Rodney Bailey Creates Wedding Style With a Photojournalistic Eye Among the many stellar wedding photography instructors slated to teach at the 2008 WPPI Convention and Trade Show is Rodney Bailey, owner of Wedding Photojournalism by Rodney Bailey. “Style is Everything!” will team Rodney with fellow wedding artist Daniel Doke in a lively presentation exploring signature style and how to cultivate and market a hallmark look. Consistently ranked the top wedding photojournalist by Washingtonian Magazine since 1999, Rodney has been building a focused foundation within the metro District of Columbia area since 1989.
Booking the Business
Say “Washington, D.C.,” and more than the capitol dome or Lincoln Memorial come to mind for Rodney. He’s pondering the Ritz Carlton grand ballroom, the Willard Intercontinental, Corcoran Gallery of Art or even the National Building Museum. “This area has so many beautiful weddings,
By Margaret Lane
talented industry professionals and unique sites,” he says. “I have long felt more should be done to showcase the region—whether in national bridal trade magazines or on the dozens of weddingrelated shows on television.” In the past few years, Rodney has had the good fortune to play a major role in placing the spotlight on the grandeur of D.C. wedding celebrations, while also strengthening his studio’s reputation for fine wedding photojournalism. He has an expanding referral base that lauds his imagery, a growing list of speaking engagements, plus an increasing number of publishers requesting to use his images in their wedding and lifestyle books. These circumstances have kept the studio booked at nearly 100 weddings a year, of which Rodney shoots 45. “Capturing the flavor of this region has always been an integral part of my vision, so being pegged as a studio synonymous with showcasing its image
is indeed something to which we aspire,” he says. “The Washington, D.C., beltway has a very signature look and feel for celebrations of life, and I wish to present wedding images reflective of this unique area.” Staying consistent with this vision, his images are constantly being snagged by editors and publishers. Wedding Planning & Management: Consultancy for Diverse Clients (Butterworth-Heinemann) by Carrie Loveless and Maggie Daniels, Beautiful
Weddings (Ryland Peters & Small) by Carole Hamilton and Family Pictures: Poems and Photographs Celebrating Our Loved Ones (Capital BookFest Books) edited by Kwame Alexander are just three recent publications featuring his studio’s work. The first, Wedding Planning & Management, is more a coffee-table book than academic text with its 528 pages featuring more than 150 of his images. As the exclusive photographer, Rodney found the production both inspirational and rewarding.
The project started off as a black-andwhite textbook, but the images Rodney offered and their vibrant colors convinced the publisher the book needed to be produced in color. Once Wedding Planning & Management hit the shelves, Bailey was approached by former You and Your Wedding magazine editor Carole Hamilton, who was in the midst of producing Beautiful Weddings, a 150-page coffee-table wedding planning book, which required photographs
that represented elegant, unique and grand weddings. According to Rodney, the editor contacted many photographers and decided to use image sets from two of his weddings—out of 10 wedding events featured in the book. Bailey will be the exclusive photographer for Carole’s next book, Wedding Style. On a more recently published book project, Rodney collaborated with the authors of Family Pictures: Poems and Photographs Celebrating Our Loved Ones, a compilation of poems paired with black-and-white photographs that epitomize family, love and romance. The Sagetopia editor, having seen Rodney’s images and being familiar with his documentary style, contacted him immediately for the project. “I feel honored to have had this recent spate of publishing success,” says Rodney. “Staying true to a vision and a style has enabled me to attract a specific clientele and focus on what I love to do most. Plus, I think publishers are drawn to my distinctive style and my ability to clearly illustrate real events and people.”
A Photojournalism Philosophy
Rodney is a self-trained photojournalist who documented his first wedding at age 16 and started a studio business soon after. Today, despite being an 18-year shutter veteran, he maintains undying passion for wedding photojournalism and seeks the challenge of keeping work fresh and catching the small details, actions and reactions. He aims for the essence of the event: the personality of the bride and groom. “I portray the couple’s wedding day as it unfolds. Clients hire me because they want a true wedding photojournalist. They want to enjoy their day and not compromise images,” he
notes. “It’s important that the bride love her wedding photographs and also love the approach taken. To achieve this it’s important that I stay unobtrusive and allow clients to stay in their moment—not mine.” His images are clean and true, honing in on the glance, the gesture, the smile. Nothing is contrived, and what happens that day is captured by Rodney and at least one other photographer. Following a pure photojournalism style with a hands-off approach and an artistic eye is the dictate of the day. His recipe is paying off. Brides and wedding guests are ordering more and sharing more. In recent years he’s noticed a significant shift away from oversized mounted images to more compact photos and reprints in the 4 x 6 and 5 x 7 sizes. “And we’re selling many doublevolume albums that document the wedding from A to Z,” he says. “In fact, I recently mailed 50 pounds worth of album and images to one client.” To stay true to this photojournalistic approach means a solid investment in the best equipment. “I surround myself with tools and products that complement a photojournalistic style. My gear of choice includes the Fujifilm Finepix S5 Pro with a selection of AF-Nikkor lenses: 10.5mm f/2.8, VR 70–200mm f/2.8, 50mm f/1.4, 85mm f/1.4, 105mm macro; and the Canon EOS 5D and 40D with 85mm f/1.2, 50mm f/1.4 and 24mm f/1.4 lenses.”
Newly created image files are golden, so Rodney safeguards the 3500plus photos taken at a wedding (later reduced to 1500–2000 photos) starting with backup to his portable storage device, a JOBO 80GB that travels in his shirt pocket on the
ALL PHOTOs COPYRIGHT ©Rodney Bailey
ride home. Back in the studio he burns the 24–30GB of files to five or so DVDs. Even though the studio includes a team of three lead photojournalists plus his own talent, Rodney directs the post-shoot workflow and does all postproduction (editing, album design, etc.) himself. A photo purest, Rodney does minimal, if any, Photoshop touch-up. “My clientele is a younger, hip bride who knows what she wants, and it’s reality, not fantasy. She’s looking to enjoy her entire wedding and balks at the old-school traditional imagery with its staid posing and expected shots,” says Rodney. “We’re hired to catch the day as it is and not bring imitation and fancy tricks.” The only qualifier he offers is, “Sometimes the lighting gods don’t work with you, so you have to work with them. This equates to having the right equipment and the know-how to work with available light.” When it’s time to build albums, Rodney reaches for PictoBooks, citing a superior product line and customer service that
exceeds expectations. For jazzing things up, he often employs finishing touches that let clients customize their order—from patented cameos to metal and wood album covers. He’s particularly fond of PictoBooks’ flush mount panoramic pages, which allow him to use the entire image canvas for showcasing wedding stories beautifully, unlike traditional albums. And as noted earlier, he’s making more oversized albums than before. Orders are up for parent, family and friends albums and pre-prints. “My clients love the reality of an image straight from the camera. I enjoy creating that image and grabbing those expressions, and PictoBooks’ albums give me a great range of freedom,” he says. With a signature D.C. reputation in the offing, Rodney’s imagery is sought out by an ever-growing pool. He has been featured in bridal magazines such as Grace Ormonde Wedding Style, In Style Weddings, The Knot, Maryland Bride, DC Magazine and Engaged! Magazine. Beyond wedding art, he has been commissioned to produce
corporate, fashion, political and commercial works. Recent clients include the Library of Congress, Disney, GQ, Vogue and O magazine. He also documented Oprah Winfrey’s “Live Your Best Life Tour.” “I was fortunate to find my passion at a very young age and to hone in on a definitive style,” says Rodney. “I attribute my success to staying true to my love for photojournalism and challenging the art of wedding photography. In my eyes, reality is beautiful.” Wedding Photojournalism by Rodney Bailey is based in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area and is available for destination weddings. To view his work, visit www.rodneybailey.com. Rodney Bailey and Daniel Doke will present a platform program, “Style is Everything,” at WPPI 2008 on Tuesday, March 18 at 7:30 p.m. in Bally’s Skyview Rooms 5 and 6.
Margaret Lane is a freelance writer and amateur photographer. She has more than 15 years experience as a corporate communications professional for nonprofit, photography and technology clients.