I stood on a stage, facing 150 of the best wedding photographers in the world. This was the Fearless Conference, and I was speaking to colleagues I have admired for years.

“How many of you go home after a shoot, look through your images, and make yourselves feel terrible about what you shot?” I asked them.

Everyone in the room, it seemed, had a hand in the air.

Our creative world is dominated by storytelling images, moments that become ingrained in our memories and killer portraits. We work hard for 8 or 10 or 15 hours, but portrait hour is still inside our heads. Where will we shoot them, when will we have time to do them and what will the light be like, is a nagging thought while we handle all of the curveballs thrown at us on a wedding day.

I love a great portrait as much as the next creative photographer. Vast landscapes with tiny figures and entwined hands, gritty backdrops with quiet lovers and nighttime scenes with laughing couples, I love them all. But it’s not always guaranteed you’ll get this during a rushed wedding day, which leaves most of us feeling unfulfilled about our storytelling.

Like the other photographers inside this crowded conference room, I would shoot a wedding and silently (or loudly) moan about shots I had missed, moments that weren’t as strong as I had hoped, and portrait sessions that never panned out.

Watching a room full of photographers raise their hands in agreement about feeling negative about their own images made me realize it’s not about the portraits.

“The wedding was great, but we had no time for portraits.” This is a phrase I’ve heard and said countless times.

This only leads me to question, when did capturing moments not be enough?

I’m posting Nicole and Anthony’s wedding at the Bridgeport Arts Center¬†because the wedding was great, but there was no time for portraits. This phrase is something I am happy to let go of in the future.

I actually won two awards from my coverage of this wedding from the Wedding Photojournalists Association. One award-winning photograph was of my clients looking like beautiful china dolls during their reception, and another award was for my photograph of Nicole’s mother’s emotional response to seeing her wedding dress.

Moments should be enough.

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Want stronger moments? Let’s work together! My next Moment-Driven Photojournalism Workshop is September 13-14 in downtown Chicago.

  • Kerry Walsh - Oh, Candice this is so beautiful. What a treat to see the progression of another couple’s day like this. Just gorgeous. Seriously cannot wait until September 10!!!ReplyCancel

  • Daniel Moyer - It’s like you’re taking the words right from my mind. And I thought I was the only one! Thank you so much for sharing this and for the “permission” to be moment focused!ReplyCancel

  • WPS - Before I even got half way I thought to myself weddings aren’t about portraits but that was your point. Not all couples love that much attention on them, I know I would HATE it but the day to me is all about those moments that the couple didn’t even know you captured.

    When they look back on these memories and see all those fleeting moments that the photographer captured but they weren’t even aware were happening.

    Portraits are great, don’t get me wrong it is a chance for a wedding photographer to become creative, pause and think but these moments for me are what makes a wedding.ReplyCancel

  • Lina Orsino-Allen - Candice, so much this. Here in the UK we don’t have cocktail hour as such, and taking your clients off for an hour just isn’t the done thing when they have guests to greet, and to be honest, I wouldn’t want to, they have drinking and chatting and laughing to be getting on with. Our standard now is two 10-15 minute sessions during the day if it allows – hey, if we can’t capture them looking in love in ten minutes aren’t there bigger problems here? Sometimes I’m guilty at looking at those epic couple shots and thinking, we never have time for that, and begrudging it, but you are so right, I LOVE shooting moments and that’s ok! Funnily enough, all my favourites from our own wedding are also naturally captured too. Thank you xReplyCancel

  • Erik Shenko - I’m totally agree, thanks for sharing. If we give more importance to moments every thing goes well and we will cover best weddings each time. ūüôāReplyCancel

 

I’m so pleased to announce I have a new VIDEO (watch our behind the scenes video!) ¬†and WEBSITE¬†for my¬†Moment-Driven Photojournalism Workshop, mentor sessions and speaking calendar, and I want to thank my team for all of their hard work!

Michael Hendzel of Hendzel Productions for producing a terrific video!  Mike attended both days of my Moment-Driven Workshop in August and had to listen to me through headphones and while I sang, laughed and taught, completely forgetting I was wearing a wireless microphone.  Thank you for being such a terrific sport (I laugh a lot) and for this beautiful video featuring a fantastic behind the scenes look at our workshop, including our talented students!

Jessica Shepherd of Jessie Mary & Co.¬†for the creating a gorgeous¬†website and for just being an amazing woman to work with. ¬†This website is beautiful, you have been a tremendous help and friend all year, and I’m so proud to work with you! ¬†I also can’t believe my luck in finding you through a referral on Facebook! ¬†Thank you!!!

Thank you, Travis Haughton, for being an incredible friend and my favorite technical mind… I couldn’t hold this workshop without you! ¬†My intern Raquel Bolanos for handling all of the details of the workshop and for accompanying me on every single shoot as a lighting assistant. ¬†Thanks for sticking with me and not throwing my flashes against a wall during 13-hour photo shoots on wedding days!

Finally, I cannot our students enough. ¬†Thank you for traveling all over the country (and some have traveled from other countries!) to spend two days with me. ¬†I have taught Photojournalism for over a decade to college students at Northwestern University and Columbia College, and I haven’t had as much fun as when I started teaching wedding photographers. ¬†You are amazing and you inspire me every day!

Check out our brand new video and head on over to the website!  Thanks so much, everyone!!!

Gloria and Andrew have such a fantastic story– they went to the same college, lived on the same floor, then shared the same street… and never met. ¬†I am such a sucker for romantic stories like theirs!

We had a great time chasing a beautiful sunset during their engagement session in downtown Chicago. ¬†They’re so comfortable together, all I really had to do was simply document their moments, which is my favorite thing to do!

I asked them both to share some of their own words below.

“In college our lives overlapped in so many ways it’s almost amazing we never met. In fact I spent most of my freshman year hanging out with my friends in the room right next to his. We often talk about how fun it would have been to have met during such a carefree point in our lives but I think the timing was perfect even though it didn’t seem like it at the time.

¬†We met just as I was graduating college and trying to make what at the time felt like monumental decisions about my life. I wasn’t ready to throw in a relationship on top of it. But it quickly became apparent that being with Andrew was the best decision I made.”

“I can’t speak for what Gloria loves about me but she is so thoughtful and fun!¬† We seem to have a connection and pretty much always know what each other are thinking.

We have been living together for 2 and a half years and they have been lots of fun.¬† Both of us are a bit of homebodies and we have really enjoyed ourselves in that time.¬† That is part of why I ended up proposing at home (with all of our favorite foods and treats from around the city).¬† We had champagne and sat by the fire outside.¬† We are really excited to start our next adventure in New York!”

Thank you so much, Gloria and Andrew, please enjoy your engagement photographs. ¬†I can’t wait for your wedding at the Harold Washington Library!

I’m heartbroken about the shootings in Orlando,¬†so¬†I’m reposting Stephen and James’s wedding today, because love is love. ¬†And love looks good on everyone.

Getting married one day after the U.S. Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage legal nationwide, and one day before the 46th Annual Chicago Gay Pride Parade, carries a bit of pressure!

Stephen (at left) and James were legally married on Saturday, June 27 2015 at Firehouse Chicago, a vintage building filled with rustic details.

This charming couple celebrated their legal marriage with their friends and family and lovable dog, Romeo.  Guests were asked to share in the blessing of their wedding rings, placed in a unique Mr. and Mr. dish.  The warm June evening invited guests outside for cocktails and a cigar bar, lit by a million Christmas lights.  I loved the vegetarian-friendly food by the Hearty Boys and the folks at Black Dog Gelato served up cool treats for dessert, while Style Matters kept the music going.   A huge thank you goes to Lisa Wandel at Liven it Up for being such an incredible planner, the day was smooth and flawless.  It truly was a beautiful evening!

I could not be happier to document Stephen and James’ love story, and present their wedding day here. ¬†I love documenting love, and will continue to welcome any client who wants to share their¬†story with me.

Stephen and James, I wish you nothing but continued happiness! ¬†Congratulations, you’re married!!

To view Stephen and James’ engagement session, please click here.

Chicago documentary photographer Candice Cusic

(Photo by Candice C. Cusic/The Chicago Tribune)

I was asked by Crixeo Magazine to write about tragedy and the emotional toll it takes on documentary photographers.

I’ve been a photographer all my life and I love documenting emotion.  Raw, real and at times, uncomfortable.  I love getting close, sharing a bond and capturing a great moment.

I can’t bond with a football player sprinting down the field, so shooting sports never interested me.

My training ground was in college, studying Photojournalism at UNC-CH.  I documented a homeless family, with a crack-addicted mother, for four years.   My photographs were from the poorest communities, a shocking contrast to my own childhood.

‚ÄúWhen are you going to photograph something happy?‚ÄĚ my mother asked me, right before I spent an entire summer documenting a prison for boys.

I loved shooting what others didn’t see.  If it was hidden, and horrible, I wanted to document it.  My mom was right.  At that time, I didn’t want to shoot Kodak smiles and birthday parties.

After graduating college, I became a Photojournalist and worked for the Chicago Tribune for 11 years.  My life as a photojournalist gave me variety.  I shot lots of sadness with some happy tossed in.

But nothing could truly prepare me for two 20-day trips I made to Nagapattinam, Tamil Nadu, India to document their recovery after being hit by a devastating Tsunami in 2004.

How do you photograph people who have lost everything and everyone?

Slowly.  With compassion.  Smile.  Get close.  Wait.  Smile more.  Get closer.  Closer.

You must give yourself to your subjects if you expect anything from them in return.

I could have been an indifferent observer.  I could have stood far away.  I could have protected my heart.

But that’s not me.

I worked sunrises and sunsets.  I drank deliciously sweet hot coffee from a street vendor each morning, and listened to loud black crows that had set up camp in the trees.  The lovely residents of this village were living in cardboard tents, crammed tightly inside makeshift rooms while they waited for the government to tell them what their options were.

I spent time.  Being present.  Noticed.  The white girl who smiled.  Spending time not shooting is one of the best ways to get access.

I stood out in India, especially being a woman with large clunky cameras around my neck.

But I had to get close to tell the story.  Often working alone, without an interpreter.

Smiles mean the same thing in every language.

The camera is a shield, but it’s not thick enough to stop feeling. It’s a natural instinct to continue to work on the story, to dig in and sift through its layers.  You will feel emotional, so don’t hide from it.  Get it out.

Then get closer and do your job.


Candice C. Cusic has taught Photojournalism as an Adjunct Instructor at Northwestern University for over a decade, and teaches wedding photographers how to capture moments at her Moment-Driven Workshop.  You can follow her wedding photojournalism at CusicPhoto.com.

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