"If I could tell a story in words…I wouldn't
need a camera."
This inspiring quote from an even more inspiring photographer runs through the opening montage on David Crane's website (www.davidcrane.org). Crane, of Southern California, is also an editorial photographer who has documented news stories as a photojournalist for more than 25 years. His images of celebrities, politicians, musicians, and sports figures have appeared in Time, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, and LIFE.
So what would make this National Press Photographers Association "Photographer of the Year" winner transition to weddings?
"For years, I was often approached to shoot weddings, but I always declined, until a friend asked me to photograph his wedding as I would any news assignment—no setups, no posed or canned shots," Crane explains. "My instructions were simply to document the day."
The collection he produced, with more candid shots than traditional ones, inspired others to select him as their wedding photojournalist. A new career was born.
"My background taught me to be at ease in any situation," Crane says. "I enjoy being at ease with my clients on their special day and ‘documenting' their weddings." Working under tight deadlines in some of the most trying conditions is a great foundation for preparing for the variety of situations that can occur on a wedding day.
Crane's unique way of seeing is appreciated by clients who share the same ideas about wedding photography.
"I am not a ‘poser.' If I sense a potential client is looking for lots of posed, studio-lit shots from their day, I recommend they seek out a photographer who specializes in that."
Couples who seek him out as their photographer are either referred by former clients or have seen his website. "Clients recognize my ability to turn life into art."
The artwork Crane shoots becomes a multimedia presentation that's part of the final product, which he says is the perfect outlet for his type of storytelling and gives a good glimpse of a couple's day.
"A few years ago, I began offering multi-media books, and more recently, high-end, handmade albums. Here, clients must take a leap of faith, allowing me to assemble the photos that tell the story of their day. More than 20 years of assembling photo stories for publication helps when it comes to editing."
Crane keeps his gear bag very simple. He follows Henri Cartier-Bresson's "Zen" approach to photography and thinks of the ear as an extension of the eye. "Studying art history and commercial photography taught me to see light, so my lighting is usually ‘non-lighting.' Even though light levels may be low, as long as the direction and quality of light is good, I will make use of it."
He shoots 90 percent of the time with two Canon EOS 5D bodies—one with a 50mm f/1.4 and one with a 28mm f/1.8—and uses a 135mm f/2.0 for the ceremony and to isolate subjects when needed.
He sticks with the Canon EOS 5D more for its full-frame chip than its pixel size. "The 50mm lens is my favorite focal length, and when I put a 50 on the 5D, it's a 50, with the selective focus and angle of view I'm used to."
As a journalist, Crane was on the bleeding edge at the start of digital. To make and complete deadlines, digital is necessary. But the advances today, he says, have been great.