Max Shaboot's Weddings Exude Cinematic Chic Text by Gary Porter • Images by Max Shaboot
Los Angeles-based wedding photographer Max Shaboot recalls that since an early age, he's been focused on excelling at the art of photography. SO after seven years of shooting and traveling worldwide, he's never thought of doing anything elseexcept maybe cinematography.
"I love the classic Hollywood glamour photographers, such as George Hurrel," he says, "and the classic Hollywood films. My style comes from trying to recreate those beautiful Hollywood cinematic effects, mixed with a fashionable look. It's really my own vision, not based specifically on anyone else's work."
Cinematic "Eye Do"
During an assignment, Shaboot's always planning ahead, anticipating where and when the next best shots will occur.
"I stay with the bride and groom, and look for moments where I know there will be a great reaction: for example, the first time the bride sees the groom. Then I may create a situation that I know will provoke emotions and good interactions, and that's when I shoot."
He looks for images with a cinematic eye, then fires off sequences in rapid succession to create sets of action shots for the album.
"The book should tell the story," he explains, "without your having to wonder where someone is or what's happening. It should be visually interesting, and complete." So successful is he at this, he recalls, that one of his grooms actually joked that he could create a "flip-book" with one of his series.
He also shoots the traditional poses, of course, then looks to capture the bride and groom in more intimate situations. Standing way back with an 80-200mm Nikkor f/2.8 lens, he waits, anticipating emotional interactions between the couple or family and friends. Working with an assistant and a second photographer, Shaboot assigns the standard shotsthe ceremony, walking down the isle, etc.to his associate, while he goes after the more creative angles.
For example, a striking image of a bride and groom, viewed from high above through an ornate chandelier, was the result of him anticipating the opportunity. "I had already set up a small stool, just in case there would be a shot from that angle," he explains. "They were waiting to make their grand entrance and, suddenly, he kissed her. At that moment, I fired off about three exposures. The whole thing took only a couple of seconds."
"It's all about speed," Shaboot explains. "I'm known for being very fast. I carry five Nikon F5s, each loaded with a different film. People say I look like I'm a combat photographer," he adds with a laugh, "but that's what allows me to shoot quickly and react to whatever is happening at the moment. If you have to stop and think too much about what's happening, you've already lost the shot. Besides, I don't want the bride and groom to lose interest. If they do, it will definitely show in the final pictures. But if they enjoy the photography, they'll love the photographs."
That strategy also is effective for capturing children, he notes. "I'm always aware of where they are, ready to catch them doing something interesting. Children are really the 'fruit' of the wedding, bringing a smile to people's faces and enhancing the flavor of the ceremony. You have to capture them off guard; you can't 'make' them do anything. So I look for moments when they're feeling very secure. And by the time they're aware of me, I've already got the shot. You just have to be in the right place at the right time."
To the Max
Shaboot is adamant about being extra-prepared and actually carries two backups for everything, as well as "enough film to shoot two weddings."
"I don't ever want to miss a shot because I've run out of
something," he says. Confident that he can work quickly, he shoots
freely, usually with higher speed films, such as Kodak Portra VC,
Fuji Press 1600, and Kodak T-Max 3200. Can it get too grainy? "I
love grain," he responds. "I'm crazy about it," noting that he has
been asked on occasion to shoot entire weddings with the grainy
He occasionally shoots slower, with 200 ISO film or infrared; or with a Hasselblad super-wide: "I may only use it for one shot," he says, "but it's worth it."
Shaboot stresses the importance of getting work out to vendors where it can be seen. All of his marketing is currently based on building direct relationships with vendors, hotels, wedding coordinators, and former clients. And shooting for top wedding designers has also helped to give him great exposure in the high-end market.