As a wedding photojournalist, one has to be extraordinary to survive professionally. And for that, says Joseph Kohn of San Francisco-based Photography by Joseph Kohn, you must go above and beyond.
“I try to see the unseen. I like challenging conditions. I’ve learned that the harder the place and time to shoot, the more interesting the photos look afterward—if successfully taken, of course.”
Believing there is always something to take a photo of, even in the middle of nowhere, Kohn goes beyond capturing moments or shooting traditional portraits to give each image a unique perspective.
“I want my customers to feel they’ve received a customized piece of fine art.”
Prior to a couple’s big day, Kohn usually meets with the duo twice after the initial consultation: once for a location scoop and another for engagement photos. They get to know each other and build a relationship.
“I really want to understand who this couple is—what they like, what they dislike, who they are, and what their plans are for the big day. At the same time, I want them to know me so they can relax and be themselves. The trick is to get them to forget about my presence.”
Kohn tells the couples to forget that he is shooting pictures and just “be.” He instructs them by showing where the sun is and advising them not to look down. But after that, he’s the artist.
“The photos have to be exciting, so I’ll use different lenses and then blue or cloudy sky as a background—something that keeps them as the main attention.”
One couple called him just for an engagement portrait, but they were so happy with the photos they asked him to cover their wedding.
“Basically, they decided to get married once they saw the finished product,” laughs Kohn. “Couples come to me because they think I’m different, so I don’t have to convince them. I promise them nothing more than great photos they will love.”
After an event, Kohn posts images on Pictage.com to allow clients to view and order prints beyond the ones included in their package, which assists with upselling. He offers a choice of paper proofs and a proof CD. The online program and gallery help facilitate the album process by simplifying it for the client.
“The selection process is easy and selecting the photos is a snap. Clients simply have to mark a box on the website and the image is automatically saved as a ‘favorite.’ Then the next time I log in, I can see their selection and start working on their album.”
As the sole photographer in the studio, Kohn shoots all the weddings and does much of the production work. He does have a list of trusted photographers to whom he can refer weddings.
“I work with assistants and second shooters to give an additional dimension to overall coverage. A second pair of eyes is always useful.” Throughout the year, he also travels to select weddings around the world, finding the experience helps to refresh his style and vision.
The Right Tools
Good equipment is essential according to Kohn, who advises, “Go for the best you can afford. My camera and I are a true team. If one of us lags behind the other, the results are poor. I can give dozens of examples of how a camera or flash can cause you to miss the shot.”