Some photographers have fun, upbeat personalities that emote even more behind the camera. Others are quiet and shy until they hide behind that lens. Mark Sojdehee of Pret A Poser Photography in Chicago, is clearly the latter: a shy, easygoing guy until someone puts a shutter in his trigger finger.
"I turn into a different character," he says. "My personality changes completely. I just want everyone to enjoy the wedding day and have a great time."
Whether he morphs into a comedian or a shrink, Sojdehee’s main goal is to get the couple excited. If a bride’s flowers arrive and they are not the right color, she might go a little crazy. Sojdehee distracts her by creating positive energy, sometimes recruiting relatives or friends to help.
"Negative energy affects the whole bridal party," he says. "When the bride and groom are having a great time, the environment changes."
Meet the People
Sojdehee’s main clientele is the "discriminating" bride--a young professional who knows what she wants. "Today's brides want to document things the way they are; nothing that isn't real," he says. "They know the visual differences in film and digital and what questions to ask. Sometimes they surprise me! The Internet is such a great educational media."
Pret A Poser Photography uses film and digital for all weddings. While he has come to love digital, Sojdehee feels its limitations and the demand for both from his clients. "Many of these young professionals have apartments, condos, or townhouses. Sometimes they want photos taken on the rooftop, with the landscape and architecture, but there's no shade and no protection. In cases like these, you can't really get the true color without sacrificing the highlights. With film, we can do it."
The Nikon F5 is Sojdehee's lead film camera, for its unbeatable focusing and metering capabilities. "The SB--800 flash and Quantum Turbo battery packs provide great on--camera lighting on the run," he says. "My equipment allows me the freedom to move quickly while obtaining accurate colors and exposure."
He prefers the Fujifilm FinePix S2 and S3 Pro for digital because they have "the best auto white balance available today for the truest colors." He carries two digital and two film camera backs to every wedding, but uses only on--camera flash, no pre--set backdrops, or external lighting equipment. "My top priority is to be completely mobile and to move quickly on a moment's notice. I don't want any unnecessary baggage along with me," he says.
While a fan of both film and digital, Sojdehee has incorporated digital into his workflow and finds it has enhanced personal creativity, as well. "Color saturation, ease of use, the ability to change the ISO speed on the spot without changing film, manipulating the resolution of image files on command, switching to black--and-- white on--camera--it's endless. The flexibility of shooting creatively with digital is almost unlimited."
Behind the Camera
Owning and operating a successful photography studio is the fulfillment of Sojdehee's life--long dream. Born in Iran, he began photographing at age 14, when a school teacher brought in slides from the United States and showed the class his awards. The next year, he took photography classes, and started wallpapering his room with American magazine photos and articles. His uncle bought him a camera for his birthday and the rest is history.
"I came to the U.S. in 1978. I was 17 years old," he says. "We had a lot of American neighbors and they inspired us to come here. I had a cousin who lived in Chicago, who brought me here as a student. I was supposed to study medicine, but photography was my passion."
Today, Sojdehee, along with three lead photographers, covers 65 weddings a year.
"We send two photographers to every wedding, so four people work as second photographers. Their priority on the wedding day is to consistently produce storytelling images in the background."
Behind the scenes, part--time studio manager Natalie Marionneaux schedules appointments for prospective and current clients, and handles initial responses to email inquiries and other administrative tasks. His partner, April Wilson, handles sales meetings and album consultations.
"Over the last year, I'm seeing more clients who wish to go proofless. We work with each client on an individual basis to create one--of--a--kind finished products. They can make their selections on Pictage by accessing a folder with their album choices—a great option for our many out--of--state clients—or schedule an in--studio album consultation when we go through their album selections." Clients also have the option of receiving a proof magazine or book with their package.