Text By Elizabeth Friszell • Images By Tommy Colbért
Know why girls hang Mom's lace curtain from their heads as a veil? Tommy Colbért, Brockton, Massachusetts, wedding photographer, knows precisely why. He realizes that for some brides-to-be, weddings have been in the planning stage for years. And he's made it his livelihood, as well as his joy, to catch all the intimacy, excitement, and delight of that long-awaited day when it arrives.
How does he know? One future bride—his 11-year-old daughter—has taught him a thing or two. "When she arrived and I became a 'Daddy,' it dramatically changed my life forever," he notes. "My love for photography would have to take a back seat to the unconditional love and support I get from my daughter."
His relationship with his daughter also explains why he concentrates so intently on the Father-Daughter dance at every wedding. "I get a lump in my throat whenever there's an emotional connection between a father and his little girl."
"One can only capture the Big Day's fleeting moments if you are alert and acutely prepared," Colbért says. His meeting with the couple one week before their wedding accomplishes two important goals: it enables him to scout the surrounding area of the venue, especially if he hasn't worked that particular location, and allows him to chat with the bride and groom, since they probably haven't seen each other since the initial booking, some six months to a year earlier.
Colbért feels that those personal interactions between couples and photographers make all the difference in the world. "With the evolution of digital photography, there's an increasing number of capable photographers on the wedding photography scene. I try to make my clients feel comfortable enough to call me a friend, and that connection speaks volumes about a person."
Colbért spends an enormous amount of time working on albums for his clients. During the initial sales presentation, he shows them several options from different album companies. "I encourage them to select my lowest price and upgrade later if they are so inclined. I want them to know I am so confident they will love their photographs, that they can see their proofs before committing to a larger package. And about 99 percent do upgrade."
He estimates about 20-25 hours spent on each album assembly, from the time they come in with their proofs for the two-to-four-hour sit down to the countless hours in Photoshop putting the final details on each image.
"My approach on the wedding day is actually quite simple," Colbért says. "I come to the event prepared to photograph everyone and everything, usually taking between 800 and 1,500 photographs at each wedding."
Coverage begins where the bride gets ready. After photographing the person who answers the door, he proceeds to tell the bride and everyone else in the room, that this is what he'll be doing all day long.
"I explain that, even though they will see me pointing a camera at them, they are not to look at me. I tell them to simply continue doing whatever they were doing, hopefully, to eliminate the uncomfortable split second that often occurs when someone is not sure whether to look at the camera and smile—what I call the deer-in-headlights look."
To get those great shots, Colbért approaches every job as though it is going to be his toughest. He totes at least four cameras with him at all times. His two Nikon D1x's are synchronized for time and date, so he can shoot with either at a given moment and arrange the photographs chronologically later. One D1x is tethered to him at all times on a harness.
In addition, Colbért uses a Contax 645 film camera for the formal shots and a Nikon F5 loaded with infrared film for special effects.
Digital or Dust
Going digital has definitely helped Colbért's workflow. Since purchasing a Nikon D1 three years ago, he hasn't looked back.
"My favorite part is seeing the picture the instant I shoot it and making adjustments accordingly. With the evolution of digital technology today, the benefits of digital photography far out weigh any downside that the naysayers are pessimistic about," he says. "You don't have to abandon your current method of shooting to make the transition to digital. As soon as you try out a pro-quality digital camera, you'll understand instantly what so many of us have come to love."