Capturing the Happiest Day of One’s Life

Datacolor’s Friend with Vision Firat Bagdu is an award-winning professional photographer with Kurdish heritage living in Cologne. He is famous for his refined and powerful images, characterized by vibrant colors, clear and distinctive shapes and lines, playful elements and an attention to detail when capturing the perfect moment. He built his brand based on portrait and wedding photography and is popular well beyond the German borders. His passion for photography is clearly reflected in his unique images, which is the main reason he is booked for countless weddings.


We had the opportunity to have a chat with Firat on wedding photography.



Firat, why do you photograph weddings?


Because it gives me the opportunity to meet wonderful people and I feel honored to be allowed to accompany them on one of their most important days of their lives. A lot of beautiful contacts have evolved and they are just as unique as my photography.


Weddings are a very special moment in one’s life and it’s well worth capturing and keeping it forever. As a photographer, I love these days full of emotion – two people getting married, usually amongst their family and friends. Such a day has it all: joyful anticipation, excitement, lots of emotion and a wild party. I thoroughly enjoy accompanying a bridal couple as a photographer on their big day and, over and over again, I am happy to be able to contribute my share to making this day an unforgettable memory.


On top of that, wedding photography is a lovely balance for my other commercial jobs.



Don’t you consider wedding photography to be exhausting and a great challenge due to immense performance pressure?


Of course a wedding day is exhausting because, as a photographer, you have to stay focused and creative from the beginning to the very end. You have to be fully present at any given time, master your equipment and be able to react spontaneously all day long. Absolutely nothing should go wrong as you simply cannot repeat a wedding day. If I were to miss the exchange of rings in church I would not be able to ask for a replay.


All in all, I find that wedding photography is underestimated. On a wedding day, the photographer is responsible for portrait, architecture, landscape and reportage photography.


It sounds like there is a lot of pressure involved, but I know my equipment by heart and I have developed a certain technical routine throughout the years. I trust my abilities, which allows me to be creative and produce very special images.



How important is thorough planning?


To me, thorough planning is key and it starts with getting to know the bridal couple well in advance. I make sure to meet them in a relaxing atmosphere and make time for them to find out what is important to them. Most of all, I take my time to observe details. It is vital that there is certain chemistry between the photographer and the couple, as you will spend an entire day of such importance together. You’ll also spend time afterwards when it comes to handing over the photos and prints, the wedding album, etc. Our first meeting is also an opportunity for the bridal couple to get to know me better. Quite often, I am able to give them a few useful tips on how to optimize their schedule on the wedding day.


If possible, I check out the locations in advance. Regardless, I am the first person on location on the wedding day itself, as this gives me enough time to take a good look around, develop ideas on how to structure my photos and it puts me in the position to be able to implement these ideas quickly and effectively.



What inspires you when you look for photographic ideas? What exactly do you look for?


The lighting situation is particularly important to me and I reflect on how to integrate it into my photos to my advantage. I analyze if the light caters for hard or soft shadows. There are many photographers who are literally obsessed to shoot in perfect lighting conditions. I think that such an obsession doesn’t make sense and it doesn’t work for me as the consequence would be that I wouldn’t be able to take great photos on a day with “miserable” light. I have to be capable of analyzing the light available and realizing which potential it offers by itself and where I should boost it a bit to be able to get the effect I’m looking for. Whenever I am on a job, I carry additional light sources with me, such as continuous light, LED lights and flash units – which doesn’t mean I always use them.


In terms of inspiration, I always keep an eye out for forms and patterns, lines and details I can implement in my photo in order to lead the eye and offer an impressive backdrop. Some inspirations come to you in a very trivial way, such as the perfect collude of colors. Oftentimes, I feel myself inspired by non-optical aspects like smells, sounds and atmospheres. The art of photography is capturing and conserving these very moments.



Are you the type of photographer who steps in and gives instructions or are you the silent observer in the background?


A bit of both. During a church wedding ceremony, a photographer shouldn’t disturb, be in people’s way or draw attention to himself because he doesn’t stop wandering around. In such a situation, it is extremely important to remain low-key, in the background and still make awesome photos.


Most couples also want some posed images of themselves in a beautiful scene. These photos are usually taken right after the church ceremony or a bit later that day, when there is the chance to quickly leave the party to take these shots. That does however mean, that time is very limited and I won’t be able to achieve the best possible results of the photos I have in mind and the bridal couple desires, without giving the appropriate instructions – or nicely put: without leadership skills and appropriate communication. I quite often show them the photo results on my camera display. When the couple likes what they see, they carry on even more motivated.


The compulsory group shot also requires communication, as you need to gather all these people at the same time, keep them entertained so they don’t get bored and at the same time, you need to quickly shoot a series of group shots as there is always a person with their eyes closed. As a photographer, I find myself to be the entertainer very often – I have to be positive, in a good mood and approach people open-mindedly.


Later, during the party, I revert to the quiet observer type of photographer. I take portraits unnoticed, using lenses with long focal lengths to isolate people and capture special moments. Most of the time, I remain unnoticed which makes these pictures much more authentic as people act naturally.



What happens after the wedding?


First of all, I need a few hours of sleep and some rest. I then start my data backup as soon as possible, along with sifting through my photos, selecting the best shots and starting the image processing on my calibrated display. It is important to me that I see my personal style reflected in the images I choose and that includes the colors being displayed the way I saw them and the way I wanted to form them – all the way from capture to print. The bridal couple is supposed to relive their moments by looking at these photos and it is by no means acceptable to have colorcasts.


Most couples want to have their photos ASAP and as soon as they return from their honeymoon, they start asking when I can deliver. The newlyweds usually receive an access code to a restricted area on my website, where they can look at their photos, make their selection and directly order their prints. More and more couples invest in photo books on their wedding, which is a service I happily provide.



What do your wedding photo books look like?


I am a huge fan of classic designs. I like wedding photo books that are of high quality, elegant and timeless. That doesn’t mean that I ignore trends or simply don’t like them, but you have to keep in mind that a wedding album is still supposed to be enjoyable to look at in 30 or 50 years time. I find that following current trends and design ideas quite often means you won’t like them anymore only a few years later. Just think of the outstanding patterns of the 70s – how strange would it be to look at a wedding album with a 70’s background nowadays?!



Any tips on creating wedding photo books?


Those who create their first photo book certainly find lovely inspiration amongst the classic presets the photo book service providers offer. It is a good idea to gather further ideas from just looking at magazines and coffee-table books by checking out how they designed their double pages. That’s how I developed my own presets that I then amend to suit the relevant bridal couple’s style.


I consider the print quality and materials used to be of high importance. If that’s where you start saving, you’re saving in the wrong spot – we’re talking about a wedding after all, which (hopefully) is a once in a lifetime experience and as such, the photo book should be unique and very special. Therefore, it is important to be very diligent when designing it – a wedding photo book isn’t done on the fly.


Since high-quality photo books are a bit more expensive, it is also important to make sure that the print comes out the way you imagine. Therefore, I work on a calibrated display and have the photo book manufacturer’s ICC profiles to be able to use the soft proof function on my computer to simulate the print output and be able to manage my colors accordingly.


Those of you who are keen on further inspiration by Firat’s photos, are more than welcome to have a look at more extraordinary portraits on his website. From time to time, Firat shares his knowledge in workshops for portrait or wedding photography. If you want to make sure you don’t miss out on dates, go ahead and follow him on Facebook  and Instagram.