Richard's Photographer Spotlight: Michael & Carina
They began as pen pals, became best friends, and fell in love... Now, photographers Michael and Carina share a love of film and a deep awareness of history, beauty and emotion in their work. Authentically documenting couples to create timeless heirlooms, their images have been featured in Southern Weddings, Bride Magazine, The Knot, Style Me Pretty, Wedding Sparrow, Magnolia Rouge, Belle Lumiere, Elizabeth Anne Designs, Once Wed, and more. Today we're talking with Michael and Carina all about the importance of being selective when it comes to jobs, advertising vs. the client experience, and the lens they think has defined modern wedding photography, all in Richard's Photog Spotlight!
Richard: What first sparked your passion for photography?
Michael & Carina: We discovered our passion for photography in the late 2000's. We were living in Europe at the time and traveled as much as we could—from England to Egypt. We discovered our passion for photography in documenting these places and the people we met there. It definitely brought us closer together.
Richard: Making the leap from photography as a personal passion to a paying gig is a big one... how did you decide to pursue it as a career?
M&C: It was never a question, really. It was the natural next step—everything was focused on "how to go full time." We spent the first several years of our relationship as pen pals, teens divided by an ocean. Then here comes something we love doing. We could potentially spend every day working together, and potentially get paid to do it? It wasn't if we could do it, but what we would need to do to get there. When we moved to America from Germany in 2012, we decided to live off of our savings and just start shooting. Weddings, families, whatever we could find. We did not spend any money on advertising, we poured our hearts into giving our clients amazing images and an amazing experience. It was really difficult early on, but so much fun. Now we get to work together every day—best friends, business partners, and of course, still pen pals.
R: When you aren't shooting for clients, what do you LOVE to photograph?
M: I like making images that tell stories; where I can look back and not only see the photo that I created, but I can remember the person that was in it, their name, what we talked about when we made the photo, etc.
C: I love photographing beautiful things that inspire me and that, somehow, I just connect with. Limiting yourself to just a few photos with a model in a beautiful setting can be a great exercise.
R: How do you find a balance between being creatively fulfilled and being able to pay the bills?
M&C: We try to stay selective. When you give yourself too many tasks that your heart just isn't in, you spread yourself too thin. We are extremely competitive, but we try and be our own competition. We try and constantly take ourselves to the next level. Whatever that means for us, whether it is photographing in a new location, adding something amazing into our client experience, or planning an editorial overseas... you just have to keep yourself motivated by photographing what you want to photograph. When you do that, your dream clients (yes, they're out there) and the industry will notice.
R: What is your favorite camera and why?
M: Both of our favorite cameras are the Contax 645s paired with 80mm Zeiss f2 lenses, with Canon EOS 1V 35 mm SLRs as close seconds. What can be said about the 80mm Zeiss f/2.0 lens that has not been said already? It has a look that has defined modern wedding photography. The 645s are for signature, artistic moments and 35mm helps tie it all together. When we shoot 35mm, Carina loves the 50mm f/1.2 lens from Canon. And with me, it's a toss-up between the 16-35 mm f/2.8L lens from Canon or the 135mm f/2.0 L lens from Canon. I would love to add a Leica to the arsenal one day.
R: What's your first memory of shooting with film? Why do you continue to shoot it as a pro?
M: One of my best friends and colleagues in Germany had asked that we photograph her wedding (this was before we had gone full-time). One day she approached me and pushed an old Rolleiflex medium format camera into my hands. "This was my grandfather's camera," she said. "I am trusting you with it so you can learn how to use it. I would love to have my bridal portraits taken with this camera because it's the camera he used to document my childhood." That was in late 2010. We took that camera with us everywhere. Getting the scans back from our first test session with that camera was like Christmas.
In 2011/2012, we started to implement film into our business and knew we had found the right tool to create with. There are digital photographers that create amazing works of art. Film is just a medium. But it's our medium. It's what we do best. And it's what we love.
R: Why is it important to have continuous communication with your lab(s)?
M: Consistency is fundamental to developing style. If the scanner doesn't know what look you are going for, then they are "assuming" and scanning your images for how it looks best to them. Plus, your lab can offer helpful advice to point you in the right direction. Communication with your lab can also refine a look that is unique to your images. Richard Photo Lab's Color PAC is one of the most in-depth color customizations profiles offered by any professional lab—and one of the best decisions we ever made. The fact that our lab not only knows what we would like our style to be, but also knows the type of prints we like, the type of environments we often shoot it, knows we often prefer cooler scans of one stock and warmer scans of another—it all came from communicating (and communicating often) with our lab.
R: Do you have any pre-shoot rituals?
M: We always listen to music on the way to the shoot. We also like to arrive early and get an idea of how the light will be the day of. We always try to ask ourselves, "What can we do this time that we haven't done before?"
C: I take any excuse to load up on carbs. It is fuel for creativity! What's that Amy Schumer line? "Ladies... remember bread?"
R: Let’s play a game of “Either/Or”! Savory or sweet?
R: Chocolate or vanilla?
R: Dogs or cats?
R: Urban or rural?
R: Modern or vintage?
R: Warm weather or cold weather?
M: Warm weather.
C: Warm weather.
R: Biggie or Tupac?
R: Early bird or night owl?
M: I don't sleep.
C: Night owl.
R: Crossword or Sudoku?
M: Crossword... or RPGS.
R: Breakfast or dinner?
C: BOTH! And lunch.
R: Batman or Superman?
R: Historical Non-fiction or SciFi/Fantasy?
C: SciFi Fantasy.
R: Comedy or Drama?
R: Truth or dare?
R: If you weren't a photographer, what would you be when you grow up?
M: Travel writer or travel & food writer.
C: English and German Professor
R: What song/music do you listen to to get pumped up?
M: Lana Del Rey, Woodkid, William Fitzsimmons, Howard Shore.
C: Macklemore, FUN, Daft Punk, The Civil Wars
R: If you were a super hero, what would your super power be?
Michael: Time travel! I'd love to witness events in history first-hand. I'd just have to be careful not to create multiple dimensions or paradoxes...
Carina: Teleportation. It would be amazing to be able to just blink, and be anywhere! Especially for weddings!
R: What is your favorite word, and why?
M: "Unverschaemt"—(pronounced "unFERschamt") it's the German word for "unashamed". Describes us in some ways... smile.
C: "Servus"—it's a Bavarian word used for greeting and goodbye; very universal and endearing.