Wedding photographer Kevin Kubota was stumped when asked to
describe his style. He turned to his wife, Clare, for the answer,
and she expressed what the rest of us see in her husband's images:
fun and romance.
"When I work with a bride and groom, and begin to sense their excitement and romantic energy—it fuels me. Images just start to appear in my head and I imagine all the corny, sexy, and loving things that could happen—like a little movie in my brain. I begin to watch for those moments and they appear."
After several years of trying to shape his style to suit anyone who walked through his studio door—and battling a gnawing feeling that he was never quite achieving his "vision"—Kubota decided to listen to the artist within him.
"I realized that I had to shoot and show images the way I wanted, and the clients that appreciated it would buy it, the others would not, and that was okay. I'm much happier this way."
FUN AND GAMES
That's not to say Kubota doesn't involve clients in the creative process. After all, it is their special personalities, style, and feelings he tries to capture. Kubota and Parker Pfister—fellow shooter, assistant, and "Photoshop wiz"—always try to get to know the couple as much as possible before the wedding, and encourage them, on their Big Day, "to be themselves, wear their emotions on their sleeves, and share ideas whenever they want."
Kubota's description of a typical wedding shoot reflects his high energy and vision.
"We work fast and usually come to the shoot with a general idea of what we want to do, leaving plenty of room to improvise. In fact, we probably improvise more than we follow the plan! Wedding shoots are usually briskly paced and adrenaline pumped (although our clients always comment on how calm we are, go figure).
"We bring only the equipment we can carry in one trip, so we're completely mobile and fluid. It's very important to us to be unobtrusive and to work quickly. Some of the best images are caught on the fly. Most people quickly lose their natural excitement if you spend too much time setting up, tweaking, and posing."
As if the day's events don't offer plenty of artistic challenges, Kubota and Pfister have been known to up the ante. They sometimes challenge each other with a sketchy idea for a shot they will capture at a day's wedding, then go shoot and see if they can come back with that image, or something inspired by it.
After the wedding, Kubota's couples view their images via a password-protected section on his website and a slide presentation in his studio. He presents clients with a bound proof booklet that's printed in house, a CD-ROM, and sometimes a slide show on VHS tape or DVD.
Final prints are done by a high-end lab in Australia. Magazine-style album layouts are done in Photoshop and presented in flush- mount style albums from Leather Craftsmen or in matted page-style albums from Queensberry albums in New Zealand. Kubota also makes custom watercolor paper prints in his studio on Epson printers with archival inks.
TOOLS OF THE TRADE
Several years ago, Kubota discovered that 35mm would let him capture a couple's spontaneity and excitement in real-time. He put down his trusty medium-format Hasselblad, picked up his Nikon F80 and F100 cameras, and embarked on a road rarely traveled by professional wedding photographers at the time . . . a road he had to take.
"The freedom and quickness of 35mm really allowed me to capture more of the shots I envisioned in my mind, or saw happening, but were unable to realize due to the nature of the [medium-format] equipment."
The next big thing for Kubota was the Nikon D1 digital camera. He was so impressed with the creativity it afforded him that he hasn't shot film at a wedding since, and uses digital exclusively for portraits and most commercial work. The photographer dismisses the concerns many other wedding shooters have about digital quality.
"The quality is at least as good as 35mm film, which the wedding industry has finally accepted as 'good enough.'"