Spoiler alert — she says yes. Congrats to Brent & Susan for their recent engagement. :) In this post, I want to discuss preparing for proposal photos, my brush with Murphy’s Law, and how I came so close to missing this shot. If you’re a photographer, read up! It could happen to you.
In this post, I’ll talk about my transition from traditional couples / engagement photography towards something more real and authentic.
He works at Banque Nationale, she works at RBC.That’s how the story of Romeo and Juliet begins, right?
For a few seconds, the spotlight could shine away from the bride and groom and find you, sweaty and triumphant, with the bouquet or the garter in your hands. Think of the glory. The fame. The wealth. And for the superstitious, think of the future spouse that this bouquet or garter guarantees you. So how does one catch it? Where should you stand?
I started doing weddings in Montreal several years ago. I started as a second photographer, now I'm working with my own second photographers, and here, I'll be sharing wedding photography tips for both second shooters and main photographers working with second photographers for the first time. I’ve phrased the tips into questions you should ask yourself, and I’m giving you the 5 most important ones, because people seem to like lists with multiples of five.
OK so picture this: Five years ago, I’m sitting in this gruelling 6-hour molecular bio lab with my oversized lab coat and I have no idea what I’m doing. My lab partner Aynsley is to my left - she has no idea what she’s doing either. We seem to be always only one step away from a fatal explosion. The next two to her left are Jan and another Alex. They of course have their stuff figured out. They’re pipetting liquids into thingies, they can actually identify the different squigglies under the microscope, they’re putting things that are supposed to be put in dry ice into dry ice, and they’re somehow finishing the in-lab assignments and leaving the lab early. Fast-forward five years, the four of us are at McGill University once again, except this time, we’re in the Birks Chapel, and Alex is getting married. (The other Alex, not me. *sigh* I guess he can be Alex and I’ll be the other Alex for this blog post.)
The wedding day started at Scotch & Scissors, a barbershop where Alex and his groomsmen got their shave and their scotch. By the time I got to the bridal suite to photograph Tessa and her bridesmaids, the floor was covered with Fairmount Bagel sesame seeds. Would’ve been better if the floor was covered with St. Viateur Bagel sesame seeds, but oh well.
After the short wedding ceremony in the Birks Chapel on McGill campus, we headed to the Ruelle des Fortifications in the Montreal World Trade Center / Centre de Commerce Mondial, right by the big Hôtel InterContinental. It’s a pretty sweet spot that looks like an outdoors space. A good compromise for a November wedding in Montreal, where an outdoor reception would have meant 150 lovely guests turning into 150 lovely icicles.
Despite the chilly weather, the wedding was full of warmth (and love, and fun). I don’t think I’ve ever photographed a wedding while it was below freezing outside, but come to think of it, it was quite fitting for them. Tessa and Alex’s story involves skiing and lots of it. They were on the McGill ski club together. The proposal happened while they were skiing on Mont-Royal. The wedding cake was ski-themed. Even my table at the reception was full of wonderful skiers.
Now the next paragraph is for the photographers out there. The Ruelle des Fortifications is an amazing space to photograph in, but the lighting is tricky. For a November wedding, all natural light is gone by 4PM, so the hall is entirely lit with a mix of very orange streetlights and some greenish fluorescents from the nearby offices and boutiques. The ceiling is made of glass so you can’t use bounce flash, the walls are outdoor brick walls or boutique glass so you can’t bounce off of that either. The two options remaining are cranking up the ISO and shooting wide-open, and using off-camera flash (straight-on flash should not be an option for aesthetic reasons in my opinion). My awesome second photographer Julien Catella and I had visited the spaces prior to the wedding and made sure that we brought the appropriate equipment (high-ISO capable cameras, large-aperture lenses, extra light stands and flashes).
Thank you again Tessa & Alex for the wonderful energy-packed wedding day, I hope you enjoy your honeymoon and this little teaser. I can’t wait to show you the albums when you come back!
For the first-time readers of my blog! I'm inviting you to follow my public Facebook page where I'll share more photos. For the skiers and MOC people who attended the wedding, check out the recent personal project that I advertised on my page, it might be of interest :)
Thanks for reading! Quick shoutout again to my second photographer Julien Catella who did an awesome job.
Last week, Stephen and Sidney drove up from Vermont for a little fall getaway in Montreal. They parked near Beaver Lake and headed straight for the Kondiaronk Belvedere, the lookout point next to the Mont Royal Chalet. By the time they arrived, the clouds had parted and the sun was shining. From way up there, the view of beautiful downtown Montreal (and all of its construction cranes) was framed by mountain’s trees, still displaying their red and orange and gold. Sidney was just enjoying the view when this happened:
Two weeks prior to the proposal, Stephen contacted me with his plan. My girlfriend and I are driving up to Montreal for a day, I’m going to propose to her, and I'd like you to photograph the moment. We started planning out the details right away. For proposal photos, a public location means it’s easier to hide a photographer in plain sight (yeah and especially if he’s asian, in a tourist spot, and has a camera). We even planned out the walking route. Can you imagine if they had gone up the that steep staircase on the South side of the mountain? Stephen would have run out of breath and passed out between Will you and marry me.
So when the big day finally arrived, Stephen stealthily sent me a picture of himself and Sidney to show me how they were dressed that day. And then he would text me three times: once when leaving the house, once at the border, and once upon parking the car. Of course, not wanting to miss the moment due to an out-of-battery phone or a cross-border reception weirdness, I showed up way early, and checked the clothing of every couple I saw. No no, not creepy at all. Thankfully his phone was working fine. With each text I received, my heart rate went up significantly. The final one came. Here, it read. Game time, let’s do this!
I spotted them from far away with lynx eyes, and stalked them like a cat. Holy crap, it was exciting and awkward and hilarious and wonderful all at the same time. I should have hired a photographer to photograph me sneaking behind them and taking the proposal photos.
Sidney said yes (of course!) and eventually Stephen revealed that the entire thing was documented, to her delight. We followed it up with a mini engagement shoot! Thank you both for the most memorable assignment ever! And thank you Stephen for putting your trust in me!