borterwagner photography consists of co- owners Johnny Borter and Tina Wagner. They have offices located in downtown Three Oaks, Michigan and Chicago, Illinois.
How long have you been a photographer?
Tina: I graduated Columbia College Chicago in ’95 with a Bachelors in Fine Arts and a concentration in photo journalism. One of my instructors was John H. White who is a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer at The Chicago Sun Times. After college I began photo assisting. I did an internship at the Herald Palladium.
Johnny: I photographed my first wedding in ’87 after working with PPA Master Glenn Dreesen for about a year, but I got my very first camera when I was 8 years old. It was from Bazooka Comics. My brother had used me as a model once, when I was young and after that I had to have a camera. My mom said I would have to buy one myself so I saved comics and got one through Bazooka Comics.
How long have your worked alongside Classic Catering & Events?
Tina: Since we’ve been in the area we did our first event together about 10 years ago.
We also love the location we have for our business. Being in 3 Oaks we are so close to Chicago, we can work both sides of the lake. We get booked pretty much 50/50 in both places.
How would you describe your photography style, or training?
Tina: Johnny’s strength is posing for formal portraits because that is what he was trained in. My strength is capturing candid moments in a photo journalistic way. Johnny is experimental with shooting and post production. He also experiments with posing because he wants to keep doing something different. The cookie cutter gets old and it will make us bored.
Johnny: I seek deeper poetry in my photos, my mother was a performer and my grandfather was a story-teller. It’s in my nature to seek the poetry of the moments. Tina and I work so well together because we have different strengths, it makes us an unstoppable team.
What do you photograph the most?
Tina: Capturing life’s rich moments.
Johnny: Personally I just want to see something different and make it so unique it’s intriguing. I want to interject my personal story into my-everything, to make me relevant. And I want that to show for my clients so they can feel that it represents them too. I want to give it value and I want to have value. I always wanted a job I was qualified to do and I am qualified to do photography. As I get older I desire to be relevant. I want what I do to be important and matter. And it only matters if you get feedback.
People see so many images it’s hard for people to see a professional photographer in a digital age. The best thing a client can give us is feedback.
How does a client know if you are the right fit for them?
Johnny: I like to look at it both ways. How does a client know if you are right for them, and how do we know if they are right for us? We don’t want someone to hire us unless they are serious about photography. You want your personalities to mesh with each other too, otherwise you aren’t going to end up with good images. You have to have a personal connection to your client. Both parties need to have a desire to know each other’s stories.
Tina: It’s important they feel comfortable with us. Like attracts like.
Johnny: So you really can’t base it on budget. If you’re basing on budget we’re not right for you. We don’t like to give prices over the phone or give packages. We give service offerings and we prefer to customize. I want to help them to understand their options and be flexible with their options.
My client likes that because it is more custom. I want to talk with them, I want to get to know them and find out what will suit them best for their needs. Online etiquette is lacking and we much prefer to book face to face if possible. We encourage a couple looking to hire us for their wedding photography, to have an engagement session beforehand. We also offer a free session for their first-born. We don’t want to just take pictures, we want to create memories, to capture spirits. We invest our life in photography and we want our clients to feel and see that.
We are professionals we are dedicated to what we do and focus just on photography, it is our priority.
Can you tell us anything that you learned as a photographer in the wedding industry?
Johnny: We are learning new things everyday, but one opportunity gave me insight more than any other as to the role we play. The photographer can take the role of portrait artist and craft perfection, or the role of journalist, and tell the truth. We are hired by our clients to do both. Knowing when to be what, is the true challenge. Since I have been trained in portraits, I would typically craft perfection. Twenty years ago, at a particular wedding, the client had requested more journalism.
When reviewing the photos of the bride with her parents, the bride told me how happy she was with the portrait of her and her father. They looked happy in the photo and it mirrored their relationship. However, the one of her and her mother was estranged, they looked uncomfortable, and it reminded her of how her relationship is with her mother. They weren’t very close and it showed in the photos. I remember at the time, struggling with the journalism/crafted portrait perspective.
I realized that the portrait of her mother needed more crafting, they didn’t communicate well and it showed in the photos. The father’s portrait was perfect, without me having to craft, because they found their pose naturally.
We have the ability to show them who they are, or, who they want to be.
All weddings are unique. We have the opportunity to photograph an incredible spectrum of the wedding diversity. From wearing a tuxedo, to attending barefoot, knowing the appropriate protocol is crucial. Every wedding will require something different, and it’s important for your photographer to be open to the needs of the moment.
Tina: For most of our clients, this is the most special day in their lives. This is why they hire professionals. Our job is to capture images to memorialize this day, that has been only a dream living in their minds. Our task is to create images of reality to further those dreams. To inspire more of those dreams.
What insight can you give someone looking to hire a photographer?
Johnny: Look for someone who is able to adapt. Find a photographer that can shoot anything. That means they can see the light. They don’t need to specialize in a certain kind of photography if they know how to use the light.
A photographer needs to be the seeker of the right light, which is so much more than just pointing and shooting.
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