Brandon Rodkewitz sits on my couch and pecks away at his computer, culling photos from a wedding he shot a week ago. His hands fly across the keyboard tagging images into categories, thousands of photographs from one wedding. He makes decisions so quickly that its hard for me to even begin to understand how he knows what’s good and what’s bad. But he does. He knows in an instant if the photograph is worth having a second look or goes straight to the trash. He will spend many more hours, with a fine tooth comb, going over and over the few hundred photographs he selects from this wedding, trying to decide which images will be  shown to the client, blogged and featured on his portfolio page. He will spend even more time carefully arranging an album, with a furrowed brow, making sure the flow is perfect and the images are spaced just so.

Through his photography, Brandon wants to make in impact. He doesn’t just want to take photos at a wedding, he wants to be the photographer who captures the rare, intimate moments that happen on a day that no other day can replace. Tears between friends, joy, laughter, love, family and all the tiny imperfections that make a wedding day the most perfect day of all. The flower girl that won’t walk down the aisle, the father, who despite his best efforts has let his emotions get the best of him when he sees his daughter for the first time before she is no longer his.

Brandon has been my friend for many years and is like a brother to me and my husband. There are only so many people who become so important and special in your life, and for us Brandon is one of these very few people. His honestly and true humility are what make him such a special person and such an incredible photographer. Today, I’ve asked him to lend Hammer + Gem a few ring shots (Plus a few non-ring shots. I couldn’t resist… they’re just so good!!). Luckily for us, he has a bit to say about them as well:

H+G: What is it that you are looking for when you photograph wedding rings?

BR: “I usually try to have a unique perspective and a wow factor. Plus the rings are still so new, getting as much detail as possible is also important.”

H+G: Given that shooting a wedding is a lot about people and spaces, is it difficult switching gears and photographing jewelry?

BR: “It can be. When I’m at a wedding, I don’t have the luxury of a studio set up that has proper lighting and such. I also don’t have the luxury of time. There is always something happening that needs to be photographed at a wedding. But its exciting to make due with whats around you, and a little pressure makes it even more rewarding when the shots come out great. That’s what makes wedding photography so compelling.”

H+G: What kind of things are you “making due” with, that get a great shot?

BR: “Everything is very on the spot, so I’m usually looking to include objects or surroundings that either represent the couple or takes on the feel of the wedding itself. In one wedding, the couple had these amazing vintage rings and used antique keys as a kind of symbol of unity throughout their wedding. It was natural that the keys be included in the photograph. It fit so well with everything their wedding stood for.”

H+G: Do you have a favorite ring shot in particular?

BR: “It’s hard to choose a single favorite. I just a ring shot as “successful” by the conditions I shot it under as much as by the quality of the photograph itself. So my favorites are very contextual. I love that shot of the antique rings on the skeleton key. In a controlled setting I would have lit it differently, but I still think the shot is great and it was captured in about 7 minutes at a backyard wedding. I scooped some locks and keys off one of the tables outside, found this beautiful antique dresser inside the house that was perfect, and snapped a few different arrangements under a lamp light.”

H+G: What’s your philosophy on shooting weddings?

BR: “The single most important goal in my photography is to record the people and events exactly as they were. A photograph is meant to jolt your memory, whether it’s five days from now or fifty years. You only get that feeling and connection with a photograph if you are yourself when it’s taken.

My position at a wedding is difficult because I have to smoothly switch between director and quiet observer. I sort of drift in and out of people’s awareness. That’s the idea anyway. In that same context, building trust is incredibly important, and I think one of the fastest ways to do it is simply by my demeanor. That’s something I’ll always keep polishing.

It’s also just as important for me to experience the day and observe everything as it is for me to snap the pictures. When I’m immersed in the day, I see and feel things that give me a deeper understanding of the relationships between people and the events that take place. It informs the editorial process of wedding photography which is something not a lot of people talk about, and it’s really important.”

Brandon lives in Northern New Jersey. He works wherever the job may take him! You can find Brandon and his work at: Facebook, and Twitter.