Schaarai Zedek Bar Mitzvah Photography
I’ve had the privilege of photographing a Bar mitzvah in just about every temple in Tampa Bay and can honestly say I’ve enjoyed every one. The Rabbi’s are always accommodating and friendly to me and I’ve never been unable to get great images for my clients.
But Schaarai Zedek is my favorite. It was the first temple I ever worked in (oh so long ago) and I work there more than any other temple in Tampa. But the best part is the people who I interact with every time I’m there. Mark, the executive director, is always happy to see me and eager to help me if needed (thanks for getting me that step stool I needed that time!) and of course, Rabbi Birnholz.
I’ve photographed a lot of Bar Mitzvahs (and Bat Mitzvahs too, of course) but Rabbi Birnholz has presided over more than you could count in his career. Yet, despite it being his millionth time, I watch him working patiently with the family and friends as he walks them through the rehearsal with grace and humor and it’s an inspiration. Never have I seen him annoyed or in a bad mood and he’s always kind to me even though I’m sure there have been some pushy photographers in his years. I’m told the Rabbi is retiring this year and I’ll miss him dearly. I’m sure he doesn’t know my name but I know his and I’ve truly enjoyed watching him handle “customer relations” all these years. I’m comforted in knowing that his replacement is a great guy too.
I recently worked with Luke McLaughlin and family at Schaarai Zedek for Luke’s Bar Mitzvah. We ended up with over 400 great images from the portraits session, temple rehearsal and party. Here are a few favorites:
We did a custom photo guest book for Luke’s party with images from a portrait session we shot on location in South Tampa. Luke is a big sports guy so we were sure to get him in a variety of his uniforms:
I’ll be honest, some teenage boys are harder to photograph then others. No surprise that a lot of boys would just as soon not be having their picture taken but not the case with Luke. He was just fantastic to work with… great attitude and having fun.
The temple session went great as always.
The party was sports themed and the decorations were great. Carin really out-did herself at CZ Design.
Joe and Cassie’s Wedding at The Wyndham Grand Orlando
I recently photographed the wedding of Joe and Cassie at The Wyndham Grand Bonnet Creek Resort in Orlando. There are so many great resorts in Orlando for a wedding, maybe more than any other place on earth. The Wynham is a favorite for me for reasons that I’ll explain in a minute.
For the first time in my career, the father of the bride was also the DJ at the wedding. That’s right. Sounds weird but not when you discover that the parents of the bride run a wedding company in Miami. Why hire a wedding company when you have one in the family? So, when we arrived early on the big day, Mom and Dad were busy helping to setup the reception area and light the dance floor.
The Wyndham Grand is a fantastic resort on a lake in Orlando. There are a couple of things that I really like about it (reception hall on the first floor just off the lobby, yea! Friendly and attentive staff and coordinators, yea!) but the best part, at least for a wedding photographer, is the Bridal Suite.
Cassie told me that the Bridal Suite was the thing that really sold them on the resort. It’s huge! How huge? Well, it has a second floor. The place where you get dressed for your wedding may seem like an afterthought but the reality is that you will probably spend more time in that room than any other the whole day. Add to that the fact that there may be 20 people in the room with you and you can see where a big bridal suite can make your day much more relaxing. Seriously, you could play basketball in this thing.
One of the cool things about this wedding is that there was a man on the bride’s side and a woman on the man’s side.
The groom’s room, like every groom’s room on the planet, was just a hotel room but that’s fine because they don’t need the room that the bride needs.
The first look is always a great idea. I totally respect the folks who don’t want to do it but I find that the moment is more intimate and emotional if the groom gets to see the bride alone before the ceremony. It also means you can do couple’s portraits and wedding party portraits before the ceremony which frees up time after for more family pictures.
It’s always nice if we can do a “Daddy reveal” as well. Sometimes we can’t because Dad’s not available or he’s just been in and out all day anyway but in this case, Dad hadn’t seen her all day.
After the reveals, we did the bridal party shots. I love getting to do these early when possible but it doesn’t always work, it really depends on the location. (You have to be able to do it without arriving guests seeing the bride.) Unfortunately for us, it started raining so we couldn’t go outside (the original plan was to shoot by the lake). Lucky for us, The Wyndham Grand has a lot of cool spaces inside for photography.
The ceremony was outside by the pool and the rain passed over with plenty of time to get everything ready. The sun set just before they said, “I do.”
The reception room was fabulous. Cassie’s mom did a great job and everything looked wonderful.
Joe and Cassie both work for Disney and Cassie may be the biggest Disney fan I’ve ever met. She just loves everything about it and I could tell because she has a favorite fireworks display. That’s right, she knows the difference in the fireworks at the three parks. Epcot’s display is her favorite so we headed back up to the bridal suite balcony for one last picture.
Let me start this story with another story:
Several years ago, I read a story by Noah Wiley, the actor, about his being asked to appear on “Sesame Street.” He was quite moved by it, having grown up watching the show. He echoed something that I have heard other celebrities say…. that they didn’t really feel famous until “Sesame Street” asked them to appear. For many people, “Sesame Street” was the first place they saw a celebrity.
At least I think that’s what he said. I can’t find the article online and so it’s possible that that I’m just projecting my own feelings onto my memory of the article but the bottom line is this: Sometimes the thing that makes you feel like you’ve “made it” isn’t the same for everyone.
So, with that in mind, let’s jump back 10 years to a younger Booray Perry, who has just started his photography business and become a member of the Professional Photographers Association of America. Part of your membership is the monthly magazine which features incredible images and stories about photography.
In every issue of the magazine, there is a double-page ad from Miller’s. Miller’s is a professional photo lab, one of the largest in the country and they are a huge supporter of the PPA. In addition to advertising in the magazine, they support the convention (Imaging USA), they provide giveaways and door prizes to local groups and they have a big roster of supported speakers… photographers who travel the country teaching workshops.
When I first started my business, I joined PPA and received the magazine in the mail. I devoured every page and every article trying to absorb anything I could to turn me into a real photographer. One of the things that always stood out for me was the big ad from Miller’s. You see, Miller’s always features a photographer in their ad. I would look at that ad and think, “That’s a real photographer.” I mean, how good do you have to be to be featured in a national ad campaign? That’s reserved for movie stars and sports icons in the regular world so in the photography world, to be featured in a national ad by one of the largest labs in the country? That’s something.
Eventually I got good and started to make a living. Then I started going to conventions and such and meeting other photographers. I decided to become a speaker and Miller’s was gracious enough to take a chance on a new guy and add me to their speaking roster. I spoke at Imaging USA, taught a Pre-convention class, hosted the Grand Imaging Awards and hosted a webcast from the International Photographic Competition. In January I’ll speak again at the convention and host a series of shows as well. My business is strong and I’m generally well known in my little world. I have a podcast. I have every reason to believe that I’ve finally “made it.”
Except for one thing. One silly little thing. I’ve never been featured in a Miller’s ad. Now, anyone in my world who reads this will tell you that’s crazy… I’ve certainly proven to myself that I’m a “real” photographer. But it doesn’t matter because, for me, that ad represents something from my photography “childhood.” That ad is Sesame Street.
The December issue of Professional Photographer Magazine is shipping as I write this and this month’s issue is very special for me.
I know I’ve achieved everything I set out to do. I know I’m a good photographer and I’ve been recognized in so many ways…. but this ad, this ad still means something to me. Just like Sesame Street, It holds a place in my heart. When I started I just wanted to be good enough to make a living. I never allowed myself to think that one day I would be speaking at the national convention or serving as an elected councilor for PPA… and never did I think I would be one of those people in the Miller’s ad. It’s like watcing Sesame Street and thinking, “Maybe one day they’ll ask me to come on!”
Did I blatantly ask to be in an ad every chance I got? Yes. Yes I did. Not gonna pretend I didn’t. Don’t judge me.
Debra Radell is the person at Miller’s who has to listen to my non-stop blather and claims she had nothing to do with my selection for the ad. (I don’t believe it). Samae Claspill was the person who walked me through it. Kira Derryberry is the wonderful photographer who took my picture and managed to make me look cool, a task as daunting as humanly possible.
Every month it’s a different photographer and every month a different word over their picture. (“Joy,” “Smile,”) etc. In my case they used my name. I’m not sure if they couldn’t come up with a word to describe me or if they just decided that my stupid, weird name was the most recognizable trait I posses. Probably a little of both.
I finally made it.