What gets me up in the morning? Full disclosure: I am the most motivated and diligent person you can imagine, and yet I still can’t help but give in to the temptation of just staying in bed and being comatose like that during the first few hours after waking up. And it’s not even a hoity-toity, I-don’t-wake-up-for-less-than-insert-amount-here kind of thing—if anything, it’s more of a comfort/leisure thing, no different from, say, getting a massage at the tail end of an extremely grueling day/week. At home I have set some ground rules, and one of them is for no one to disturb me in the morning, unless it’s an emergency. On working days I resist and desist from hitting the snooze button only when I know I have to catch an early morning call time or flight; otherwise, it’s my best friend. And I schedule all my sit-down meetings, personal shopping appointments and house calls in the afternoon. For Sam and Joan here, though, I had to make an exception—our first few meetings had to be held in the early morning! They’d just flown in from New Zealand, you see, where they were now based, which meant that 8 AM for us was already 1 PM for them! And I knew better than to not respect jet lag of any degree!
The issue of, um, messed-up body clocks aside, though, it was really the couple’s we-mean-business kind of air that had me scrambling to put my game face on before I could even have my breakfast. In all our initial correspondence with this couple, you see, they, especially Joan, had made it clear they were the meticulous and scrupulous types. Discussions around possible shooting locations, for example, had taken days; and for each minor detail I’d mentioned they would get back to me with a list of clarifying questions. Judging from all that, I knew I couldn’t afford to slack one damned bit when it came to this assignment. It was time to roll the sleeves up like I’d never rolled them up before!
Of course, by meticulous and scrupulous, I’m not saying that Sam and Joan were trying to be difficult, or that they wanted something complex for their engagement photos. As a matter of fact, they wanted to keep things simple! Both of them were techies, and both of them worked in IT (I think that’s how they met, if I am not mistaken), so they asked for a bright light to be shone on that aspect—they mentioned that the wedding invites were going to bear line art of a little boy and a little girl tinkering with computers, and so they wanted their pictures to be in keeping up with this theme. They also wanted to incorporate some of their old toys in the picture: Joan had an old teddy bear that she just couldn’t part with until this very day, and Sam was an avid collector of robot action figures (Voltron, Transformers, Gundam…you name it, he’s got it!). Pretty uncomplicated, right? Well, that was what I thought, too—until it was time to figure out how to put these things together into something that would make sense! How to mix the techie/nerdy/geeky motif with a child’s play theme? Should we roll them together into one picture, or keep them as two separate, distinct parts of a story? Also, how to expand the whole thing? Because, to me, just two elements/sets felt like we were falling short. There also was a debate on what kind of techie stuff/gadgets should be included the picture—I was partial to the idea of old, yellowed computers, while the couple favored the more modern, sophisticated devices, like iPads. More importantly, there was the styling aspect to give extra careful thought to: should we go for the nerdy/geeky clothes all the way, or should we make a little room for playful, feminine touches for Joan?
So, you see, it all didn’t turn out to be a walk in the park after all, and, boy, was I glad I’d conditioned myself for that from the get-go! In fact, the shoot had to be pushed back a couple of months—from July to December—because we felt we needed more time to deliberate and come up with really effective decisions. Ultimately we decided that it was wise for us to keep the computers in one picture and the toys in another; that the computers had to be the old, yellowed ones, and if we were to incorporate the iPads then they would have to be in a separate set; and that Joan should infuse a little “girliness” into her wardrobe to achieve a perfect balance between playful and romantic. It was looking for the perfect dresses that took time and that took quite a toll on us, actually: we had these very specific styles in mind—Peter Pan collar for one, sweetheart neckline for the other, and both had to have circle skirts that sat just right above the knee—but we just couldn’t find them here in Cebu, so Joan had to take this assignment with her to New Zealand, and after weeks upon weeks of scouring the shops (both physical and online) she was able to take these two gorgeous babies home with her! I have to mention that the blue dress didn’t really come with a Peter Pan collar when she bought it—she just layered a white Peter Pan-collared lace top underneath it to achieve the effect that we were gunning for! This just proved how conscientious and detail-oriented Joan was, and how inventive, too!
So happy with how everything fell into place on the day of the shoot. In the days leading to it, you see, I’d been poring over our list obsessively, thinking, What’s all this going to look like put together? Thankfully we didn’t end up with a big mess on our hands, and instead were able to produce pictures that were at turns whimsical and lighthearted; elaborate, but not to a point of being fussy; fun, but not to a point of being mischievous. There were times the setup looked theatrically artificial—CD-ROM-covered wall, anyone?—but Sam and Joan neutralized this by being strikingly natural in front of the camera! I was overwhelmed, too, by the feedback that the resulting photos got from the couple’s family and friends—everyone they knew was floored! But the biggest honor came from D.C.-based photographer and photo session cool hunter Maggie Winters when she featured this very session in her Website For Awesome People, commending us for the “crazy cool” concept and the “incredible styling.” Our work had been featured in a bunch of locally-based bridal/wedding inspiration Websites in the past, but this was the first time that someone from halfway across the world had taken notice—kind of a big deal for us at Shutterfairy Photography!
Not about to take all the credit, though, because, like I’ve mentioned, this wasn’t all our doing. Sam and Joan knew exactly how they wanted the photos to come out, showed no signs of being pushovers, and got involved in each and every little step of the creative process. Us and them, a match made in collaboration heaven! So, going back to the original question that I posed: What gets me up in the morning? It’s people who are as motivated and passionate about creative execution as I am, if not more! How do I get more clients like these in my life?
Samuel Cabasa and Mary Joan Desamparado | Photographed and styled by Angelo Kangleon for Shutterfairy in Cebu City, Cebu, on December 17, 2012 | Main photographer: Malou Pages for Shutterfairy | Hair and makeup by Jay Failanga | Set decorator: Jennifer Hortillosa | Special thanks to Joy Climaco of St.James Amusement Park and the staff of Anzani New Mediterranean Restaurant