Wedding cinema

Yitzhak Dalal on the narrative approach that made him one of America’s premier wedding photographers

By Jeff Kent
Images By ©Yitzhak Dalal
First published in October 2006

"My wedding photography has elements of fashion, photojournalism, cinema and portraiture," says Yitzhak Dalal.

It’s not often that a person comes to wedding photography by way of the Israeli Air Force. But that’s what happened in the case of Yitzhak Dalal, now one of the most sought-after wedding photographers in North America.

Growing up in Israel, Dalal had little interest in photography. When time came for his compulsory service in the Israeli armed forces, he was assigned to the Air Force. He had the choice of becoming a missile tech or a photographer. It wasn’t much of a decision.

In photography, Dalal discovered he had a latent creative side. Military service complete, he made his way from Israel to Santa Barbara, Calif., and entered the Brooks Institute of Photography. Majoring in fashion and illustration, he supported himself through school, and graduated with honors. For the next eight months, Dalal assisted a New York fashion photographer, then returned to Israel to run his own studio near Tel Aviv. But California seemed to be calling him back, and he returned to the States a couple years later. By 1983, Dalal had moved to Los Angeles and opened a wedding and fashion photography business.

Dalal has spent the last 23 years honing his art of narrative image-making. Meantime, his work has been drawing some of SoCal’s most exclusive wedding clients. Once he booked a couple of high-profile gigs, the tide of highend and celebrity weddings just kept swelling.

Dalal has photographed weddings for John Stamos and Rebecca Romijn, Rob Thomas and Marisol Maldonado, The Bachelorette’s Trista Rehn and Ryan Sutter, Kristi Yamaguchi, Eddie Cibrian, Lela Rochon and Antoine Fuqua, Scott Hamilton, Katey Sagal and Toni Braxton, to name a few. Dalal’s bridal and fashion work has appeared in People, InStyle, Inside Weddings, Elegant Bride and other notable publications. He’s produced commercial images for large-scale ad campaigns and had his fine art work exhibited at the Los Angeles CountyMuseum of Art. What’s remarkable about Dalal is that through it all he’s maintained an unflagging fascination with photography. It’s helped him continually evolve as an artist, while maintaining passion for his profession. We’ve asked Dalal to share his insights after years of working with America’s most prestigious wedding clients.

WHY WEDDINGS? When I started, I envisioned really changing the way wedding photography was done. I wanted to create images that had movement. I wanted a more up-to-date look. And definitely, I wanted to capture the connections that occur between people. I took on the challenge of wedding photography because I really enjoy working with people. I also enjoy bringing out the best in them. I like capturing images that have a universal appeal. It’s almost a study of human connections—or really the human condition.

ON GETTING INTO THE CELEBRITY WEDDING CIRCUIT: Obviously, it helps to work with event planners who trust you and then give you the chance to photograph celebrity weddings. The first big celebrity wedding I did was John Stamos and Rebecca Romijn. Afterwards, Rebecca sent me a card saying they took my pictures on their honeymoon to Greece and couldn’t stop looking at them. Rob Thomas and Marisol Maldonado were next. I’m still friends with them. They send me a card every Christmas.

From there, I continued to get calls. Sometimes the work comes from event planners. Sometimes People or InStyle calls and asks me to shoot a wedding for them. Celebrities are part of American culture. If you do a good job with their wedding photos, the images are going to last a very long time.

THE WEDDING CINEMA: Sometimes, I like to guide my subjects with what I call my “cinematic style.” I feel like I’m not only an observer at a wedding, but also someone who can help the bride and groom get the most aesthetically pleasing images. My wedding photography has elements of fashion, photojournalism, cinema and portraiture. My style is two-fold: one, capturing true moments, which are irreplaceable, and two, recreating moments from beginning to end.

I transitioned into digital a year-and-ahalf ago [when] I found that it supports the cinematic approach. I can go a lot further now, capturing that split second that makes a great picture. And I can keep shooting to photograph an entire story unfolding. I work with an associate, whom I’ve trained for the last 10 years. I stay in close with the bride and groom while he shoots from farther away with a telephoto lens. A second camera is a must. If I can add a third camera for an event, even better. I want people who look at my images to have a great impression of the wedding, even if they weren’t there. Clients have told me that my work is so animated that they don’t need a wedding video.

FEELING THE IMAGES BEFORE CAPTURE: I sense things around me. At certain points, passion and truth come together and a perfect situation reveals itself. I can’t help but point my camera at it. I come from a close-knit family, where relationships are important, and it helps me be sensitive to situations where people are making a connection. When I sense those connections are about to happen, I try to bring them out.

THE STORY WITHIN THE STORY: As you photograph a wedding, a lot of things unfold before your eyes. It could be the transformation of a bride from a single woman to a married woman. It could be a connection between mother and daughter, or father and son. It could be children interacting in their own ways. You never know— things happen that you don’t expect. It’s really exciting for me to observe all those moments and watch them unfold into little stories.

LESSONS FROM THE WORLD OF GLITZ AND GLAMOUR: I’ve learned to work under pressure, that’s for certain. I make sure that I cover myself and get the images that are needed, even if I have a very short time to work. You learn to be resourceful. If you can work under pressure and make good images, it’s a lot easier to shoot a wedding. But above all, the human reaction is the same. We’re all the same. Every wedding I shoot is equally important.

SOMETHING UNEXPECTED ABOUT THE JOB: I feel like a chameleon. I always have to reinvent myself. I constantly redefine myself to keep it interesting and fresh.

To view more from Yitzhak Dalal’s star-studded wedding and fashion photography files, click over to www.dalalphotography.com.

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