image? I wouldn’t even know how even to open an image file without it! Every single image that reaches the bride goes through this program.
What is your most used Photoshop tool, plug-in, action set etc.?
Are you a MAC or PC lover? PC. I’m very good with computers so I can assemble one with my eyes closed. I’m not cheap though I’m rational. I don’t want to spend 20-30 percent more on something that gives me the same results. No I don’t have iPhone. I have a small $30 phone that can connect me to any number in the world. Crash I’m calling you right now to prove my point….
I finally feel I have mastered my Crash-Art workflow, can you briefly describe for the readers your photographic workflow after a wedding?
Download all the cards into my 6T Raid 6 server.
Copy everything onto DVDs
Load everything into Lightroom
Select good and bad
Erase BAD folder forever.
I copy GOOD on DVDs and store it off site.
I use Queensberry albums, what wedding albums do you supply your clients with and do you design them yourself or outsource the design?
I use Queensberry and Graphistudio. However, I wouldn’t mind trying something else.
How do you feel about cropping an image? I don’t crop often, however, if I do I always crop at 4×6 ratio. It’s easier to work with it after.
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?
Great question! Firstly it was National Geographic and Vogue magazine. I couldn’t read English but I could look at the pictures. When I got into wedding photography one of the first group of people that I saw a website of, and that made me feel like I’ve just been to Mars, were Joe Buissink, Yervant, and Cliff Mautner.
What has been your most memorable assignment and why?
Travelling through South America. I was in my mid twenties, life was beautiful and the only thing that was periodically bumping me out of my state of nirvana was the cost of film.
If you could shoot a wedding with another photographer who would it be and why? I wouldn’t want to shoot a wedding with anyone. It is like having 2 cooks in the same kitchen. I would rather assist and learn from them.
Do you have an assistant that accompanies you on assignments?
I prefer working alone, however I’m trying new things and an assistant is a must. I don’t really need a second shooter however I would use one only if he has experience.
How many images do you average per wedding and how many do you usually present to your clients? Depends on the wedding, but I shoot on average 2000-2500 images. I used to shoot more but I have slowed down. I guess I’m getting old.
Where would be your dream destination wedding?
In the mountains of some remote village where people have rarely seen a foreigner.
How do you make the bride and groom, bridal party etc… feel relaxed in front of your D3? It all depends on the couple. This means I can be as funny as a circus clown or as serious as a grave digger. However, one of the most important things to make them relax is to show them that you are confident in what you are doing.
Have you ever had anything go wrong at a wedding and if so, how did you handle it?
I went to a wedding and I forgot all of my gear. I had to go back and work twice as fast that day.
What are your favourite three images you have shot recently?
What do you feel is the most challenging thing about photographing weddings? Long hours and the constant pressure to deliver images of a higher standard. The client expects not one or two beautiful images but hundreds of them. Moreover, I pressure myself to make every time different and unique.
What do you think of the wedding photography industry at the moment and where do you see it in 5 years from now?
We are now in 2010. I believe wedding photography, just like at the cinema, is a reflection of society. There are many trends that, like fashion, will be born and will disappear. There are 3 words that I hear very often which photographers use to characterize someone’s style: amazing, cool, and awesome. I don’t believe in cool photography, I simply believe in good or bad photography.
A wedding photographer who inspires you? Wow this isn’t easy! There are so many!
It’s almost that time of year for a Greenberg family portrait. Is there any photographer out there that you would be stoked to say – he/she took my portrait? David LeChapelle
A website and/or blog you visit often?
An internet is a huge book that I leaf through almost every day. I book mark what I like and move on.
The first photographer that comes to your mind and why?
David Lechapelle. His work is surreal, shocking and ironic.
The last workshop or seminar you attended and why?
I didn’t have money in the past to attend and I wish I could. Now I don’t have time but I still want too. I learn from books and I believe that only by constantly learning and moving forward can we stay alive.
Do you have any workshops or speaking engagements planned?
I’m planning to work on several different workshops in different directions; group portrait, lighting, and a top-secret project which I will announce at the end of September. I’ll be speaking at WPPI, Mystic seminars, and I was invited by a great photographer Louis Pang to give a workshops during the photography convention in Malaysia.
What photographic organizations do you belong to?
One way you market Michael Greenberg Photography?
Website and word of mouth.
Do you advertise? If so where?
High end wedding magazines and websites.
How important is an awesome website for your business?
I cannot emphasize enough on how important the website is in our digital age. A website is the heart of my business.
If not a photographer, I would have liked to be a marine biologist studying the great white shark. What would you have been? I would have been a musical composer and pianist.
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 used to be a travel photographer and was also interested in nature and landscapes. Now I’m so busy that weddings take 80% of my time. I shoot a little bit of fashion and some catalogue photo shoots.
Is there anybody or anything you would love to photograph?
I love photography and I’m glad to every opportunity to photograph. I love cinematography as well and I would like to film more.
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?
Educate yourself as much as possible. Don’t just shoot weddings. You have to know about other types of photography and be at least OK in all of them. Learn fashion, learn product photography, learn food photography. Read about fine art photography and follow great photojournalists. Don’t be concentrated on weddings only. Follow what others wedding photographers do but spend most of your time learning from other fields. If you go to a movie, read a one page movie review. It will help you to be a better photographer. The more your brain is wired the more connections you develop. The more connections you have, the better your vision and mental power. The result is a better photographer.
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 family is my inspiration
Is there anything you would have done differently during your photographic career?
Yes of course. I would have found a job as an assistant to a photographer. This way, I wouldn’t have had to learn from my own mistakes.
Name a photographer you would like to take a portrait of?
If you could be invisible for one day with your camera...
I don’t know where to start. There are so many possibilities. This is the worst temptation you can possibly have.
I’ve learned the most from… my parents!
What talent would you most like to have?
Be excellent in time management. Sound a bit dry but I think if you master that you’ll be able to achieve everything in your life.
Something you’re still learning? English. There is so much to learn. It’s such a beautiful language.
What or who is the greatest love of your life? My wife and my family.
What is your greatest fear?
Me or one of my family members becoming sick
Something that is overrated?
Something you’re saving up for?
What item do you wish you had designed?
Boda Bag! I love it and I think Jim Garner, who invented it, is a genius.
If you could have lunch with anyone who is famous who would it be?
Michael Jackson because I grew up with his music.
Where you'll find me on a Friday night at 9 p.m.?
At home. I have a wedding every Saturday!
Your favourite film (movie) of all time? I can’t single out one. I love cinematography.
Who would play you in a film (movie) of your life?
Bratt Pitt. He’s good looking!
First thing you would do if you won the lottery?
Help others and help myself.
Which five words would your friends use to describe you?
Disorganized, serious, good photographer, thinker
What ambition have you not yet achieved?
My biggest problem is organizing my time.
What would you like to be doing in 5 years from now?
Giving workshops, making movies and playing with my kids.
And the last question, if you had one wish…
I want 25 hours in one day so that I can have an extra hour to sleep.
Oh one more, if someone said ‘how can I be the next Michael Greenberg?’ What would you say?
Please think before you press the button. Love what you do, be honest with everybody and please don’t be like me
Your readers can find out more about me: