Shoot First: An Interview With Wedding Photographer Tony Gambino

Meet a photographer who's making a living off of love.

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Welcome to "Shoot First, Ask Questions Later," our ongoing series of interviews with photographers from around the world. In this installment, we caught up with Tony Gambino, a former musician turned destination wedding photographer based out of Bend, Oregon.

Tony has been shooting professionally for five years and has photographed weddings across the globe. His crew also includes the team of Ben and Carissa Moore, who are based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Tony and his team offer a wide range of wedding coverages from stills to cinematic quality video coverage. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.


What first got you interested in photography?

Fourteen years ago, I was at a friend's house and she had a Minolta SRT-201 displayed on a shelf as a piece of art. I asked her if it worked; she said yes and offered to loan the camera to me if I wanted to try it out. Over the next few months—and probably 100 rolls of film—I fell in love with capturing images.

You were a musician before you started shooting full-time. What kickstarted the transition?

Well, I realized that being gone eight months out of the year was not a good thing for my family. I just wanted to do life right, and this was the best choice I could have made. It wasn't really a transition. I made the decision one day and started building my career from there.

What cameras and lenses do you shoot with?

Up until this summer, when I hired two devout Nikon users as second shooters, I was a Canon guy. I ended up really liking the quality of the photos from them. Soon after, Nikon announced the D810, which destroyed every Canon camera in every aspect—though dynamic range was my biggest concern. Also, have you ever compared Canon's 85mm f/ 1.2 to Nikon's 85mm f/ 1.4? It's an unspeakable difference. The Nikon lens absolutely crushes the Canon in both quality and speed. I'll never go back.

Are there any accessories that you absolutely can't live without?

Lighting is a huge deal to me, so I stay prepared for any situation. I have a huge reflector that I keep handy when we shoot outside–mostly for flagging direct light and rarely for bouncing light back onto the subject. For wedding receptions, I use a full on studio light kit that my intern holds and follows me around with. Its a Paul C. Buff Einstein light with a medium size octabox.


RELATED: Friends Ask You to Shoot Their Wedding: What Do You Do?


Wedding photography can be pretty daunting, but post-processing work is often the biggest challenge. Can you take us through what you do once the big day is over?

My post-production workflow goes a little something like this:
1. Create a client-specific folder and transfer the RAW images.
2. Import to Lightroom.
3. Cull images, only choose the best of the best. No filler images.
4. Color and exposure adjustments via Lightroom. Export.
5. Blemish removal and final touches in Photoshop.
6. Re-export print resolution and web resolution from Lightroom.
7. Deliver to clients.

You do a lot of destination shoots. How do you keep your workflow steady?

Honestly, this is what I struggle with the most. I'm very ADHD and have a hard time sitting still and focusing on any one thing at a time. My assistants, Ben and Carissa, help me out so much by keeping me motivated. Sometimes when I'm home and need to catch up on work, I'll just go to a local coffee shop, put some headphones on, and buckle down for a bit.



What's your favorite thing about shooting weddings?

What is not to love about shooting weddings? People pay me really well to party with them all day. I'm constantly surrounded by an environment of love—as hippy as that sounds—and I get to travel to so many amazing destinations. It's the best.

With sites like Pinterest being so popular for wedding ideas, how much of a part has social media played in your career so far?

Although almost all of my clients come from word-of-mouth from other clients, social media has been a huge help in my career. I find that anytime I post a new blog, gallery, or video I have a large boost in traffic on my website. Which I would say produces more sharing, talking and even more word-of-mouth marketing.

Which of your own photographs is your all-time favorite?

Recently, I photographed some clients out at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah and we came across a massive area that was covered in inch-deep water. The water was so dense with salt that it stayed very calm and reflective, with very few ripples. It was a simple shot of him leading her by the hand, walking towards me. It turned out amazing.

Let's say you have access to the DeLorean from Back to the Future and can go back in time to tell your younger self one thing. What would it be?

Slow down. Enjoy where you're at and what you're doing right now. I once heard a very wise saying: "There's always gonna be another mountain, I'm always gonna wanna make it move, Always gonna be an uphill battle, Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose, Ain't about how fast I get there, Ain't about what's waitin' on the other side, It's the climb." That was Miley Cyrus.

What's the one piece of advice you would give to a photographer starting out in the industry?

Stay inspired. It's easy to get burnt out doing this job, leveraging your creative passion to make money. I make it a point to take at least two workshops each year, not to learn how to copy someone else's style, but just to get pumped up about photography again.

Tell us about the craziest moment you've had shooting a wedding.

It might be one of those "you had to be there" type things, but I'll give it a go anyway. We were shooting a wedding in New Mexico where the groom had been drinking heavily all day. You could see him progressively getting more tipsy throughout the day. The ceremony came and you could tell that he was barely holding it together, even swaying trying to stand up straight. After the ceremony, during the cocktail hour, he decided to not hold back anymore, taking shots–he always had a drink in hand. After the meal and toasts, where the equally as drunk best man gave the most intentionally insulting speech I have ever heard, the groom just disappeared. My crew ended up dancing for hours with the bride and having a blast.

Tony Gambino Portrait

Check out more of Tony's work at his website.

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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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