TEXT BY GARY PORTER
IMAGES BY JOHN RIEDY
Following graduation from Duke University in 1991, John Riedy
headed west, bent on a career in Hollywood filmmaking. At the time
of our SP&D interview, he had just sold his professional
steadicam, bringing closure to his pursuit of
cinematography—millions saw his camera work in the Budweiser
Super Bowl commercial in 1998—favoring a home life and the
satisfaction of shooting stills as a wedding and portrait
Based just outside Los Angeles, in Glendale, California, Riedy, now embracing home life as an expectant father, is going full-tilt as a digital wedding shooter, crediting filmmaking with helping him shape his very personal and distinctive wedding style.
"I was fortunate to work on film sets with some of the best cinematographers in the business," he says. "And to the extent that film techniques can be translated to still photography, I've tried to emulate how they worked. I'm very minimalist in my lighting and I like to shoot quickly. It's a very fluid style. I'm seeing the scene as it flows from one image to the next. And my albums reflect that."
Pointing, for example, to a "Collage Flush" album he recently introduced as an option for his brides—it may contain as many as seven to 10 images on each 10x10 page—he notes: "It's a perfect vehicle for my style. I like to focus on the details that bring the whole event together into one scene. It's all about telling the story."
FOCUS ON FOCAL LENGTH
Riedy's shooting style is geared to a few simple but effective strategies: relying on available light, and remaining in the background and shooting unobtrusively, but revealing the true character and personalities of his subjects.
"I like to shoot at longer focal lengths, at least at the beginning of the day. If you stay back, you get so many more honest reactions, and that's what I'm looking for: people reacting to each other and not to the photographer. Later, once I've captured those moments when my subjects aren't even aware that I'm there, I'll use a 17mm lens and get close."
But there also are times when people need a little "nudge" in the right direction. "I'll put the bride and groom where there's a good light, or a great background," he explains, "and then tell them, 'just be together.' When people are alone, you learn something about who they are and how they interact with each other. Those are the honest moments. Then I like to shoot quickly, often with a 200mm lens, as they're interacting spontaneously. And that's where I think my formals are a little different from some of the other wedding formals you see."
Similarly, to loosen up an awkward group of men in the wedding party, Riedy sends them off into the distance and asks them to walk back toward him. "By the time they start back, they've forgotten about me, and they're laughing and talking naturally. It never fails to create some great interactions," the photographer says.
Riedy has had some good teachers, among them top celebrity wedding photographers Leslie Barton (the Keenan Ivory Wayans wedding), Joe Buissink (Jennifer Lopez), and Lara Porzak (candids for Brad Pitt/Jennifer Aniston). And as his network of notables has widened, so has his visibility and range of experience.
He's also a natural—and a quick study. He credits the digital camera itself for this. "The immediate feedback you get from the camera makes it a fantastic learning tool," he says, noting it was just a year ago he set aside his Mamiya 645 and 35mm Canon in favor of a Canon D30.
"When I started seeing the results of the D30, I was convinced the image quality was there. That and the fact I could have complete creative control were major factors in my switching to digital." A self-described "online forum rat," he also credits Internet discussion groups with being tremendously helpful in navigating the admittedly steep digital learning curve.
The D30's CMOS chip, while offering great performance, he notes, can prove a bit frustrating when going for wider shots, since it results in a 1.6 multiplier for any given focal length (making a 17mm the equivalent of 27mm, for example), but the added reach can also be a bonus.
Riedy recently sold his two D30s on eBay, however, and bought two EOS-1Ds, with speed that makes it ideal for photojournalism. He's eagerly awaiting the new D60 as an upgrade for his wedding portraits.
"I shot my first EOS-1D wedding last month and it was as close to a religious experience as I've ever come with a camera. The EOS-1D is so easy to shoot with that I'm actually glad I started with the D30, which I think, due to its technical challenges, makes you a better photographer.