Today’s wedding photographer interview is with Adam W. Cohen of Adam W. Cohen Photography, based in New York, NY! Enjoy:
Tell us a bit about yourself and your company.
My wedding and family photography studio is based out of NYC and we cover the Tristate and New England area. I love this work because of who I am and what I care about. I’m a romantic realist. Photographing proof of the feelings that drive people to marry each other is not only a big part of my job, it’s also deeply, personally fulfilling for me.
Read the full interview after the cut!
The word my clients most often use to describe me is, “sweet.” Sweetness has an important place in wedding and portraiture work. Technical mastery of camera settings and lighting only really matters at a wedding when the bride and groom and all of their family and guests feel relaxed and confident in my presence. When you enjoy having your photographer around, then you’re truly in the moment with each other, which is what it’s all about, both romantically and photographically.
When I’m not taking pictures, I’m out discovering amazing food in NYC, playing Ultimate frisbee, taking the ferry to Brooklyn (it’s the best amusement park ride in the city for my son), hitting the beach, and hiking trails. In NYC, there’s endless opportunities to explore, and my family and I can’t get enough of it. It never takes much coffee to get me buzzing with ideas for the stories and essays I write in my spare time. And yes, I’m still excited about photography when I’m not documenting once-in-a-lifetime events. I love studying the work of others, taking workshops, and experimenting and practicing on my own.
How did you get into wedding photography?
I was working primarily as a video producer and director when I got back in touch with a college friend who had become a successful wedding photographer. I was curious about what her working experience was like and she hired me to be her second for a few weddings. Everything about the work excited me. I was hired for three hours on my second wedding, but I worked it for ten. Honestly, I couldn’t pull myself away. The wedding scene was so full of personality and life, a stream of creative opportunit ies in a life-affirming setting. I was hooked. We worked together for a season, after which she told me I was the best second photographer she’d ever worked with in over a decade of shooting weddings, which of course was very encouraging and humbling because I was about to throw myself into learning and mastering a whole new art form. My work with her led to other opportunities and then eventually I had clients and weddings of my own.
What is your favorite part of the wedding day to capture?
Taking pictures of people completely surrendered to what they’re feeling in the moment. When I capture it, I know my clients will have an authentic record of their wedding day experience. As a photographer, that’s the type of picture I know I’ll find at every wedding, in moments of real connection, vulnerability, shared truth, bliss, affection, disbelief, ecstasy, poignancy, relief, overwhelming love. These moments happen all day long and not always when you’d expect. Couples have different personalities, different energies arise spontaneously. So it’s important to pay close attention to what’s going on emotionally, not just keep tabs on the sequence of events, but to really be present and responsive to what people are feeling.
What is the most awkward moment you’ve experienced while on the job?
Awkward moments often precede something awesome, like a burst of laughter or tears or other displays of pent up emotion. A silence that goes on a little too long, a person says something slightly off, people catch each other’s gaze unexpectedly, an older relative dances flamboyantly, a child cries out — work enough weddings and you learn that it’s the off-script moments that make our weddings truly our own.
As for personally awkward moments, I once had an officiant say at the end of the ceremony, “And now the photographer will direct you.” Everybody just looked at me, including the couple who had just kissed. I lowered my camera and said, “okay, first let’s congratulate the bride and groom as they walk down the aisle, but please stay where you are for a picture afterwards.” I was caught off guard, but serendipitously the officiant just made a picture I wanted to take a lot easier to pull off.
What is your favorite venue and why?
I love outdoor locations—beaches, gardens, the streets of NY for the natural light and grandeur. Beautiful light can be found in wide-open spaces and in the most intimate and dark corners of a small restaurant. But any venue selected conscientiously by my clients is going to be a place where they feel comfortable and excited and “themselves,” and that’s the most important thing when creating pictures together.
That said, two of my favorite venues are the Prospect Park Boathouse in Brooklyn, which is so romantic and intimate, and Tappan Hill Mansion in Tarrytown, NY (Mark Twain’s mansion overlooking the Hudson River) which is grand but still warm. Both are surrounded by natural splendor, and as it happens both are catered by Abigail Kirsch, who is amazing.
Nikon or Canon?
I shoot with a pair of Canon 5D MkIV DSLRs.
What is your dream location to shoot a wedding?
MOMA in New York! It would be a great place for unusual and cool angles, reflections, and stunning backgrounds. I’m also fascinated by Iceland’s exotic landscapes, I’d love to shoot a couple on a black-sandy beach with crashing waves and sheer cliffs behind them.
If you could shoot any celebrity wedding (past, present or future), who would be the lucky couple?
Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook. Their characters are so romantic and quirky, too! Especially now that the Eagles have won the Superbowl, that would be a heartfelt celebration, the speeches would be hilarious, and the dancing would be wild!
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned, and would pass along to other new wedding photographers just getting started?
Take nothing for granted and always be a student of your craft. Whatever you can do to improve, do it. If you don’t feel this drive naturally, as part of your response to wedding photography and portraiture, then you may want to consider doing something else. If you aren’t there because you love it, if it feels like a chore or a job, that’s going to be upsetting for you and your clients. If you love it, you’ll get better and better with experience and it will be a fulfilling way to earn a living.
What tips or advice can you give to couples who are looking to hire a photographer to cover their big day?
The most universal advice I’d give all couples is that there are a lot of talented photographers out there, so you can and should take the time to find a person among that group with whom you feel a personal connection. Your wedding photographer is going to be a significant part of your wedding day experience, part of your memories of one o f the most important days of your life. So after you find people whose aesthetics you like and whose technical mastery you trust, pick one you get along with.
Once you’ve got your short list, meet your final photographers in person. There’s really no substitute for doing this and at this point, you can’t lose because you’re only meeting with photographers whose work you like. I love these meetings! We get to know each other and of course talk about your wedding, what you know so far and the ideas you’re working on. I provide you with a customized estimate within a day or so of our meeting, and I also include some specific feedback intended to help you make decisions about your wedding logistics based on my experiences.
Your wedding photographer has attended more weddings than you have and you should take advantage of his or her insights to help make your day as terrific as possible. Here are two quick tips:
- Less experienced photographers sometimes emphasize that they practice “natural light” photography as a way of sidestepping their inexperience (and possibly their lack of confidence) with using flash in low-to-no-light situations. All photographers prefer natural light, but if some of your wedding is scheduled to happen after the sun sets or in dimly lit rooms, you will want a photographer who knows how to take pleasing pictures of people with off-camera flash. You should ask photographers to show you pictures like this in their portfolio.
- And finally, you’ll be feeling all kinds of emotions and nerves on your big day. Try to take a breath and soak it all in. You’ve spent so much time preparing for your big day, so once it arrives savor it, don’t rush it. And when your vows are over, forget about everything and everyone and just live in that kiss for a moment longer than usual. Nobody ever regrets taking an extra beat with their first kiss as a married couple.
Thanks, Adam! For more information about Adam W. Cohen Photography, please visit his WeddingLovely Vendor Guide profile or head straight to his website.
Do you have any questions or comments for Adam? Add them to the comments below!