Courtesy of Moon Golf Club

Sunday’s Best: Shooting the shooter

One of the most common questions I've gotten from subscribers, in Live Qs and in person, friends and family when talking about my August 29 wedding -- who does the guy who shoots the Penguins, Pirates and Steelers trust to shoot him?

Well, it's a really good question.

Photography has been such an important part of my life well before I was shooting professionally, or even in any amateur capacity. My earliest photography memories are of my blue plastic cameras as a kid, attaching flash packs to the top with single use bulbs. I honestly don't know if I ever made a photo like that -- probably not.

My grandfather (dad's dad) was an artist and possessed quite a few camera systems ranging from Polaroid to Pentax to Canon. When it was time for my dad to get his own, his grandmother bought him a Canon AE-1 system that lasted until it was ruined in a downpour at my high school graduation.

My lineage has been a Canon one well before I put a real camera in my own hands. I asked for a Nikon, not knowing the difference, for my 16th birthday and I was given a Canon Rebel 2000 with the story of how well my dad's Canon gear lasted for him, and how much he loved it. I've loved that decision every day since.

Camera manufacturer doesn't matter. I only bring it up to tell a little bit of how long photography has mattered to me. I'll be going on 20 years of shooting photos on Canon cameras less than two months after I get married.

So choosing a proper photographer was always going to be important to me, regardless of whether I shoot the Penguins, the apples in the bins at Simmons Farm or my family cats and dogs at home.

So the decision comes, who shoots the wedding and how did I come to make that decision?

I have friends that I'd trust to shoot my wedding, but I want them to be there and be a part of it as a guest, not as someone tasked with the stress of documenting a one-in-a-lifetime event for us.

Enter The Oberports. The Oberports are a husband and wife team of Emily Porter and Bobby Oberlander, and together they created their photography moniker by combining the two surnames.

They're a pretty big deal in West Virginia, well known in the state, in the wedding magazines and across social media. As Molly and I found out during our engagement session, though, the Charleston, W.Va.-based shooters do most of their wedding work outside their home city these days. And destination weddings like ours, which will have guests joining us at Snowshoe Village on Snowshoe Mountain, are the current trend and a specialty of theirs.

A perfect match.

I didn't find this perfect set of photographers for us by flipping through the beautiful, oft-outdoor West Virginia wedding magazines, though. No, I found they found me several years ago after I shot a snowy baseball game at West Virginia University of all things.

Here's my photo of Ross Vance smiling in a snow globe on my Instagram in which Emily tagged Bobby to show him some snowy baseball:

I saw the comment, I clicked Emily's name, found The Oberports page and I instantly followed who I felt were extremely talented shooters in W.Va. Fast forward to more than five years later, and they're shooting our wedding.

Molly and I always thought that they'd be a frontrunner for our day, and we practically booked them as soon as we found out they were available.

There were a few other photographers we talked about, but bad interactions and experiences from close friends ruled one of them out (honest reviews are important, folks!), and the others just didn't live up to what we saw from Emily and Bobby.

The most important thing to Molly and I was that we found a style we felt fit us. Molly looked through every available album on their site, we looked through a lot of them together, and we each looked through at least the last year of social content. We ultimately decided that the style they shoot, their tones and their color especially, would hold up for what we wanted to hang in our home for the rest of our lives.

So, actually picking the photographer was a bit easier than I expected, and probably more than most people assume when they ask me.

Shooting ... well, being on the other end of photos like this is not something I'm used to. Not by a long shot. As it turns out, being on lens side of the shutter release is infinitely more difficult when you're used to pressing the shutter yourself.

Take a look at one of the first images from our engagement session at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco downtown:

[caption id="attachment_829325" align="aligncenter" width="640"] - The Oberports[/caption]

I was smiling like crazy, wouldn't stop laughing, tried to lick Molly's cheek (because that is an ideal photo, right?) and I was worried I'd be like that the whole time.

Really, I was a nervous wreck. But, I loosened up pretty quickly. I didn't expect that, but The Oberports were clearly experienced working people into a natural feel, and it helped that we got cocktails in The Commoner downstairs in the hotel for part of the photo shoot.

[caption id="attachment_829326" align="aligncenter" width="640"] - The Oberports[/caption]

Before long, I was hamming it up like I was working the camera for a modeling job, and churning out expert performances like the solo photo you see of me above. This one is for my future vinyl release party.

I took a couple things away from this experience that I might be able to pass along to others:

First, take the time to look through as many photographers as you have time for. Everyone has a different style. Everyone shoots one way, everyone edits one way. Choose the photographer for your wedding based on how they fit your dream, not by trying to work an improper fit into the rest of your day.

Second, if you have an animal, try to include them. We rented a pet friendly room at the hotel so we could bring our dog, Woofgang, along for the journey. But, if you're bringing a dog along, be sure to have someone who can help facilitate the dog's role with the shoot, and keep them company when you're busy. Can't thank our friend Brandon Woods enough for doing that for us:

[caption id="attachment_829331" align="aligncenter" width="640"] - The Oberports[/caption]

Without his help, we'd have never gotten Woofgang to sit long enough to deal with the intricacies of asking that of a dog on public steps. Here's a look at what we could get with his help:

[caption id="attachment_829332" align="aligncenter" width="640"] - The Oberports[/caption]

Good friend, good pup.

Third, embrace your weird and/or the things you love besides the person you're in the photos with. For me? Yeah, this was a no-brainer, and it was important for me to have a photographer who also embraced my weird.

We ordered pizza for Molly and I to eat in our robes in the hotel, and I decided it would be fun to share slices with Woofgang in classic Lady and the Tramp style. They loved the idea and made this wonderful series of photos of me sharing pizza with my dog:

[caption id="attachment_829333" align="aligncenter" width="640"] - The Oberports[/caption]

Yes, that happened and it was wonderful. I can't thank them enough for allowing me to have an idea of my own, no matter how weird, and help me to execute it. No one else would have felt right for our day. It doesn't matter who I photograph or trust to photograph me -- if someone is good, they're good.

These guys are really good.

Up top is a collection of some of our favorite photos from our engagement session. Hopefully everyone enjoys something a little different. This coming week, it's back to baseball, back to football and there will be quite a bit of each included in the next Sunday's Best.

See you guys and gals in the comments.

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