A wedding photographer's job isn't just about lining up the bridal party for a few pictures and being there when the groom stuffs that first piece of wedding cake into his bride's mouth. Ask Cherie Steinberg Coté.
Oh, it is all that, or it can be. "I almost feel like we're psychiatrists and comedians and fashion consultants and photographers and directors, too," said Cherie , a Los Angeles photographer who has been capturing weddings in all their details for the last dozen years or so.
Cherie takes what she calls an organic approach to wedding photography. "I'm sensitive to the couple's vibe," she said. "I guess that's what I mean by organic. I feel the couple and the moment and instinctively move there. If the couple is low-key, I do a romantic approach. If they are more adventurous, I go there with them. One bride I had was willing to actually run in her Christian Louboutin 6-inch heels for me, so I said, ‘OK, let's go.'"
Back in the 1990s Cherie was living in Denver and had given up professional photography for several years. Then one day she was paging through a New Yorker magazine supplement and had a revelation.
"In this magazine were these amazing fabulous black-and-white photos of weddings. I thought, ‘Wow. This isn't what I thought wedding photos were.' I had never dreamed of doing wedding photography, but the pictures were just brilliant."
She took her portfolio and went to talk to a couple of Denver wedding photographers. "One of them looked at my black-and-white portfolio and said, ‘If you can translate this into wedding photography, you're going to be amazing.' I ended up going to a few weddings with him, and that was it. It was like I decided to do it one day and the next day I was doing it."
In 2002 Cherie moved to Los Angeles, where she now photographs about 25 weddings a year with her partner, Hedley Jones, and assistants. "I think I quickly grew a following because my pictures were very different," Coté said. "I think I'm known for a more artistic approach to weddings. I like to be a little bit more cutting edge. I don't do the same thing at every wedding."
Which doesn't mean she won't take the requisite line-'em-ups.
"Some parents really need to have the family pictures. That's what they want, so I do it. I'm kind of like the director. I like directing. It comes naturally."
By now she has even learned to recognize when something is going wrong—or is about to—and how to stop the tears. After all, no bride wants to look back at a wedding album filled with puffy, red eyes. "At a lot of weddings—about 25 percent—there's a moment in the day when the bride wants to have a little moment, and the moment could get worse if you don't jump in there," Cherie said. "I know before she does. I catch her right away."
Sometimes a wedding goes so wrong that it's a wonder everyone isn't crying. Enter Cherie.
"I did a wedding for a girl, and the florist thought the wedding was the next day or something. I can't even imagine how that would get screwed up, but she had no flowers. I sent a couple of girls to Ralph's (supermarket), and they went into the flower department and got her a bouquet and got the girls bouquets and it was taken care of. The bride was distraught, and I sat with her and talked with her and made her know it would be OK."
Cherie's camera of choice is the Nikon D700. "I love my D700," she said. "That's my major camera. "I love my 17-35mm lens. I do a lot with those two pieces." Last year Coté even photographed a Nikon brochure for the lightweight D700.
"I believe that Nikon really wanted a woman to shoot that brochure because it's a perfect camera for a woman. ... I can even have two of them—one around my neck and one on my shoulder—and it works for me. I usually shoot with two cameras."
Cherie is also known for boudoir and fashion photography, but for her, everything clicks at a wedding. "I love the fast pace, the adrenaline and the array of wonderful things to shoot," she said. "The wedding is the most perfect thing I could ever do. There are beautiful girls, great shoes and everybody's looking their best."
|Cherie Steinberg Coté has been an NPS member since 2008.|