Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Ziser’s Way Back Machine – Installment 2

Last week I shared some of my very earliest photographs with you. This week, it’s strictly wedding images. I jumped into the business full time, after working briefly as an engineer. My friends were starting to get married and I was the one getting the calls to shoot their weddings.

By mid 1978 I had to make the decision of what I wanted to do with my life. My engineering responsibilities were wrapping up and it seemed to be the perfect time to make “wedding photography” my full time profession. Heck, I photographed my first wedding in 1961 at age 15. I worked my way through college shooting high school sports teams and weddings.

October of 1978 was the year I made the change. Here are some images from that year. I thought they looked pretty good back then. I had just joined my local photographers association – Tri-State Professional Photographers, alas, no longer around – and started attending the seminars, workshops, and conventions that year too.

Here is where I was at that time. I had just acquired my two Mamiya 645 medium format cameras and my Metz 45 CT1 flash units. This setup was pretty darn good back in those days. I hadn’t purchased my first Hasselblad yet and most photogs were pretty happy with the Mamiyas and they were about half the cost of the Hasseys at the time. So I felt like I was ready to get started.

How did I learn wedding photography back in my early beginnings? I copied everybody in town. One of my favorite guys to copy was Ron Carroll. His work was considered the best in town. I had actually worked with Ron 10 years earlier when we both worked for the same B&W processing lab. In fact, I just said “Hi” to him this weekend at the Mid-East Regional Convention. We have remained friends all these years.

Ron’s wedding work is still some of the nicest work in the Cincinnati area. I was a quick study as the copying paid off and that along with my past few weddings experience had made me an adequate shooter in the Cincy area. I shot about 20 or so weddings that year.

This wedding here represents one of my favorites from 1978. I still see the bride occasionally today. By the way, these images were copied with my Canon 40D fitted with a 100m macro lens, brought into Photoshop, inversed to get the positive image, and then color corrected as well as possible. The orange make of the film made the color correction a bit tricky, but I think the final result serves our purpose for review.

Let’s do a quick review:
The first image is a simple “window light” image. I was so proud of it. Heck, at least I had a shadow next to a highlight. The next few images were from the ceremony – yep, double exposures were popular at the time because of the lecturing and teachings of Bill Stockwell, who transformed wedding photography back in the 60’s and 70’s with his “Misty Madcaps,” “Buttercups,” and double exposures. As silly as it looks now - folks, this stuff was hot back then.

The next few images show some of those “Misties” - you know, images with blurry edges. I remember the bride loved them too – there were 2-3 8x10’s ordered off each image. Notice how I posed the wedding party. The photog I mentioned earlier posed his groups that way too. I thought it was different from what other photographers were doing so picked up on it too.

Next, check out the reception images. I hadn't learned about 2 light systems and “direction of light.” For these images I was still just using one on-camera flash. Unfortunately, lighting wise, it looks a lot like what we still see in about 90% of wedding photography today.

I think that covers it for today. Next week I’ll jump ahead to about 1982. By that time I had switched to Hasselblads, been to several seminars, conventions and week long classes. The work takes a on a moderately improved look. I’ll also discuss some of the other influences of that time period too. So be sure to check back in with the “Ziser Wedding Way Back Machine” next week.


  1. Thanks for the fun look back.

    A lot of these stand the test of time in my opinion.
    The pensive ‘window light’ portrait is timeless.
    The wedding party image is a contemporary pose. Certainly better than a line-up.
    Walking off into the sunset has a modern PJ look.

    I’d love to jump ahead 30 years and see what is being done today that will make us say “it was popular back then.” Perhaps (overdone) Photoshop actions, texture layers, HDR, trash the dress, tilting the camera, ‘scrapbooked’ albums.
    I think we’ve already seen selective coloring come and go.

  2. This is great, David! It's interesting to see how your eye and your business has developed over the years. At some point, I'd love to get to one of your workshops. Soon...

  3. This is excellent! I love hearing about how you started the business, your thought processes while on the job, setting up the shot, and enjoy looking at the photos. Very fun. Thanks.

  4. I really enjoyed today's post, and I'm looking forward to the next one in the series. We have many of these photos in our wedding album July, 1979 (double exposure etc...). Never knew it was that popular--do now. David, I love reading your daily posts. Thanks for taking the time to post in such meaningful ways. I learn something each day.

  5. These were fun, I got interested in wedding photography just by looking at old weddings. I am always surprised by how much things are the same and how much they differ. Great look back.

  6. What these images show to me is that CARE was taken to create them! That is someting that (I hope) will never go out of style.
    Great post!! Peter