Kesha Lambert digs deep for outstanding wedding photos
The young bride was heartbroken. Just one day after her fun-filled wedding she learned the reason her grandmother had not attended the ceremony was that she had suffered a massive stroke, says Kesha Lambert, who had photographed the wedding.
A week later, the grandmother remained unresponsive and non-verbal. Her prognosis was grim. Rushing to her grandmother’s bedside, the new bride fought back tears. She told her grandmother she loved her but there was no response. “I had just sent the bride a selection of pictures from her wedding,” continues Lambert. The bride pulled out her iPhone and began showing them to her grandmother.
Then something amazing happened. “The bride says her grandmother’s eyes lit up as she looked at the photographs. Then, for the first time since her stroke, she spoke, muttering the words ‘pretty girl’ to her granddaughter. Everyone was shocked. Remarkably, she smiled and gestured to look at the pictures again.”
The bride was so moved that she wrote Lambert a note: “Your gifts have such a significant reach, and I thank you.”
Lambert was touched by her client’s letter, she says, and also reassured. “That note from the bride reminded me that I am not just taking pretty pictures,” she explains. “What I and other photographers do can be really important and meaningful.”
A former lawyer (or “recovering lawyer,” as she puts it), Lambert is an award-winning New Rochelle, New York-based wedding photographer. She’s photographed more than 300 weddings and will shoot 36 more, plus portrait sessions, this year. Her calendar is a testament to her success. She’s become known for her fashion-influenced storytelling style as well as her ability to convey client personality style through images.
“If there’s one thing I love about wedding photography it’s the chance I have to be creative by feeding off my clients’ energy to give them pictures that are unique,” she says. “Every individual’s story is an original, and I think their images should reflect that. My goal is to give them pictures that are jaw droppers and make them go ‘Wow!’”
During a recent three-day work trip to Chicago for an engagement session, a wedding, and a site scouting visit, she took time to offer some tips on how she produces such “jaw droppers.”
Know your client. “Because one of my goals is to produce pictures that capture clients’ personalities, I have to get to know them: what they like, what makes them tick,” she explains. “Ask lots of nosy questions and see what things make their eyes light up, what excites them. Be genuinely interested. Connect with them. Watch how they interact with one another. Look for cues that may help you document their wedding. And don’t limit your questions to just wedding matters. One of my key questions is, ‘What are your hidden talents?’ It’s sort of like going on a first date. I remember a client telling me she was fascinated by fashion and how important this was to her. I found a way to incorporate this into some of my photographs. She was thrilled. Another benefit of conversation is that it builds trust and assures your clients that you are not coming in to an assignment blind. They feel you are making an effort. When I meet new couples, I am always scanning for something fresh, something I can use to do something different and original for the couple. My wheels are always turning.”
Explain yourself. “I try to paint the story of who I am and what I hope to accomplish on my website and social media, and also when I speak to them,” Lambert says. “I talk about my style, approach, and show them examples of my work. While the vast majority of potential clients that come to me already know my work, it’s so important that they have a good idea of what they are signing up for. I want them to know they will get formally posed portraits as well as prompted moments, unscripted candids, and creative work where I’m taking chances.”
Go beyond formulas. “Feed off people and their energies,” Lambert advises. “Get your basic shots you need to deliver and spend the rest of your time going off script. One size doesn’t fit all couples. While I have my own leanings, I know when to adjust. For example, when posing people I sometimes lean sultry but other times more conservative. You need to pay attention to what is presenting itself to you in the moment. I hope to get something different in every wedding because I want to give the couples work that contains their signature so they can have a collection of images that are their own. This could be in a portrait, at the cake cutting, special lighting, an offbeat location, whatever. But I always push myself to do something different.”
Look for gold. “I love the unscripted moment. My favorite part of the wedding is the getting ready portion. I like it because there so many layers of things that happen during that part of the day. Everyone is excited, all the emotions are raw, there is laughter, tears, and drama. Because it is the most unscripted part of the day, it feels real and not pressured and lets you get those special moments. I’ve found that inevitably images of those unscripted moments are the ones that make clients feel they are reliving the day. That makes me so happy! Look for moments that help tell a wedding’s story.”
Move them. “I love movement because I want people to feel they are being pulled into the image, and I’ve found that this is a great tool for doing that. Movement is also great for captivating the eye. This can be a body moving on a dance floor, or clothing blowing in the wind or anything. Movement makes you stop and look. It’s a great way to produce an eye-catching image.”
Take risks. “Go for it! Don’t be afraid that an idea may fall flat,” Lambert says. “That’s the space between getting something incredible and not. Use that trust you’ve developed with your clients. I remember asking a bride and her bridesmaids, before the ceremony and just after they’d gotten their hair done, to all lie on the floor for a shot. They were uncomfortable for a moment but the image was excellent. Another time I wanted to add a smoke bomb to a portrait. It took some convincing. But it worked.”
Before Lambert rushes off to her Chicago assignment she adds a thought to her story about her client’s visit with her hospitalized grandmother: “That story reminds me that we’re not just taking pretty pictures. But there’s more to it than that. That story also reminds me that it is an honor to be permitted to document such an important day in these people’s lives. I try never to forget that.”
RELATED: A gallery of Kesha Lambert's jaw-dropping wedding photographs
Robert Kiener is a writer in Vermont.