The Portrait Pro: Photographer Zev Fisher
From the very first time he stepped into a darkroom, at age 12, Zev Fisher knew there was something to preserving moments in time. As a teenager, the budding shutterbug would take every opportunity to go out and record the world around him. “I used to skip school and just walk around Harvard Square and take portraits of people,” Fisher says with a laugh. Now, as principal of his own Somerville-based photography business, Fisher documents all the small but magical moments that make up a couple’s big day. “By the time the date comes, you’ve done all the planning you can do and should put the emphasis on spending meaningful time with the people around you,” he says. “If you do that, your photos are going to be awesome, because I’m capturing real happiness.”
What should couples consider when selecting their photographer?
I think online reviews are a really good tool, but honestly, looking through wedding portfolios—whole weddings, start to finish—is really the best way to gauge somebody’s work. You get a sense of how many photos are in a set, how many are family portraits versus candid shots or color versus black and white—all the things that a photographer would be delivering.
How do you get people to relax in front of the camera?
I think everybody’s a little bit self-conscious, so it’s all about distracting them for a couple of minutes until they realize it’s actually super-easy. All the direction that I give is just me trying to get people to interact with each other. When someone’s very obviously posing, you can get that sort of deer-in-headlights look. But when you’re talking to each other, even if you’re just laughing and saying, “Oh my God, this is so weird, I’ve never done this before,” the camera can’t differentiate nervous laughter from regular laughter.
Is it necessary to bond with your photographer?
People always put emphasis on having this deep emotional connection with your photographer. I think that’s important, but to a point. We’re probably not going to be besties six months from the wedding. Maybe we will—one of my past clients actually officiated my wedding—but really, the photos are what you’re going to have forever.
Do you recommend having a second shooter?
Yes, I do. I always have one and it frees me up to be a little more playful. For instance, there are traditional formal shots that have to happen at every wedding, such as the bride walking down the aisle. That’s a really important one, but say the backdrop of that shot isn’t very pretty, and there’s an elevated position where if you’re looking down, you can get her walking down the aisle with an epic view. If I’m just one man, I have to stay on the ground and get that classic shot. So a second shooter lets me take more chances and do less traditional, formal stuff.
What are some common wedding-day complications that you run into?
If weather is bad, you just roll with it. If it’s a light mist, you grab some umbrellas and make it work. If it’s real rain, you try to find a covered location close by where you can still get outdoor light. But honestly, stress is the killer. My job is to make people look like they’re having a great time and if someone is stressed, it’s really hard to do that. And believe it or not, dress fit is 99 percent of the stress that I see on a client’s face. Just make sure you feel like you’re wearing your dress and it’s not wearing you—that you’re super-comfortable and confident, because that’s going to translate into your body language.
Should couples come to you with a shot list or do you prefer to work off-the-cuff?
I like shot lists for specific family photo combinations. That’s actually something the client and I will create together. Shot lists that aren’t helpful are things that include “mom helping bride with veil,” because if that’s not actually happening, I’m not going to re-create it and make it fake. I think that there’s enough cool drama at weddings that I don’t like to add it when it’s not necessary. So a super-specific shot list isn’t necessarily helpful, but a couple of key photos that you’ve seen and loved is always great. Something for reference, really.
Is an album really necessary?
I think in the digital world, an album is good because it forces you to print images. And ultimately, those are going to be your favorite 75 or 100 that you’ll want to look back on time and time again, versus the whole collection of 1,000 images. If you have that on a hard drive, how often are you really going to scroll back through them? And yes, photos go on Facebook, but they get a lot of likes right away and then get buried in the timeline. So I think an album keeps people engaged with their photos for a longer period of time than they normally would be.
What’s your favorite moment to photograph?
I love when the bride sees her dad for the first time. I love the first look. What else? I love the first dance, and oh! My absolute favorite moment is when after the ceremony ends, the bride and groom walk back down the aisle and all of a sudden, everybody just bum-rushes them. All of their friends and family are around them, and there’s hugging and high-fiving. It’s just solid gold.
Zev Fisher shares his four must-get photos.
- Solo Glam “One of my favorite things is a shot of the bride by herself. It’s not every day that you walk around in a wedding dress!”
- Epic Wide “I like to do a still life of the venue—kind of like an atmospheric shot that gives a sense of place. For instance, if it’s a tented wedding in a field, I’ll take a photo of the sunset so the couple have a shot of what the sunset looked like on their wedding night.”
- Candid Bridal Party “I’d rather put the emphasis on people spending time with their friends, having a genuine moment, rather than a traditional, stuffy, kind-of-posed bridal-party picture.”
- Intimate Close-Up “A photo where the newlyweds are getting all cozied up to each other is a must-have. One of my favorite shots is when a groom kisses the side of his bride’s head and she reacts by looking down with a tender smile.”
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