"I'd be tender, I'd be gentle, and awful sentimental, regarding love and art . . . if I only had a heart."
So says the Tin Man in the Land of Oz. His point is clear. Metaphorically speaking, our hearts give us the emotions to experience love and art. California wedding photographer Mike Colón takes this philosophy one step further, following his heart intently.
"Photography is all about capturing life the way your heart sees it," says Colón. "When I'm shooting, I go after moments that appeal to me and make me feel good inside. I strive to capture the inner beauty of people by focusing on little things. When you shoot from your heart, your work will always be your own; something no one else can copy."
Colón's heart of gold shows in his work, which is one of the reasons his clients are drawn to him. He spends time with them and gets them to feel more comfortable and confident on the big day.
"That's the main reason I include an engagement session with every package. I get to know the couple better and find their most flattering angles, so they can enjoy their wedding day confident that I am taking care of their photographic needs."
For Colón's live photo shoot at this year's PhotoImaging & Design Expo (PIDE), he selected a real newlywed couple. "When you're talking about how to capture chemistry, you really can't go with two people who don't know each other. So I asked this couple whose wedding I shot last year. It worked out great because they were already comfortable with each other, with me, and the camera."
Even though he was confined to an indoor venue for the live shoot, Colón was able to simulate an outdoor session using the available stage lights. While he prefers to shoot outdoors in open shade, he's comfortable in tough indoor lighting situations. "I prefer available light because it preserves the natural dimension and veracity of the image, where strobes tend to flatten the image."
Letting them roam about the stage on their own, Colón kept it as real as possible. "I like to let couples be free to be themselves. I gave them rose petals and just let them have fun. It's all about capturing the details and the chemistry. My style is less location oriented and more about people and their expressions. The scenery helps, though; I like to have all angles."
Colón prefers to shoot with wide-open apertures for a shallow depth of field, to draw the viewer's attention to the subject's emotion and expressions. "The telephoto lens is my first choice because it lets me be far enough away to avoid drawing attention to myself, but close enough to capture the moment. With wide-angle lenses, I can grab unexpected moments while blending into the crowd. That's when I get the real stuff!"
Bag of Tricks
Colón recently redesigned his website to include a live video feed. He's also added wireless transmitters to his bag of tricks.
"On my two Nikon D2H camera bodies, I have WT-1A wireless transmitters that transport the images to a computer or online. When my assistant and I are at a wedding, we transmit the images to a laptop and project them at the end of the reception on a screen as a slideshow with music. It's a great way to exceed your client's expectations and show off your work to a room full of potential clients."
Another Colón innovation is printing images on a Mitsubishi dye-sub CDU-2020 printer to surprise the couple after the reception. "The printer is awesome, producing 100 4x6s in 20 seconds. We fill up an Art Leather image boxblack leather engraved with the couple's name and wedding date on the frontand present it to them at the end of the wedding. The wireless transmitter is what really allows us to do that."
Colón raves about the Mitsu-bishi CP-9000DW color thermal printer. The technology allows him to continue shooting while his assistant works on the surprise album. "When we did the live PIDE shoot, I used the wireless transmitters and everyone was asking how it's used at a wedding. The instant results even intrigue other photographers."
With so many emails and inquiries from photographers, Colón decided to start lecturing on the subject. "When they would contact me and ask questions, I began to realize I'd save a lot of time if I could tell them, 'Go to this workshop I'm doing.' The demand was there, so I put something together." He now offers private workshops in Newport Beach and plans to expand to the East Coast. His workshop "Reaching the High-End Bride" teaches how to build value in your company by developing an amazing finished product, great service, and a strong brand image. "Digital Capture and Workflow," a hands-on workshop, teaches digital capture techniques that dramatically cut down post-production work along with workflow structure and software training in programs like iView Media Pro and Photoshop.He is also developing a new website, www.mikecolon.net, for announcing his upcoming lectures and workshops, and making his DVDs available for purchase online. The site goes live in February 2005.